101 Dining Lounge & Bar Set in the idyllic surroundings of One & Only The Palm, reachable by boat and jutting out into the tip of the Palm’s furthest reaches. Once there, the warm and unobtrusive staff and stunning decor – it’s like a sort of high-end floating shack with sail ceilings blowing in the wind out in front of you as you gaze into the deep blue distance – keep up the high standards. And then comes the food. A mix of top-drawer European, though weighted more toward the Spanish, so packed with temptation is the menu that it presents a partly painful but mainly delectable Sophie’s Choice. Thankfully, coming back to try more will most definitely be on your agenda. As a start point, however, we would most heartily recommend the octopus cooked on the josper charcoal barbeque. It is, frankly, a delight. Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11pm. One&Only The Palm Dubai, Palm Jumeirah (04 440 1030).
Villa Beach Boasting one of the best locations in Dubai, sat on the sands of the Gulf and overlooked by the Burj Al Arab, it’s no surprise that Villa Beach is considered one of the city’s most romantic venues. Open daily noon-4.30pm, 7pm-11pm. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999)
Karma Kafé On paper, it would be easy to write Karma Kafé off as a case of style over substance. Situated in Souk Al Bahar, with a terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountain, and a glam lounge club setting inside, you’d expect to be a tourist’s dream serving up Asian bites to party people. But once the fountains cease and the phones are put aside, you can expect to sit down to some of the best Asian food in town. Every dish you’re served is a work of art on a plate, meticulously presented and prepared. But these are modern fusions that taste as colourful as they look on the plate. Sushi is a particular highlight, paying lip-service to the past while offering daring new ingredients, and prices are very competitive for the location. And while Karma Kafé pitches nightlife chic over candlelight and white tablecloths, it’s also a surprisingly romantic venue for a date. Open Sun-Thu 4pm-2am; Fri-Sat noon-2am. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, Dubai (04 423 0909).
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire It’s far from cheap, very French and bombards you with so much food it gets borderline Monty Python by the end (fortunately, a final “waffer-thin mint” isn’t ultimately forthcoming). But, if you’re after a food experience in the city, Reflets should figure a long way up your shortlist. Gagnaire’s three Michelin-starred molecular reputation pervades everything from the superb cuisine to the charming service. From the second you arrive, via private lift, the decadence begins. Before starters comes a stunning selection of seven amuse-bouches (per person!), which is replicated with sweeter iterations before pudding. This is a must-try splurge. Just make sure you go in with a full wallet and an empty stomach. Open daily 7pm-11pm. InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Festival City (04 701 1127).
Armani/Ristorante There’s always a great sense of occasion when visiting the Armani Hotel, and that’s heightened when visiting its signature restaurant – Armani/Ristorante. The interiors are what you’d expect from an Armani venue: clean, crisp and minimal. The real show-stopper, though, is the view. Could this be the best view of the Dubai Fountain from a restaurant? Quite possibly. As you would expect from a multiple award winning restaurant, the food is excellent. Every course is crafted to perfection, and service is suitably slick and professional for such a restaurant. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm Armani Hotel Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
Pai Thai The Jumeirah Group is renowned for its culinary capabilities and hosts some of the best restaurants in the city. While Pai Thai offers a special dining experience, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Things start special, with a touristy abra ride through the twinkly waterways of Madinat Jumeirah to reach the quaintly decorated restaurant, which boasts an inviting outdoor terrace. The experience remains strong when dishes start arriving, with traditional soups and salads offering an authentic, warm and zesty first course. Open daily 6.30pm-11.30pm. Dar Al Masyaf Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
Qbara This sophisticated restaurant presents modern Arabic food with flair. The colour scheme is all warm reds, black and gold, while burning fires in the background give the expansive eatery a welcoming feel. A saxophonist provides the subtle backing track of cool jazz and the food is simply outstanding. The hot and cold mezze offer an adventurous twist – think lobster kibbeh with fresh herbs and avocado labneh, crudités with truffle-scented labneh and hummus with honey-roasted parsnips. Save room for mains and dessert – dishes such as the sea bass with tahini, yoghurt and walnut and herb crumbs, and desserts including the orange blossom ‘cheesecake’ (containing an almond and cinnamon crunch, baked white chocolate and a citrus sorbet) simply must be tried. Open daily 6pm-3am (last orders for food: 12.30am). Wafi, Oud Metha, www.qbara.ae (04 709 2500).
Pierchic Pierchic has the reputation for being one of the most romantic restaurants in Dubai. The inviting space features pale-coloured wooden tables and a stunning Swarovski crystal light installation over the bar. Arrive early and you can enjoy a pre-dinner drink at the pod-like bar and take in the unrivalled view of theBurj Al Arab. Service upon arrival is warm and friendly, with the staff knowledgeable and attentive throughout. On the concise menu you’ll find a selection of caviar, soups, salads and main courses. Of the mains, the lobster thermidore is a sheer crustacean delight, beautifully presented with roasted cauliflower and a mustard sauce. Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 6pm-11.30pm. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6705).
Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar Celebrity chef Atul Kochhar has nailed Indian fine-dining at this stylish eatery. The dark room, with low orange lighting, is very romantic. Huge carved wooden pillars break up the space, making it feel more intimate than you would expect. Service is also fantastic, with staff on hand to offer recommendations and explain the menu, which is an exciting mix of familiar dishes, created with flair and high-end ingredients. The starter of softshell crab, which comes with a salad of crab meat, micro greens and passion fruit is fantastic, as are the Scottish ‘Lassooni’ scallops with garlic and cauliflower. The spices are subtle enough to add flavour, but not overwhelm, the delicate seafood. Rang Mahal is a classy restaurant serving impeccable Indian food. Open daily 6pm-midnight. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Business Bay (04 414 3000).
TOKO Sydney-born Toko is a genuinely stylish venue with an air of cool about it. The tasteful, wood-heavy interior is understated and yet instantly impressive, subtle details in the design drawing the eye and adding interest at every turn. The outdoor garden to the rear is a beautifully serene space with trickling water features dividing the different seating areas and suspended multi-coloured parasols shielding diners from the sun. And with not a high-rise in sight and the chatter of birds in nearby trees, there’s a real sense of escape from the surrounding city. There are no raucous parties, just couples and larger groups all after the same thing – fantastic Japanese fare, great service (staff are professional, friendly and accommodating) and a relaxed atmosphere. Dhs265 (with soft drinks), Dhs385 (with house and Japanese rice-based beverages), Dhs525 (with house package and premium bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. Vida Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, www.tokodubai.com (04 442 8383).