Al Mahara Located on the lower level of the iconic Burj Al Arab, Al Mahara is an intimate and romantic restaurant with a stunning central aquarium. The seating circles the dominating tank, giving everyone a stunning view of the marine life. The novelty of the restaurant may be the remarkable aquarium but the enduring quality is the food. Here every plate, even the bread, is like a work of sculpted art. Dover sole is delicately wrapped into roulades and the sauces applied to the plate with flair. There’s a great attention to detail here, down to the cutlery and glasses and staff are willing to accommodate requests and make you feel special. Open daily.30pm-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600).
CLAW BBQ, Souk Al Bahar The clue’s in the name at CLAW BBQ, where you’ll be served up huge buckets of crab legs with fun and flair. It’s full-on Americana inside this restaurant, with all manner of signs, slogans and flags adorning the walls. Drinks are served in square jars and the bar staff are kitted out in lumberjack outfits to add to the theme. While crab is the speciality here, the large menu also offers up a variety of fish dishes, burgers and a few barbecued options. But it’s the generous bucket of crab legs that steals the show. It’s a messy affair trying to prise the meat out of the long legs with the tools provided, but it’s worth the effort. And with large sides of fries and grilled corn on the cob, this is a substantial feast for one. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-2am, Fri and Sat noon-2am. Souk Al Bahar (04 432¬¬ 2300)
Aprons & Hammers This restaurant on a traditional Arabic dhow has oodles of character and charm, plus a good menu to boot. A walk down the length of the pier at Dubai International Marine Club brings you to the large vessel, where diners can choose to sit on the open-air upper deck or down below inside. The interior of the lower deck has a charming nautical theme, and the large group table at the end of the restaurant is perfect for special occasions. This is undoubtedly a fun restaurant; each table is provided with all the tools required to prise every piece of meat out of the delicious signature crabs. Thankfully, they also provide an apron for this messy task. Portion sizes are very generous, with the fish and crab well-marinated and served in rustic bowls. This is a great spot with a unique location for a finger-licking good meal. Open daily 12.30pm-midnight. Dubai International Marine Club, Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, Al Sufouh Road, www.apronsandhammers.com (04 454 7093). Other locations: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 363 6552), The Beach at JBR, Dubai Marina (04 456 7888).
Bu Qtair This casual seafood café is a popular entry in many Dubai residents’ little black book. Located in a residential area along Jumeirah Beach Road, you’ll find queues most evening at this unassuming spot, with punters happily waiting for a plastic table and chair to become available. There are no reservations here, and you can only order from the fish they’ve caught that day, or prawns. It’s a simple meal, but absolutely delicious thanks to the freshness and quality of the fish. There’s no entertainment or live fish tanks here, it’s all about a wallet-friendly, finger-licking seafood experience. Cash only. Open daily 10.30am-3pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm. Road 4d, near Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (055 705 2130).
Peppercrab You’ll be greeted at Peppercrab by the sight of live tanks packed full of crustaceans. Beyond this, the open kitchens provide diners with the chance to see the shellfish being prepared, which is fascinating, though not perfect for the squeamish. The crabs on offer here are flown in from Australia and the lobsters from Norway, which goes someway to explaining the hefty price tag for a meal. While there are fish dishes available, the speciality here is shellfish, and the signature dish is the Singaporean crab in pepper sauce. The meaty, juicy crab meat is extracted and covered in sauce with the top of the shell perched on top; it’s simply divine. Peppercrab is smart and elegant when it comes to the decor, but there are some kitsch Singaporean touches to give it some character. For delicious crab and sensational flavours, this is the place to eat. Open Sun-Thu 7pm-11.30pm, Fri-Sat 7pm-midnight. Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha (04 317 2221).
Pierchic 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, MadinatJumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6705).
Ossiano This restaurant has the wow factor. Diners descend the spiral staircase and are greeted with a huge aquarium teaming with sea life. The aquarium is the centre piece of this restaurant and you can’t help but be transfixed by watching schools of brightly coloured tropical fish, rays and sharks swoop around the spacious tank. Away from the aquarium, Ossiano is elegant, romantic and stylish with plush seating facing toward the tank. For a more intimate experience, the seats at the back of the restaurant offer more privacy. The seafood on the menu is delectable, with a range of European cuisine, all beautifully presented and portioned perfectly. This is a great venue for a special occasion or to make an impression as the food and decor will win over every guest. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 2626).
Salmontini Don’t be put off by the fact that this restaurant is inside a mall. Salmontini is a smart and stylish venue that offers top quality service and food. It’s also helped by the fact that it looks out over the snowy slopes of Ski Dubai. As the name would suggest, this restaurant specialises in salmon, the smoked Scottish variety to be exact. And the staff really know their salmon, confidently offering advice on the different cuts and smokes. There are also some decent non-salmon choices, including blackened cod, sea bass and grilled tuna. Everything about Salmontini is unfussy and elegant, from the plates of food to the menu design. Open Sat-Wed noon-midnight, Thu-Fri noon-12.30am. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 0222).Business lunch: Dhs99 (two courses), Sat-Thu noon-4.30pm. Sushi Special: Dhs195 (all-you-can-eat sushi, maki and sashimi). Mon noon-11.30pm.
Sammach Sammach has landed itself quite a location, with ringside seats to the spectacular Dubai Fountain. The regular water-show performances provide decent entertainment, which is probably a good thing as service can be slow here. The fresh seafood market is packed with huge, fresh-looking fish. A good option is the mixed grill, which can be modified to suit your preferences, while a nice selection of hot and cold mezze is recommended while you wait. Open daily 11.30am-11.30pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.soukalbahar.ae (04 426 7311).Other location: Jumeirah Beach Centre (04 349 4140).
Seafood Market At Seafood Market, as the name would suggest, diners can choose fresh seafood from a display, before having it cooked with a choice of sauces and butters. The venue has a strong aquatic theme, right down to the wavy blue carpet, which gives the restaurant a bit of a dated look. There is a wide range of fish and shellfish for diners to choose from, and the large lobster tanks span the entire back wall of the market area. Fish is prepared in an Asian style, so you can expect plenty of flavour in the sauces, and dishes are complemented with a choice of noodles, stir-fried vegetables or potatoes, making for a hearty meal. Staff are on hand at the fish counter to make suggestions with regard to portion size and sauces, which is very helpful. Open daily 12.30pm-5pm, 7.30pm-11.30pm. Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Garhoud, www.seafoodmarket-dubai.com (04 217 0000). Business lunch: Dhs99 per person (four courses), Dhs129 per person (four courses with glass of selected grape), daily 12.30pm-5pm.