Zuma A multiple award-winner and established force at the top of Dubai’s Japanese fine-dining scene, Zuma hardly needs introduction. Located in the city’s financial district, it’s a classy, contemporary and enormously popular hangout for the UAE’s most affluent residents and visitors. While its much-loved brunch may have been off the cards since summer 2014, Zuma is still pulling in a regular lunchtime crowd, but it’s in the evenings (weekend and indeed midweek) where this place really comes into its own as the bustling heart of the neighbourhood. Each and every dish on the menu is consistently impeccable, from starters such as beef tataki and prawn and black cod gyoza to mains including yuzu pepper jumbo tiger prawns and spicy tenderloin, right through to green tea desserts, everything that comes out of the kitchen is so faultless it’s almost fantasy. Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-12.45am. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 425 5660).
Alta Badia Located on the 50th ﬂoor of Emirates Towers, Alta Badia is among the highest-located restaurants in Dubai and offers jaw-dropping views of neighbouring skyscrapers, Jumeirah’s sprawl, the beach, and beyond. Anyone who has dined here at night will be bowled-over by how much more you can see during the day. A set menu is served to your table and guests will be brought a series of six exquisite-looking courses with antipasti, seafood, soup and pasta before a choice of one of six mains, and an epic dessert platter. This is a sophisticated white tablecloth affair with a mature mix of couples, small groups and celebrations. Dhs198 (soft drinks), Dhs318 (hops and grape), Dhs398 (sparkling grape). Fri noon-4pm. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.jumeirah.com (04 319 8088).
Gaucho A swish restaurant, decked out in cowhide and black and white leather, Gaucho certainly looks the business. It specialises in South American food – think empanadas, ceviche, and chimichurri – but the Argentinian steaks are what draw in the customers. You can sit at your own table and can order as many starters as you like, followed by a choice of main courses, then unlimited desserts. The meat and fish is all wonderful, but the sauces and accompaniments lift them to another level – you’ll be sure to manage more than one plate of these. Dhs320 (with unlimited soft drinks), Dhs395 (with house beverages), Dhs495 (with sparking grape). Fri noon-4pm. Gate Village 05, DIFC (04 422 7898).
Café Belge A terrific seafood menu that specialises in spot-on mussels, but also boasts the likes of poached john dory, chilled razor clams and seared turbot, as well as a fantastic spread of oysters, Café Belge is a great spot for a lazy lunch in DIFC. Attention to detail is very strong, with everything from the furniture to the music to the extensive hops menu making you feel truly in Bruges. Open Sun-Thu noon-2am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am. The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC (04 372 2222).
Caramel A DJ spins chilled lounge beats to one side of the venue, a set menu of unlimited à la carte options are brought to the table, including hot and cold appetisers, mains, sides and desserts. The arancini balls are tasty and ﬁlling. A round of meat including wagyu beef, chicken and smoked salmon follows with a side of mac and cheese popcorn balls and creamy spinach. We dig the vanilla yoghurt and mango sorbet and the mini chocolate fondant on the dessert plate to ﬁnish. Following dessert, the DJ’s retro hip hop beats are the highlight, along with the bartenders, who offer alternative entertainment and good conversation at the sit-up bar. Dhs245 (with soft drinks and mocktails), Dhs299 (with house and premium beverages), Dhs399 (with bubbly). Fri 1pm-3.30pm. Caramel, DIFC (04 425 6677).
Okku Long one of Dubai’s coolest nocturnal haunts, Okku is a swish, stylish nightspot knocking out excellent food. Throughout the week, the restaurant-lounge is open for lunch as well as dinner, with an excellent-value tezukuri lunch, with varying numbers of courses. Try the ebigyoza to start, and stick with the seafood theme for mains – the black cod donburi is delicate yet filling, not to mention fantastically tasty. If you’re just around for nibbles, order the organic salmon carpaccio, with tender slivers of the Scottish fish layered with daikon cress, cherry tomatoes and an intriguing shiso-yuzu pesto. Brilliant service is the icing on the cake – everything’s brought to the table with haste, a beaming smile and even a bit of banter if you let them know you’re in the mood. Okku may be stylish, but it’s not too cool to show you a good time. Open Sun-Thu noon-3pm, 7pm-12.30am; Fri-Sat 7pm-12.30am. The H Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.okku.com (04 501 8777).
Roberto's The purple and orange, uber-stylish Roberto’s is a great spot for a chilled-out Friday brunch. The atmosphere is trendy with a hint of elegance. Kids are welcome. The brunch is a gastronomic delight (although, being charged extra for water, when shelling out for unlimited grape, seems like a dangerous ploy). A seafood tower is served to the table, stuffed with oysters, shrimps, mussels, crab and lobsters over ice. There’s also an unlimited live oyster bar which you can visit as often as you like. Plates of sharing appetisers follow containing everything from pasta to wagyu mix cold cuts. Mains are chosen from the à la carte menu and there’s a small but decent selection with pasta al forno, lobster thermidor and various other handpicked dishes. A selection of delicious mini Italian pastries is served to ﬁnish. Service is superb on arrival; we were greeted warmly, seated swiftly and served our starters and drinks with a smile. Dhs325 (with soft drinks and mocktails), Dhs400 (with Italian grape), Dhs495 (with sparkling). Fri 1pm-4.45pm, Roberto’s, DIFC, www.robertos.ae (04 386 0066).
The Ivy Put your faith in The Ivy’s team of chefs and opt for the eight-course degustation menu featuring British classics and optional grape pairing. Or there’s the d’hote table menu, which features three courses and classics such as duck hash and egg and shepherd’s pie. Both end with a well-stocked cheeseboard. Drinks of every kind are available throughout, and there’s a refreshing range of mocktails to enjoy. The live entertainment and atmosphere make this brunch stand out from the crowd, while the service is very inviting as well. Dhs299 (soft drinks). Dhs399 (house beverages). Dhs499 (premium grape). Dhs599 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8767).
The Rib Room Despite being located off the lobby in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, The Rib Room feels secluded and exclusive. The dark interior is stylish, with spacious cushioned seating lining the walls and tables filling the centre of the dining room. When it gets busy – and it often does – the restaurant has a buzzing atmosphere and feels like the place to be. The Rib Room’s popularity comes from its hearty steak offerings. There are grain fed American, Australian and Canadian options as well as grass fed Argentinean, while rib eye, striploin and tenderloin are the choice of cuts. Seafood lovers are also catered for, to a degree, especially when it comes to starters, with scallops, calamari and oysters available, while there is also a concise choice of mains from the sea. It’s also worth saving space for dessert, especially the creamy banana parfait with dulce de leche. Open Sun-Thu noon-3pm, 6pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 6pm-midnight. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 366 5866). Brunch: Fri noon-4pm. Dhs250 (with soft drinks), Dhs350 (with selected beverages), Dhs390 (with sparkling), Dhs550 (with bubbly). Business lunch: Fri-Wed noon-3pm. Dhs65 for one course (with water and tea/coffee), Dhs85 for two courses (with water and tea/coffee). The Chef’s Table: Sat-Thu 12.30pm-3pm, 7pm-10pm; Fri 7pm-10pm. Dhs465 per person (six-course set menu).
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).