It's no secret that the French are world renowned when it comes to food
Time Out Dubai staff
Fournil de Pierre A perfect spot for coffee and pastries and the weekend papers, Fournil de Pierre invites you in with its glass-fronted pastry counter and doesn’t ever make you feel less than welcome when you’re inside. It’s the smaller dishes here that make it worth seeking out, from the fresh-baked breads and pastries to the quiches and the lovely light salads. For us, though, this is a venue built for a lazy late breakfast. We’d particularly recommend the galette au saumon, a pillow of flaky crepe enveloping top-class smoked salmon, smears of cream cheese and sprinkles of capers. Order one of those and a coffee, sit back on your chair on the terrace and close your eyes, and you could pretty much be on Le Croisette in Cannes. Open daily 7am-2.30am. Downtown Dubai (04 420 3070).
La Petite Maison Equally impressive for lunch or for dinner, La Petite Maison continues to live up to its reputation of being one of the finest French spots in town. The menu is extensive and endlessly appealing, and could easily lead to some serious over-ordering were it not for a staff honest enough to advise when greed is getting the better of you (a rare trait among restaurants across the world). So, you’ll just have to make some tough choices and make a follow-up reservation to sample the rest later. Our suggestions would absolutely include the lamb cutlets, which are the finest we’ve had in this city, the spectacular burrata with tomatoes and basil, the octopus in lemon oil, the mushroom risotto and the lobster tagliatelle – each dish being served by the friendly and knowledgeable staff when it’s ready. Nestled in the ever-expanding hubbub of DIFC, competition for La Petite Maison springs up regularly, but right now it seems to have them well under control. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. DIFC (04 439 0505).
La Serre Though there remain questions over some of the price-points at La Serre (our recent lunch for two, with two soft drinks, came in at north of Dhs1,200) the fact is, you can’t argue with the food. With a huge glass front overlooking the bustling Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, the restaurant is set over two floors (the top one being the posher of the two) and is based in the Vida Downtown Hotel, itself a triumph of decadence minus frills. The desserts are top quality, playful twists on French classics, while the menu for the starters and mains reads almost as well as it tastes, so factor in some decision-making time because you are going to need it. The seafood bears particular mention, with a veritable jamboree of mussels, langoustines and prawns all cooked so perfectly we’d be there every week, if the cost didn’t relegate it to special occasions only. Open daily 7am-10.30pm (boulangerie); noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm (bistro). Vida Downtown Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 428 6969).
Le Classique Overlooking the championship course of Emirates Golf Club, on paper it’s easy to perceive Le Classique as fusty, and not just because they insist you wear a tie. In truth, though it is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and has a menu weighted way more toward tradition rather than innovation, the place has a welcoming feel, good service and great food. A perfectly executed main course of sea bass on a cauliflower risotto preceded by a snail ravioli in chicken consommé that we would be failing in our duty if we didn’t recommend you seek out immediately. It’s good enough to wear a tie for. That’s how good it is. Open Tue-Sun noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Emirates Hills (04 417 9999).
Maison Bagatelle This sister restaurant to Bistrot Bagatelle in New York’s Meatpacking district looks fantastic, and boy does it know it. The food includes highlights such as an excellent wagyu beef burger and excellent dessert choices that come courtesy of a patisserie that shouldn’t be missed. Maison Bagatelle’s excellent decor and essential location – it’s sat just around the corner from The Dubai Mall and therefore in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa – will justify your visit. Open daily 9am-11pm. Downtown Dubai (04 420 3442).
Nineteen A severe hook away from the toils of the 18th fairway (seriously difficult, trust us) lies Nineteen, the restaurant at The Address Montgomerie Dubai that gazes out over a spectacular course. Get out on the terrace and by day the views are spectacular, while by night the sounds of the fountain in the adjacent deliver soothing sprinkles. Either way it is atmospheric and the menu contains some nice surprises, delivered from the live cooking “show kitchen”. What comes from the grill is of an excellent standard and the smaller touches are great too, from the delicate amuse-bouche to a stunning cream of porcini soup and the tiger prawns, served with a nice chilli and garlic kick and sprinkled, incongruously, with pomegranate. The latter actually fits the mood perfectly: classy, but with a little bit of unruliness not often found in restaurants at posh golf courses. That makes this a good bet for dinner with friends. Open Sun-Thu 7pm-midnight, Fri 6.30pm-10.30pm, Sat noon-3.30pm, 7pm-midnight. The Address, Montgomerie Dubai, Emirates Hills (04 390 5600).
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. The dishes in-between can be hit and miss – on our most recent visit the lobster we had been personally introduced to shortly before he was lobbed into the pot turned out to be a little bland the second time we made his acquaintance. Overall, though, 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).
STAY by YannickAlleno The brainchild of French masterchef Yannick Alleno, STAY (the abbreviation standing for Simple Table Alleno Yannick, apparently) is about as must-try an experience as you can find in the city. Decor and service are stunning, the former a large space that still feels intimate and the latter knowledgeable and friendly. It’s one of those places where the waiters have a tendency to assemble dishes on your plate in front of you, placing items so delicately they might be made of explosives – that they do so and avoid pretension is testament to their charm and skill. The sheer romance of it all gets upped further when the food arrives. Consistently excellent, from delicate seafood raviolis to melting wagyu beef, it is a masterful menu executed perfectly and delivered with flair. And that’s before you get to the ‘dessert library’, a temple to puds near the back of the restaurant where the pastry chefs prepare dishes in front of guests, and encourage them to try before choosing. It’s a lovely touch and a magic end. Open daily 7pm-11pm. One&Only The Palm , Palm Jumeirah (04 440 1010).
Sass Café The original Sass Café is apparently frequented by the rich and famous in Monaco, and the Dubai branch is open in one of the emirate’s more salubrious districts, DIFC. A red carpet flanked by floodlit pools leads diners up to the distinctly nightclub-esque entrance of the venue. Beyond the blacked-out front door, the sense of being in a nightlife spot, rather than an eatery, continues. The dining room is so dimly lit that the visibility of the food is not the best and any non-smokers may feel a little put off having to dine in smoky, bar-like surroundings. While the welcome at the reservation desk can be a little dry and not especially warm, service from the waiting staff fills in this gap. The menu is flooded with classic Mediterranean options that are designed for sharing and are reasonably priced, in the most part, considering the nature of the venue. While we’re not wowed by the interior and ambience, it is the fairly high standard of food that would call us back. Open Sun-Wed 7pm-midnight; Thu-Fri 7pm-1am; Sat 9pm-midnight. DIFC (04 352 7722).
Traiteur Given you have to stroll through the gorgeous lobby of the Park Hyatt Dubai (one of the city’s most elegant hotels) to get to it, Traiteur needs to impress, and it succeeds. From the raised open-plan kitchen to its whale-bone ceiling, it delivers both spectacular and intimate, with tables spaced far enough apart to whisper sweet-nothings or talk business in private. The menu could, frankly, do with more in the way of choice, but on offer is a mix of the classic and classically executed – the snails in garlic and parsley are an unctuous delight and the wagyu beef a masterclass in melt. Dhs465 (with soft drinks), Dhs570 (with sparkling grape), Dhs690 (with bubbly), Dhs235 (for children aged six-12). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).