Time Out picks 10 of the best sandwiches available in Dubai. From humble street food to gourmet snacks this is our pick of the best.
10 Wagyu sandwich Mina Seyahi The original wagyu beef sandwich launched to much smacking of lips and chiming of cash registers at Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street in April. At Dhs595, it instantly became the world’s most expensive sarnie. Since Dubai will soon get its very own downscale version of Big Ben, it’s unsurprising that a ‘budget’ Wagyu sandwich is now available at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi. A snip at Dhs150, it must be ordered 24 hours in advance, yet it only takes 15 minutes to eat. The few tender strips of mollycoddled meat (from Japanese cows, massaged and plied with sake and beer) rest on pillows of soft cheese, amid lumps of thick foie gras and juicy cherry tomatoes on a light, crusty baton of flour-dusted bread. While it’s suitably elegant and rather tasty, it’s an experience to cross off a list rather than to savour. A bit like shopping at Selfridges. Lobby Lounge, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi (04 399 3333). Wagyu sandwich priced Dhs150.
09 Tuna with artichoke, wild curry and salsa Aran Aran is what the ancient Celts called bread. It’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bakery stuck out by the escalators in an unimpressive corner of Deira City Centre. But it’s worth seeking out, because here you’ll find deliciously indulgent open sandwiches on traditional German-style sourdough bread. The sour taste of the bread doesn’t come from yeast, but from a lactobacillus, which lives alongside the yeast in symbiosis. Anyway, enough of the science, already – you’ve got a sandwich to eat. Two resilient slices of bread are lost under three generous toppings of creamy wild curry, chunky tuna with artichoke and a surprisingly spicy salsa, garnished with gushing tomato and crisp lettuce. It arrives on a ceramic slab, which is perfect for getting to grips with the stiff sourdough bread. Just imagine your knife is a Celtic flint-axe and get hacking. Aran, Bin Hendi Avenue, Deira City Centre (04 294 0643). Tuna sandwich priced Dhs19.
08 Vada pav Bombay Chowpatty If sandwiches are the ultimate convenience food then perhaps the vada pav at Bombay Chowpatty is the ultimate sandwich. Buying one couldn’t be simpler. Two windows open up onto the street; first you give Dhs3 to one man, then you take a ticket to another. He’ll ask you if you want your vada pav spicy (which, of course, you will) and in a flash he’ll hand you Mumbai’s answer to the hamburger. A steaming hot bun, dusted on the inside with florid dried red chilli, plays host to a boulder of fluffy mashed potato, deep-fried in spicy batter and smothered in either chutney or mint sauce. Cheap, tasty and easy to eat – it’s no wonder vada pav is the convenience food of choice among commuters all over the Maharashtra region of India. Bombay Chowpatty, Karama (04 396 4937). Vada pav priced Dhs3.
07 Chicken curry with harissa date chutney sandwich Le Pain Quotidien There are, very famously, no famous Belgians. Of course that’s not strictly true, there’s Tintin, Detective Poirot, the Smurfs and Jean-Claude Van Damme, although the first three are made up and Van Damme’s always been rubbish. At least you’ll be able to add Alain Coumont to the list in a few years time. He opened his first Le Pain Quotidien café in Brussels 15 years ago and is now doing a Starbucks – that is, rapidly conquering the world without anyone really noticing. The secret’s in the wonderfully moist, flavourful and wholesome bread: certified organic, sourdough, stone-milled and hand-kneaded. LPQ’s chicken curry sandwich is an open-top affair. Five or six slices of bread are smothered in a chunky yellow chicken spread, garnished with some olives, gherkins and a little salad, and a chutney made from dates and fiery harissa. Sandwich conservatives may fume at the lack of a top layer of bread, but for organic produce, wonderful bread and excellent service, Le Pain Quotidien is hard to beat. Le Pain Quotidien, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 0041). Chicken curry sandwich priced Dhs33.
06 Pastrami on rye Tony’s New York Deli Being Dubai, this looks nothing like a real New York deli and instead resembles part of the food court at London’s Harrods. But squeeze yourself into one of the booths, order the pastrami on rye and make a note to thank Time Out for the tip. Invented in New York in 1887, pastrami is the sliced meat that’s been keeping New Yorkers fed and angry for over a century and ‘on rye’ is the only true way to eat it. Order your rye bread slightly toasted and choose which (or all) of the following fillings you want too: tomato, mustard, mayo, lettuce or cucumber. The standard by which all pastrami on ryes are judged is Katz Deli on the lower-east side of Manhattan – this isn’t as big, but for taste it comes pretty close, certainly as close as you’re going to get in the Emirates. Tony’s New York Deli, Village Mall, Beach Road (04 349 9034). Pastrami and rye sandwich priced Dhs29.95.
05 Bacon sandwich The Irish Village The IV’s bacon sarnie doesn’t push the sandwich envelope. It consists of two slices of thick, slightly toasted, plain white bread; fat chips, coleslaw, and a repository of juicy, twisty and sensibly lean rashers of bacon. If you’re a pork-eater, there’s so much to admire about this honest, straight-talking pub sandwich. We love how the bacon grease – the headiest, smokiest, saltiest type of grease available – infuses its way into the absorbent dough. We admire the Irish Village’s merciless shunning of vegetables; after all, this isn’t a BLT – let’s keep such things for the salad crowd. Unless it’s the morning after a big night before, when the bacon sandwich’s famous medicinal qualities come into their own, there’s no way this particular beast is good for you. But the sad truth is that most of the time bad for you tastes miles better. The Irish Village, Aviation Club (04 282 4750). Bacon sandwich priced Dhs28.
04 Brazilian tandoori chicken More The phrase ‘less is more’ certainly doesn’t apply in the case of this restaurant. Their sandwiches aren’t the type you can pick up and stick into your mouth. Instead they involve doorstop-sized hunks of toasted white bread – almost big enough to down the Titanic – along with an allotment of crisp green salad and family portion fillings. This ‘size matters’ approach to the noble art of sandwich construction results in a knife-and-fork approach to sandwich consumption, which, while perturbing traditionalists, satisfies the hungry lunch breaker. That said, unless you want to spend the afternoon snoring at your desk, eschew the (otherwise excellent) steak sandwich – it’s unreasonably huge – and go for the lighter tandoori Brazilian chicken option. With tender, spicy and radiantly orange fragments of chicken marinaded in yoghurt and coriander sauce, a sprinkling of cashew nuts, and a thick, spicy helping of mango chutney, the South American influence in this sandwich is neither immediately obvious nor an immediate concern, because this spicy sarnie will set you up for the day. More, Garhoud (04 283 0224). Brazilian chicken tandoori sandwich priced Dhs29.
03 Vegerama Wraps If you’re a vegetarian, it’s certainly the best option. But even red-blooded carnivores looking for a substantial, filling sandwich – and perhaps a break from cooked animal – would be well advised to check out the vegerama at the Towers Rotana’s cute next-to-lobby sandwich bar. There’s nothing anaemic about the moistly roasted and eminently fleshy slices of red pepper, tomato and aubergine. And the soft, crumbling slab of tangy feta cheese is boisterously beefy, to the extent that the whole sandwich has to be skewered through lightly toasted and seeded crusty bread, just to keep it from bursting at the seems. It’s accompanied by a lightly dressed salad of springy leaves and blushing cherry tomatoes, but if you think that’s veering dangerously close to yoghurt-weaving territory, you can always opt for the French fries instead. Wraps, Towers Rotana Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8000). Vegerama sandwich priced Dhs24.
02 Al Mallah shawarmas Al Mallah Underneath the iconic sign, which lights up the midpoint of Dhiyafha Road with its neon green light, three baseball-capped, green-shirted men brave outrageously hot temperatures to deliver delicious street food. The man on the right slots spinach fatayer the size of an outstretched palm into an oven, and the man on the left dunks falafel balls into a deep fryer. But it’s the man in the middle, the guy sawing lamb from a giant slow-spinning shawarma that we’re compelled to salute. He stuffs heaps of juicy, spicy meat into soft, warm flatbreads along with pickled turnips and cucumbers, a sprinkling of parsley, and the secret ingredient, a squirt of tahini that’ll drip down your arm if you don’t quickly fashion a makeshift tray from the paper wrapper. Take a seat right next to the main road at 1am on a Thursday night, get a couple of shawarmas and the outrageously over-the-top Al Mallah special fruit juice, and enjoy a unique people-watching phenomenon – drivers doing laps of Dhiyafha Road showing off their wheels, flirting at the traffic lights, and – inexplicably – voluntarily getting stuck in traffic. Al Mallah, Al Dhiyafha Road (04 398 4723). Shawarmas priced at Dhs4.
01 Chargrilled steak baguette Galloping Gourmet Quite why the good people behind sandwich emporium Galloping Gourmet decided to name their restaurant after a dipsomaniac British television chef from the 1960s is a mystery to us. Perhaps they’re missing the point – upon entering this distressingly bright homage to a French motorway service station circa 1986, there is nothing to suggest the influence of the famous chef at all. Rather, it’s a riot of green and mauve pastels, a bright fast-food style interior and the incessant blaring of Dubaian radio. Still, we urge you to disregard this and instead focus on the raison d’etre of the place – the sandwich-laden menu. The chargrilled steak, mushroom and onion baguette arrives on a small wooden chopping board, artfully drizzled in mayonnaise and seductively squatting next to a huge pile of fresh, hand-cut potato crisps. Just one bite in, and it’s clear you’re in the presence of sandwich royalty. An explosion of flavour, juicy hot pieces of beef, covered in fried mushrooms and hot grilled onions slithered about within the gloriously fresh brown baguette, while the mayonnaise topping kept things nice and sloppy. Absolutely delicious. Galloping Gourmet, Mall Of The Emirates (04 409 9000). Steak sandwich priced Dhs28.
And just outside the top 10...
Carrefour (04 409 4899) Carrefour? Have we lost our minds? Well, not exactly, because the Dhs6 brie baguettes at the hypermarket’s generic Coffee Shop are to be lauded for their simplicity. It’s just a fresh, crusty and very French baguette, three planks of brie cheese and a couple of leaves of lettuce. Simple, dirt cheap and absolutely delicious, especially after 15 seconds in the microwave so the cheese gets stuck to the roof of your mouth.
Leaves (04 399 8888) Few sandwiches are as satisfying than the afternoon tea staple: cream cheese and cucumber. The Grosvenor House’s Leaves, home to the best afternoon tea in town, offer crustless, precisely-cut versions of the cucumber sandwich in some of the cosiest, most cheerfully colonial, seating in town.
The Grind (04 398 9304) Don’t know what you want? The Grind – a recently opened coffee shop in Bur Dubai – offers indecisive sandwich aficionados the chance to build their own. First you choose your bread, then your spread, then a type of cheese, and finally up to five of the 20 fillings on offer. It’s a trifle complicated, but at least there’ll be a filling available that you like.
Paul (04 344 3505) The fresh bread at Paul is out of this world. The sandwich fillings, sadly, don’t quite measure up, but the tuna steak on brown ciabatta, with thick slices of grilled fish appetisingly surrounded by crispy lettuce and meaty slabs of tomato, makes for a great lunch.
Lime Tree Café (04 349 8498) The Lime Tree’s sandwiches are heart-warming affairs; try their herb-covered black olive focaccias toasted to a crisp finish and stuffed with grilled vegetables. And then on to the dreamy, magical carrot cake…
At the prestigious San Pellegrino Cooking Cup in Venice, Lyndsey Steven harassed some of the world’s top chefs until she discovered the secret formula for making the perfect sandwich
Antonio Carluccio ‘It’s all about appetite – to appreciate a good sandwich you need to have the appetite for it. The sandwich needs to be moist. Good sandwiches would be ciabatta with mozzarella or marinated swordfish in olive oil with oregano. For a change, I’d go for a frittata – a small omelette with tomatoes and mortadella [ground heat-cured pork sausage with lard pieces, lightly flavoured with spices including ground pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander and crushed pieces of pistachio nuts] on a toasted ciabatta sprinkled with olive oil.’ Antonio Carluccio is a television presenter, cookery book writer, and owner of 27 Italian cafés throughout the UK.
Tom Aikens ‘Sourdough bread, toasted, with real butter. Frisee lettuce (not iceberg), a strong, sharp English cheddar – an authentic farmhouse cheddar – and a tart chutney. If you add a slice of Parma ham, you need to dress it with mustard and mayonnaise.’ Tom Aikens, the youngest-ever recipient of two Michelin stars, owns the Tom Aikens restaurant in Chelsea, London.
Norbert Niederkofler ‘Great sandwiches depend on where you are – you have to use the ingredients particular to the region. If you are in the Venetian locality of Italy, it would be all about great salmon or tuna. For a truly great Mediterranean sandwich, you need porcini, salad and fresh tuna.’ Norbert Niederkofler is the Michelin-starred chef de cuisine at Tyrolean restaurant, St Hubertus at Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa.
Reuben Riffel ‘You need thick-sliced farmhouse white bread, real butter, a fried egg, bacon, mayonnaise and tomato sauce (preferably Heinz). Yes, butter and mayonnaise – you can see I’m not watching my weight… or, take fresh sourdough bread and smear it thickly with butter, crunchy peanut butter (Skippy) and finally, drizzle honey generously on top.’ Last year, Reuben Riffel won South Africa’s Chef of the Year award, and his restaurant, Reuben’s, in Franschhoek, is considered one of the best in southern Africa.
Kenneth Bryce ‘In Australia I’d go for Devondale butter every time – butter is the key ingredient. The best sandwich is made from wholegrain soy linseed bread, real butter, Vegemite and sharp, powerful cheddar.’ Kenneth Bryce is the head chef at the Gianni Vintage Cellar Restaurant in Brisbane. He’s a previous winner of Australia’s Young Chef of the Year award.
Emmanuel Stroobant ‘It all depends on the yeast in the bread – it’s all about how the dough rises. I’d go for sourdough bread with paper-thin Parma ham, slender slices of firm, ripe tomatoes and a sprinkle of olive oil – but no butter.’ Belgian Michelin starred chef Emmanuel Stroobant is the founder of Saint Pierre restaurant in Singapore and winner of the 2006 San Pellegrino Chef of the Year Award.