Sitting down for a big meal with family and friends is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend your spare time. Time Out selects ten Lebanese restaurants for you to try in Dubai
Al Qasr, Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa: Consistently rated as one of the best Lebanese restaurants in the city, Al Qasr earned its plaudits with a winning combination of excellent Arabic food, huge portions, great entertainment and charmingly efficient service. Little has changed over the last twelve months, except now – perhaps in a move to boost revenue for the restaurant – there's no a la carte selection for dinner, only a vast and expensive set menu of hot and cold mezze, salads, dips, grilled meats, fruit and desserts.
Al Nafoorah, Emirates Towers: Al Nafoorah has long been a popular restaurant. Here's why: the mezze arrives with a flourish and you'll be engrossed in the food until long after you stop eating. It starts well with the spry and spirited tabbouleh and batata hara. But keeps getting better with kibbe nayeh (a speciality dish of raw minced lamb) before an irresistible climax of ashta bil asal (clotted cream drizzled with honey) and strong cups of coffee. After all these years, Al Nafoorah continues to fly the flag for Lebanese cuisine.
Mezza House, Independent: This new Burj Dubai-side restaurant is a tribute to the traditional cuisine of the Levant region, showcasing the age-old delights and delicacies of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestine. Rather than focus on a single nation's food it brings together a blend of recipes and favourites from across the region. Lebanese tabbouleh can sit with Syrian muhammarah (spicy walnut and pepper dip). Or you can try the Palestinian style mosakhan roll with its chicken and pine nut flavourings. If you want to learn more about the cuisine of the region Mezza House is a wise choice. Al Khaima, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa: An Arabic feast doesn't feel right without mixed pickles, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush and perhaps a splodge of spicy mohammara – all of which Al Khaima does exceedingly well. But it's the rest of the menu that prods and pokes at your dietary resolve, and compels you to start ordering dishes as if Armageddon were lurking around the corner. You can buy alcohol at this restaurant with the popular Almaza beer from Lebanon keeping diners well lubricated.
Al Khayal, Jumeirah Beach Hotel: If you don't know what to order at an Arabic restaurant, Al Khayal makes life easy with its set menu. And the good news is, it's all pretty good. Make sure your order includes fattoush or tabbouleh, and maybe the sambusak or fatayer. Portions are extremely generous, however, so you'll definitely want to pace yourself. The entertainment will help to fill in the gaps when the waiters aren't paying you attention, whether it's the belly dancer, Arabic club singer, or an enthusiastic keyboard solo.
Awtar, Grand Hyatt: Hidden in the beast that is the Grand Hyatt Dubai is the rather unassuming Awtar. There's hot and cold mezze on the cards and the only hurdle is making a decision. Things kick off with a fresh avocado and shrimp salad, which although not standard Lebanese food, tastes so good it wouldn't matter what corner of the globe it came from. The waiters here allay any scoffing-related guilt by cleaning up after each annihilated platter. Good food, sweet baklava, topped off with immaculate service… what's not to love?
Bastakiah Hights, Independent: If you're seeking an Arabian-nights-style dining experience in Dubai, Bastakiah Nights is going to deliver. Located in the city's lovely Bastakiah area, just a few metres from the Creek and round the corner from the beautiful Grand Mosque, the surroundings – a softly lit traditional courtyard house filled with hangings and rugs and cushions – sets up a magical atmosphere. The menu is fairly tourist-friendly, with its easy-to-order selection of dips, meats and desserts, and the flavours are correspondingly mild, especially for the starters.
Shu, Independent: It's worth coming here for the chandelier alone – a vast profusion of glass baubles spraying from the ceiling, which competes for your attention with a bulging bookcase, a splashing fountain and a menu featuring gorgeous photos of the Earth from the sky by the photo supremo Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The food is pretty good too. Spicy lamb sausage and fried quail being particular highlights. The fun and comfortable atmosphere and the good.
Al Hadheerah, Bab Al Shams: This restaurant is situated in one of the UAE’s most striking idylls. 30 minutes drive away from Dubai Al Hadheerah is part of the exclusive Bab Al Shams resort. It is also home to some of the best Middle Eastern food in the UAE. Arguably the best place to try Emirati food it also serves up a massive variety of food.
Awafi, JW Marriott: The entire ethos here seems to be geared towards putting you at ease, and the friendly service and the stunning views of Dubai’s night sky are guaranteed to calm any lingering frazzled nerves. The (mostly Lebanese) cuisine is no slouch either. Highlights include moist stuffed vine leaves and finely diced and zesty fattoush. A hot assorted mezze basket is also an agreeable option, with the spinach sambusak a real highlight of this particular mixed bag.