Time Out selects ten restaurants and cafes to stop for a bite on Sheikh Zayed Road
From business lunches to bustling brunches Sheikh Zayed Road still offers more dining choices than anywhere else in Dubai.
Within the space of just a few minutes walk diners can choose from high style and low prices. Whatever your budget there is something for you on what is, for many visitors and residents alike, the heart of the city.
We’ve selected ten places to try a meal. From a quick bite or takeaway to five star dining. Do you have any other top tips? Leave a comment below if you think you know another restaurant we’ve missed out.
Cheap eats Noodle Sushi:Confined in one of Noodle Sushi’s bamboo laden cabins, you could conceivably be anywhere in Japan, such are the myriad reference points. Lightly painted Japanese murals anoint the walls, while the thinly tapered metal chopsticks – littered with Japanese insignia – are a rarity in Dubai. Factor in the swirly light generated by the paper globe lamp shades, and you have an utterly serene setting. It’s all a far cry from the hustle and bustle of your entrance – located at the top of the Safestway supermarket just off Sheikh Zayed Road, simply finding the restaurant is a quest. But, if you’re after an authentic taste of Japan, there are few better unlicensed venues in the city.
Saj Express: A popular choice amongst office workers thanks to its takeaway options. Although it is not the most thrilling place for an eat-in meal, there’s pleasant outdoor seating at the Sheikh Zayed Road branch and it’s worth going for the shawarmas alone. We left wishing there had been slightly larger portions, but, in terms of taste, the chicken is perfectly juicy and tender, speckled with spices and herbs and rolled in soft bread from the saj oven. Shakespeare & Co: With its granny chic interior, Shakespeare’s creates an atmosphere ideally suited to lazy weekend brunches. The Sheikh Zayed Road branch stands out as a favourite thanks to its outdoor terrace. Breakfasts are a good option – try the Lebanese version (it comes with halloumi, labneh and saj) or the traditional English breakfast. This small chain still offers one of the most quirky, but sophisticated places to hang out for a light lunch.
Marzano:After negotiating the Burj Dubai building site, you’ll find Marzano in one of Dubai’s newest souks (at the foot of the Burj Dubai). The food will have you hooked from start to finish. The rotolini di gamberi e pancetta features fat prawns and a dash of balsamic syrup. Another good bet is the moist shavings of bresaola and cantaloupe melon. Eat them both alongside caprese bruschetta with soft mozzarella, tomatoes and verdant basil on crunchy grilled focaccia bread. For an animated main course, try the linguine – you’ll be catching all manner of prawns, mussels, clams and calamari – and repeatedly tucking everything away with lashings of slightly spicy tomato sauce.
Nezesaussi:Inside this bright, frenetically rugby-fuelled place, matches blare, the central bar bustles and all is set for the next big game. In the corner, the open plan kitchen sizzles purposefully. Nezesaussi cater for sport widows too, serving the pretty outdoor courtyard area, which is where we urge anyone with an aversion to blaring football or rugby commentaries to head for, as well as any guilty smokers (the bar is smoke free). Oscar’s Vine Society: The venue resembles a French wine cellar with its cavernous feel, roughly plastered walls, upturned wooden barrels and chalkboard wine and food lists. But what sets Oscar’s apart from established Dubai wine bars such as The Agency or Vintage is its authentic bill of fare, which features oysters, cheese, cold cuts, and a truly splendid black pudding with roasted apples and mashed potatoes that will have confirmed Francophiles gleefully humming the Marseillaise between mouthfuls.
Blow the budget
The Exchange Grill: From the moment you sink into the Time Out award-winning restaurant's deep leather chairs, a night at The Exchange is an experience to salivate over. A starter of blue swimmer crab cakes with pineapple and vanilla relish and a tarragon mustard aioli followed by a 10oz filet mignon, a cut of aged Angus meat, is utterly sublime – delicately pliant yet full of flavour and complemented exquisitely by a quartet of sauces, including a buttery béarnaise and a selection of Dijon mustards.
Thiptara: Thiptara is visually stunning inside, and when the half-brushed canvas that crouches at the base of the world's tallest building is completed, it will be even more so. The quest for perfection is mirrored by the Burj Dubai's progress and the ambition is apparent. Superb glass noodle salad with chicken and portly prawns helps justify the Burj-like high prices. As does the Panaeng nau (tender slices of beef in a bowl of dark curry sauce with coconut milk and sweet basil) which is also terrific.
Vu’s: From its 51st-floor location, you'll be able to see a glittering vista of flickering lights and muted, traffic-clogged streets that is Dubai. Once you've managed to tear yourself away from the view, tear into a selection of European classics. From veal steaks to creamy risottos there is a stringent level of flavoursome quality. The food at Vu's has the attitude to match the altitude.
Benjarong: Once you’ve walked into Benjarong, the stresses of the day can melt away. If the imperial pillars and ornate carvings on the blue and gold printed walls don’t transport you to paradise southeast Asian style, the beatific lady serenading you on the traditional Thai khim – a brass-stringed instrument played with two flexible bamboo sticks – as you walk to your table will. The food rarely veers away from authenticity either. Tom yam koong, the famous hot and sour Thai soup, is often toned down for western tastes, but this fragrant prawn, lime and lemongrass creation packs a well-weighted punch.