Step away from the five star hotels and celebrity-linked eateries and you will see that Dubai has a wide range of independent restaurants. Time Out selects ten of its favourites
Diners in Dubai can never complain about a lack of choice. Dozens of hotels are home to hundreds of restaurants.
But if you stray away from the hotels and well-known chains there are some hidden gems. Restaurants that offer the good food and service you would expect from any recommended establishment. They also offer another, much harder to come across factor: charm.
Scroll down to see Time Out’s selection of ten charming independent restaurants worth a try while you are in Dubai.
Lemongrass: Nestled among the discount shops in the Lamcy Plaza area is Lemongrass. A deceptively unimposing façade leads into a tasteful interior of subtle greens and delicate peaches, where heady aromas of Eastern spices permeate the air. There's a tempting selection of traditional Thai fare and an exotic variety of more imaginative dishes form the menu. Overall Lemongrass offers a satisfying dining experience with a delightful taste of Bangkok, which assures the restaurant a regular stream of loyal diners.
The Noodle Bowl: Chances are you'll breeze past The Noodle Bowl, which is adjacent to the Dune shopping complex. It really isn't very big. But push open the doors and you'll find a vibrant and funky restaurant serving some of the most delicious and carefully prepared Cantonese food in town; something suggested by the reassuring number of Chinese diners present. Dhiyafah Street may be famed for its Arabic fare, but you'd do well to shun the shawarmas for one night and head here instead.
Gazebo:Richly deserved kudos goes to Gazebo, which has retained its elevated status among the city's curry cabal in the face of some stern competition. The lengthy menu focuses on dishes from Lucknow and Hyderabad, two of India's most renowned culinary hotspots. The food is a cut above your standard bhuna in terms of imagination with its meaty lobster rich tawa masala and the tender lamb in the achari gosht.
Lan Kwai Fong: Authentic decor and a largely Chinese clientele means you feel like you're getting the real thing at Lan Kawi Fong. The appetiser platter is a great start, with crispy spring rolls and loaded prawn toast. Definitely check out the spicy special fried rice, which adds a little extra kick to any dish, and if you only order one meal, make sure it's the juicy, meaty, slow-cooked BBQ duck. Picollo Mondo Café and Restaurant: Bohemian oases tend to be hard to find in Dubai. particularly in the giant hotels and megamalls. Venture out to International City, however, and you might find yourself dining in the Picollo Mondo Café and Restaurant. The food is not enough, perhaps, to get a gormet gnashing their teeth. But this is a fun, quirky place to eat nonetheless. It is a must visit for anybody in International City and well worth the trip for outsiders.
Pars Iranian Kitchen: Although the food at all Pars outlets is very good, you will want to visit the Satwa branch. It is almost entirely open-air and offers seating on traditional machan cushions. Throw off your shoes, flop down and enjoy a meal under the stars. You can also watch your meal being prepared on the outdoor grill. Reasonable prices and polite service complete the relaxing picture.
Ravi Restaurant:The bihiri kebab (mutton) is as tangy as it is tender, and consists of little more than a mound of slightly charred strips of grilled meat. Try it alongside a feisty mutton palak in a rich curry swamp spiked with seed-packed chilli grenades; an aggressive chicken sukha in a rich quicksand of spice, and a diplomatic butter chicken swathed in a velvety sauce. You'll struggle to spend more than Dhs50 for two people and the food is excellent, which goes someway to explaining why Ravi's is the best-known Pakistani restaurant in town.
Smiling BKK: The eccentric dish titles at Smiling BKK (‘fook mi', ‘experience of crack', ‘like a virgin') are a perfectly innocent (if a little cheeky) facet of this quirky Thai restaurant's immense appeal. Of course, there are better, more professional Thai restaurants in town, but with its café-style food, friendly service, daft interior and crazy menu, Smiling BKK, which only opened its doors at the end of 2006, has something that all the high-powered PR campaigns in the world can't buy – charm. And buckets of it.
Barbecue Delight: Top of the à la carte list of delights is the magnificent fish tikka. Even if you’re not a huge fan of fish, these hunks of hammour are a must-have, marinated with red chillies, garlic, ginger and coriander seeds, and then barbecued until gently crisped on the outside and torrentially juicy on the inside. The mutton karahi doesn’t match the majesty of the fish, but the little iron pot of tender meat, tomato and devilishly hot green chilli in a smooth, rich sauce packs a punch, even when wrapped up and dispatched in sheets of soft, buttery garlic naan. Xiao Wei Yang Hotpot: Eating in Deira’s Xiao Wei Yang Hotpot restaurant can make you do the strangest things. You may find yourself munching on grilled lamb’s gonads from a wooden skewer or Mandarin fish balls. It’s that kind of place. For those unsure of the concept behind the hotpot, you’ll be given a large bowl of stock, like the yin-yang combo of milky-coloured, herby chicken broth, and an oily red pool of mouth-numbing chilli and garlic-infused spice. The broth is placed on a hotplate in the centre of the table, and left to boil and bubble.