Time Out makes a selection of the best French restaurants in Dubai. Bon appetit!
Time Out Dubai staff
French food is used as the benchmark of fine dining around the world. Anywhere where gourmets gather you will find French restaurants and food critics willing to talk about how wonderful they are.
The reality is, of course, that the best restaurants are hidden in among the terrible ones. Thankfully Dubai has its fair share of great French food.
Time out goes in search of ten to try when looking for a French dining experience in Dubai.
Café Chic: Café Chic has to be on its best behaviour at all times, just in order to live up to its name. Fortunately, this place is on its best behaviour as a matter of course, thanks to the exacting standards of its chef and its gifted front of house staff. In fact, things seem to be getting more chic all the time. The business lunch, at Dhs89 for a set menu of three courses, or Dhs110 including a glass of selected wine, is that most rare of combinations: chic and cheap. Regular visits from Michelin-star winner Philippe Gauvreau keep the menu seasonal.
Verre by Gordon Ramsay: Fine French cooking and a Scottish chef might not seem like an obvious recipe for success. But then nothing is obvious about Gordon Ramsay. The two-time Best Restaurant Award-winning Verre is undeniably one of the highlights of the restaurant scene in Dubai. Ramsay is a famed exponent of the French style of cooking and a enforcing his own high standards is what makes the restaurant great.
Traiteur: Traiteur's high ceilings, marble floors and open kitchen make it a place more suited for power lunches and business dinners, rather than a cosy place to impress a loved one. That's unless you choose to sit in the low snug area beneath the stairs. The menu is organised via ingredient, with salads listed under lettuce and onion soup under onions, though starters and mains are separated. There's a distinctly fishy theme running through the menu, the only alternative being steaks. A visit last year from Philippe Labbé (award-winning chef and former protégé of the legendary chef Alain Ducasse) wowed lovers of French food in Dubai.
Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire: If French chefs are the best in the world, and Pierre Gagnaire has the best restaurant in France, there is a very solid argument for suggesting he is the best chef in the world. Which is why it is such an honour to dine in the newly-opened Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire in Festival City. When Michelin pays its visit to Dubai, we won’t be at all surprised if this gem is awarded a glittering treasure of its own (to go with the six Mr Gagnaire keeps in his French trophy cabinet). Take your wallet, it is not unusual for a meal to cost around Dhs1,000 per head, and enjoy a the feast.
St Maxim: The Mall of the Emirates is not really the place where you would expect to find authentic French bistro fare – after all, a mall is the antithesis of French bistro cuisine. Once through the doors of St Maxim, however, you enter a land more reminiscent of Nice than Next. Snails are not something ordinarily found in places also featuring tourists in shorts and people skiing indoors, but they’re served at St Maxim with garlic butter. That most French of all casseroles, the cassoulet, is also surprisingly good for being so far from home. Although it lacks the pork Toulouse sausage, the cassoulet is packed with crunchy haricot beans and a melting duck confit.
Le Classique: The signature restaurant at a golf course might seem like a stuffy English environment. The sort of place you have to wear a tie to get into and expect to find portraits of Margaret Thatcher hanging on the wall. Look at the menu of Le Classique, however, and you will find crepes, oysters and a variety of Gallic treats. The duck breast with blackcurrant and cinnamon sauce is also excellent – the smoky, rich flavour of the meat contrasting nicely with the tang of the fragrant accompaniment.
Hippopotamus: Hippopotamus is a French chain of family restaurants specialising in ‘classic meat dishes cooked in the authentic French way’, according to the menu. This branch, tucked away behind the Grosvenor House hotel, just beyond a giant sandpit, is one of a handful of restaurants at the base of the Marina Tower.
Eau Zone: As you begin your evening by walking across the wooden footbridge to Eau Zone, candlelight reflecting off the still water on either side, it becomes clear that this is a cut above your average Dubai eaterie. The restaurant positively oozes romance, from the hushed conversations between diners to the flickering tealights on the tables. As soon as you are seated, you’ll be greeted with one of the most ornate looking breadbaskets this side of the equator, allowing you to munch away while you peruse the menu. Although it has French emphasis it does lean towards fusionism and you’ll find many a twist on European classics.
St. Tropez: With a name like St Tropez, you expect a restaurant to be the height of fashion and style. You can imagine thin, tanned people popping bites of classic Mediterranean fare into their mouths while laughing and sipping champagne; not tan walls and black and white prints of Brigitte Bardot in Century Village. But if you find yourself here, or nearby, you may as well pop in for some steak, salad and chips, which are excellent, and as good as you will find in any bistro in France. Although the menu offers other items, even going so far as to carry escargot for those who really crave all things French, your best bet is the steak. Cooked rare and seasoned perfectly, the steak frites are as good as you could hope for.
Choices: Vive La France! As if you needed any excuse to enjoy French cuisine. Choices (in the Al Bustan Rotana hotel) might not be atop everybody’s list of French eateries in Dubai. In celebration of Bastille day, however, resident chef (and passport-carrying Frenchman) Christophe Prudhomme will be serving up a Bastille Day buffet. Live cooking stations will be serving up authentic cuisine. Bon appetit!