Finding a really good breakfast in Dubai is no easy task. Unlike brunches and dinners word-of-mouth has gonna quiet so Time Out sets an alarm clock and starts eating early.
Arabic Bin Eid Traditional Restaurant Any restaurant that’s been open in Dubai for 33 years deserves some serious respect. Such is the case at this Deira eatery, which is also one of the few restaurants in town to serve camel meat. Though the café has all the grim elegance of an Arabesque greasy spoon, you can’t beat it for authentic local eats. Kick things off with a helping of foul (pronounced ‘ful’) mudammas (Dhs12), the chilled onion and fava bean stew that is a staple at breakfast tables in the Middle East. Compliment this with Nashif meat (Dhs15), a tangle of tender, spicy lamb and flavoursome peppers. An unusual breakfast and rather heavy on the carb intake, but satisfying and super cheap.
Chinese Noodle Bowl As traditional breakfasts go, congee is definitely an acquired taste. That said, the rib-sticking porridge is as traditionally Chinese as calligraphy and communal exercise. There are endless regional variations, but at Noodle Bowl they go for the Cantonese version. It comes with thin shreds of chicken and ginger, all served in a bowl the size of a bucket for a meagre Dhs18. The less-trained palette might find the mixture a bit bland, so you’d be wise to spice up the grub with a chilli sauce.
Emirati The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding Opportunities to eat Emirati food are few and far between in this city, which is why the Sheikh Mohammed Centre’s weekly cultural breakfast is so essential. Centre staff dish out four traditional dishes: Luquaimat, a sweet doughnut drizzled with honey; chibab, a saffron-infused flatbread; hareess, a porridge made with chunks of meat; and balaleet, chunks of vermicelli mixed with fried egg and saffron. Reservations are essential.
English Basta Art Café This Bastikya treasure is the perfect place to start the day. Breakfast here can be a simple or complex affair – choose from a yoghurt/fruit/muesli combo (Dhs18) that comes layered like a trifle, or opt for the full English breakfast (Dhs35). Ingredients are fresh, eggs are easy and if the on-menu beef sausage offering doesn’t hold enough promise, staff are happy to substitute it for ham if asked. And to those who protest such a fry-up isn’t entirely ‘traditional’ (bread is of the Arabic rather than white-loaf variety, beans are not Heinz)? Frankly, my dears, we don’t give a damn.
Filipino Kabalen Restaurant The cheery décor at Time Out’s favourite Filipino restaurant never fails to make our morning. The bright yellow walls and chequered tablecloths are a welcome start to any day, and the food, made with painstaking care, is the best fuel to get us started. Start with the tapsilog (Dhs15), strips of juicy, elegantly seasoned barbecue beef served alongside garlic-chip studded rice and a fried egg. It may all sound like a bizarre mingling of foods (especially for the morning), but the combo is so tasty we urge you, nay, compel you to make a special daytime trip to Karama to give it a go.
French Bistro Madeleine For a breakfast so authentically French it makes you feel you’ve jumped on a plane to Paris, Bistro Madeleine is not a bad bet. French toast (Dhs25) is a delight – thick slices of moist eggy bread dusted in cinnamon and served with sweet liquid honey and cream on the side, while the Dhs35 oeufs en cocotte – eggs baked with cream in little ramekins – is as delicious as it is rich (though it might pay to ask the kitchen to lay off the salt). We suggest you come here on the weekend for a leisurely breakfast, and to make the very most of the gastronomic decadence on offer with a good newspaper and a few cups of coffee.
Indian Bombay Chowpatty Bombay Chowpatty might not be the most glamorous eatery in Dubai – or even in Bur Dubai – but for Indian breakfasts it can’t be beaten. We recommend the dal puri, a snip at Dhs5. For that small amount, you’ll get a tub of thick, soupy lentil paste and some pillowy puri (crispy fried bread) for dipping. The uninitiated might shirk at our description, but once you’ve started dipping you won’t want to stop.
Moroccan Almaz by Momo You wouldn’t think a restaurant stationed in a mall department store (let alone Harvey Nics) could prove so tranquil, yet Almaz by Momo is the very vision of serenity. Pierce your calm with the Berber pancakes (Dhs16), which are light, airy and soaked in honey. We’re also partial to the Tunisian brick (Dhs34), a light filo pastry stuffed with tuna, parsley and onions. Round out your meal with crumbly, delicate pastries and a cup of sweet mint tea.
Pakistani Baithal Ravi Restaurant Winter is coming with its relatively chilly weather, so there will be some mornings when a hot, filling breakfast is called for. With that in mind, scoot down early to Baithal Ravi for a steaming egg paratha (Dhs4), which you can use to mop up a plate of chenna kadai (Dhs10) – a mildly spiced chick pea curry that is a morning staple in Pakistan. This isn’t an oil-free brekkie, but, washed down with a salty lassi and a cup of tea, it’s a treat that will keep you going for hours and hours.
Sri Lankan Chef Lanka For those who can’t get enough spice, or enough carbohydrates, the breakfast pastries at Chef Lanka are sure to hit the spot. Fish rotis come packed with some serious, throat-scorching heat, which you can wash down with a fresh juice made from sugar cane. Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to spend more than Dhs20, even if you go all out feasting on the little buns. Word has it that the small café is going to expand their breakfast offerings in coming months, so expect some powerful, mouth-watering curries to help wake you up.
Turkish Mado Breakfast at Mado is deceptive. The space looks like your run-of-the-mill coffee and bread stand. But don’t be fooled, this unassuming little joint has a wealth of Turkish breakfast options. We were particularly partial to the Anatolia breakfast (Dhs26), which comes with scrambled eggs, gosleme (a flaky cheese stuffed bread), olives, creamy chunks of feta and borek (filo pastry stuffed with spinach). The Turkish pastries, all cooked in-house, are a marvel as well. Not only will you feel spoiled by the meal’s end, you’ll also feel amazingly peppy, thanks in part to the light yet seriously filling grub.
Bang for your brekkie
UAE-based nutritionist Belinda Rennie tells us which breakfast staples are healthiest.Pancakes Healthy? It depends. White flour is high in insulin, meaning it can cause your blood sugar to spike and then dip, which will leave you hungry early in the day. Best bet: If you love pancakes, make them with wholegrain flour, adding berries and yoghurt to maximise the nutritional value.
English breakfast Healthy? Fried food is never healthy. There are a lot of cholesterol issues with an old fashioned fry up. Best bet: If you’re going to do a big breakfast, move away from processed meats like bacon and sausages. Try salmon with spinach and eggs instead.
Eggs Healthy? Factory farmed eggs, not so much; organic eggs, you bet. Organic eggs are higher in nutrients and reduce toxicity. Best bet: Boil or poach them by dropping them in water. It only takes three minutes, and it’s a better option then frying.
Muffins (or any breakfast pastry) Healthy? No way. It’s made from refined flour, which means it’s going to give you an insulin high which will then create a blood sugar imbalance. You body just sees that as sugar. Best bet: Just don’t do it. There are no pastries that are OK.
Dairy Healthy? Yes, though I recommend a fermented dairy product, like yoghurt. Best bet: Have a bowl of yoghurt with homemade muesli and fruit; that hits most of the major food groups and maximises the nutrients you take in.
Cereal Healthy? It depends. I’d avoid anything to do with Kellogg’s; their cereals are all processed. Best bet: If you are going to eat cereal, opt for one that’s oat-based.
Smoothies and juices Healthy? It’s a good option, but you’ll need to eat three hours later. Best bet: Add raw nuts to your smoothie blend; they will keep your blood sugar stable for longer so you won’t crave. Belinda Rennie, Osteopathic Health Centre (04 348 7366)
For the best brew...
Tea means different things to different Dubaians. For the city’s million-strong Indian population, it’s the sweetened Chai version (of which Caribou Coffee does a lavish latte, 04 283 3577). It’s all about the Moroccan tea in the Arabic restaurants, served with mint or without, and done very well at Al Samar Lounge, Mina A’Salam (04 366 8888). Of course, we couldn’t forget English Breakfast Tea, of which Lipton T Junction in Emirates Towers (04 330 0788) serves an impressive cup. The only dedicated casual tea café in town, it also offers more unusual concoctions (pineapple and vanilla tea, anyone?).
For the supreme fruit smoothie...
When it comes to freshly squeezed juices and smoothies, Dubai is a honey pot. Relatively new juice bars such as Ibn Battuta’s Zest (04 368 5460), Harvey Nichol’s Fushi (04 409 8888) and the Madinat’s Joga Juice (04 368 6190) offer all sorts of newfangled shots and combinations. Our favourite is Joga’s Energy Lift: mango, strawberry, apple and yoghurt, Dhs18. Meanwhile, every Arabic restaurant has a rainbow of mushed up fruits on offer, with the local delicacy most certainly being mango. Get a large one and it enjoy 40 per cent of your daily fruit requirement. And all before breakfast.
For the finest coffee...
An interviewee recently said to us: ‘Dubai is constantly on the go – it’s like they’re spraying caffeine in the air.’ And frankly, with the hundreds of coffee shops in this town (and the resultant coffee breath) – they probably are. Our top cup comes courtesy of LeNôtre Paris on Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 4499), where the cappuccinos are as smooth and rich as Daniel Craig. If you’re looking for something a little more regional, Sheraton Creek’s The Lobby Café does Dubai’s best Arabic coffee, served in perfect-sized little cups (04 228 1111).
Breakfast of champions
Looking for a breakfast that’s a little more… healthy? Cheap? Organic? Whatever your cravings, we’ve got them covered.For the health nut... Dante It’s worth stealing an hour out of your busy day to enjoy some Bircher muesli at Dante (Dhs12). The oats and pumpkin seeds are soaked in apple juice and served with yoghurt and berries. There’s no added sugar, so you won’t feel guilty indulging in a plate of free-range organic scrambled eggs and Norwegian smoked salmon on toast (Dhs25). Green Community (04 885 3399). Serving breakfast Sun-Thu 8am-11am
For the cheapskate… Second Cup You’ve got to admit, Dhs21 is a heck of a cooked breakfast deal. You can opt for fried or scrambled eggs, combined with beef bacon, or an omelette with beef sausage. Each meal comes with two hash browns, a tomato topped with cheesy breadcrumbs, toast, jam, and your choice of coffee or tea. Bur Dubai (04 351 3130). Taxi: next to Spinneys, opposite Jumbo Electronics. Serving breakfast from 7.30-11am. Other location: branches across Dubai
For a fancy buffet... The Rotisserie The One&Only Royal Mirage exudes romance, and The Rotisserie is no different. Though eating here in the morning may make you feel like you’re gatecrashing (the clientele are mainly guests), it’s worth it to dig into such a varied selection. Not only are there waffles, but scotch pancakes, croissant mountains, and Arabic pancakes. Plus, Rotisserie may serve up the best bacon rashers in town. The only issues here are the hours (7am-10.30am) and the steep price (Dhs90). One & Only Royal Mirage (04 399 9999). Serving breakfast 7am-10.30pm daily
For canteen grub with style... Lime Tree Café Brunchers often eschew the five-star hotel for this little independent café come Friday morn, and who can blame them? You don’t have to hold out ’til the weekend to enjoy a spot of homemade muesli and fruit and yoghurt (Dhs26). Or if you fancy something heartier, opt for the all-day breakfast banger (Dhs26) – a messy bun, made up with all the staples of a hearty English fry up. Jumeirah 1 (04 349 8498), near Jumeirah Mosque. Serving breakfast 7am-1pm daily. Other location: Ibn Battuta Mall (04 366 9230)
For organic grub... Organic Foods & Café Organic food was once the reserve for those with plenty of time and moollah to spend on their health. Now, it’s as common as sliced bread, and with the help of Satwa’s Organic Food and Café, accessible to all. For breakfast, we like to indulge in a pesticide-free, chemical-free glass of freshly squeezed pineapple juice (Dhs15.50), a buttery croissant (Dhs6) and a plate of diced fruit, muesli and yoghurt (Dhs21.50) large enough to feed the masses of starving crowds in Deira City Centre’s neverending taxi queue. (04 398 9410), Satwa on Mankhool Rd. Serving breakfast 8am-10pm
For breakfast at night... More Café More is an institution among Dubai’s café classes and its breakfasts, in particular, are a delight. Alongside all the usual egg combinations, they offer substantial Continental and Oriental varieties, but it’s the full English that keeps us coming back again and again. A generous three eggs cooked any way you like ’em is served with homebaked bread, beans, tomato and your choice of sausage or bacon. And did we mention that at More, breakfast is served all day? Call us spoiled, but we can’t resist coming back for, well, more. And more. Garhoud (04 283 0224). Serving breakfast 8am-10pm daily. Other location Al Murooj Rotana complex (04 343 3779)