Our reviewers report back after dining round the emirate's iftar options
Time Out Dubai staff
We mark the Holy Month of Ramadan by eating our way through some of the city’s best and newest iftar options.
During Ramadan, Dubai’s eating out scene shifts dramatically and not only out of respect to the city’s fasting inhabitants. The legion of iftar events, seen at the grandest hotels to the humblest eateries has become a favourite seasonal custom in the city. We’ve picked 22 that represent the full range available, from high-profile and grandiose, to newly launched deals and budget-friendly options. We’ve picked a variety of food, atmosphere and value. Check them out whether you are fasting or not.
Balance Café The four-course set menu ticks every box – healthy, good value, tasty and plentiful. Unfortunately, when we visited we were the only customers – making the atmosphere flat. Hopefully word will spread about the delicious choco fig tart plus hummus and babbaganoush starters. Dhs55 Sunset-9pm. Balance Café, Oasis Centre, Al Quoz. (04 384 7010).
Helio Lounge This casual event is set up in small tents dotted about the Egyptian-inspired venue, which overlooks the Marina. Arabic TV shows play loudly while guests sample food from the limited buffet, which includes a few Egyptian dishes, besides koshari. Dhs99 (Includes one water and welcome juice). Sunset-9.30pm. Trident Bayside, Dubai Marina (800 43546).
Urban Bistro Urban Bistro’s Lebanese inspired à la carte iftar menu boasts an unlimited supply of soup, salad and mezze. Plus it welcomes a host of individuals from the area, namely young professionals – making it a good option for business iftars. Dhs99 Sunset-9pm. Media City, CNN building (04 362 4330).
Al Bahou Housed in an imposing sky-high, Moroccan-style courtyard complete with an oud player, Al Bahou provides an appropriate backdrop for iftar. Standout dishes include the creamy and moreish kousa ablama (zucchini stuffed with lamb), but the manakesh cooking station proved the biggest hit. Dhs150 Sunset-8.30pm, Ibn Battuta Gate, adjacent to Ibn Battuta Mall (04 444 0000).
Al Dawaar Dubai’s only revolving restaurant provides the option of iftar with rotating 360 views of the city. Highlights include delicately spiced Jordanian mansaf and succulent stuffed quail. Dhs150 Sunset-8.30pm, Hyatt Regency, Cornich Road, Deira (04 209 1234).
Al Majlis, Madinat Arena The Madinat Arena is transformed into a regal banquet hall, with imposing chandeliers and tasteful Arabic decor. Fresh salad stations offer an assortment of leafy greens and mustard-baked bread, while the hot food stations offer a rather disappointing selection of fried seafood, mixed grill kebabs and local dishes. Dhs195 Sunset-8.15pm. Madinat Arena, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Asateer Tent Opulently decorated with silken drapes and sparkling lanterns, this Ramadan tent even houses prayers rooms. The variety of food is not vast but the quality of Lebanese and Emirati classics is good. We were less impressed by the service and manner in which guests were herded in and rushed out of this iftar. Dhs185 Sunset- 8.30pm. Atlantis, The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Café Arabesque Be sure to book ahead because the Park Hyatt’s stylish Arabian eatery is packed with affluent diners tucking into a modest-sized buffet. It is priced at the upper end of the spectrum, but for quality of food or atmosphere we couldn’t fault it. We counted at least 35 types of hot and cold mezze, an excellent ouzi, juice stations and shawarma stands as well as at least half a dozen more main course dishes and a groaning dessert table. Dhs180 Sunset-9.30pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
Constellation Ballroom Stylish red and blue drapes and colourful lanterns adorn the venue and flat screens provide entertainment. In the corridor, there’s a majlis offering henna painting and an enticing buffet. Traditional favourites include lamb ouzi, but the prawn machboos and citrusy chicken fass impressed us most. Dhs155 Sunset-9pm. The Address Dubai Marina (04 436 7777). Ewaan Lounge Set across the lounge itself and a series of Ramadan tents, this Downtown iftar is highly popular throughout the week. Though the buffet can get a little crowded, it’s well worth jostling for space. Try slices of camel meat in a smooth gravy, flame-grilled squid, salmon tandoori, roast duck and more traditional offerings such as lamb ouzi. Staff go out of their way to make sure you’re enjoying the experience, and everything is done with a smile. An excellent experience. Dhs195 Sunset-9pm. The Palace, Downtown Dubai (04 428 7888).
Khan Murjan The fantastic Khan Murjan is a Time Out favourite all year round, but it really comes into its own at Ramadan. The atmospheric corridors all lead to the restaurant which is frequently packed with families filling up on hot and cold mezze, delicacies from right across the Arab world and an enormous selection of juices. Dhs148 Sunset-9pm. Khan Murjan Souk, Wafi, Oud Metha (04 327 9795).
Lafayette Gourmet The daily buffet features a relatively modest selection but to a high standard in terms of quality and taste. The salads, cold appetisers and delicatessen are particularly good, also including a small sushi section, with lamb ouzi, shish taouk, made-to-order pasta, paneer curry and more for the mains. You won’t want to linger long, but for an evening’s refuel, you won’t be disappointed. Dhs145 From sunset for two hours. Galeries Lafayette, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 339 9933).
Leila The Lebanese restaurant offers a wide array of hot and cold mezzes such as vine leaves, cheese rolls, salads, hot soup and a choice of chicken shawarma or a mixed grill platter for the main course. Arabic cooling drinks, fresh fruit juices and warm beverages are served with the meal as part of the set menu alongside a traditional Lebanese dessert. Dhs130 Sunset-8.30pm. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 448 3384).
Ramadan Majlis at Dubai World Trade Centre Sheikh Saeed Hall is transformed into a monochrome majlis, with chairs covered in black and white fabric and white drapes and lanterns hanging from the studio ceiling. Oud music plays softly and a projector screens Arabic shows without sound. The buffet is a manageable size – the samkeh harrah fish was the standout dish. Dhs135 Sunset-8.30pm. Dubai World Trade Centre, Downtown Dubai (04 308 6322). Ramadan Tent at Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort The spacious tent in the hotel gardens offers beach views at the end. The buffet includes live stations for pasta, spicy stir-fried prawns and crepes, but the iftar staples were hit and miss, and you may also have to contend with slow service. Dhs185 (Includes drinks from the buffet only). Sunset-10.30pm. The Walk, JBR (04 315 3862).
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding After a Q&A session and the athan (call to prayer), our Emirati hosts prayed and then broke their fast with dates, water and Arabic coffee. The main meal (including traditional harees) followed, before we headed to the Diwan Mosque. Back at the centre, the evening concluded with conversation and desserts – including an exceptional umm ali. Dhs135 Sunset-9pm. Al Fahidi Neighbourhood, Bur Dubai (04 353 6666).
Sim Sim A unique mix of traditional and modern dining, Sim Sim offers an iftar buffet catering to palettes with a fancy for Levantine food in a trendy restaurant atmosphere. The must-try speciality dishes are Jordanian mansaf and fattoush gazawi – a Palestinian-inspired version of the salad. Dhs115 Sunset-9.30pm. The Walk, JBR, next to Mövenpick Hotel (04 454 2319).
Tagine The intimate, candle-lit Tagine is a sanctuary of Arabic-themed opulence. With a mixture of buffet and à la carte options on the menu, dishes include chicken tagine and lentil soup, which are earthy and authentic. Dhs180 Sunset-9pm. The One&Only Royal Mirage, Umm Sequim (04 399 9999).
Wafi Gourmet The wide open, casual dining hall was packed with families placed between the mounds of takeaway salads, sauces and sweets of the shop on one side and the glorious Festival City Marina on the other. Generous cold mezzes are offered before moving onto Lebanese grills and biryani-style dishes. Dhs135. Sunset-9pm. Wafi Gourmet, Promenade Walk, Festival City. (04 232 9244).
Al Iwan Great for couples, the romantic setting features dimly lit tables, some with stunning views of the ocean (ask for a window seat when you book). Break fast with fresh seafood, including lobster claws, chicken livers, plenty of Arabic mezze, roast lamb, Indian curries and traditional dishes such as lamb ouzi. Dhs290 Sunset-8.30pm. Al Iwan, Burj Al Arab (04 301 7600).
Ottomans The set menu of Turkish classics includes fresh and lively cold dips, delicious Turkish pide and juicy lamb kofte and sojuk as part of the mixed grills. On our visit, the waiter recommended ordering one menu between two diners, which proved to be more than sufficient. This award-winning restaurant also offers excellent service. Dhs250 Sunset-8.30pm. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
The Sunken Garden With an adventurous selection of Arabic sushi alongside more conventional buffet items, and international favourites such as butter chicken, the selection is vast and high quality. The air-conditioned garden means that you can also dine al fresco in comfort, while enjoying the traditional live music. Dhs225 Sunset-9pm. The Ritz Carlton, DIFC. (04 372 2323).
Year-round Emirati dining options in Dubai
Al Fanar A kitsch yet fun and atmospheric restaurant set by Festival City canal. Dubai Festival City Mall, Festival City (04 232 9966). Klayya Bakery and Sweets A colourful little café serving an all-day breakfast menu of eggy Emirati recipes. Barsha Mall, Barsha (04 325 5335). Laylati Café A long-standing favourite for authentic Emirati food in the city. Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha (04 317 1234) Mama Tani Try traditional khameer breads, filled with key ingredients from the region. Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 385 4437). Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding The centre hosts a cultural brunch and dinner events with a traditional menu all year round. Al Fahidi historical district, Bur Dubai (04 353 6666).