We put on our best frocks and headed out for a civilised afternoon tea or two in Dubai. How polite
More Café: Tea time starts at 3pm, which is a perfect hour to grab an outdoor table to bask in the afternoon sun. After selecting your preferred tea and choosing from a range of standard cakes (strawberry cheesecake, apple tart or white chocolate) the waiter will bring out a three-tiered stand, with salmon and cucumber sandwiches and shortbread and coffee biscuits. Despite the pleasant setting, it’s a bit uninspiring with some noticeable flaws: a poorly baked shortbread base and slightly soggy bread. But, at Dhs30, you could do a lot worse. Garhoud (04 283 0224), Gold & Diamond Park (04 323 4350), Al Murooj Rotana (04 343 3779). Tea served from 3.30pm-6pm daily. Dhs30 per tea stand.
Epicure: As you make your way to Epicure, and the sparkling, gem-like pool outside it, you’ll be ideally situated to watch the horses prancing around on the manicured polo grounds nearby. The afternoon tea comes with all the usual suspects: smoked salmon on toast, roast beef and cucumber sandwiches, plus a heaving tray of perfectly ripe fresh fruit. The assorted biscuits and sweets make a lovely finish to a delightful tea. However, the kitchen could improve on its scones (which, on a recent vist, were slightly burned). The Desert Palm (04 323 8888). Tea served from 3.30pm-4.30pm daily. Dhs120 per person.
The One&Only Royal Mirage: The One&Only is one of Dubai’s most sophisticated resorts, so it’s a surprise that high tea here is a mere Dhs85 – and you get plenty for the money. The stand has a generous selection of sandwiches and possibly Dubai’s softest scones. Next, a pastry tray is proffered with all manner of treats. One stand easily fills up two, so wear something roomy. Undoing the top button of your trousers just isn’t in keeping with the ambience. The One & Only Royal Mirage (04 399 9999). Tea served from 3pm-6pm daily. Dhs85 per tea stand.
Raffles Salon: Metallic tasting faux cream is not what one expects plumping up the middle of their mini choux pastries and chocolate éclairs in one of Dubai’s exclusive hotels. They did, however, spoon out the real stuff for the light-as-air scones. There are three choices in this bright space in the Raffles lobby – Arabic, contemporary and traditional English. The first is all about sticky pastries, dates and sandwiches. The remaining two options are almost identical, though the English arrives with cut cucumber and egg sandwiches and the contemporary with mini rolls stuffed with rocket, brie and the like. It’s delicious, but we challenge anyone to be able to finish the three-tiered stack of nibbles. There is also a whole range of loose leaf Ronnefeldt tea available – just remember to use the dainty silver strainer when attempting to pour a second cup. Raffles Dubai (04 314 8888). Tea served 2pm-7pm daily. Dhs120 per person, Dhs200 with a glass of champagne.
Park Hyatt: The Park Hyatt is a glorious space. It’s not wonder it’s such a hot spot for brunchers, who love the outdoor seating and creek views. The lounge is probably the least aesthetically pleasing of its venues, which is a shame, because that’s where high tea is served. Still, the place is refined, and the tea is lovely, even if the sandwiches (stale) and scones (cold) leave something to be desired. The assorted sweets do something to make up for the otherwise lacklustre offerings, as does the fresh loose leaf tea the venue serves. Still, it’s clear the Hyatt isn’t really used to serving high tea (the place was empty). Perhaps it’s better to stick to venues that are more familiar with the concept. Park Hyatt Dubai Creek (04 602 1234). Tea served 3pm-7pm daily. Dhs115 for two.
Leaves Tea Lounge: Lush sofas, discreet staff and soothing background music create a serene environment for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Tea connoisseurs are spoiled for choice with an array of traditional as well as exotic teas on offer. The wild berry tea is a treat with its aromatic flavour. Unfortunately, where the teas shine, the rather bland cakes disappoint. Still, the scones are beautifully fluffy and fresh. The sandwiches are a hit, as a large selection of relatively good portions is offered. If one excludes the decidedly uninspiring cakes, Grosvenor House is certainly worth a visit for those fancying a classy cuppa. Grosvenor House (04 399 8888). Tea served 3pm-6pm daily. Dhs120 per person.
Al Qasr: Overlooking the sea and Madinat waterways, afternoon tea at Al Qasr is a languid affair, but don’t sit outside on a Friday unless you want a raucous brunch-fuelled cacophony to interrupt your thoughts. There’s an extensive tea menu (‘apple fantasies’ makes for a refreshing break from the norm) though the food is less exciting. Slightly dry bread lets down the finger sandwiches, cakes are pleasant but uninspiring and the scones are tasty but cold. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 8888). Serving afternoon tea 3pm-6pm daily. Dhs120 per tea stand.
The Palace Hotel:The Palace’s lobby lounge is surprisingly plush. The seats are comfy and the views of the old town are outstanding. Service, alas, is rather hit and miss, and tea-craving patrons will find they need to hunt their waiters down. While tea is the standard price (Dhs120), the offerings are a bit meagre: four chilled, uninspiring sandwiches wrapped in cellophane, two delicious though incredibly miniature scones, and a handful of dense, insipid cakes do not a proper high tea make, even if the tea itself is nicely brewed from loose leaves. The Palace Hotel, Old Town (04 428 7888). Tea served 2.30pm-6pm. Dhs120 per person.
Vista Bar & Lounge: For setting, you can’t go wrong with Vista Lounge & Bar, particularly if you take a table on the balcony. The Dubai skyline is at its most romantic, viewed across the widening Creek and fronted by the old shipyard where wooden dhows are still knocked together. Given the ultra-modern design, Devonshire cream tea features a little incongruously. These initial misgivings are confirmed by stodgy scones, indifferent jams and tea served with hot milk. Sandwiches (available with the high tea option) looked the part, with crusts carefully removed, but the bread was stale. If Vista Bar is to imitate this institution, then it can do better than the current approximation. Still, the balcony is a good spot to sip and pontificate. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1111). Tea served 12 noon-8pm. Devonshire cream teak is Dhs95, high tea is Dhs65. The Ritz-Carlton: Located in a beautiful wood-and-palm lined lobby lounge with a veranda overlooking the Gulf, the signature tea boasts tiny, deconstructed ‘sandwiches’, sweet petit four-style treats and, the crowning glory, freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and gloriously chunky strawberry jam. Take your pick from a dozens-long list of specialist teas and prepare for what has to be one of the most pleasantly relaxing ways to while away an afternoon in the city. The Ritz-Carlton (04 399 4000). Tea served 2pm-6pm. Dhs110 per person, Dhs265 with a glass of champagne.
Skyview Lounge: For a whopping Dhs395 (with or without champagne), you almost expect gold encrusted sandwiches and cakes sprinkled with pink Swarovski crystals. While the Burj is one of the more decadent tea stands in town, one can’t help but wonder if the price is worth it. The garish opulence of the Skyview Lounge notwithstanding, this hefty fee would be rather a lot for a three-course dinner.
OK, so you get 50 variants of tea and coffee from around the world to choose from, and you do get three courses including a live carving station. Plus, the cake stand, though rather kitsch, is a charming, stylised version of the Burj in miniature. While the servers keep replenishing the tea stand, and the mass of cakes are utterly decadent, the price ensures this is the kind of thing you do once, when the parents visit, and certainly not when you just have an hour to kill. Burj Al Arab (04 301 7600). Tea served at 1pm, 1.30pm, 4pm, 4.30pm. Dhs395 per person. Risala: Risala, The Address’s smart lobby restaurant, offers two tea options: Arabic and European. What you get is a stylish-looking stand and matching Bodum-style glass tea pots, with a variety of teas available. For nibbles, the stand – formed from thin tubular steel – bears three storeys of treats, from salmon and cucumber sandwiches, to small but perfectly formed cakes and pastries. Triumphing over all, however, are the scones, which are fresh, light and come with a clotted cream and a wonderfully fruity preserve. At Dhs120 the stand (with two teapots) is enough for two to enjoy, especially outside on a blissfully sunny Dubai day. The Address, Downtown Burj Dubai (04 436 8928). Tea served 3pm-7pm. Dhs120 per tea stand.