+971 4 323 1833 DIFC

If you work in DIFC, chances are you’ll have been to BOCA. With a fun, post-office vibe it’s a lively and relaxed place for pint with colleagues or friends. But don’t dismiss it as just a bar – this Mediterranean restaurant deserves you staying for dinner.

It’s a cool little hangout, which opens out to a terrace outside, making it feel big, bright and like the place you (and a sizeable chunk of the DIFC crowd) really want be in cooler weather. It’s big, bright and airy and is the place to be in the winter.

The restaurant has made an effort to cater to modern tastes, too, boasting a vegan menu (including vegan grape varieties) as well as sourcing local and sustainable ingredients. Dibba Bay oysters, Emirati sea bass, vegetables from the Waterfront Market in Deira – you can guarantee your produce is fresh and seasonal.

The tasty menu is primarily Spanish – a variety of paella is available, including a vegan rendition – and is heavily focused on tapas such as manzanilla and octopus carpaccio. Some dishes even take on a local twist, such as sweet potato hummus.

With a fun bar, lively staff and top dishes, stop in for dinner in BOCA, DIFC office worker or not, and that’s why it claimed a Highly Commended gong at the 2019 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards.
Open Mon-Sat noon-1am, Sun noon-midnight. Licensed. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 323 1833).

Indian +971 4 706 0900 DIFC

If you’re after a romantic evening full of top-quality Indian food and views of the Burj Khalifa, then Mint Leaf of London should be top of your list. The dimly lit dining room has stylish décor and floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a fantastic view all down Sheikh Zayed Road.

It’s the perfect setting for an evening out, whether you’re on a date or catching up with a group of friends, as the vibe is upbeat yet intimate.

One of the consistently high-quality Indian restaurants in the city, Mint Leaf has so far resisted the urge to join in with the molecular gastronomy crowd. And we like it all the more for that reason. Instead, what you get at Mint Leaf is a fine dining take on classic Indian flavours and ingredients.

If you’re a fan of curries then you won’t be disappointed, as at the heart of the restaurant’s menu are wonderfully fragrant and subtly-spiced dishes (including an excellent dhal makhani and sea bass mussalam) and grills (prawns roasted in Goan coconut sauce and tandoor lamb chops).

Everything looks and smells the part as it comes to the table, too. If you’re after a drink, the lounge and bar area is equally cool and moody. It also has a top ladies’ night  in the bar area.

The bottom line
All in all, a great place to spend an evening.

Royal China is steeped in luxury, from the huge red tasselled chandeliers down to the dark polished wood floors – and the garden is something else completely. It’s candlelit, romantic and ambient, and the tranquility feels a million miles away from the bustle of DIFC.

Not sure what to choose from the menu? Order prawn crackers and pickles to nibble while you peruse the options – though you should know that the prawn dim sum is unbelievably juicy and fresh. The calamari, meanwhile, is unlikely to remain unfinished for long, delicately flavoured in an encased in a beautifully light, crisp batter. (You may not wish to share with your dining companion – but Time Out accepts no responsibility if your table manners fall so far short.).

Elsewhere on the list, crispy shredded beef has a perfect balance of crunchy exterior and tender meat, and arrives garnished in fiery red chillies that deliver a seriously moreish kick. Also try the sweet and sour chicken dish, which is laden with crunchy onions and fresh peppers that balance out the rich sauce perfectly.

An oasis in the city’s busy business district, prepare to enjoy the serenity, the grandeur, and the completely splendid food. It is one of our Highly Commended in the Best Chinese Restaurants category, after all.

The bottom line:
Top-notch Chinese cuisine in a fancy location

International 055 455 6106 DIFC

A markedly different proposition to many of its neighbours when it arrived in the city’s financial centre, INDIE still attracts a different – but still happening – crowd, thanks to its unique style and cool vibes.

It’s also, generally, packed, and a cracking food menu definitely helps with that. If you’re a fan of your European/Mediterranean grub then you’re going to be happy, because most of its mains are of an Italian persuasion. Think risottos (particularly excellent), gnocchi and beef tagliata sitting alongside salmon, sea bream and more. It’s bar food, but it’s bar food done classily.

While its starters are a mix of Spanish (ever-so-moreish pimientos de Padron), Peruvian (there are some fine ceviches) and Japanese – the standout dishes to try are the refreshing crab toast and gambas ceviche, both a perfect accompaniment to many of the broad range of mixed drinks this heaving bar has to offer.

The soundtrack matches the décor, meanwhile, old-school funk, soul and pop bouncing off the speaker-dotted walls to create a distinct vibe of New York’s Soho. It picked up our gong for Highly Commended in the Best Bar Food category for good reason. Try it.

A decent selection of dishes, all executed extremely well

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