Sample the city's best baked delights with a variety of fillings
June 17, 2014 10:21 AM
Baked flatbreads topped with cheeses, minced meats and herbs have been forming breakfasts and lunches across Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan for centuries – and frankly they’ve been too good not to share. Dubai has had a slice of the action for some decades now, but this simple streetfood is as popular as ever – and no new neighbourhood is complete without a Levantine bakery, or ten. But where in the city can you find the very best? With a few hundred eateries from the region dotted about Dubai, it’s hard to know where to pitch your tastebuds – but help is at hand, as we’ve put years of scoffing hot baked snacks in the emirate to good use to bring you our pick of the very best manakish.
Cedar Tree Among the options on the menu at Cedar Tree, you can try classics such as zaatar, sujouk and just about anything combined with cheese. Including that is, the unusual combination of shanklish combined with (yes) cheese. But it works. A combination of salty fresh feta and stretchy-stringy mozzarella, plus fresh and aromatic additions of tomato, parsley and onion make this surprisingly wholesome tasting yet still on the right side of naughty. The manakish here tend to be a little fluffier, doughier and more dense, yet still just as enjoyable. Dhs9-22. Various locations including Park Office Building, opposite Zayed University, Dubai Media City (04 456 0750).
Al Reef Lebanese Bakery An institution on Dubai’s manakish scene, Al Reef has flown the flag for Lebanese baked goods in Dubai for decades – and it’s still going strong. Finding a parking space right outside on weekends is no mean feat, though fortunately most are only dashing in and out to grab a late Friday breakfast. Try the labneh with vegetables (creamy yoghurt spread, fresh tomatoes, mint, cucumber and olives) rolled up wrap-style, or ward off the grogginess from the night before with a deliciously greasy meat and egg combo. We also heartily recommend the folded spinach option – it’s salty, lemony perfection. Dhs4-16. Al Wasl Road, next to Choithrams, Jumeirah 2 (04 394 5200).
Zaatar w Zeit Producing manakish are what has made this Lebanese chain famous, so it’s no surprise that they’ve mastered the art here. There’s loads of options on the menu including jebneh (cheese) beef and turkey ham, labneh aarouus as well as their speciality – wild zaatar (a delicious mixture of zaatar, onion and tomato sauce on a soft multi-cereal dough). You can opt to have it baked thin and crispy or fluffy and thick and can even specify whether you want it folded over or served open. Dhs7-25. Various locations including Dubai Media City, www.zaatarwzeit.net (600 522 231).
Manoushe Street As well as simple folded manakish, this burgeoning chain also serves more complex wraps, including roast beef, chicken, tuna and sujouk, all stuffed with a variety of extras. Like many hotspots, this place is more than happy to accommodate special requests – so we recommend asking for lahmeh (meat) with muhammara, a slightly spicy pepper-based dip typically made from breadcrumbs, ground walnuts and red peppers. Together, these two fillings are a match made in rich, savoury heaven. For the, erm, health-conscious, there’s also the option to choose multi-cereal or brown dough. Dhs6-15. Various locations including TECOM, Burj Views in Downtown Dubai and Mizher, www.manoushestreet.com (600 56 667).
Lebaneesh Peddling Lebanese fare with a ‘contemporary twist’, Lebaneesh pitches its food at healthier end of the spectrum. Among five different types of manakish here, you get to choose between regular or wholewheat dough. Try the halloumi – the cheese is flaked onto the bread, giving it feta cheese appearance. The dough is a little on the flimsy side although it tastes fresh and is well-cooked, but an abundance of cucumber and tomatoes on top render the bread soggy. Thick olives and tears of thyme lend bite and flavour, but we wish there was a little more gooey indulgence. Dhs8-20. Jumeirah Beach Road, www.lebaneesh.com (04 338 8803).
Moulin D’or Bakery & Grill A long-standing favourite for manakish, with branches across the city, this Arabic bakery offers a simple but classic selection of toppings, such as zaatar, kishk, kofta and several types of cheese (akkawi, kashkaval, halloumi, labneh). While it may take a little while longer than predicted to arrive, this is certainly one of the better options for manakish, especially for those that prefer a light dough, since these ones have a flaky, crumbly quality to the crust. Dhs7-16. Various locations including The Gardens (04 882 0270).
Royal Bakery This small, unassuming café next door to the mosque at the Springs Town Centre is a popular spot among those looking for an affordable lunch, and does a particularly good trade after Friday prayers, when the area is at its busiest. Stick to a tried and tested classic with simple akkawi cheese – a filling meal for one – or try one of the many cheese and… options, which include muhammara, salami, mortadella, meat, turkey, hot dog and zaatar. The only downside is the minimum spend of Dhs50 for orders outside of The Springs, Meadows and Emirates Hills. Dhs10-15. Next to the mosque at Springs Town Centre, Emirates Living (04 422 7970).
Shawarmaz This Media City outlet is a favourite with nearby nine-to-fivers and has seven options to choose from including zaatar and labneh, lamb and various types of cheese including kashkaval and halloumi. The turkey and mozzarella cheese manakish is a filling affair, the slightly charcoaled bread oozing with mozzarella and slightly confronting pieces of processed turkey ham. They also do meal deals, but this slab of goodness is more than enough to fill you up for lunch. Dhs6-20. Arjaan Building, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai Media City (04 324 5324).
Oushé As well as the usual suspects of zaatar and cheese, this cosy independent Barsha bakery rolls out its own meat variety with dates and nuts. If you’re fond of cheese- toasted sandwiches however, the warm, folded akkawi cheese version is just the right amount of salty and savoury, squished between hot and fluffy. Most impressively, the result is not even slightly oily. Dhs8-10. Behind Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha 1, www.oushe.com (04 385 0011).
Forno Plus This Mediterranean and Middle Eastern independent restaurant bakes tasty manakish in a traditional oven. Diners have the option to add extra pickles, walnuts and cheeses to their choice of flatbreads. Try the zaatar and akkawi cheese option – a simple classic, with soft, well-baked dough brought to life with a fresh, fragrant zaatar filling. If the green stuff doesn’t float your boat, other filling options include spicy beef sausages and there’s even a sweet option with butter and sugar. Dhs10-25. Two Towers, TECOM, www.fornoplus.com (04 451 1164).
Akawi Oven Among the thinnest, crispiest manakish we’ve found – if you like your carbohydrate dose served a little less dense, this is the place for you. There’s a huge variety of toppings available here (and we say toppings rather than fillings, as Akawi serves its manakish pizza-style – complete with cardboard box), from the breakfast-y sausage and eggs to the more unusual meat with grenadine. Take pizza-style to the next level with a margarita manakish – topped with a lick of savoury tomato sauce and a light layer of cheese. We recommend you stick to the exotic options here, as the one-topping wonders can be a little bland. Dhs9-22. One Lake Plaza Tower, Cluster T, JLT, www.facebook.com/akawioven (04 447 4404).
Zaroob Open 24 hours a day and with reasonable prices, Zaroob is a popular haunt for Lebanese street food on the Sheikh Zayed Road. A large swathe of the menu is devoted to manakish in its various forms. If you’re just looking for a quick snack, there are a number of bite-size options, or you can go for the more substantial flat or wrapped choices. Of the flat manakish, the lahmeh ajeen pomegranate or spinach with cheese offer something different, while the garlic chicken wrap is filling and tasty. Dhs10-24. Sheikh Zayed Road, www.zaroob.com (800 927 662).
Jedoudna There’s a good selection on offer at this Lebanese eatery with all the traditional offerings such as zaatar, sujouk and labneh as well as a variety of cheese offerings including akkawi, kashkaval and halloumi. The bread is delicious, white, fluffy and baked to perfection. The options here for manakish are a manageable size and served folded neatly in half. They also come with a bonus plate of olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. Dhs12-28. Dubai Media City and The Walk, JBR, www.jedoudna.com (04 435 6131).
Abajour Eight different varieties are on offer at this Garhoud favourite, from zaatar to cheese and sujouk – a delicious dry, spicy sausage. Try the meat (lahmeh b’ajin) – served up on its own platter and pre-cut, pizza-style, making it ideal for sharing – covered with seasoned lamb and garlic and boasting a far more delicate flavour than others you might find across the city. If you fancy something lighter, the labneh with vegetables is fresh and full of texture, if a little liberal with the creamy yoghurt spread. In all, Abajour remains a go-to for high-quality Lebanese fare in the neighbourhood. Dhs10-18. Near Welcare Hospital, Garhoud, www.abajourrest.com (04 283 4556).
Al Hallab Despite having a number of branches across the city, this much-loved Lebanese restaurant only serves manakish at its Garhoud branch – much to the chagrin of devotees. But even if you don’t live nearby, it’s well worth the trip – heck, even if you live in Abu Dhabi, it’s worth a punt up Sheikh Zayed Road. This place sticks to the classics (meat, cheese and zaatar) but while slightly smaller in diameter than some others, the folded bread treats are stuffed generously with heavenly, salty cheese and rich, liberally spiced meat. It’s so good we won’t even judge you for licking the grease-soaked paper. Dhs5-12. Garhoud, www.alhallabrestaurant.com (04 282 3388).
NKD Pizza Despite its name, this place also serves up manakish. Delivered in a pizza box and served open rather than folded in the usual style, it’s something a bit different from your ordinary cheese bread. The dough is thick and fluffy in the middle, though a little crisp around the edges. The zaatar has a slightly bitter taste to it, but it’s evened out with the addition of mozzarella cheese. Our favourite thing about manakish from NKD pizza is the yummy side of marinara sauce to dunk your bread in. Dhs15-18. Various locations including Dubai Marina, www.nkdpizza.com (04 453 4313 ).