Armani Ristorante: There’s always a great sense of occasion when visiting the Armani Hotel, and that’s heightened when visiting its signature restaurant – Armani/Ristorante. The interiors are what you’d expect from an Armani venue: clean, crisp and minimal. The real show-stopper, though, is the view. Could this be the best view of the Dubai Fountain from a restaurant? Quite possibly. As you would expect from a multiple award winning restaurant, the food is excellent. Every course is crafted to perfection, and service is suitably slick and professional for such a restaurant. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm Armani Hotel Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
CUT by Wolfgang Puck: CUT by Wolfgang Puck is the global steakhouse concept by the world famous chef. It is the first Wolfgang Puck restaurant to launch in the region, with chef Puck himself hinting that this is just stage one of both Dubai and GCC-wide domination. During the evening, although dimly-lit, the restaurant feels airy and elegant. There is also a narrow outdoor terrace running parallel to the restaurant that has views of the Burj Khalifa. The experience is certainly a well-rounded and largely very enjoyable one, thanks to both food and service. Open Mon-Fri noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight; Sat-Sun 7pm-midnight. The Address Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
At.mosphere: As soon as you call up to make a reservation at At.mosphere, you get a sense of how expensive the experience will be. Credit card details are required for bookings, providing an added incentive to arrive on time. Getting to the restaurant is also far from simple, with access gained through the Armani Hotel, before heading up and down a number of escalators, stairs and lifts. But all of this adds to the sense of occasion that you’ll be dining in the highest restaurant in the world. And the view when you step out of the lift on the 123rd floor is spectacular. A minimum spend is required to reserve a window seat, and it’s worth it to experience what this restaurant is all about. If you stick to At.mosphere’s special – a juicy steak cooked in the Josper grill – then you’ll be impressed, and if you follow up with one of the high-quality desserts, you might just be able to tear your eyes away from the view. But the location is what you’re really paying for here, as the hefty bill will prove. Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3828)
Asado: Asado gets both the basics and the more advanced elements of fine dining right. The Argentinian grill serves up some of the best meat dishes in town – not only an enormous steak selection, but also intriguing options such as barbecued goat or venison stew. In fact, you’ll find the level of creativity and execution you would expect from fine dining restaurants, but with a buzzing atmosphere, impressive Burj Khalifa views and, above all, the space of more casual restaurants. Although slightly dry, the empanada selection gives you a taster of the traditional Argentinian pie with crab, chicken or cheese fillings. Steaks are introduced and explained, with helpful staff happy to suggest options on your taste guidelines. This is more than just a fancy steakhouse, however, and ordering outside the grill will not disappoint. Where else in Dubai can you try braised pigeon, foie gras and purple potatoes with asparagus puree? Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. The Palace Downtown Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (04 888 3444).
Baker & Spice: Baker & Spice reigns supreme in Souk Al Bahar thanks to its prime location beside The Dubai Fountain. A bright and airy venue with a beautiful terrace overlooking the water, this is a calm and relaxing escape from the sun and bustling atmosphere of nearby Dubai Mall. The menu offers a selection of fresh, organic and home-made options with most ingredients sourced locally in the UAE. From the menu, we’re impressed with the gnocchi and seemingly never-ending supply of freshly-baked bread. The coffee is worth going back for, too, as is the fast and friendly service. Open Mon-Sun 8am-11pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.bakerandspiceme.com (04 427 9856).
La Serre: Though there remain questions over some of the price-points at La Serre (our recent lunch for two, with two soft drinks, came in at north of Dhs1,200) the fact is, you can’t argue with the food. With a huge glass front overlooking the bustling Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, the restaurant is set over two floors (the top one being the posher of the two) and is based in the Vida Downtown Hotel, itself a triumph of decadence minus frills. The desserts are top quality, playful twists on French classics, while the menu for the starters and mains reads almost as well as it tastes, so factor in some decision-making time because you are going to need it. The seafood bears particular mention, with a veritable jamboree of mussels, langoustines and prawns all cooked so perfectly we’d be there every week, if the cost didn’t relegate it to special occasions only. Open daily 7am-10.30pm (boulangerie); noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm (bistro). Vida Downtown Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 428 6969).
Armani Amal: With a name like Armani attached to it, you’d expect this restaurant to be a stylish affair. And it doesn’t disappoint. From the moment you set foot inside the Armani Hotel, you can sense the class oozing out of the building. The same goes for Amal’s staff – attentive, helpful and knowledgeable, they get everything right. If you can, try to get a table on the terrace outside, with a tremendous position on the third floor of the hotel; look up and you can see the Burj Khalifa from a whole new perspective, look out and you can watch the fountains outside Dubai Mall. There can’t be many more romantic settings in Dubai. Thankfully, the food lives up to the high expectations, too. It all sounds delicious, but try the tasting menu if you want to push the boat out; it won’t cost you much more than a couple of courses from the à la carte and you get to try things you might not order usually. Scallops and lobster dishes are so fresh they taste like they were swimming the same day, the spiciness never overpowers the ingredients and everything is cooked perfectly. Desserts are also a thing to behold – artistic, impressive and wonderfully tasty. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Armani Hotel Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
Calabar: This trendy nightspot offers spectacular views of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains. Diners can choose to sit inside the large venue, but the real attraction lies on its terrace. Sit on one of the venue's comfy bean bag chairs and soak up the atmosphere, from the relaxing lounge music to the downtown skyline. The menu is reflective of the venue's sociable and relaxed attitude, with sharing platters and tapas on offer. The setting alone is beautiful and can be quite romantic and intimate if you choose to dine in a cosy corner. Open daily 6pm-2am (last orders for food: 11.30pm). The Address Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444)
Armani Hashi: Few restaurants boast a spot in the world’s tallest building – even fewer at its very foot, sitting next to The Dubai Fountain. Armani/Hashi’s unique setting is indisputably impressive, and you can expect a menu as visually tantalising. At how many other restaurants are you likely to come across foie gras spring rolls? It’s the kind of place to try something different, and not head straight for the sashimi list. The robatayaki and teppanyaki samplers allow you to do just this, featuring a selection of top quality seafood, chicken and wagyu and Angus beef. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Armani/Hotel, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3888).
Katsuya: Created by a dynamic duo in the form of master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and renowned designer Philippe Starck, Katsuya is not at all what you might expect from a mall restaurant. It’s stylish, carefully laid out and a million miles from boisterous food courts and eateries lining The Dubai Fountain. The menu is much the same, a thoughtful combination of classics and more unusual fusion dishes – though it’s hard not to take exception to (and by confused by) the fact that here, surimi is advertised as crab, particularly when real crab itself also features throughout the menu. One of the stand-outs is the edamame hummus – a delightful example of Far East meeting Middle East. The overall experience is exciting and refreshing – it’s a joy to not quite know what to expect. Open daily 11am-midnight. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 315 3633).
Toko: Toko ticks every box. The setting is fantastic, with a stylish, atmospheric garden area, as well as a quieter indoor space in view of the open kitchen. The ambience suits the decor; there is a buzz about the place and it is clearly a hit with the beautiful people of Dubai. Staff are swift and friendly and the food is superb. The flavours, imaginative ingredients and quality of produce are hugely impressive as is the range of dishes on the menu. There are many sushi and sashimi options, as well as tempura (try the huge prawns with dashi broth), meat and fish dishes. The miso salmon is a house favourite, but try the Alaskan crab as well; the white meat is topped with a zesty citrus crumb that will make your taste buds come alive. Everything is presented beautifully as well. Toko is an exciting, stylish place to eat fabulous food. Open daily noon-3.30pm, 7pm-2am (last orders for food: midnight). Vida Downtown, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, www.toko-dubai.com (04 442 8383). Brunch: Fri noon- 4pm. Dhs365 (with soft drinks), Dhs450 (with house beverages and Japanese beverage), Dhs535 (with one bottle of bubbly per two guests).
Fournil de Pierre: A perfect spot for coffee and pastries and the weekend papers, Fournil de Pierre invites you in with its glass-fronted pastry counter and doesn’t ever make you feel less than welcome when you’re inside. It’s the smaller dishes here that make it worth seeking out, from the fresh-baked breads and pastries to the quiches and the lovely light salads. For us, though, this is a venue built for a lazy late breakfast. We’d particularly recommend the galette au saumon, a pillow of flaky crepe enveloping top-class smoked salmon, smears of cream cheese and sprinkles of capers. Order one of those and a coffee, sit back on your chair on the terrace and close your eyes, and you could pretty much be on Le Croisette in Cannes. Open daily 7am-2.30am. Downtown Dubai (04 420 3070).
Maison Bagatelle: This sister restaurant to Bistrot Bagatelle in New York’s Meatpacking district looks fantastic, and boy does it know it. The food includes highlights such as an excellent wagyu beef burger and excellent dessert choices that come courtesy of a patisserie that shouldn’t be missed. Maison Bagatelle’s excellent decor and essential location – it’s sat just around the corner from The Dubai Mall and therefore in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa – will justify your visit. Open daily 9am-11pm. Downtown Dubai (04 420 3442).
Leila: This popular spot is perennially packed, hosting diners of Middle Eastern descent as well as expats and tourists. Sit outside on the terrace on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard; it’s where the atmosphere is, if you can get a seat. Service here is exemplary and staff are confident to recommend dishes based on your preferences and their favourites, such as the ghazal Beirut dessert of ice-cream covered in thin strands of hair-like sugar. The hot and cold mezzes are delicious as are the grilled meats. Try the kibbeh and the basterma cheese rolls, though, since these also contain meat, having them deep-fried can leave them a little on the greasy side. Opt to have them grilled instead. The grilled kafta is succulent, complemented perfectly by the accompanying labneh dip. Leila is a wonderful spot for authentic and deliciously moreish Lebanese cuisine served within a lively and vibrant setting. Open daily 9.30am-11.45pm. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 448 3384).
Karma Kafé: On paper, it would be easy to write Karma Kafé off as a case of style over substance. Situated in Souk Al Bahar, with a terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountain, and a glam lounge club setting inside, you’d expect to be a tourist’s dream serving up Asian bites to party people. But once the fountains cease and the phones are put aside, you can expect to sit down to some of the best Asian food in town. Every dish you’re served is a work of art on a plate, meticulously presented and prepared. But these are modern fusions that taste as colourful as they look on the plate. Sushi is a particular highlight, paying lip-service to the past while offering daring new ingredients, and prices are very competitive for the location. And while Karma Kafé pitches nightlife chic over candlelight and white tablecloths, it’s also a surprisingly romantic venue for a date. Open Sun-Thu 4pm-2am; Fri-Sat noon-2am. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, Dubai (04 423 0909).
CLAW BBQ: The clue’s in the name at CLAW BBQ, where you’ll be served up huge buckets of crab legs with fun and flair. It’s full-on Americana inside this restaurant, with all manner of signs, slogans and flags adorning the walls. Drinks are served in square jars and the bar staff are kitted out in lumberjack outfits to add to the theme. While crab is the speciality here, the large menu also offers up a variety of fish dishes, burgers and a few barbecued options. But it’s the generous bucket of crab legs that steals the show. It’s a messy affair trying to prise the meat out of the long legs with the tools provided, but it’s worth the effort. And with large sides of fries and grilled corn on the cob, this is a substantial feast for one. Open daily noon-2am. Souk Al Bahar (04 432 2300)
Mango Tree: Mango Tree is a sure-fire way of impressing visitors to Dubai. With a top floor Souk Al Bahar balcony, it offers one of the best vantages for catching The Dubai Fountain in full flow – and the ideal atmosphere to do so, watching the soaring water jets majestically erupt every half hour, as punctuation points in a leisurely meal, is way more appealing than an evening jostling with the crowds outside Dubai Mall. With such a USP it would be easy for Mango Tree to get complacent in the kitchen, but thankfully there’s no sign of that happening. With a number of additions to the (already lengthy) menu, we can report that new arrivals such as the duck paper rolls and steamed sea bass are fresh and zesty, while old favourites continue to perform. Service is warm and slick but just make sure you book well in advance. Open daily 12.30pm-11.30pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 426 7313).
Fuego: This modern Mexican concept in Souk Al Bahar has the style and sophistication of a cool lounge bar and is as far removed from the Tex-Mex style as possible, while still serving fajitas. An artfully-presented ceviche selection comes in mini shot glasses of tuna, red snapper and shrimp flavours with a tangy bite provided by the citrus marinade. The portions are good for sharing and we recommend splitting a Fuego Sampler with your fellow diner to try mushroom quesadilla, chicken flautas and fiery jalapenos. Look beyond the usual selections (although you won’t be disappointed by the fajita selection) and try different Mexican dishes such as a lamb shank barbacoa (wrapped in a banana leaf and served with Mexican rice) or a stomach-busting ‘Molcajete Special’, which is a Mexican version of the mixed grill. Open daily noon-12.30am. Souk Al Bahar, Umm Suqeim (04 449 0977)
Thiptara: Thiptara should be one of the most romantic restaurants in Dubai. This Thai restaurant has so much going for it – not least, a prime spot on the edge of Souk Al Bahar, with one of the best views of the Dubai Fountain in town. It feels special. Staff offer a warm welcome and the atmosphere is set with dim lighting and dramatic torch fires flickering away in the twilight. But that atmosphere can be instantly smashed by the booming house-pop beats that are piped straight from the sound-system of neighbouring bar Fai. While strictly a Thai restaurant, there are daring fusions that vary in success – a Thai take on dim sum underwhelms. However, more traditional dishes such as some tam and curries are spot on – although expect to pay handsomely for them. But really it’s the peerless location and intimate vibe one forks out for – if only they’d sort that pesky music out. Open daily 6pm-11.30pm. The Palace Downtown Dubai, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.theaddress.com (04 428 7888).
Al Bayt: Al Bayt is in the lobby of Arabian-style The Palace Downtown. Come here for one of the excellent afternoon teas and you will not be disappointed. It’s a calming setting – a petal-filled fountain ripples in the background and a stunning flower arrangement stands in the centre of the room. Traditional and Arabic options are available. If you opt for the Arabic tray, you’ll receive a selection of the expected teas and sandwiches along with delicate shawarma and kofta concoctions, scones flavoured with saffron and cardamom, and cakes such as camel milk crème brûlée. It’s a classy affair. High tea buffet: Dhs145 per person. Served Wed and Sat 2pm-6pm. Traditional afternoon tea and timeless Arabic afternoon tea: Dhs130 per person. Served daily (except Wed and Sat) 2pm-6pm. The Palace Downtown Dubai (04 4428 7888).
Fortnum & Mason: Afternoon tea is served in the minimalist first-floor lounge of Fortnum & Mason with its white and cream colour scheme and views of the Burj Khalifa. Presented on Tiffany-blue china, the ‘Traditional Afternoon Tea’ includes a selection of small finger sandwiches, including egg and watercress, cucumber and mint and coronation chicken No afternoon tea would be complete without scones, of course, and this is where Fortnum’s really excel – buttery, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth creations, both fruit and plain, are served with clotted cream and a choice of Fortnum & Mason’s home-made preserve, which you can take home with you afterwards. Savoury afternoon tea: Dhs215. High tea: Dhs245 per person. Traditional afternoon tea: Dhs295 per person. Served daily noon-11.30pm. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, www.fortnumandmason.com (04 388 2627).