Eating out as a family is a great way to strengthen the bond. The UAE is full of incredible dining options for kids (mum and dad can eat too), but before we delve into the best bits, we catch up with Dr Naji Barakat, consultant paediatrician from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) to find out how you can make the right choices when eating out as a family.
• Choose restaurants which offer variety and are suitable for everyone. Avoid buffets as this can lead to your child easily eating a lot of unhealthy junk food. Ideally, pick restaurants that serve healthy, nutrient-rich foods, rather than fatty or high-carb dishes which pack on the bad stuff.
• Encourage sensible portion sizes. A food serving should be enough to make your child feel comfortable. The stomach is a muscular organ, if children get too full, it’ll make their stomach bigger and they’ll eat more next time.
• Challenge kids’ menus, they aren’t always the best option. If the kids’ menu isn’t nutritious, encourage your child to choose a healthy, balanced meal from the adults’ menu in smaller portions. A lot of restaurants are happy to accommodate this – or share your own meal with them.
• Make eating out fun by trying different cuisines. The UAE is home to many international restaurants. Make the most of this and try colourful food from foreign cultures, provided it’s nutritious and served in reasonable portions. Try going with other families or ask your children to bring their best friends with them to make it a fun experience for all.
• Let the waiter know if your child is a fussy eater. They can sometimes speak to the chef to accommodate any requests. Encourage your child to try small portions of different foods and explain the nutrient value of each bit. Emphasising how the food makes one feel, rather than taste, can help. Say things like “carrots can help you see in the dark” or “spinach can give you big muscles.”
• Leave your gadgets at home. Using smartphones or tablets at the dinner table results in no conversation between children and parents. Eating out in a restaurant is a great excuse for distraction-free family time.
• Conversation is important. Eating together is a time when family can discuss plans, such as holidays or any school issues, building communication.
Baked Bolognaise at eggspectation
Ah, another pasta dish we love! At this family-friendly JBR venue, it’s time for a slowly-stewed Angus ground beef blended with hidden seasonal vegetables and topped with fresh mozzarella cheese.
Dhs30. Eggspectation, various locations including The Beach, opposite JBR (04 430 7252).
Butternut Squash and 100 percent Cocoa Ravioli at cocoa kitchen
For little ones who can’t keep their hands off chocolate and share an equal love for pasta, Cocoa Kitchen’s butternut squash and 100 percent cocoa ravioli is the perfect solution. The inventive yet delectable dish is a combination of ricotta, pine nuts, cocoa nibs and heaps of parmesan cheese – ensuring kids keep digging in for more, and more.
Dhs55. Cocoa Kitchen, City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 343 2506).
Chicken and Pineapple Pizza at Sirocco
Homemade dough, chicken, pineapple – these are all ingredients that we know make a good pizza. A star on Holiday Inn’s kids’ menu, this treat is a lesson in how pineapple, in fact, can make for a fantastic topping. For all of those sceptics out there...
Dhs28. Sirocco, Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City, Gateway Avenue (04 603 5000).
Custard Cups at Sirocco
We can’t just stop at one dish from Holiday Inn's dessert menu – it’s the ideal kiddie treat line-up. The custard cups, however, are quite new. All desserts on the menu are Dhs24 and include banana split, fruit sticks and popsicles for the summer heat.
Dhs24. Sirocco, Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City, Gateway Avenue (04 603 5000).
Emirati Chebab (small pancakes) at Sikka Café
The Emirati chebab at SIKKA Café is a dish that’s guaranteed to offer kids a tasty yet wholesome snack. The delicious Emirati pancakes’ toppings include cream cheese and a choice of either date syrup or honey, making them perfectly appetising – and oh-so-sweet – for little ones.
Dhs25. SIKKA Café, City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 385 6524).
Fluffy Mini Pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Co.
Made with organic whole milk and served with warm maple butter, these pancakes can be topped with a choice of either fresh ripe blueberries, dark chocolate chunks or real mashed bananas for the kids’ five a day.
Dhs25. Clinton Street Baking Co, various locations including City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 428 1331).
Glazed Chicken Poppers at Trattoria Toscana
These poppers make the perfect snack for the kids. The chicken bites are glazed with a sweet spicy sauce, toasted sesame and cool ranch dressing for a mild take on the usually spicier poppers.
Dhs47. Trattoria Toscana, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 4376063).
Grilled Chicken Breast at The Els Club
If you want something that’s more on the healthy side for the kids, this dish is probably your best bet with a juicy grilled chicken breast served with broccoli, steamed rice and marinara sauce. We love how it looks as amazing as it tastes too.
Dhs48. 261, The Els Club, Dubai Sports City (04 425 1024).
Nutella Cheesecake at Carluccio’s
Who doesn’t love a spoonful of chocolate? A treat for big kids and little ones, this homemade Nutella cheesecake is topped with crushed nuts on a creamy biscuit base – and it’s available for breakfast too.
Dhs40. Carluccio’s, various locations including Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Dubai Creek (04 256 7440).
Kids’ Chicken Satay at The Noodle House
Chicken satays make the perfect lunch, they’re light, delicious and healthy. These kids’ Asian-style satays come with steamed sweet corn rice and a sugary dipping sauce for a sweet and sour twist.
Dhs25. The Noodle House, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6345).
Labneh Saffron Cheesecake at Homestead Restaurant
For a delectable slice of melt-in-your-mouth confectionary, look no further than Homestead Restaurant and Bakery’s mouth-watering labneh saffron cheesecake. The dessert offers little gourmands a wholesome, yet tasty, treat with a crunchy, balanced palette of ingredients including date jam and baked kunafa complemented with the nutritional touch of saffron.
Dhs35, Homestead Restaurant and Bakery, The Yard, Al Khawaneej (054 582 3547).
Non-Spicy Daal Meal at Bombay Bungalow
Now this is a twist we weren’t expecting. The non-spicy dhal meal comes with a choice of tadka or makhani-style daal served with raita, assorted breads or rice and a choice of fresh juice. Between 5pm and 7pm on weekdays, mum and dad get a complimentary hand-crafted mocktail with every kids’ meal ordered too.
Dhs35. Bombay Bungalow, The Beach, opposite JBR (800 6928779).
Tagliatelle and MeatBalls at Bistro des Arts
Not only does this restaurant have a super well-equipped kids’ area, it has a pasta that kids just LOVE. Italian egg pasta is mixed with homemade tomato sauce, a little cream and parmesan. Minced beef tenderloin meat balls are sculpted with fresh herbs and onion, lightly pan-fried, then cooked in the tomato sauce.
Dhs40 (two courses from kids’ menu), Dhs50 (three courses from kids’ menu). Bistro Des Arts, Dubai Marina Promenade (04 551 1576).
Taquitos at Zoco
These compact, hand-held taco sticks are stuffed with chicken and crisped to absolute perfection.
Dhs75. ZOCO, The Atrium at Al Habtoor City (04 437 0044).
The Cheekiest Mac ‘n’ Cheese at The Chickery
This macaroni and cheese is a kids’ favourite combining a mix of three freshly-grated types of cheese slowly blended with whole organic milk, mixed in with the perfect size of elbow macaroni, and served with mini fries and organic juice.
Dhs25. The Chickery, La Mer, Jumeirah 1 (04 385 5300).
Tres Leches at Poco Loco
A tres leches cake, also known as three milks bread, is a sponge cake (in some recipes, a butter cake) soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. The kids will finally get their dose of milk without complaining alright…
Dhs45. Poco Loco, The Beach, opposite JBR (04 456 2081).
Spring Rolls at The Noodle House
Spring rolls can be too heavy for kids, but not these. Filled with vegetables and glass noodles, these rolls are a lighter version of the Asian cuisine favourite the kids are sure to love.
Dhs38. The Noodle House, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai (04 366 6345).
Pizza Con Burrata Affumicata, Pomodoro Secco E Camberi at Trattoria Toscana
The kids will devour this pizza topped with from smoked burrata, mozzarella, shrimps and sun-dried tomato.
Dhs115. Trattoria Toscana, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6318).
Petit Pain Perdu at Couqley
Couqley’s most popular dessert comes in a petite size, and is served with one scoop of ice cream or sorbet for that extra super sweet twist.
Dhs24. Couqley, Cluster A, JLT (04 514 9339).
Mixed Berry Pancakes with Nutella at The Coffee Club
Deliciously fluffy pancakes served with seasonal fresh berries, chocolate, and Nutella sauce, these treats are finished off with crushed pistachio nuts. Fun fact: Pistachios are one of the oldest nut trees, which humans have been eating for 9,000 years.
Dhs58. The Coffee Club, Marina Village, Marina Mall (02 635 9102).
Mojo Chicken at Tony Roma’s
Lightly seasoned, this grilled chicken breast is smothered in citrus and mustard mojo sauce. Served with rice and freshly hand-cut vegetables, this is one dish that’s super tasty, high in protein and low in fat and calories.
Dhs59. Tony Roma’s, Marina Village, Marina Mall Abu Dhabi (02 633 0373).
Nutella Chocolate Chip Pancakes at Berri’s
You can never have too much choco. These pancakes topped with Nutella sauce and strawberries – and cooked with chocolate chips – are the perfect way to start any kid’s day.
Dhs45. Served daily from 8am-1pm. Berri’s, Al Muneera Beach Plaza (02 643 9555).
Popcorn Chicken at Jim’s Kitchen
Adults and kids alike love popcorn, so imagine how popular this take on everyone’s favourite snack is. In this dish, small tender chicken pieces are covered in crispy gluten-free flour and coconut coating, then served with fries and ketchup.
Dhs34. Jim’s Kitchen Table, Siemens Building, Masdar City (02 491 9401).
Shish Taouk at Villa Beirut
This high-protein grilled chicken breast is cut into easy-to-eat cubes and slowly grilled on charcoal fire. Served with delicious baked potato or French fries and garlic paste on the side, it sounds like something mum and dad will want to steal.
Dhs48. Villa Beirut, Marina Village, Marina Mall (02 258 1638).