From chocolates to Arabic sweets, here are the 10 shops you need this Valentine’s…
Al Baba Sweets
Arab sweet makers aren’t known for holding back on their sugar, slathering piles of honey onto most pastries. Al Baba Sweets is no exception, with its sugar high-inducing baklava, mammoul and kunufa that come packed full of honey and chopped nuts. All of the sweets are sold in boxes for Dhs75 per kilo. If you feel the need to wash down your sugary sins, sit at one of the tables and sip on a nice cup of tea.
Deira City Centre (04 295 2007). Open Daily 8am-11pm.
Straight out of Time Out’s childhood fantasies, this cocoa-dusted wonderland is the sort of sweetshop that’ll get the kid in you salivating. Delicious bites from Belgium, Lebanon and Germany are stacked up on the front counter just waiting to transport you to sweet-toothed nirvana. Prices are steep (ranging from Dhs140 and Dhs200 per kilo), but trust us, the Swiss truffle will remind you how very good chocolate can taste.
Al Diyafah Street (04 221 2035; www.atayebchocolates.com). Open Sat-Thu 8am-2.30pm, 4.30pm-10.30pm; Fri 9.30am-11.30am, 4.30pm-10.30pm.
Choc and Nuts
This one-stop shop of Middle Eastern and Persian goodies is packed with Iranian almonds, Lebanese pistachios and Egyptian seeds, all for sale by the pound. It’s a long narrow shop with huge open boxes of nuts on the left and sweets from around the world on the right, all waiting to be weighed up by a delightfully old-fashioned set of scales. The friendly shopkeeper is more than happy to offer up suggestions and samples.
Baniyas Road, Deira (04 221 2035). Open Sat-Thu 8am-2.30pm, 4pm-10.30pm; Fri 9am-11am, 4pm-10pm.
Combining the best of Western and Eastern sweets, Chocoa’s Belgian chocolate-covered dates and dried apricots are heaped in toothsome piles in the showroom near the Mall of the Emirates. Baskets, boxes, platters and trays are all crammed with delicious treats, which make for excellent, if elaborate, gifts. The milk and dark chocolates are also tasty and come in either solid blocks or with a wide variety of fillings. We particularly like the hazelnut chocolates and the pralines, which are smooth and delicious.
Al Barsha, behind Mall of the Emirates (04 340 9092). Open Sat-Thu 10am-10pm.
Jeff de Bruges
Dubai’s chocolate-loving residents openly worship Jeff de Bruges’ scrumptious offerings. With the finest Belgian chocolates on sale this side of Wallonia, the shop is chock-full of truffles, marzipan, fruit jellies, ganaches and pralines. It’s a great place for buying gifts for special occasions: their tailor-made wedding gifts are particularly impressive.
Jumierah Palm Strip, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 345 3365). Open Sat-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri 4pm-10pm.
Moka is heaven for chocolate lovers, stocking mountains of luxury brand Godiva. From gift baskets to golf ball-shaped treats, sweet teeth are spoilt for choice. The glass cabinet houses over 100 variations, from coffee creams to caramels, which can be bought by the bucket load or in a Dhs135 box.
Wafi (04 324 1755; www.mokatrade.com). Open Fri-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu 10am-midnight.
Favoured by UAE nationals for its selection of high-quality products, Patchi, a Lebanese brand, is undoubtedly the Elie Saab of chocolates. The wondrous chocs are grouped into ‘classic’ and ‘deluxe’ ranges; both of which are splendidly appetising. In the former category try the perfetto with raisins, orange and hazelnuts. Chocoholics of a more adventurous bent will also appreciate the cocoa-dusted chocolate espresso beans, pistachios and raisins. Patchi also sells a huge quantity of vases, dolls, cutlery, and gaudy gift sets replete with teddy bears. For a chocolate quick fix, they’ll also let you pick ‘n’ mix from the counter.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 368 6101; www.patchi.com). Open Daily 10am-10pm. All major credit cards. Other locations: Mercato (04 349 1188); Wafi (04 324 4030).
Busily bountiful, this Indian sweetshop greets customers with wafts of incense and mounds of brightly coloured Indian confectionery. Each splendid-looking triangular sweet is diligently wrapped by the shop assistants in golden paper amid teetering towers of gift boxes. Look out for the evocative mural depicting smiling workers mixing up sugary sweets; it’s a must see.
Trade Centre Road, near Spinneys (04 396 8486). Open Sat-Thu 9.30am-11.30pm; Fri 4.30pm-11.30pm. Other location: Knowledge Village (04 366 4516); Mina Bazaar, Bur Dubai (04 351 1466).
This Indian sweetshop is packed with paralysingly sweet tidbits and spicy delights. Feel your nostrils prickle at the chilli-laced air and get lost in the rows of papads (mini popadoms), pickles, puri, vada pav (spicy fried potato) and the obligatory Bombay-mix. Be sure to try the methi-chakli – the crispy, fenugreek-flavoured fried rice flour is the most addictive snack imaginable.
Al Musallah Road, Bur Dubai (04 397 1380). Open Sat-Thu 9am-1.30pm, 4.30pm-10.30pm; Fri 9.30am-11pm.
This international patisserie stocks rich French truffles, imported strawberry macaroons, Arabian, Persian and European sweets, and some top-notch coffee. But when it comes to tasting Scandinavian candy, it’s truly in a league of its own. Those with an adventurous palate might be tempted to try djungelvral from Sweden (salt liquorice) or the fiery tyrkisk peber (extra hot liquorice) from Finland. You can also buy tiny, perfectly sculpted cookies by the kilo – absolutely delicious.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 368 6006; www.vivel.com). Open Sat-Thu 10am-11pm; Fri noon-11pm. Other location: Deira (04 295 7005); Jumeirah (04 344 3232).