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

Mexican 04 346 1111 Jumeirah 1

This Mexican restaurant and sports bar is a perennial favourite of many Dubaians. Its enduring popularity stems to its lively vibes in the evening, chilled vibes during the daytime, and brilliant food vibes the whole way through.

Perhaps unbefitting of its slightly quieter location, Loca is regularly busy (its five-hour Friday brunch deal is superb value) and attracts a very loyal customer base, and everyone we’ve known to visit this place has been bowled over by its brilliant range of rustic Mexican grub with an up-market twist.

Fajitas and enchiladas are order of the day here, and they’re awesome. (Vegetarians should head straight for the glorious mushroom quesadillas.) Get the guacamole, obviously, and see it being prepared at the table by the expert waiting staff. But don’t hang around before absolutely devouring this beauty, because it tastes as good as it looks.

This place also specialises in the Mexican mixed drink, with a dedicated menu where you can choose which flavour you want and how you want it.

With a gorgeous view out from the restaurant’s outdoors area, this is one you need to have on your list.

The bottom line
Super fun spot with great guacamole.

04 354 4354 DIFC

It seemed just weeks after first opening that DIFC’s 7 Elephants shuttered its doors for summer. It risked losing momentum, but with cooler months now approaching, the swanky al fresco lounge has launched itself neatly back into the game.

Two themes run parallel within the sprawling space – a stock market-style, fluctuating price strategy for drinks, and a food inspired by seven different countries and regions. Though novel, the screens showing the ever-changing drinks prices aren’t quite visible enough throughout the large venue for this to work, and there’s something that feels a bit cynical about the pressure to keep track of it all by downloading the outlet’s app.

Interestingly (and not entirely unexpectedly), the globe-trotting food menu almost completely pulls off its fairly risky ambition.

We like to do things properly at Time Out (that’s our excuse, and we’re sticking to it), and order a dish from each region on the menu. Thankfully for both the wallet and waistline, dishes are small, tapas-style plates and priced to match.

Julienned haystacks of vibrant, crunchy veg make up the Indian pakoras which, dipped in creamy raita, are a generously proportioned highlight of the night.

Perfectly tender, expertly seasoned Spanish-style calamari is another big hit, as are the oozy Mexican quesadillas and the vibrant guacamole that accompanies them.

Elsewhere, however, the mini margherita yearns for more time in the oven, while the “Balinese” short rib lettuce cups experience something of a identity crisis (hummus? In Bali?) and the “British” beef bites are about as authentic as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent.

But our gluttony knows no bounds, and a green tea fondant is soon making its way to the table. With green tea ice cream and a vanilla crème Anglaise, it’s light, delicate and tongue-testingly molten.
Unsurprisingly, we leave feeling every inch the venue’s mascot – and we certainly won’t forget to come back.

The bottom line
Good value, good vibes and largely good food at this DIFC lounge.

The Bill (for two very hungry diners)
1x quesadillas Dhs23
1x 60inch margherita Dhs25
1x vegetable pakora Dhs25
1x short rib Dhs35
1x beef bites Dhs30
1x calamari Dhs36
1x hummus Dhs19
1x green tea fondant Dhs40
2x club soda Dhs30
Total (including DIFC tax) Dhs299.30

04 242 7794 Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)

Chocolate, chips, waffles – Belgium has long exported some of the world’s favourite treats. And so with that in mind, we’re delighted when we hear about this new Belgian eatery in JLT.

Granted, the country’s cuisine isn’t hard to find in Dubai (hello, multiple Belgian Cafés and Café Belge), but when it comes to chips and mayo there’s always room for one more on the list.

Le Petit Belge sits in the Pullman JLT – not an overly-inspiring location – so we’re pleasantly surprised to find a lively scene on a weeknight (though this could be due to the daily 4pm to 8pm happy hour).

With sport on the TV and a pleasant hum of chatter, we pull up a stool at the bar.

The atmosphere is so buzzing that we’re persuaded stay at this spot longer to try some pre-dinner nibbles. And since the bar bites list is essentially the starters selection from the restaurant menu, we’re not missing out.

Everything sounds lipsmackingly, and belt-bustingly good.

We opt for lobster and crab rolls and a portion of cheese croquettes to kick us off.

Portions are huge, but with quantity comes quality.

The croquettes are perfectly crisp outside and gooey in the centre and paired with a sticky pear dipping sauce.

The sweet lobster and crab meat is lightly dressed and nestled into a buttery brioche bun.

After a breather we move into the restaurant (which is quieter) and onto (equally large) mains.

A Flemish beef stew is top-notch, with tender meat draped in a rich, moreish gravy.

The trio of mussels (coming in garlic cream, Roquefort and Thai curry sauces) is tasty enough, but sadly doesn’t wow, though the crispy, fluffy fries do.

Stuffed, we reluctantly pass on the puds. But we’ll be back (and possibly starting in reverse with the giant Belgian waffles next time).

The bill (for two)
1x lobster and crab rolls Dhs69
1x cheese croquettes Dhs48
1x Flemish beef stew Dhs78
1x trio mussels Dhs165
Total (including service) Dhs376

The bottom line
Belgian comfort food at its best.


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