At Souk Al Manzil in Downtown Dubai, a funky, lively and friendly Jamaican eatery sits within a windowless façade.
Step inside, however, and you’re greeted by an explosion of colour, smells, music and general vibrancy.
Ting Irie adds to the city’s Caribbean restaurant scene, and stands out alongside Miss Lily’s (our Best North American & Caribbean Restaurant 2018) as a great place to get your hands on some authentic Jamaican grub.
The place is always pleasantly busy, adding to the funky vibe.
Follow the waitstaff’s recommendations and get a handful of dishes from the “Likkle Bites” menu. From this, don’t miss the “world-famous” Jamaican patties, some stuffed with beef, others with curried veggies, they’re top-notch –- bursting with spices and flavour.
If you can manage not to scoff the lot (and then some), save room for the Jerk hummus (super-spicy yet strangely still moreish), followed by the butta corn – topped with lime butter and charred spring onions.
For a healthy choice go for the pumpkin and kale salad – crystallised pumpkin seeds, quinoa, roasted pumpkin and a punchy peanut dressing.
Everything is super-fresh and tasty, and although it may be on the pricey side for Jamaican street food, this place is way too cool to miss.
The bottom line
Cracking Jamaican street eats.
La Serre’s Bistro feels bright and airy, thanks to the crisp white colour scheme. On any given night you’ll find it buzzing, and staff deal adeptly with the throng of diners – you won’t even notice the wait between ordering and being presented your food, and requesting and receiving your bill.
Start with the shaved cauliflower salad with Manchego cheese, citrus and almonds. Light and refreshing, it’s a great precursor to some of the bigger flavours you’ll tuck into. The beetroot salad starter is one. It’s full of taste, texture and heat contrasts that we love. It comes with small rounds of warm goat’s cheese, studded with pistachio nut crumbs, mixed in with the cold cubes of beetroot. An absolute delight.
Mains are split into pastas, seafood and meat, making it easy for the indecisive to navigate. All the classics are present, including beef Bourguignon, baby chicken and fillet steak, plus scallops glazed with balsamic reduction and parsnip purée, and piquillo peppers. Of that the baby chicken is a standout, with its creamy, flavourful truffle Hollandaise sauce. A side of rich gratin Dauphinoise and steamed broccoli will go down a treat, too.
This is one of the most impressive French restaurants we’ve had the pleasure to eat in. Book a table and you’ll see why.
With views over The Dubai Fountain, and moodily lit dining room and terrace, it’s no wonder Thiptara took home our gong for Best Romantic Restaurant 2018. However, it’s not style over substance here, as the food is excellent, too, which is why it’s a worthy winner of the Best Thai Restaurant Award too.
The menu offers such delights as black cod wrapped in pandan leaf and soft-shell crab served with a spicy home-made sauce to start, and both will leave you craving more.
The menu also offers authentic salads including som tum Thai – a green papaya offering with long beans, tomatoes, Thai lime chilli dressing and tiger prawns. It’s truly one for spice fans. The tom kha Thai soup also to start, with coconut, your choice vegetables, chicken or seafood, plus Thai herbs and mushrooms is heart-warmingly delicious. But the true showstoppers are in the main courses.
Seafood, meat and poultry, curries and tofu dishes are made expertly, and nowhere will you find a classic green, red or Paneng curry made better.
The pad Thai noodles are also a cut above the rest – wonderfully fresh, with crisp beansprouts and soft noodles, meaty prawns and fluffy scrambled eggs. The menu is nicely proportioned and concise, and staff are more than happy to guide you through it, which they do well here – they know it inside out.
Since you can enjoy the show with some of the tastiest Thai food in town, there’s no better place in Dubai for a romantic evening out with some top-class cuisine.
The bottom line
Book in for a showcase of fantastic flavours and spectacular Fountain views
Brightly coloured and filled with the sounds of modern and old-school reggae and dancehall, Miss Lily’s may be one of the city’s smaller restaurant, but it’s all the better for it.
Feeling like a funky, urban Jamaican canteen-meets-American diner, this New York import serves up an intimate, convivial atmosphere with a massive wallop of fun.
While it may not have delivered Dubai its first taste of Caribbean food, it’s undoubtedly the city’s favourite.
Service is swift, personable and attentive, the atmosphere is electric on any given night, and the food is superb – a savvy blend of authentic and inventive.
For Caribbean-meets-Middle Eastern, don’t miss the ackee hummus, served with grilled roti flatbreads, while the crispy fish tacos with spicy escovitch dressing are knockout.
Everything impresses. There’s West Indian curry prawns (uber-fragrant), curry goat stew (fall-apart delicious) and, of course, Miss Lily’s “world famous” jerk grilled chicken.
Bigger groups can also order the likes of garlic-roasted lamb shoulder, hot pepper lobster and slow-roasted pimento short rib. And visit in a big group you absolutely should. A restaurant like this deserves a party, and you deserve to taste as many dishes as possible.
The bottom line
Fun hangout with spot-on food.
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