Dubai restaurants recommended by locals - hidden gems

Time Out Dubai teams up with Dubai Food Festival 2016 to celebrate Dubai restaurants recommended by locals - these hidden gems are some of the best in town

As part of the Dubai Food Festival 2016, organisers reached out to the food fans across the emirate to discover your favourite spots away from the shiny lights and tourist traps. These are the unsung heroes of the best restaurant scene in the world, proving you don't need hostesses, in-house entertainment and a drinks list too heavy to pick up, just to be a hit.

From local fare to seafood on demand, the list has plenty for every kind of tastebuds, and for every part of town, because hidden gems doesn't just mean off the beaten track. So next time your out and about, why not take a peek down that unassuming side street, you never know what you might find.

Here's what else you will find at Dubai Food Festival 2016

  • Beach Canteen - Kite Beach pop-up returns as the heartbeat of the whole festival
  • Eat The World DXB - 15 of London's best food trucks set up for the weekend in Burj Park
  • Dubai Restaurant Week - 30 of Dubai's best restaurants slash prices of special set menus
  • Street Nights - cultural event comes to Business Bay during the middle weekend of the festival

One of many restaurants in Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Seafood Market turned 24 years old in 2017, and we can see why it’s become a Dubai institution. The inside is a bit dated, with lairy green/blue carpet and extremely bright lighting, but we like the fish tanks at the entrance. The terrace fares better, with mellow lighting and ornate tiling on the walls. There is a menu, but we prefer to go off piste. The concept is simple, head to the “market” and pick your catch. Choose your cooking style and you’re good to go. Giant king prawns done tempura-style is a good place to start. They are delicious, huge, juicy with a crispy, non-greasy batter. A fragrant curry sauce with a red mullet fillet is light and works well with the flaky fish. A simply gigantic portion of Singapore noodles is tasty but negates the need for dessert. Our advice? Go hungry to this destination, portions are generous.

International +971 55 705 2130 Jumeirah 3

For casual beachside fare, you can’t get much better than Dubai institution Bu Qtair. Set along Jumeirah Beach Road, it’s not fine dining but we neither expect nor want it to be. You’ll find plastic seating outside and you can’t reserve a table at this fuss-free seafood spot. There’s no menu, either. What you’ll get is the catch of the day, or prawns, in a curry sauce. Simple, fresh and delicious. Service is friendly and fast too. There are no fancy touches but the food is so tasty you won’t notice.

Middle Eastern +971 4 324 7887 Jumeirah 1

Any preconceptions about an Iraqi dining experience are left at the door of this striking restaurant. The setting is lavish, attentive waiters, smartly dressed in suits, catch the eye, as does the regal décor of the vast dining area, with the dark wooden tables giving an air of sophistication to proceedings. Start with meat borak – minced meat encased in a pastry roll – then try the fish metabek, cooked in a thick, pomegranate syrup and served with an ample portion of rice and pine nuts. With so many Iraqi dishes to try, one visit can only give you a flavour of the cuisine, but it will tempt you back for more.

Middle Eastern 04 379 2986 Al Barsha

Azkadenya serves up a calm contrast to the hustle and bustle of its Mall of the Emirates base, with vintage Arabic films projected on the restaurant’s walls, which are also adorned with colourful pop culture images. Start with the sampler of hummus, which is anything but humdrum here. The pink version with pomegranate is the pick. The main course of shugaf (grilled lamb cubes and vegetables on a crispy dough) is well presented and plentiful, but could do with a little more punch as the spicy tomato sauce is drizzled on too sparingly to lift the dish. For a sweet treat, check out the osmaliyet chocolate, huge scoops of refreshing and rich ice cream topped with kunafa-style cakes. With a relaxing vibe, eye-catching décor, good value food and riendly staff, Azkadenya is a spot to seek out while in the mall.

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