az.u.r: At az.u.r you can trust what you put in your mouth, and you can trust it’s going to be excellent. The restaurant is rightfully proud of its farm-to-fork policy, which ensures every ingredient can be traced back to its (often organic) origins. It can also be proud of the contemporary yet cosy décor, efficient, likeable staff and excellently presented and prepared dishes. The menu offers a generous selection of simple meats made interesting with marmalades, foams and other added details – the monkfish wrapped in Parma ham is well cooked, and the desserts are positively drool-worthy. A flambé performance brings caramelised bananas to the table and deep-fried chocolate truffles are heart-stoppingly good. From farm to fork to belly, az.u.r gets our seal of approval.
Marriott Harbour Hotel and Suites, Dubai Marina (04 319 4794). Open daily 5pm-11pm. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with a glass of house wine each: Dhs600-700.
The Exchange Grill: Some restaurants ooze class as soon as you walk in the door. The Exchange Grill is a prime example: from the sleek, earthy décor to the polite nod of the maître d’ and the ultra-efficient staff, it promises much. And we’re delighted to report that the food more than lives up to expectations. The menu covers all the dishes you’d expect of a high-end steakhouse (think wagyu, lobster et al) plus fish and lamb options. Unpretentious yet of impeccable quality, the perfectly cooked, flavoursome steaks are presented alongside a tray of mustards and sauces. It’s true that The Exchange Grill is on the pricey side, but when the food, atmosphere and service are this good, it’s a price we’re more than willing to pay.
The Fairmont, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316). Open Sun-Thurs 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 7pm-midnight. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with a glass of house wine each: Dhs900-1,000.
Troyka: Trying its best to recreate a Russian atmosphere with traditional dancing, music and costume, snowy murals and the A/C turned up so high you can see your own breath, you can’t fault Troyka for effort. The staff are Russian (although this can make ordering tricky for English speakers), and the food is authentic, hearty and full of oil and butter. We recommend the vareniki starter (boiled pastry stuffed with cottage cheese and served with sour cream), as well as the traditional chicken kiev and beef stroganoff. It’s best to head to Troyka late in the evening, as the band doesn’t even come on until 10.30pm, and the entertainment (which consists of dancing and singing) presumably only appears if there are more than two tables occupied in the restaurant. Hence it’s worth calling ahead to check whether it’s going to be a lively night. Otherwise, despite the good food, it’s a pretty empty, cold experience.
The Ascot Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 352 0900). Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 8am-midnight. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with a glass of house wine each: Dhs250-350.
Urbano: Urbano’s location – perched in the scenic Souk Al Bahar and overlooking the Dubai Fountain – ensures the restaurant will always draw in the diners, regardless of the quality of food it serves. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t need to work to fill up tables, it seems content to serve lacklustre fare. While the starters and desserts are very good, the staple Italian mains are disappointing: the pizzas are distinctly average and the pasta is so sloppy it could double for soup. And yet you will still have to fight for an al-fresco table. The restaurant will only hold one for 15 minutes, but if you so much as run five minutes late, the maître d’ will call you and rudely threaten to give it away. If the restaurant were located anywhere else, the indifferent service, standard main meals and lack of alcohol licence would have the staff begging you to book a table. Luckily for Urbano, it doesn’t even need to try.
Souk Al Bahar (04 435 5666). Open daily 10am-11.30pm. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with soft drinks: Dhs400-500.