Special Ostadi: This long-standing Iranian family-run restaurant has been the hectic, bustling and charming breadwinner for three generations of the same clan. Finding a restaurant that has been in the hands of more than one generation of a family must be a first in Dubai, although it seems that not much has changed since Ostadi first opened its doors in 1978. The current owner, Muhammad Ali Ansari, is as friendly as he is boisterous (and that’s plenty). Today, the place serves some of the best Iranian food in the emirate (the grilled lamb kebabs are a local favourite). Plus, Special Ostadi is alive with colour. The walls and tables are plastered with currency from around the world, including some Saddam-era Iraqi tender. Not to be missed.
Al Mussalla Road, Bur Dubai (04 397 1933).
Yia Yia: With a moniker like Yia Yia (‘grandmother’ in Greek), you know you’re likely dealing with a family enterprise. Husband-and-wife team Peter and Anastasia van Rijn opened this Cypriot restaurant in honour of Anastasia’s heritage, and the recipes are even passed down from her grandmother. The couple are never far from the restaurant (Anastasia is the slim brunette greeting customers at the door), and the close ties spill over into the atmosphere, which exudes warmth and good cheer.
Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa (04 346 1111).
Bacio Gelato: Bacio Gelato is more than your typical family business, partly because it’s run by two families. While partners Lina Bargash and Cesare Cellie are not related, their respective spouses help to run the marketing and accounting behind this diminutive yet popular gelato shop. For those who doubt the family influence in this delightful haven, the walls are plastered with pictures of both Lina’s and Cesare’s children (sometimes you can spot them eating gelato in the corner).
The Baron Hotel, Al Barsha (04 323 2949).
Wild Peeta: Emirati brothers Peyman Parham and Mohammad Parham Al Awadi opened Wild Peeta earlier this year. The restaurant is unique for several reasons: first, it sells the world’s first ‘fusion shawarma’; second, the business model is entirely fuelled by Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. This means everything about the place, from the menu to the decor, is decided by their online fan base. Not only is all the food made fresh from scratch, but the Al Awadi brothers also work to make the shawarma healthy (there’s even a vegan option).
Dubai Healthcare City, Oud Metha (800 9453).
Bluefields Caribbean Restaurant: Siblings Allison and Michael Gardner realised there was a hole in Dubai’s eating-out scene – Caribbean food was nowhere to be found. The pair soon decided to plug the gap, opening Bluefields Caribbean Restaurant. Allison takes orders in the front of house, while Michael cooks up his grandmother’s recipes in the kitchen. Together, the two churn out authentic West Indian eats, and have since attracted clientele from across the entire Gulf region.
Near Lamcy Plaza, Oud Metha (04 335 7377).