Pappa Roti: When you’re meeting a perfect stranger, you want a place that provides an easy escape route in case the date goes horribly awry. We recommend sitting down for a coffee and a magically buttery bun (if your date doesn’t fall for these sweet cakes, we’d wager he or she isn’t worth your time anyway). If things don’t go well, hey, at least you got a bun out of the deal – you two can go your separate ways (you to Kinokuniya, your date to Sega Republic). If things do go well, there’s no shortage of fun date activities nearby – try ice skating or a spot of window shopping.
The Dubai Mall (no number).
Traiteur/The Terrace: Few settings in the city are as achingly romantic as the Park Hyatt. With its lilting mood lighting and pristine creekside view, it’s no wonder the hotel’s signature French restaurant, Traiteur, is a popular spot to celebrate young love – you can’t go wrong with a starter of oysters. Should the date go well and you find yourself wanting to extend it, adjacent bar The Terrace has some fabulous cocktails to match the view, and there are often special drink deals (pop in on Mondays for the two-for-one offer on martinis).
Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 302 1234).
The birthday or anniversary
Rhodes Mezzanine: If there’s one thing at which Rhodes Mezzanine excels, it’s offering diners a true sense of occasion. The stunning decor goes a long way towards achieving this (think plush white armchairs accentuated with colourful cushions). What’s more, the hushed, friendly service and seemingly unlimited array of amuse bouches make diners feel extra-special. For a romantic indulgence, order Rhodes’ signature bread and butter pudding.
Grosvenor House (04 399 8888).
Meeting the folks
Le Classique: There’s something comfortingly traditional about this family-centric French bistro – the food is old-fashioned, but charmingly so. Take the folks to this country club-style venue and they’ll feel perfectly at home. Try the buttery escargot followed by a flaming crêpe Suzette (made tableside) for a show that parents (and prospective in-laws) will love.
Emirates Golf Club (04 380 2222)
Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire: Some places are so special, they’re once-in-a-lifetime deals. Such is the case with Reflets, the magnificent, pink-and-purple-decked restaurant that serves up dishes from the repertoire of French celebrity chef Pierre Gagnaire. The food is best described as inventive, delicious takes on traditional French fare, while service is purring and the meal is truly a main event. Expect to be here for several hours.
InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1111).
Lime Tree Cafe: As with blind dates, the best approach to the break-up meal is to choose a place that will allow you an easy escape afterwards. Here you can order your food from the counter, then break the news to your soon-to-be-former beau without having to wait around for the bill afterwards. Plus, there’s always Lime Tree’s famously moist carrot cake to help soak up any post-break-up tears.
Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 8498). Other location: Ibn Battuta Mall (04 366 9320).