Artistic eats in Dubai

Want some high-end aesthetics while you dine? These art gallery cafés are a feast for your eyes (and your taste buds)


XVA Café: This cool gallery café has a delightful courtyard setting among the hubbub of Bur Dubai, and it’s well worth a visit for its tranquil old-world charm, the galleries off to the side and a glass of its famously refreshing mint lemonade. It can get busy with shoppers and amblers from the nearby Souk Al Bastakiya flea market, which sometimes causes a jostle for tables, but what really makes the place is the surrounding art, not to mention the exquisite fare.
Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai (04 353 5383)

Courtyard Gallery & Café:
You can’t beat the arty ambience at The Courtyard. Inside, it’s a slick gallery with modern furniture; outside, it’s breathtaking: a Middle Eastern-style courtyard with trees and little antique shops framing the borders. The food is decent, if not show-stopping (basically standard sandwich, soup and salad fare). The service can veer towards the slow side, though this shouldn’t grate too heavily – the setting is so beautiful and serene, it would almost be a shame to rush through your meal. The surrounding art comes from the neighbouring regions, and is also top-notch.
Al Quoz 3, off Sheikh Zayed Road interchange 3 (04 347 9090)

Aspen Café:
It’s easy to bypass hotel lobby lounges, but ignoring Aspen Café and its many charms would be a big mistake. As well as serving deli classics (think soups and salads), it also encourages the local arts community by turning its walls into a gallery. This month, the café has teamed up with Vindemia Gallery at JBR to show the work of RAK-based UK abstract painter Lee Martin.
Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 0000)

The Shelter: Part art space, part auditorium, The Shelter caters for every aspect of the arts. Whether it’s hosting an art exhibit or a live performance, visitors are sure to walk away inspired, and occasionally hungry. Luckily, The Shelter also has some of the best gallery eats around. More Café does the catering and though the menu is a scaled-back version of the original, the salads, quiches and sweets on offer are still all exceptionally good.
318 Road, Al Quoz (04 434 5655)

Basta Art Café: Food is definitely a big draw at Basta Art Café, and the art on the walls changes regularly. Still, what really makes the space is the setting. Hugged in the friendly branches of a huge narra tree and surrounded by greenery and pot plants, this leafy courtyard cafe makes you feel you’re a million miles away from the hustle of Bur Dubai. For refreshments, you could do worse than the wide selection of sandwiches, salads and baked potatoes, plus breakfast options and a limited dessert menu. Food is tasty and reasonably priced – there are few better locations to soothe away the madness of the city.
Al Fahidi Street, Bastakiya (04 353 5071)

Ductac: It seems there’s always something unique happening at the Mall of the Emirates art space: artists, dance troupes, theatre productions and musicians all find their way through here, and culture fans would do well to check it out. While there is a cafe at Ductac, it doesn’t serve much more than bread and pastries. Still, even these hit the spot, and provide enough energy to take in some of the theatre’s attractions.
Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4777)

Boutique 1 Café: As one would expect from one of Dubai’s most exclusive shopping boutiques, the Boutique 1 Café is a handsome, sleek space, as is the diminutive gallery one floor up. While it rarely shows more than one artist at a time, the selection, predictably, demonstrates exceptional taste, which is mirrored in the café. The menu is pretty standard, but well executed – the salads and soups satisfy. Plus, where else in the city can you shop, eat and experience some culture in one fell swoop?
The Walk at JBR (04 448 3400)

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