Thai Chi: Dubai’s Thai food cognoscenti may not be tripping over their feet to make it here, but those looking for serene surroundings, attentive service and an easy-to-swallow bill won’t find much better than Thai Chi. The decor may be a bit dated, but the worn charm makes eating here a happy escape from the city’s unstoppable swirl. During winter it’s worth sitting on the terrace. The traditional bridges, tea lights and trickling fountains mean it’s a soothing sanctuary.
The length of the menu may be a bit trying: it covers both Chinese and Thai staples, as well as some items for the more adventurous the more adventurous. Also, several dishes are on the overly spicy side (the roast duck curry, for example), but portions are ample, and the venue is ideal for dining with mates, dates or co-workers.
Wafi (04 324 4100). Open 12.30pm-3pm; 7pm-11.45pm daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with a glass of house wine Dhs300-400.
Frankie’s Italian Bar & Grill: They say you can’t be all things to everyone, but Frankie’s has a fair stab at it. Conceived as an upscale diner with an inclusive vibe, Frankie’s certainly lacks the snooty feel of so many of its rivals. The resulting atmosphere is buzzing and informal. The menu is what you might expect of an Italian restaurant abroad, but with a smattering of invention (presumably from the repertoire of Marco Pierre White, the nominal chef behind the business). Speck-wrapped scallops with white bean sauce makes for a perfect starter, while the standard beef carpaccio and rocket is made special with a dash of horseradish mousse. Here and there mistakes creep in (over salted spaghetti alle vongole, vaguely tough veal ossobuco), though the standards remain pretty high right through to dessert. If prices were a little lower, this place would be a real hit.
Al Fattan Marine Towers, Dubai Marina (04 399 4311; www.frankiesitalianbarandgrill.com). Open 6pm-11.45pm, also Thu-Sat 12.30pm-3.30pm daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with a glass of house wine Dhs600-700.
Beachcombers: Although the inside setting is a little more unassuming than the swish, wave-shaped exterior of Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Beachcombers’ cuisine – a fusion of Indian, Thai, Malaysian and Japanese – can only be described as top quality. The grub is as excellent as it is varied. The roti prata, a Singaporean flatbread, is prepared fresh at a live cooking stand and is possibly one of the best in town. The dessert table is laden with all the usual waist-expanding suspects, all of which are creamy, decadent and worth the calories. This is a great spot for a family brunch on both Fridays and Saturdays, with an extremely reasonable kids’ buffet for Dhs35. Inside, there’s a staffed games room complete with playstations, while entertainers and a live band will keep the little people amused.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Beach Road (04 406 8999). Open 7.30am-12 midnight daily, Fri-Sat brunch 12.30pm-4pm. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with glass of house wine Dhs400-450.
Shoo Fee Ma Fee: Stuck on an obscure balcony in the Madinat, this easy going Moroccan spot can be tricky to find, but once you do, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the canals below. If you can, opt for a table outside, as the inside can feel a bit lonesome, in spite of the live oud band. Though last year we found the food a bit lacklustre, this year we’ve seen strong signs of improvement. The shrimp meshoui are large and fleshy, and charred to give them a pleasantly smoky flavour. The raucously spiced mergeuz sausages also make for a sensational starter. Some items are a bit hit and miss, however; the cous cous royale offers off-the-bone tender chunks of meat, but the watery soup accompaniment leaves the cous cous soggy. Though the bill can be breathtakingly high, Shoo Fee Ma Fee is a good spot for merriment and decent food.
(04 366 8888) Madinat Jumeirah. Open 7pm-12.30am daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price for a meal for two with a glass of house wine Dhs450-500.