Dubai Food Festival 2016

From celebrity chef dinners to food truck fiestas and street performances, the city has 17 action-packed, feast-filled days ahead. We hope you’re hungry…

Feb 25 – Mar 12

Beach Canteen
Head to Kite Beach’s pop-up restaurants and stalls

Having started as a small collection of pop-ups in some neatly assembled shipping containers two years ago, Beach Canteen is now one of the most anticipated events of the year. And this time around, the centrepiece of the Dubai Food Festival is ramping things up a notch.

Located on Kite Beach, the temporary venue will now be the main hub of the entire foodie celebration, operating both as a place to visit in its own right, but also a spot to pick up tickets and sample some of DFF’s other offerings. It remains, as it always has been, free to attend. Celebrity chefs will rub shoulders with 15 of the UAE’s best-loved home-grown restaurant brands, each serving their own unique menus for 17 days.

What's on offer?

Sellers from some of Dubai’s most popular fresh food markets will set up shop along the beach, so you can rustle up something yourself. There will be a series of pop-ups from Dubai-based independent retailers, known as “Design On The Decks”. So expect the best of Ripe Market, Street Nights and more to tempt you with their hand-crafted goodies.

Bookies and movies
Family-friendly movies will be screened under the stars every Friday of the festival (Feb 26, Mar 4, Mar 11), accompanied by “film-inspired” snacks. Just so long as there’s popcorn… And for those who like to let their imagination paint the picture, BookMunch Café will host Storytelling By The Sea each Thursday (Feb 25, Mar 3, Mar 10) and Sunday (Feb 28, Mar 6).

Burn after eating
A range of fitness classes will run each and every day, including HIT (High-Intensity Training) for when you really want to earn that extra doughnut. There will also be holistic workouts such as yoga and Pilates on the beach. For the seriously keen, presenters from Physique TV will take over the whole venue on Wednesdays (Mar 2, Mar 9).

Open-mic nights
Jazz (Feb 29), pop (Mar 2), Latino (Mar 7) and rock (Mar 9) will all be represented as Dubai’s best-loved local music talents take to the stage. Check out some of those who auditioned on social media, using #RaiseYourMic.
All events at Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim.

Feb 25 – Mar 5

Dubai Restaurant Week: ten to try
Of the 30 restaurants across Dubai offering three-course meals for Dhs189, here’s our pick of those you must visit

Alta Badia
This vertiginous Italian restaurant on the 51st floor of Jumeirah Emirates Towers will serve a menu featuring smoked duck and pear salad, wild mushroom risotto with pecorino cheese and fruit tart with wild berries and lemon sorbet.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 878304 319 8783).


If you haven’t already checked out this fashionable Mediterranean joint, Restaurant Week is all the excuse you need. The special menu includes Boca potato chips and fried padron peppers, grilled squid with mixed grills, 12-hour braised lamb, pan-fried sea bream and a lemon and thyme tart.
Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 323 183304 323 1833).

Bread Street Kitchen

Expect British classics at Gordon Ramsay’s new Palm Jumeirah restaurant. Think spicy tuna tartare, braised beef with star anise carrot purée and creamed wild mushrooms, rounded off with a nostalgic dose of warm treacle tart and cinnamon ice-cream.
Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 200004 426 2000).

Café Belge
A sophisticated bar and restaurant with a strong seafood leaning, head to DIFC for grey shrimp cromesqui with sauce Andalouse and scallion greens, seared sea bass and dame blanche.
The Ritz-Carlton DIFC (04 372 222204 372 2222).

Fogueira Restaurant & Lounge

Head to the Brazilian churrascaria to try a menu that includes coxinha (Brazilian chicken croquette) and pão de queijo (cheese bread) with fried banana and quinoa salad, main courses of either barbecued chicken or beef, and a passion fruit mousse cake with chocolate and condensed milk balls.
Ramada Plaza JBR (04 439 888804 439 8888).

This cool, new spot in Business Bay sticks to its Peruvian roots. Try ceviche clásico, beef anticucho, mixed seafood with creamy rice, lemongrass and prawn salsa, chicken saltado, mini passion semifreddo and mini tres leches.
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Business Bay (056 224 0956056 224 0956).

Well-loved for its authentic Japanese eats, head to Kiku in Garhoud to try a menu featuring deep-fried baby river shrimps, Japanese oysters, sashimi platters and wagyu steak.
Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Garhoud (04 702 245504 702 2455).

Pai Thai
Dine on the Madinat’s waterways. Dishes include grilled beef salad, crispy Thai sausage with minced prawns, chicken and tofu, breaded prawn cakes, vegetable green curry, wok-fried crispy chicken with cashew nut, tapioca pearls and sweet, sticky rice with mango.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 674004 366 6740).

Rang Mahal
Try a selection of grilled meats, prawn tikka masala, Andhra-style lamb with coconut and crushed pepper, and chocolate chaklet at this venue crowned Best Indian at the 2015 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards.
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Business Bay (04 414 000004 414 0000).


This renowned, stylish, contemporary Middle Eastern restaurant will be offering a menu of typically creative dishes, including crudo of yellowtail with lime and caviar, Syrian lamb and sour cherry kofta, seven-spiced crispy salmon and baklava “smash” walnuts, and dark chocolate with camel milk ice-cream.
Wafi Pyramids, Oud Metha (04 709 250004 709 2500).

Dubai long table

Dine at the first-ever long table seating event on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard. On Friday February 26, 1,000 guests can choose from six three-course meals made by the chefs at The Address Hotels + Resorts and Vida Hotels and Resorts.
Dhs160 (adults), Dhs90 (kids). (04 423 888404 423 8884).

Feb 25 – 26

Dining with the stars
Rub shoulders with international chefs and celebs

It’s time to brush up on your table manners, get your little black dress dry-cleaned and dust off your finest jewels as you rub shoulders with the celebrity chefs taking part in this year’s DFF.

This duo of exclusive events will give foodies the chance to chow down on the same table as giants of the cooking world.

First up will be a soirée with Arabic superstar Manal Al Alem, where a specially crafted menu of the finest Middle Eastern food will be on offer, while the renowned chef shares intriguing stories of how her passion for food evolved.

The next night will see five legends of MasterChef Australia join forces to create an array of international dishes that capture the sheer essence of their craft. And who could argue with five for the price of one, right?

Although we can’t promise these kitchen virtuosos will answer your queries while in the middle of a mouthful or gently dab that large dollop of sauce from your cheek, you should expect an enchanting and enlightening evening.
Prices and venue details to be confirmed.

Feb 25 – 27

Eat the World DXB
Globetrotting food trucks roll down to Dubai’s Burj Park

There’s just no getting away from food trucks (there’s a car pun in there somewhere). Not that we’re complaining, of course, because such is the appetite (pun very much intended) for meals on wheels right in here in Dubai, that 15 of the best mobile eateries from London are chugging into town for a whole weekend.
From Thursday February 25 to Saturday 27, Dubai’s Burj Park will be turned into a car park of customised ambulances, camper vans, ice-cream trucks and all manner of funky vehicles.

Described by organisers as “a hip, new street food-meets-entertainment concept”, it’s expected to attract 20,000 people over the weekend and will also feature a food market, local musicians, a chef demo kitchen with the likes of Food Network’s Andy Bates and local stars of the restaurant scene Suzanne Husseini and Izu Ani (La Serre).

Some of Dubai’s popular local trucks will also be at the event, including Ghaf Kitchen.

Five of the best

Happy Maki
Three words. Giant. Vegan. Sushi. Packing large seaweed sheets (nori) with rice, avocado, peppers and bucket-loads of traditional Japanese flavour, these burrito-like wraps raise awareness for sustainable eating. Everything the team do is sustainable, including the packaging. Good for you and the environment.

Hix’s Fishdog
“Posh” anything can be a little off-putting, unless it’s referring to a fish finger sandwich. Step forward Hix, with its sumptuous buns packed with mushy peas, tartare, chips and, of course, breaded pollock. They also serve hot fish soup and croquettes.

The Other Side
If just for originality of outlet (and their rich sense of irony), The Other Side deserves a minute of your time. Specialising in fried chicken burgers, the team are at your service from a customised ambulance. Breaded in a secret recipe that has made them talk of the UK burger scene, their potato bread buns have also helped them stand out from the crowd.

What the Dickens
The British are renowned for borrowing other country’s cuisines and claiming them for their own. No wonder then this most Anglo of outlets lists their signature dish as kedgeree, a rice and fish dish traditionally eaten at breakfast in India.

The Crema Caravan
Perhaps the only time the phrase “Burnt To Order” is a good thing, The Crema Caravan serves, unsurprisingly, crème brûlée, but there are plenty of other sweet treats, too.
Daily 11am-6pm. Burj Park, Downtown Dubai.

More trucks to try

Thai street food.

The Roadery
“Champion of the forgotten cuts”, a head-to-tail culinary experience for meat-lovers.

The Cheese Truck
Grilled cheese sandwiches.

Made of Dough
Award-winning pizza.

Big Apple Hot Dogs
Halal hot dogs.

Dixie Union
Po’ Boys sandwiches.

Crabbie Shack
Soft-shell crab burgers.

Oli Baba’s
Halloumi fries with zaatar yoghurt, pomegranate molasses, sumac and mint.

Milo & Hector’s
Ice-cream sandwiches.

Churros Bros
Award-winning traditional Spanish churros with hot chocolate.

Feb 25 – Mar 12

Signature Tastes: ten to try
Ever peered longingly at diners gorging themselves silly at eateries just a tad outside your financial reach? Well it’s time to slay your inner green-eyed monster and pull up a chair at these ten restaurants, which will be offering a knock-down “taste of their best” with limited-edition signature dishes or menus.

1The Ivy
Dubai’s much-loved Covent Garden import is rustling up a triple bill of its classic tastes. How does salmon tartare, roasted duck breast and a cox apple and raspberry trifle bomb sound?
From Dhs45. Open Sat-Thu noon-11pm; Fri 12.30pm-11.30pm. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 876704 319 8767).

2 Pots, Pans & Boards
Double Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens brings you a three-course menu of chilli and coriander tempura squid with aioli, an oxtail burger with piquillo ketchup and smoked cheese, followed by a passion fruit curd pavlova.
Dhs140. Open Sun-Wed 11am-midnight; Thu-Sat 9am-1am. The Beach, JBR (04 456 195904 456 1959).

3 Long Yin
Chef George Cheer will be offering a quartet of his top Oriental dishes. On the menu will be deep-fried prawn with wasabi cream, steamed fish with ginger and spring onion, Vietnamese beef and aromatic crispy duck with pancakes and hoi sin sauce.
From Dhs75. Open daily 12.30pm-5pm, 6pm-11pm. Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Garhoud (04 702 245504 702 2455).

4 Al-Maeda
The Levant-inspired restaurant has two new chefs on board who will be lovingly serving up their firm favourite of Arabian lamb kofta with yoghurt cucumber, beetroot custard and Al-Maeda’s special sauce.
Price to be confirmed. Open daily 12.30pm-11.30pm. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai – Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 453 333304 453 3333).

5 Big Chefs Studio
No trip to this BoxPark eatery would be complete without one of chef Abs’ yoghurt kebabs – wonderfully tender sautéed beef cooked with thyme and chilli and served with yoghurt, buttered flat bread and aubergine purée. Just yummy.
Dhs95. Daily 9am-midnight. Big Chefs Studio, BoxPark, Al Wasl Road (04 347 804804 347 8048).

6 Perry & Blackwelder's Original Smokehouse
Pit master Lawrence Wells and his team will be giving you an authentic taste of the Deep South with its New Orleans Jambalaya that perfectly fuses smoked beef sausage, chicken and prawns with chopped veg and saffron rice.
Dhs95. Open daily noon-2am. Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 619704 366 6197).

7 Rivington Grill
A choice of burgers will keep fans happy. Enjoy a 1970s classic with the coronation sandwich or grab yourself a prawn burger – both with chips, of course.
Dhs95. Sat-Wed noon-11pm. Fri-Sat noon-11.30pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 423 090304 423 0903).

8 Shabestan
This Creek-side Persian eatery has concocted a set menu to have you drooling. Highlights include the traditional minced lamb dish kubideh saffron and akbar joojeh – baked chicken with pomegranate sauce and saffron rice.
Dhs130. Daily 12.30pm-3.15pm, 7.30pm-11.15pm Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek (04 205 733304 205 7333).

9 Lafayette Gourmet
Not one but 14 sumptuous-sounding dishes are on offer here. We’d plump for the truffle linguine with wild mushrooms, mascarpone and parmesan. Bon appétit!
Dhs72. Daily 10am-midnight. The Dubai Mall (04 339 993304 339 9933).

10 Vesna

Head chef Maksim Tvorogov has shifted away from his kitchen’s Slavic cuisine with a festival special of Japanese-style duck with honey, garlic and sweet chilli served with caramelised apples.
Dhs114. Daily 6pm-midnight. Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 352 816904 352 8169).

Feb 25 – Mar 12

Learn swoon-worthy kitchen skills at Scafa

If you’re the type of amateur who thinks au gratin is somewhere you’d order trousers from, clearly you need help.

Thankfully, DFF’s celebrity chefs have been kind enough to offer their assistance in turning Dubai’s hob-fearing flounderers into oven-hugging heroes.

Each of the five MasterChef Australia stars will be holding their own session at the prestigious Scafa cookery school in JLT, imparting some of the expertise that has helped them become household names. Such stardom isn’t overachieved without a little elbow grease (that’s not an ingredient by the way) but your mentors will teach you how to make their own signature dishes. Tom Arnel of Tom&Serg will also be passing on his own top tips, as will Himanshu Saini of Tresind and Colin Clague of Jean Georges. Prices to be confirmed.
Scafa, Cluster I, JLT.

Feb 26 – 27

Fatafeat Kitchen
Meet the master chefs of the Middle East

On the weekend of Friday February 26 to Saturday 27, press pause on giving your credit card a workout at The Dubai Mall and head to Galeries Lafayette instead, to watch the region’s favourite chefs show off their culinary skills. The Middle East’s first and only Arab food channel, Fatafeat TV, is bringing ten celebrity chefs to Dubai for a weekend-long event, featuring live cooking demonstrations, free tasting sessions and opportunities to meet the cooks. The channel is hosting Fatafeat Kitchen for its second year, and foodies will get a chance to watch chefs from Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait and Lebanon whip up classic Arabian dishes such as baba ghanoush and foul medames. Also joining the roster this year are epicurean superstars Arda Turkmen from Turkey and Lidia Bastianich from New York, both specialising in Italian food.
Free. 12.30pm-9.20pm. Level 2, Galeries Lafayette, The Dubai Mall (04 339 993304 339 9933).

Feb 27

Kids dine for free!
Bargain family nights out

Load up the SUV with the entire family and mark Saturday February 27 in your diary, because this dinner is going to be special for you and your little one. For one night only, 50 of the city’s most family-friendly restaurants are offering an exclusive promotion where kids can dine for free. Children under the age of 12, who are accompanied by a paying adult, will be served a three-course meal on the night. Every eatery will also host entertainment, so expect a live band as your kid devours truffle pizza at Trattoria Toscana in Madinat Jumeirah. Other participating restaurants include BookMunch Café, Clinton Street Baking Co. and More Café, as well as fine dining restaurants including Marina-facing Fümé and Mazina, and Tortuga in Mina A’Salam. The newly re-opened Rivington Grill in Souk Al Bahar is also on the restaurant list, along with Perry & Blackwelder's Original Smokehouse in Souk Madinat Jumeirah.

Herb soup with dakos salad
Hailing from Syria, with a speciality in Aleppo cuisine, Chef Mohammed Orfali is returning to the emirate to host live cooking sessions at Fatafeat Kitchen. Mohammed is executive chef at Fatafeat TV and head of the channel’s culinary content. Here, he shares the recipe for his signature soup.

Serves: Six
Cooking time: 30 minutes

For herb soup
1 cup parsley, watercress,
mint, lettuce and basil
150ml tomato juice
150ml cucumber juice
¼ bunch chives, chopped
1 jalapeño
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp salt
1 potato, peeled

For dakos salad
1 loaf crusty sourdough bread
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, cut into rings
3 tbsp cherry vinegar
2 heirloom tomatoes, chunks
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Herb soup
Wash the coarsely chopped herbs in salted boiling water and immediately rinse in cold water.

Mix all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Do not over blend, as the mixture will overheat. Push the soup through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate.

Dakos salad
Toss the bread with olive oil and a pinch of salt, before grilling it in an oven until golden brown. Soak the onion rings in cherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and sugar for 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes and Kalamata olives to the mixture and set aside. Top the sourdough bread with the tomato mixture in a bowl and ladle in the soup. Garnish with feta cheese and serve.

Mar 4

Century Village Street Carnival

This wonderful haven of al fresco dining is massively popular with Dubai’s food fans and it’s not hard to see why. However, this melting pot of world cuisine is set to really come alive when the carnival comes to town on Friday March 4.

Although primarily celebrating all things epicurean, there will be far more to awaken the senses than just grub. Live music, dancers and street performers will bring some added colour to the courtyard in a collective celebration of the city’s cosmopolitan nature.

With ten different venues delivering a variety of world cuisines including Greek, Indian, Lebanese, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and Italian, you really will be spoilt for choice. Why have one culinary experience when you can have ten?
Free. 4pm-midnight. Aviation Club, Garhoud (04 282 412204 282 4122).

Mar 5

The Great British Garden Party
Few things scream British more than a garden party, and Reform Social & Grill – that most beautifully British of establishments – is getting into the festival spirit by throwing its very own.

Grab a picnic blanket and stroll out to “The Orchard”, where you’ll be transported back to Blighty in a jiffy. The sumptuous smells wafting from the open barbecue will be enough to make even the fullest of tummies rumble, with the leg of lamb being the star of the show, backed up by a bucket-load of jumbo prawns, ribs and, of course, that most manly of fuels – the burger. Salad will also be served, along with classic British beverages and treats.

If you’re wondering how to keep your little reprobates entertained, face painting, a bouncy castle and other wholesome activities will be on offer to keep them from shoving their hands in the flames, too.

And if you think yourself something of a Jamie Oliver with a pair of tongs, sign up for the Great British Barbecue-off and prove yourself the BB King or Queen. Now, where was that brolly?
Free entry. Sat March 5, noon-7pm. The Lakes, Emirates Living (04 454 263804 454 2638).

Mar 10 – 12

Taste of Dubai
Top chefs with Michelin stars rustling up grub for you in a park to a soundtrack by ’70s and ’80s pop icons? And that’s just the start, as the international phenomenon returns to Dubai for the ninth time on the final weekend of the food festival.

One of 22 venues in cities across the world on the Taste circuit, the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre celebration is an absolute must for anyone serious about food.

Among the star names imparting their wisdom through the three days are Atul Kochhar, whose Rang Mahal at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is shortlisted for a Time Out Dubai Restaurant Award this month, Tom Aikens of Pots, Pans and Boards and Alfredo Russo, the legendary Italian behind Vivaldi at Sheraton Dubai Creek. Jun Tanaka, Paolo Pettenuzzo, Nathan Outlaw, Alfred Prasad, Jenny Morris and Reza Mahammad, who will operate a brand-new pop-up restaurant named Giggle and Spice, are also on board.

And how about this for inspiration? Tim Anderson, winner of MasterChef UK in 2011, will outline his incredible success story that has seen him enjoy stints at legendary restaurants The Fat Duck and Le Gavroche since his TV triumph less than five years ago.

Among Dubai’s top eateries on show are Bistro Des Arts, Catch, Atisuto, Fratelli La Bufala, Gaucho, Sonamu, The Gramercy, Tresind and Royal Orchid.

Other things worth checking out include cheese and grape tasting with expert sommeliers, an open kitchen known as Electorlux Secret Ingredient, and a DeLonghi Coffee Lounge.

And what about that soundtrack? Well, Boney M. The Daddy Cool crew will headline the first night, and there will be support from Maple Jacks, Adanm 4TheMusic and other international stars as well.
From Dhs99. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, Dubai Media City

Mar 4 – 5

Street Nights
The middle weekend of Dubai Food Festival is being handed over to the “cool kids” as Street Nights takes over Bay Avenue from Friday March 4 to Saturday 5. The celebration of underground culture started in Al Quoz back in 2014 and has steadily grown to the point where it causes the entire shutdown of JBR’s The Walk.
Featuring graffiti installations from well-known UAE-based artists, as well as some international stars of the scene including one-time Time Out Abu Dhabi cover star Sya One, it gives a nod to things not usually featured in the Dubai mainstream.

As well as an entire literal blank canvas for the creatives, Street Nights provides a platform for dancers, vocalists and some outright original performers to showcase their talent in an open forum. In fact, music is at the very heart of the event. DJs are actively encouraged to create a street party vibe at one end, while the more relaxing beats can be found on the grassy knolls at the other.

Spontaneous breakdancing “battles” are not uncommon, neither are other competitions between some of Dubai’s coolest customers. This year’s switch of location to Business Bay opens up the possibility of a show of kickflips, ollies and backside nose grinds (yes, that’s apparently a thing) at the small skatepark that sits in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa. Another highlight will be the Night Bazaar, a veritable feast of trinkets, fashion and art, which will run across both days.

Home-grown food trucks including YumTings, Jake’s, Melt, Panifico and Vida will be providing the fuel for the weekend, just in case you feel tempted to throw yourself into a B-Boy battle.
Free entry 5pm-10pm. Bay Avenue, Business Bay.

Hidden Gems

Dubai Food Festival is on the hunt for the city’s best tucked away eateries. Check out five early frontrunners

Mannaland Korean Restaurant
Head to this intimate joint on Al Mina Road for punchy kim chi, classic seafood pancakes and piping hot servings of superbly savoury bibimbap and bulgogi.
Al Mina Road, Satwa (04 345 130004 345 1300).

Bu Qtair

A Time Out Dubai favourite, and regular fixture on the Best Budget shortlist, this affordable fish restaurant recently moved grounds to undergo something of a revamp –but don’t worry, the dry fish fry is still great value.
Umm Suqeim (no number).

Al Ustad Special Kabab
Formerly Special Ostadi, this long-standing, much-loved Iranian kebab house is as famous for its décor and personable staff as it is for its generous portions, tasty grills and soups.
Al Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai (04 397 193304 397 1933).

Al Ibrahimi Restaurant
Looking to get better acquainted with Pakistani food? Try Al Ibrahimi, well-known for its epic buffets. Enjoy grills such as mutton seekh kebab, as well as handis and pillowy breads.
Karama (04 397 707004 397 7070).

The Hot Dog Stand
Relatively new to Dubai Marina, this place serves gourmet dogs that you can customise (or abominise) to your liking. Sauerkraut? Pineapple? Guac? The choice is, worryingly, yours.
Jannah Place, Dubai Marina (800 468 364).

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