Allow us paint you a picture for a minute. It’s Friday, about 10.30am. You have finally roused, alarmlessly, from your blissful weekend slumber to find a WhatsApp message on your phone. The message is just one word long, but that word is a powerful one, one that has been around since, like, forever. It is, just maybe, the best word in the whole English language. Better even than ‘love’, or ‘numpty’.
That message, very simply, says this: “Lunch?”
Your brain, very simply, thinks this: “Yessir.”
But here’s the rub. For all of Dubai’s copious culinary pleasures, finding a spot for a simple lunch with a pal on a Friday (or, increasingly, a Saturday too) is fraught with disappointment and frustration.
We’ve all done it – rock up somewhere dreaming of a simple burger, or a pizza, a nice piece of fish or maybe even a salad, only to be greeted by a look of bewilderment from the maitre d’. “But sir,” that look seems to say, “It’s Friday. We don’t do simple on a Friday. Friday is exclusively for chocolate fountains and cheese rooms, mountains of seafood on ice and that live pasta station no-one can ever be bothered with but that we have to have in case someone happens to fancy a carbonara. Oh, and that’ll be Dhs500 a head, please.”
Factor in kids and the problem is magnified. Why on Earth would you want to pay for a family of four to eat and drink for four hours when you can guarantee that two of those four people will be bored and trying to stab each other with a fork after just one of them?
And that’s where we come in. Read on for your essential new weekend lunch spots…
Side step the Friday brunch and Ají is perfect enough in itself for a lazy weekend lunch, due to its cool-as-it-comes décor, astonishingly good food and belting sea views from its base in Club Vista Mare. But then they’ve only gone and also thrown in a Saturday sampling menu containing 12 signature Japanese-Peruvian bites for just Dhs150. Er, sold.
Open Sat-Wed, noon-midnight, Thu-Fri noon-3am (04 552 0244).
Belgian Café Dubai Festival City
Pull up a perch in the rustic wooden interiors if you wish, but the real lure of this Creekside pub is the view from the sprawling terrace, which takes in the skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed Road and stunning amber sunset if you linger long enough. There’s a brunch deal from noon to 3.30pm on both Fridays and Saturdays (a bargain at Dhs199 with house beverages), but there are no obligations to partake. Stuff your face with Belgian appetisers and sharing boards at your leisure, we say.
Open Sun-Thu noon-1am, Fri-Sat noon-3am. Crowne Plaza Dubai, Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).
Bistro Des Arts
The French don’t do fast food, which we’re pleased about when it comes to weekend lunches. Skip the early morning weekend breakfast brunch and sit back with the papers or chill with your mates for a lazy lunch instead, and pretend you’re in Paris while you munch on a croque monsieur and watch the yachts pootle past.
Open daily 7.30am-11.30pm. Next to Dubai Marina Mall Promenade (04 551 1576).
A newcomer to the city’s dining scene, this New York City burger and shake spot has cool, industrial interiors, a hip-hop, R&B and pop-rock soundtrack, massive plates of food and floor-to-ceiling windows that stay wide open all winter. Get comfortable on an old car seat inside, perch up at the bar or kick back outdoors next to the hotel’s Turtle Lagoon.
Open daily 11.30am-12.30am. Jumeirah Al Naseem, Umm Suqeim (04 422 9904).
One of our all-time favourite spots for a relaxed al fresco lunch, this restaurant, standing on stilts over the Creek, serves up fresh, tasty Mediterranean and European dishes and ice-cold pints. It's hard to go wrong with much on the menu, though we recommend the fish and chips. Get ready to lose an afternoon.
Open Sun-Thu noon-midnight, Fri-Sat 8am-midnight. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 205 4647).
Sea views, a sun-flecked terrace, pizza. What more could you want from a weekend lunch? If this is your idea of an eccellente pranzo (aka excellent lunch), head to Bussola. The Bubbalicious brunch may bubble away on a Friday, but kick back in the restaurant on a Saturday to enjoy the holiday vibes and Italian cuisine. Prego.
Open daily noon-1am. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (04 399 4141).
When you’ve got a hankering for a proper roast and a pint, there are few better spots than Copper Dog. Cosy up at this traditional Scottish pub and feast on sublime slabs of roast beef and pillowy Yorkshire puds. Finish it all off with jam roly-poly or apple and rhubarb crumble with custard. If you don’t fancy a roast, it also offers a proper cooked breakfast all day at weekends.
Open Sun-Thu noon-2am; Fri-Sat 10am-2am. Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Dubai - Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 559 5355).
Formerly Eden Beach Club, this al fresco restaurant and beach lounge at Rixos The Palm Dubai has undergone an extensive revamp to become a venue quite unlike any other in town. Amid the sandy hues, canopies of (fake) orchids and giant dangling dream-catchers, there’s a renewed emphasis on relaxed, family dining. Head over for jugs of Spanish mixed drinks over a leisurely Friday lunch, before the party kicks up later on and a family brunch takes over on Saturdays. Come in your kaftan, they say. We’ll see you there.
Open Tue-Sat 10am-midnight; Sun 10am-6pm; Mon closed. Rixos The Palm Dubai, East Crescent, Palm Jumeirah (054 449 6464).
Gourmet by Kcal
An ideal spot for lunch and a catch-up with your pals, this eatery looks out over the beach and sea for a chilled-out holiday feel. The organic and gluten-free menu is also a major draw for many. We love the pizzas, made with either a courgette and Parmesan or pumpkin and carrot crust, piled high with toppings for all the taste without the guilt, so you can justify your drinks and going for dessert, too.
Open daily 8am-3am. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (04 511 7373).
The Eloquent Elephant
If you fancy a catch-up while watching the football with something more substantial than a bowl of peanuts, but not its Friday brunch offering, this classy joint will be right up your street. From a mammoth beef burger (no elephants were harmed) to fantastic fish and a tasty octopus, stop here for a lunch as leisurely as they come. The à la carte menu is available all weekend.
Open Sun-Wed 3pm-1am; Thu-Fri noon-3am; Sat noon-1am. Taj Dubai, Business Bay (04 438 3100).
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro
This outpost from the thousand-year-old Tuscan estate feels cool, contemporary and very relaxed. Take your time over the menu, catch up with friends, bring the family – the restaurant takes a no-rush approach. That, combined with the fact that it serves some seriously good, authentic dishes (made with ingredients imported from estate) and that doesn’t offer brunch, makes Il Borro an idyllic spot for a culinary tour of Italy. Without the price tag.
Open daily noon-3.30pm, 7pm-1am. Jumeirah Al Naseem, Umm Suqeim (04 275 2555).
You'll need to book ahead if you want to nab a table at this buzzing, beach-facing Lebanese seafood restaurant at any point during the weekend. Once you've secured one, prepare to feast your taste buds on classic mezze, freshly caught and grilled fish, and traditional Levantine desserts, while your eyes and ears soak up the convivial hubbub from the full tables all around you.
Open daily noon-midnight. Club Vista Mare, Palm Jumeirah (04 553 9575).
A playground for kids, views of the JLT and Marina skylines, an international menu and the entertainment in the form of footgolfers on the par 3 – there's a lot to like about this Emirates Hills spot. Throw in great service, cold drinks and all-day sunshine, and it deserves a spot on your list.
Open daily noon-10.30pm, breakfast served Fri-Sat 6.30am-11.30am. The Address Montgomerie Dubai, Emirates Hills (04 363 1220).
The MAINE Oyster Bar & Grill
With an outside terrace and a New England-style vibe inside, we love this cool venue for a laid-back weekend meet-up with good friends. Tuck into the weekend brunch specials (in the traditional à la carte breakfast/lunch combo sense of the word) featuring eggs, French toast and more, or swerve them and satisfy your seafood cravings from the extensive selection featured on the regular menu.
Open daily noon-midnight. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai – Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 457 6719).
This al fresco Belgian spot is worth travelling out of the city for. The restaurant and bar opens out to the golf course, so you can sit back and enjoy some respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. With a huge menu – including wood-fired pizzas, burgers and hearty mains such as slow-cooked ribs – and reasonably priced beverages, you could easily lose hours here and hardly notice.
Open daily 7am-2am. Arabian Ranches Golf Club, Arabian Ranches (04 450 1313).
There’s never a bad time to visit McGettigan’s. It offers a brunch package on Fridays and meal deal on Saturdays, but its à la carte menu is also available throughout. And with it being such a sprawlling space, with a huge TV screen in the outdoor terrace area, plus wall-to-wall sports coverage inside, it’s a great spot for a lunch date to catch up on the global action while enjoying good-value grub second to none.
Open daily noon-3am. Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster J, JLT (04 378 0800).
Mythos Kouzina & Grill
This is the closest thing you’ll get to relaxing on a Greek island without leaving the city. The menu is authentically Mediterranean, featuring plenty of feta cheese and juicy meats that you can enjoy al fresco, or indoors on comfy cushioned seats, surrounded by the restaurant’s bright and charming white-
Open daily 12.30pm-5pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Armada BlueBay Hotel, Cluster P, JLT (04 399 8166).
Starring on this week’s cover, Palm Grill certainly won’t be the cheapest long lunch you’ve ever enjoyed (it’s on the private beach of The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, after all), but there are very, very few spots more relaxed. Kick off your flip-flops and dig your toes into the sand, sip cold hops or mixed drinks and get your fingers messy with pots of grilled prawns, whole barbecued lobster and more. Saturday offers a Chill & Grill barbecue brunch deal (which it’s worth noting is not particularly good value), but the usual menu is still available.
Open daily noon-11pm. The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 318 6150).
Reform Social & Grill
Packed inside and out most weekends, this family-friendly gastropub in The Lakes is no secret. Take or leave the Friday brunch, which has both lunch and evening slots, but the best way to enjoy this laid-back British spot – in our pretty expert opinion – is by rocking up in your most comfortable weekend attire, ordering a cold bottle of grape and one of the gigantic sharing platters. Lean back. Relax.
Open daily 7am-11.30pm. The Lakes, Emirates Living (04 454 2638).
Located on the far reaches of the Palm’s east crescent, Revo Café is, so far, a quiet, little-known spot. With stunning views over the water back towards the Burj Al Arab and Dubai’s skyline, this is essentially a cute little café where you can tuck into cakes and baked goods, roast dinners, excellent fish and chips, all-day breakfasts and more. Linger over a few cups of coffee – or a pint of hops – and enjoy the view. There’s even a bookshelf to borrow from so this is as good a spot for solo lunching as it is lazy afternoons with friends.
Open daily 8am-10.30pm. Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, Palm Jumeirah (04 567 8304).
One of the most buzzing, happening places of a weekend in DIFC, Roberto’s packs in a good crowd who are full of fun and low on drama. On Fridays the (good value) brunch takes over, but head here on a Saturday for an afternoon full of terrific seafood and stellar Italian classics.
Open daily noon-2am. Gate Village 1, DIFC (04 386 0066).
For Brits missing the traditional tastes of home – but perhaps not the weather – Senara is the perfect fit. This chilled-out Palm Jumeirah spot serves up stunning waters-edge views along with classic cuisine such as fish and chips and a sumptuous Saturday roast. A great way to while away the day.
Open daily 11am-noon. Palm Views West, Palm Jumeirah (04 451 6460).
The Irish Village
An institution, a sanctuary, the best Irish pub outside the Emerald Isle – this perenially popular Garhoud watering hole is all three and so much more. Take a seat in the sun-soaked, sprawling garden, order a pint of the black stuff and tuck into classic comfort food. It gets extra points for being somewhere your pooch can enjoy a lazy afternoon alongside you.
Open daily Sat-Wed 11am-1am, Thu-Fri 11am-2am. Garhoud (04 282 4750).
The Scene by Simon Rimmer
For lunch with views, and food from a celebrity chef, The Scene is one for your list. We like its quirky collection of furniture (think an eccentric elderly aunt’s living room) and it’s homely roast dinners. It’s almost like being in the UK (except for the views of the yachts below).
Open daily 8am-2am. Pier 7, Dubai Marina (04 422 2328).