British +971 4 4542638 Emirates Hills

A bona fide family-friendly Dubai institution, Reform Social & Grill is that rare thing – a community pub.

Set in The Lakes, Reform is perfect for a weekend meal with a few drinks – mum and dad can chill out in the garden and let the little ones go wild in the small playground, as well as the makeshift football pitch that goes along with it.

During the week this place also gets rammed with people popping in for a pint and bite to eat on the way home after work. And those bites are very good, by the way, hence the award.

Pâtés, steak tartare and salads pepper the starters – and the pear and Stilton tart is a corker, too. Meanwhile there are four packed sharing platters to choose from, top grills good salads. A special shout out to the burgers as well. Juicy and fat. Just as they should be.

Weekends also mean special roast dinners, see right, with options including chicken and beef – as you’d expect. There’s also a properly authentic bangers and mash on the menu, too, and that will keep you coming back for more, as all the dishes here do.

There are good brekkies at this place, too. This is a real top choice for grub that we wholeheartedly recommend.

Thai 04 513 5289 Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)

The people who work here are rather fantastic and very passionate about what they do. It’s a small place in JLT, quite quaint, with room for about 50 diners (it delivers, too), and the cooking is done in front of you. It’s clearly a labour of love for the owners.

You can feel the care and excitement that they have for their venture, which is extremely refreshing. Isan is in North Eastern Thailand, and the food there is lighter than you’ll usually find in more typical Thai restaurants.

Curries and soups are clear, rather than coconut-based, and it is all a touch more spicy. Spring rolls have plenty of vegetables and come with a lovely chilli sauce, crispy beef has a great chew and is accompanied by an excellent spicy sauce, while juicy stir-fried prawns with green beans, red onion and garlic-soy sauce are excellent, as is the sticky rice.

Tastes are clean and fresh, and spicy in that way that only South East Asian cuisines manage – simultaneously as hot as the sun and yet as refreshing as a glass of young coconut water.

The prices are keen, the service superb, and the food delicious.

Japanese 04 425 5660 DIFC

When dining at Zuma expectations are always high. This is a multiple award-winner, and is therefore always packed out. It’s also very expensive, but don’t let that put you off – save up and go. We mean it, if you dine at one Japanese restaurant in the city, let it be this one.

Book in advance, as it could take weeks before you get a table, it’s that popular. But happily, it ticks all the boxes once you’re in.
Winner of this category – as well as Best Brunch – for the second year in a row, the Japanese juggernaut that is Zuma shows no signs of slowing. It’s unfailingly popular and always busy.

Launched in Knightsbridge, London, in 2002, German-born chef Rainer Becker’s brand has gone from strength to strength, with branches from New York to Miami and Rome.

It’s not the prettiest of locations, set in DIFC with views over the main road, but you’ll hardly notice when your attention is fully focused on what’s on your plate.

Don’t miss the beef and green chilli robata skewers, they’re perfectly charred. The sweet potato with teriyaki and sesame is also a hit.

Main courses are sublime. The black cod is an obvious choice, although an excellent one, but we’d suggest the roasted Boston lobster, with shiso ponzu butter. It’s rich, tender, garlicky and moreish, with every bite a complete delight. And that’s what Zuma is, a complete culinary delight.

The bottom line
Award-winning Japanese. Book it, now.

Asian 04 432 3232 Madinat Jumeirah

Fancy dinner you can take a private abra trip to? Zheng He’s, the Chinese restaurant at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, offers just that option.

Board an abra by moonlight and cruise along the smooth waters to your dining destination, taking in the beautifully lit Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and sea breeze as you go.

Zheng He’s itself is as impressive as the voyage, with stunning silk kimonos on display in glass cabinets, opulent soft furnishings, elegant birdcage light fixings and, rather delightfully, a huge gong, which is ceremoniously walloped to announce guests’ arrival to the dining room.

Service is friendly and efficient and the food is superb. The char siew honey-glazed beef brisket is excellent quality and the sweet and sour crispy chicken is packed full of tangy flavour.

The restaurant has an outdoor terrace overlooking the water for the cooler months, with gorgeous views of the Burj and the Madinat itself, both lending themselves as perfect backdrops to a romantic evening or a special get-together with friends.

As you might expect, all of this finery will set you back a few dirhams, but it’s money well spent for the impressive food and the overall experience.

And, after all, how many meals outside of a movie start involve a journey to them by boat?

The bottom line:
A must-try experience for fans of Chinese food

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