High Tea lowdown – The Burj al Arab

Burj al arab-nightEverybody who has ever heard of Dubai knows of the Burj al Arab. It’s like kangaroos to Australia, the queen to England and drunken tourists to Bali. They are two things that go together, and let no man put asunder. And, as I am Australian, and therefore used to people asking me if I have a kangaroo for a pet, I also am a Dubai resident, constantly asked by those who are not: “Have you been to the Burj al Arab?”

Well, yes. Yes I have.

The biggest problem with the Burj al Arab is that it is horrendously expensive. The rooms start at about $1800US a night, and it pips Dubai’s second most expensive hotel, Al Maha by at least $600. Her spinnaker flying, yet firmly grounded on her tiny island behind the wave that is Jumeirah Beach Hotel, she stays removed, elite and aloft. She is fiercely protected from the hordes glimpsing a gander while pushing through the gates of Wild Wadi, and the Big Bus tourists who pose with arms akimbo in mock poshness or in a Giza-like “I’ve got the pyramid in my hands!” stature that captures the 300-odd meter structure in their palms and 2D perspective. But they can’t get past the security hut or the barricades. The Burj is only for paying guests. No gawkers allowed.

But you don’t have to stay to pay. There are two other ways to get your look inside this brassy young thing that seems to be the unfortunate symbol for noughties nouveau riche. First, you can stay at the nearby Jumeirah-owned Beach Hotel for about $250, and take a guided tour. Or, you can dine. And here’s where the tour busses (and I) gain entry: High Tea.

burjalarab-junsui bar sunset

They take it in the Skyview lounge – a 21s and over bar, on a roll like the eyes of a hammerhead shark glaring over the gulf that shall not be named ‘Persian’. The paying guests fall out of the air-conditioned coaches and struggle towards the gold-plated elevators in a mellee of floating knock-off kandouras, blinged-up ‘I love Dubai’ t-shirts and camera flashes. Men stop and gape, revolving heads on upwardly staring carnival clowns, marvelling at the atrium, equally gaping back at them from height upon height. Their wives purse their lips, trying to pretend they hang out in places like this every day, shushing their “Corr!”s and “Sheesh!”‘s with demure slaps and grumbles. They are ushered into the lifts, up and away as quickly as possible. Hopefully before any real guests can see them.

burjalarab-junsui chicken noodle soupBut that’s not my scene. Nor is the ‘ultimate’ high tea at Sahn Eddar, where you nibble in the foyer and are barred from the rest of the hotel by gold-tassled velvet ropes. No – I’ve found the best value dining at this incredible hotel, and I like to call it the ‘Low Tea’. Not because it’s cheaper (which it is), but because you take it at the lower level Junsui, the Burj al Arab’s “Pure Asia” restaurant. Its accessed through the same gold lifts as the Skyview Lounge, but tucked into the basement with a cracking sunset view over the water and an appropriate basement feel that is contemporary and clean without being cold or sombre. And the best thing about this particular tea? It’s not that this is the only room in the entire hotel where you can escape primary colour and rest in neutral tones. It’s because it’s not “tea” at all. It’s an early dinner – or a late lunch – seven courses of lovely nibbles that will fill even the largest belly. Think of it as an all you can eat deal. But fancy.

burjalarab-junsui radish cake and egg

The dishes change, but they always rest around Junsui’s theme. On the day I visited, I was treated to Korean bbq beef, salmon maki, dim sum, a very tasty meat pastry with gorgeous spice, some superb chinese radish pancake, fried green tea icecream, and finally some petit fours, which were unfortunately not particularly Asian, but fortunately particularly delicious. Goldilocks had the kids menu, five courses for 145AED, which were asian dishes nicely tailored to suit a baby palate – spring rolls, chicken noodle soup, sweet steamed bean buns, chicken satays and ice cream. All of this came with an extensive tea menu (included in the price), of which we chose the masala chai (not bad), and an iced tea selection with good flavour but colour that matched the bold foyer of the hotel in obscene hue. Five-year-old however loved it (plenty of decaf options for the kids).

burjalarab-junsui tea

The food is good, good enough for the 285AED price tag (about $75), but not gold plated, diamond studded or silk-lined. But do you go to a place like this for the food? The ambiance is perfect – hushed, luxurious, “speshool and exprensive” as Goldilocks would describe it. The bar area looks over million-dollar launches and billion-dollar real estate. The sun shines on the water and turns it into diamonds at about 5pm. The staff are friendly, intuitive, helpful, deliciously simpering. Goldilocks has utterly fallen for the assistant manager, declaring he will marry her when he grows up. He will have to get over his shyness and talk to her first though.

burjalarab-junsui petit foursThis is the second time I have taken high tea at Junsui, and the third at the Burj. And I recommend all visitors to try it if they come to Dubai and they can afford it. It’s not because it’s unparallelled luxury, the best food you’ve ever tasted, or the only time you get treated like a princess. It’s because NOT going to the Burj al Arab while in Dubai would be like going to Australia and never catching sight of a kangaroo. It’s simply something you HAVE to do, and you will regret it if you don’t.

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Burj al Arab
website 
Direct link to afternoon tea page if you feel like trying one of the other options
Restaurant reservations (essential – you need a code to get past security)
Telephone: +971 4 3017600 Email: BAArestaurants@jumeirah.com

Junsui Restaurant
The Junsui Asian Afternoon Tea allows you to experience the finest in Far East Asian teas and a taste bud tingling seven-course menu respresented by culinary delights from Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Korea. Indulge yourself in an assortment of homemade desserts created by our Executive Pastry Chef Johannes Bonin and his team.”

Burjalarab-junsui steamed bunsTime: 14:30 – 17:00
Price: AED 285 per person, 145AED children under 12 (under 4s complimentary)

Other options:
Breakfast at AED 260 per person
Lunch at AED 365 per person
Dinner at AED 410 per person
Junsui Lounging at AED 200 per person

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Other Afternoon Teas in Dubai
The other big one is of course in the other big Burj – namely At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa. 290AED including soft drinks. At this stage untested by moi.
You might want to check out a couple of other blogs if you do love your scones: Geordie Armani has written up several high teas, as has Debbie from Coffee Cakes and Running.

burj al arab junsui-sizedburjalarab-junsui makiburjalarab-bellyburjalarab-atrium and fountainburjalarab-fountainburjalarab-atrium sail

   

11 Comments

  1. That is such a stylish picture of you! Love reading this post, specially since I've never been past the security hut. However, the high tea sounds like a good idea to be able to go inside the Burj and not break the bank.

  2. i thought the sky bar also was pretty cool.. a very gaudy version of a super stylish place; but the drinks are adventurous, creative and quite inviting :)love reading all u posts sarah 🙂

  3. Woooooow – what a fabulous pic of yours Sarah! You look absolutely ravishing! This was (as usual) a brilliant post, in a style that only you can. So, if you make reservations at Junsui Restaurant, can you also go up to the Bar and see? I mean once upon a time – many many many years back we had been inside Burj… how? why? did we eat anything? I don't recollect at all. It's really horrendously expensive. But it's true – if you don't visit the Burj, you haven't probably seen Dubai. 7 courses of nibble means it is a sit-down arrangement where you'll be served the nibblings, I presume?

  4. Loving the super star pic. This is fantastic info, and something I wasn't aware of. I went to the Skyview Bar Tea recently where for 400 AED you also get Champagne. The food was nice – extended tea really as there was a course with beef and mashed potatoes (a bit strange). But I agree, for all it's garish, bling-like qualities, the Burj Al Arab remains jaw-dropping in its scale and OTT-ness. Unlike all the high-end, very restrained luxurious hotels that abound, this one makes you feel like a rock-star (or a rap-star…50 cent loved it I hear). It has to been experienced.

  5. Great post. And "Low Tea" is definitely now on my 2013 Dining List. I agree that if one comes to Dubai they must experience the Burj Al Arab. We thoroughly enjoyed the Sky High Tea with the champagne when my sister visited and for Roger's birthday dined at Al Mahara – which was surprisingly NOT very good. Did you take these photos? They are outstanding – especially the Diva shot! We need to talk!

  6. I was already preparing to write "Fab pics" and then I saw the last pic. Oh, oh, oh my God! THAT is a stunning photo, Sarah! Love it! I have been in the Burj Al Arab but to accompany the mister in his work…no high tea experience yet. Now, I would really love to.

  7. What an incredibly well-written post. I've always wondered about that tea – for some reason thought it was not as great of a view compared to the Skyview Bar, so I never tried it with guests. Next time, I'm doing the low tea for sure.And if I were you, I'd disable the right click on that last hottie photo of you. It's bound to be lifted and used by some unscrupulous (but fashion-savvy) soul, mark my words 😉

  8. wow this is one and only seven star hotel in world

  9. I confess that I adore both the Sky View and Sahn Eddar. I love them for the glitz and becuase they both deliver exactly the right wow factor to expectant holiday visitors. I am looking for an alternative, much as I enjoy the experience, taking people to the same places over and over again does get a bit tired. Thank you. Next group of visitors will be taken to Junsui.

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