A festive focus for this fortnight, with news on Thanksgiving, UAE National day, festivals in the lead-up to Christmas, and a run-down of the best Christmas markets in Europe if you feel the need to get on a plane. Recent restaurant openings in Dubai follow. Next fortnight I’ll give you a list of all the Christmas/New year festivities to be had in Dubai in the second half of December and onward.
- When: Tomorrow!
- What: You know – pilgrims, indigenous Americans, colonisation, turkeys and the Macy’s Day Parade. And a ridiculous sweet potato pie covered in marshmallows (will never ‘get’ that)
- Claw BBQ Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmin’ and fixins’, live feed to the Macy’s parade and the NFL. 180AED
- Traiteur take out the award for most lavish, with packages running from 425AED to 2995AED depending on what you want to drink with your pumpkin pie. (Lunch on the 29th)
- Al Dawaar, revolving restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency will be a novelty at a lower price: 235AED (Lunch on the 29th)
- The Gramercy have some very reasonably priced options – starting at 125AED for a 3-course lunch, and 195 for dinner. They also do an all-in 750AED takeaway meal that will feed at least 6
- Scafa have a left-field option. Learn how to cook it yourself under guidance before you sit down and eat it. 500AED for lesson and sit-down dinner.
- If you feel like heading to Abu Dhabi, try 55 and 5th at the St Regis Sadiyat for a lavish banquet including American vino (390AED + +)
Dubai Rugby 7s
- When: This weekend (Nov 28 to 30)
- What: Officially, it’s a series of rugby matches (16 men’s teams, 12 women’s) that are played with seven-a-side rather than the usual 15. It’s in it’s 44th year, so it has some clout. Unofficially, it’s a whopping great booze-up where you will find anything from talking camels to cross-dressing bankers. And a little bit of sport. Funnily enough, despite the copious amount of drinking that goes on, it’s also great for families (there’s even a separate zone if you need to escape the mayhem). Free on Thursday, from 250AED after that.
- Details: website. Tickets also available from most Costa Coffee outlets, Virgin Megastore and MMI stores.
UAE National Day
- When: Monday December 2
- What: It’s just a week away now, and we can see icons like the Jumeirah Beach Hotel draped in olympic-swimming-pool-sized flags. It’s time to head down to Satwa and grab a whole heap of Sheikh stickers and swavroski knock-offs and plaster them all over your SUV. You can also get cute UAE cupcakes from Vogue Cafe (Dubai Mall)
- Details: Happens all over. Head to a stretch of corniche near you as the sun goes down on the 2nd, and book a restaurant with a view if you can. Downtown Dubai holds the official parade (link). All malls tend to have activities and celebrations, and hotels will usually pull out all the stops and throw together a superb Arabian buffet. Don’t forget to take your flag.
The Dubai Christmas Festival
- When: December 5-7
- What: Festive dishes from Dubai’s restaurants on tasting, Christmas festive workshops, cheese and chocolate tastings, Christmas Market for gifts. Ice rink and snow park in the “grotto”, Santa of course, music and a Peter Pan Pantomime. Entry is 30AED for kids, 60AED for adults, and there are VIP passes and add-ons available (e.g. 100AED will get you entry to the festival, tix to the Panto and some sweet treats.) Licenced, so you can grab a mulled wine when the carols start to cloy.
- Details: website. Note, Peter Pan pantomime is alretady sold out on all days but Thursday.
World’s largest Stollen
- When: December 7
- What: Chefs from the Kempinski work on creating a 600m Stollen (German Christmas Cake) for the 8th Annual Stollen Charity Cake event (Proceeds to Dubai Centre for Special Needs). Tastings, sales and general festive cheer.
- Details: from 10am in the Central Galleria of Mall of the Emirates. Free entry, just turn up.
The Life & Style Show
- When: December 5-7
- What: ADNEC run expo. All feature areas to the show are free of charge to visitors and range from celebrity cooking demonstrations to catwalk fashion shows. Plenty of kitchen gadgets will be nicely discounted, so a good place to pick up presents for the domestic god or goddess in your life. 25AED advance, 50AED on the door per day. Kids free.
- Details: website
- UK: London – Kensington Palace festivities, the Grotto at Harrods and the lights on Oxford and Regent Streets. Outside London, the picks are Leeds, Winchester and Bath
- Scandinavia: Tivoli, in Copenhagen has one of the most authentic grottos, complete with pixies. Stockholm holds several, as do Helsinki (although smaller). Gothenburg holds Sweden’s largest. Levi in Lapland is probably as close to the North Pole as you can get.
- Estonia: for something a little away from the norm, why don’t you try Talinn?
- Germany: Berlin, with it’s Kaiser Wilhelm has the most famous of markets, but there are other options in the area (linked), with a super one at Cologne. Munich is where I will be.
- Austria: Vienna is the big one, but I’ll be in Salzburg, riding on sleighs pulled by real reindeer.
- Switzerland: Zurich have their Christmas market indoors in a train station. Basel holds the market of most beauty.
- France: Who wouldn’t want to go to Paris? But there’s also Strasbourg (the oldest), or Montbéliard – the prettiest.
- La Maison du Chocolate – superlative chocolate store in the Dubai Mall.
- Angelina – Parisian Patisserie and tea room, also in the Dubai Mall
- Tom and Serg – Will make you wonder why you ever wanted to go to Jones the Grocer, Lime Tree, or More Cafe. Blogged here
- Salero – Tapas joint in the Kempinski
- Mekong – Mixed SE Asian restaurant open at Anantara, the Palm with “rickshaw dining”
- Watsumi – Japanese at Meridien Mina Siyahi. Untested by moi, but fairly hyped by other media.
- Farmers’ Market on the terrace – open this Friday on the green near Emirates Towers, only on Fridays while weather is nice. (Run by Baker and Spice)