What’s going on within the Dubai food scene right now? Here are the places I’ve been, restaurants I’m excited about, what’s buzzing on social media, chef movements and general food news. The idea is to share information and encourage dialogue with other Dubai foodies, rather than provide strong opinions and reviews.
Dubai changes so constantly, I think it’s important to note that information dates quickly, so if it’s after October 2017, go looking for a new post! I’d love to hear from you in the comments – have you been anywhere amazing recently? Is there a chef you’d like to hear more about? Is there a rare batch of seasonal cheese available in Carrefour right now? Please talk to me!
Restaurants I want to eat at
With a run of top-fives on the World’s 50 Best, and a Chef’s Choice award now to go with (see below), Virgilio Martinez is the kind of guy to get any foodie’s motor running (notwithstanding his dashing good looks, which are just as likely as his food to inspire gourmands to seek him out). I dined last Thursday at this junior sibling to the London Lima, the site credited with starting off the whole Peruvian food craze in the old dart back in 2012. Both Limas are nothing like Central, and do not have Martinez’s inspiring local tasting menu, but instead offer bistro-style dishes with small and large plates (yes, sharing concept), casual service and a lively bar. For anyone who adores Coya (as I do), you’ll have to pop down to try the difference. I find Lima more light-hearted and contemporary with a rustic edge, where Coya is a lush twist on tradition. I found the food at Lima to be more refined and delicate, whereas Coya bombs diners with flavour and portions. Lima may be slightly cheaper (particularly the wine list), but as with all sharing menus, watch your quantities because it’s easy to blow out. The bar at Lima is cozy and serves excellent cocktails, where Coya’s is large and raucous, and patrons stick with Pisco sours and Champagne. At the moment I’m leaning towards Coya as a favourite, but I’ll definitely pop into Lima again to cement my thoughts.
Hands up who hasn’t been to D3 yet… Or should I ask for those who have? Dubai Design District is well past soft opening, but it’s still off many a radar. Those who do head in with a purpose will probably tend to veer towards one of the above two when hungry. The Lighthouse has chef Izu Ani behind the scenes (La Petite Maison, La Serre), and mashes the styles of both with bright white styling and a smattering of arty interior pieces. It’s no-reservation daytime feel means it’s going to be a magnet for time-rich, affluent, non-working yummy mummies, especially with the fame they already have for shakshouka and patisserie. Chez Charles’ have opened their first dining concept nearby (previously they were caterers and suppliers to restaurants, combined with a direct retail offer for Dubai’s gourmet food fanatics), with chef Jeremy Degras, formerly head of one-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Quartier Gourmand in the southern Bourgogne. He partners an almost entirely French management team, and like the Lighthouse, are now licensed, so I’m hoping for some good French wines on the list.
I’m so sick of seeing pretty instagrams of this place whilst I’m pretending to be working within the confines of my Al Quoz office. If only I had time to while away the brunch hours, sipping lattes and nibbling blueberry pain perdu, then my insta feed might be as pretty as My Custard Pie’s. She’s not the only trusted blogger I follow who has been in and responded with hearty praise. Demoiselle is another London import, this one from the fourth floor of Harrods, where the Galvin brothers serve up either a right proper afternoon tea, or a more traditionally French a la carte offer. Here, they seem to have similarly blended their French heritage with local flavours, and for the sticklers, yes, there is a very nice looking afternoon tea too. Marking this one for my next lazy weekend. Note, no booze.
Recently, I was sharing a meal with someone who was raised in Jamaica, and this place entered conversation. After a few months struggling without a liquor licence (it’s hard for many to swallow a flaming plate of jerk without an icy cold lager), Ting Irie is finally offering a full service, and she told me (as a new-breed Jamaican), it’s hitting the mark authentically. Interesting she says that, however, because the chef is Canadian-raised Craig Wong (owner of Patois Toronto), descendant of Chinese Jamaicans, but with classical training in Europe (Ducasse, Fat Duck etc.), and his menu seems equally fused between cultures. Sounds like a good marriage to me – I’ve heard his French rotisserie jerk chicken is better than the old-fashioned one. I might have to pop off the low-carb diet for a quick bite too, as the Chips Oman burger might be enough to bring tears of joy to my starch-deprived body.
Social media gourmet buzz
Well, results are out, and yours truly has been fortunate enough to dine at a few of them recently, although none of the top 3. Eleven Maddison Park in New York pipped stayers Osteria Francescana and El Celler de Can Roca for first place this year. Although there are no Dubai restaurants, we still have the chance to brush against food fame. Firstly, there’s Lima, as mentioned above (Martinez-run Central came in at number 5). Gaggan Anand, who heads up the self-named restaurant at number 7 is apparently on the lookout for a Dubai site. Both chefs were in Dubai last month. Tim Raue has opened up Dragonfly, and many of the same dishes are served here in City Walk. Personally, I love this article about the ones that just missed the cut (listings 51-100). There’s plenty of up-and-coming talent in there, ideas to pigeonhole for future travels.
Not a food blog, but loved a cheeky post by Prashasti Pandey on Arre – There’s something fishy about the food critic.
Long-time Dubai resident and consultant chef for the region, Thomas Reger, met Nadine Beshir at a coffee tasting one day, and they hatched a plan for Dinnertime Stories. Reger designs menus, trains chefs, and generally steers restaurants (e.g. his opening stint recently at Intersect by Lexus) and Beshir is a restaurateur with a successful history over many cities including London and Cairo. Their combined skills have met the talents of Belgium-based Skullmapping, which provides some extra fun via 3D image mapping of “Le Petit Chef”, a tiny virtual table-top cook who keeps you entertained while the real work goes on in the kitchen. This first episode at The World Trade Club travels in the footsteps of Marco Polo, with a tasting menu from his various stops along the way, paired with specially selected non-alcoholic drinks or wine. Runs until May 27, and then will move on – but to where, we’re not sure yet. Thursday and Saturday at 7 and 9pm; Friday at 2.30, 7 and 9pm. 450aed, 225 for kids (and chef Reger insists that with the storytelling, imagery and hidden food, the kids love it!) The experience only seats 16 on three nights of the week, so it’s hard to get a booking.
In other restaurants, a brief residency is usually taken by a world-renowned chef, someone with Michelin stars under their belt, or perhaps some celebrity status. At the Brunswick Sports Club, they bring in a 68 year-old Thai dishwasher from a top-end Singapore restaurant that is known for the Thai street food he cooks for the staff meals. His food is traditional and bangs with flavour. Uncle Jheff first made it over for Sole DXB in 2016, and is back from April 18 for 1 month.
After 12 months off bouncing around the kitchens of friends and random foodies, Malouf is finally set to reopen in Dubai. Zaahira (or Zahira – spellings always seem to differ) will seat 130 in the H hotel, and Malouf tells us it won’t turn into a nightclub like Cle did. I loved his Mo Mo restaurant in Melbourne, and am an owner of several of his cook books, but there were some troubling quotes in Australian Gourmet Traveller in Jan, things along the line “Good-quality Middle Eastern food with value doesn’t really exist here,” and “So many restaurants are pitched at the high-end – and if you don’t have entertainment you don’t really cut it.”, statements which have me worried that he still has some exploring to do when it comes to Dubai restaurant trends and characteristics. Let’s hope Zaahira is well researched and more true to his style than Cle.
Fabulous food in season
Recent finds at the supermarket and farmers’ market – these are in season and tasting great.
- Onions – Local
- Tomatoes – Local
- Corn – Local
- Grapes – Australia (end of season)
- Nectarines – Australia (end of season)
- Pears – Australia
- White asparagus – Holland (some nice recipes here on Fine Dining Lover)
- Oranges – Spain
- Morel mushrooms – France
- Radishes – France
- Spinach – Italy
- Rhubarb – UK
- Brie de Meaux – France
- Lamb – Wales
- Lobster – European Inland Waters
- Crab – North-West Atlantic