I’ve been eating all over Dubai recently, so will try and get a few rundowns for you over coming weeks. This month, It’s brunch season, so have a few new ones and oldies to consider, also some recent openings in Dubai, and a couple of old favourites.
Eat, play, love at Nasimi Beach
For 395AED for a brunch with drinks, and the beach access that comes along with the offer, this is probably one of the city’s better priced party brunches, at least until the mercury hits forty every day. It’s a pretty chilled environment, involving much sun worship and drinking out of coconuts. The music is smooth (they had an electronic fiddler come on at one point, and he was definitely worth a bite of my time) but I must admit I left before it had a chance to reach its forte. It’s a day for sun bunnies, the kind of people who are comfortable eating and drinking all afternoon in a string bikini. Not so much for middle aged mums who like brunches where the emphasis is on food, and have a disdain for anything bubbly that is not real Champagne. Go without children.
All-out Friday brunch at Al Forsan
With the superfluous lifestyle I luckily lead, it’s not often I’m blown away by food at a brunch. I’d been to al Forsan before, but never been particularly excited, but something has changed, and this has just crept up into my list of best brunches in Dubai. Food is traditional but well varied, plentiful, beautifully displayed and very, very well executed. Lots of cooking stations with vibrant displays of cheffery. All was fabulous, but the ouzi was superb, and the mezze was exceptional quality. Kids will love the open grass area complete with inflatables and petting zoo. Adults will love the frozen margaritas on tap. 470 AED including house beverages, well worth it. Especially if you are staying over and can collapse into the pool for a cool-down at 3:30pm.
Hive at Warehouse
These guys might have just hit the record for the cheapest alcohol-inclusive brunch in Dubai. For 259, all you can eat and drink, this is going to be a popular day out. Food is pretty standard buffet fare, with a weighting on stodge that is perfect for coating the stomach and protecting it from the Friday brunch indulgence (baked Camembert, Hungarian sausages). Service is a little slow at times, so best to order two rounds of drinks at a time. There was some entertainment at the launch – stilt walkers and the like – no idea if that will continue, but prepare yourself for lots of terrible puns about bees, honey and nectar.
Friday seafood brunch at Na3 Na3
Na-three na-three? Nope, it’s “nah-nah“, meaning mint in Arabic. Elegantly simple décor on the walls, appropriately mint coloured, vertically cavernous yet with a warm and relaxed ambience helped along by some live soft Cuban tunes. The alter of bread was mouth-watering, especially their signature focaccia. Loved the lobster makhani, baked fish and the many fusions between Levant cuisine and that of further east, but my top pick is the black pepper crab. Impressive offering on the desserts, and reasonably priced at 220AED with soft drinks and 320AED with house beverages. Being right at the foot of the Dubai Mall, it’s fairly popular on a Friday, so make sure you book.
This is a gem wedged in the prison-block appearing complex of West Palm Views. The interior is deliciously beachy yet glam, and outside are a couple of long tables and benches looking over the marina, that put me in a dream-state back in an Aussie pub just for a moment. Food is also beach-side pub-like, with super fish and chips, scotch eggs and freshly shucked oysters. I’m looking forward to many evenings by the water there with my Palm-dwelling buddies, sinking schooners and talking wistfully about buying a boat. I’ve already been back twice. Well priced, definitely worth a visit. Or two.
Ayamna has just opened as Atlantis’s Arabic flagship, replacing Levantine. The interior is quite something – white, blue and black with lacy geometric patterns, a sweeping staircase and large terrace to grab the last cool breezes of the season. Food is fairly traditional – well prepared but nothing new. I attended the opening fiesta and tried a selection of hot and cold mezze, some lamb off the grill and a sticky date pudding. Jumbo prawns swimming in a jar of tomato broth with cumin and potato might be one of their signature dishes, but I preferred their spectacular fish tagine – served cold with the mezze, with dip-like texture and muhummara hints. Most notable was the crockery – pure white ceramic bowls with knobbly edging – some of the prettiest in the city. With the way this place presents itself, I think it will not matter that they aren’t serving up plates of pizzazz – for some markets, classic is best. It will be full of millionaire shisha-smokers in no time.
I really wanted to love this place. I was one of those grown up women who got all teenagery over Moulin Rouge, and wanted to run away and be tragic for a bit (at least until the Champagne ran out). There are elements to it that I do love – one, it’s at Nikki Beach, which is as cool as a Parisian elephant all on it’s own. Two, it’s as ridiculously isolated as a boon-docks speak-easy. Three, the interior is gorgeous, flickering and moody, contemporary and minimal. Four, it’s got staff working there who should be on the pages of magazines. Our waiter made me go all watery at the waist with his dimples, and I thought I was too old for that… There were just a couple of things that would worry my return visit. The chairs are shaped like Humpty Dumpty cutouts, and are just as topplesome as eggs if you have anything over a size zero bottom. The waitstaff might be really friendly and attractive, but don’t know what their cut of steak is, or how to pronounce Nicoise. And Satine herself is nowhere to be seen, despite a swag of tempting shots of her striding down their central dining table all over Instagram. Besides all that, food was decent (on opening night), and house wine was drinkable. However, my husband said way too loudly as we left “I’d really love to come here one day and get completely f%#ed up!”. So I don’t know if they’ll let degenerates like us back in there in a hurry anyway….
Jazz nights at Cafe Belge
A perfect throwback to the 1920s replete with lazy terrace, classic furnishings and chandeliers sparkling as bright as Jay Gatsby’s grin. Cafe Belge isn’t new, but this night is. The jazz band steped up around 9 pm to set the mood, four-pieces (giant viola, drums, electric guitar and sultry lead singer) plugging out the likes of ‘Moonriver’ and other old timers. Must admit I had hoped for a little brass – the absence of sax and trumpet was kind of disappointing. After a couple of cherry beers though, it didn’t matter. The crowd found its own brass, with more than a couple of souls bounding up to show off their foxtrot feet. Entry is free, and bar nibbles are more than enough for a meal, keeping this a less expensive mid-week outing. Definitely try the hand-cut beef tartare or the foie gras waffles, and haul in an ‘oyster girl’ for something freshly shucked (yes, they open to order, and they are armed, so no monkey business). Perfect to couple with a small selection of unique brews, or vinos, to your liking.
What can I say, I’m a fan. I’m not sure why I haven’t allotted this place a post of its own yet – it really is a fabulous restaurant. I’ve been several times, most recently on Mothers’ day, with my friend Lulu rather than my offspring. We did both talk about them incessantly however, and came up with an excellent idea for a TV show where we would both sit in a restaurant just like this and react to food as our horrible progeny do (they are not always horrible, only when in proximity of Michelin stars). But I realised yesterday that Mr Bean already did that. I digress. Food is Italian-themed but international, multi-coursed and delicate. It’s experimental but remains approachable. Expect unusual textures, colours, combinations, cooking techniques, and very pretty, tiny amounts of food on over sized plates. Don’t misunderstand me though – servings are small, but there are many, and you will also receive surprise amuse bouches and palate cleansers throughout the meal, so don’t over order. Fabulous chairs that are so big you could prop two together and have a nap. Go. It’s fab.
What happened here? I thought this was supposed to be a French Jazz place. Not any more, it seems. Am I getting too old, taking too long to find my way to places? Probably. I must admit it’s been quite some time since I made my way to Madinat Jumeirah. Anyway… Not quite sure what the ‘de luxe’ stands for now – I find it hard to distinguish this place from so many other out there. I’m also struggling to find the Frioul connection, as the menu is only just French, and there’s no bouillabaise or other Marseille-famous cuisine to be seen. But there’s not really anything terribly wrong with the place – the food was tasty enough, service fine, ambiance pleasant. Wine typically Madinat-priced at minimum 300ish per bottle (ouch). Just nothing to take me back in a hurry, so I wonder how much longer it will last.
I haven’t been here since I wrote this post way back in 2012. I had wondered at that point, how on earth this place could possibly sustain itself. And I still do. It’s a really expensive property, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough people dining there to keep it afloat. Ahh well, it’s still pretty – although I’m pretty sure there’s not as much grass as there used to be, and the water was a peculiarly unnatural shade of emerald on the day I visited. The food is still reasonable, and reasonably priced, although the menu is laid out in a confusing manner, by cuisine rather than entree, main, dessert etc. This is made even more frustrating as it is presented on an ipad, so you can’t stick your finger in one part of the menu to mark a possible choice, while you peruse the rest. Dastardly technology. Still worth a visit while the weather is not too warm.