Holy Moly, it’s been crazy. I meant to get this out two weeks ago, but I’ve been too busy partying. But, I suppose if you have any respect for your own social life, you’re probably too busy to read it anyway. Here’s the latest hedonistic tales and opinions on eating out in Dubai:

Cafes and Casual

Kif Kif ChairsKif Kif, Jumeirah Beach Rd

7.5/10

‘Urban Morrocan Fast Food’ sounds good, doesn’t it? And it looks good too. Kif Kif is fairly recently opened, and hard to pass – it’s Moroccan blue colouring, and designer tiles and chairs are particularly alluring. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but we had some tremendous sandwiches on their sunny terrace last week. Their khobz are as thick as burgers and make a great alternative, especially as they are twice the diameter, meaning they are easier to pick up with your hands and eat (cutlery is for pussies). They are well priced and contain good quality ingredients, and a flavoured nicely. I’d like to see some slightly more adventurous fillings, but overall was happy. Service was a little tricky, with a language barrier (but he was a lovely friendly bloke), and they don’t take credit cards, which is a bit of a pain in this plastic world. But I’ll still be back.

sweet lane pistachio cupcakeSweet Lane Cakes, Jumeirah Beach Rd

9/10

We stopped in here on our way home from Kif Kif. I’ve passed many times, but had ignored them as I do most cupcake places, thinking them likely to produce the same old boring frosted mouthfulls that all the others do. But I was wrong. Best cupcake ever. They have a small range of flavours, but they all called to me. I settled on a bright pistachio cake with great difficulty, and I think my eyes might just have sparkled like a cartoon character when I tasted it. Lovely moist texture, richly flavoured, and iced with just the right amount of cream frosting, which was a complexly flavoured as the cake. Bravo. I might also mention that they do fantastic things to fondant – in the window was a perfect life-sized Despicable Me minion, and a mountain, castle and figures from the movie Frozen. After the recent debacle with Mr Baker and my son’s laser-tag birthday cake, I know where I am going next time.

mama tani chip buttieMama Tani, Town Centre Jumeirah

7/10

The best place in Dubai for a chip buttie. Fluffy Khameer bread is baked onsite, stuffed with cream cheese, coriander and Oman Chips – what a guilty pleasure! They also offer substantial salads – I ordered a 24AED celery and rocket salad with walnuts and was presented with a bucketful of gourmet deliciousness – dates and saudi feta included and lightly dressed. It’s marketed as an Emirati restaurant, which is a little of a stretch, especially as they are situated across from Al Fanar and Bateel. Not that the food is not what you would expect in an Emirati home, but because it’s far more casual. It’s really more of a sandwich bar, but definitely a good one. And, on those days when I’ve been well behaved and need to balance the scales with naughtiness, I’ll definitely be slipping back for a sneaky Oman chips sandwich.

Restaurants

Photo st Tropez ownSt Tropez, Mall of the Emirates

7.5/10

I’ve been in here three times now, and it has rapidly taken the place of Salmontini as my favourite MOE licenced diner. The setting is very fine – sleek but quaint European cafe-style, with marble tables, wicker chairs and bleached woodwork. There’s even the most difficult of all things to find in a Mall – natural light peering through the windows. The menu is fairly simple, with a few French classics (including frogs legs), and some tempting moules marinière and meal-like salads. But what you need to go for is the burger. I never say that, but here I must – it’s the best burger in Dubai, I swear. It comes juicy and flavoursome, covered in caramelized onions and mushrooms, and sandwiched in a bun the texture of a cloud with a crispy lining. The fries are shoestring, with lemon and parsley and another non-missable menu dish.

segreto terraceSegreto, Madinat Jumeirah

8/10

I’m not sure what has happened here, but Dubai’s most unremarkable Italian restaurant seems to have suddenly lifted the bar. I had avoided returning to Segreto previously, because although the view is always incredible (you know, the whole fairytale water with abras and glittering wind towers thing that makes you think you are in Venice, but without the stench), I’d always found the menu dull and overpriced. It’s still a fairly classic menu, but lifting in certain areas. My beef carpaccio was tender and perfectly presented, and the fresh white truffle I ordered was exactly mature, and was professionally weighed and grated at the table for me. Main was a delectable black sea bream, wrapped and cooked in the oven, then presented in the bag at the table – a surprise, but it worked. Dessert of hazlenut parfait and caramel foam was worth every calorie. Good service and lovely wine (which remains overpriced, but if you choose well like we did, you won’t mind)

sea fu black codSea Fu, Four Seasons Jumeirah

9/10

Two times in the last fortnight, one of them I am recovering from (in a good way) as I type. The first was a quick lunch with the family, involving a sticky-beak at the newly opened hotel, a stroll down to the beach, then a lunch with a view. The bar snacks offered at the time were ample for lunch – stupendous chicken gyoza, wasabi prawns in fairy-light batter, plump sashimi, and a kids’ chicken and chips served on the cutest little Alessi plate ever. The second was a media night, complete with a lethal Japanese spritz (prosecco, plum wine, sake and lychee) and the house DJ Opolopo making My Custard Pie wriggle in her seat like a teenager. Food was mouthwatering – with particular emphasis on a glazed black cod with piquant carrot that had my knees trembling. The wine selection is clever and interesting, even for a wine snob like me. Almost an even higher score, but service was a bit nonchalant at lunch. Will definitely be back, and highly recommend.

marhabani mandi chickenAl Marhabani, Jumeirah Beach Rd

8/10

I’ve been here many times, and it remains on my list of go-tos for visitors to Dubai. Mainly because you can eat in a tent, and I love the whole tacky theatric of spreading the plastic over the carpet and reclining on cusions and eating with my hands. It reminds me of that time I dragged my family back to our taxi driver’s mother’s house for lunch one day in Petra. It’s really simple – order stacks of melt-in-the-mouth chicken mandi, and some bread and salad on the side, and make mini-wraps with your fingers, and proceed to stuff yourself until you feel the desire to go into a carb and protein coma and fall asleep on the cushions. Don’t worry, the staff will come and wake you up when they need your tent for the next group.

alto mar pearAlto Mar, Jumeirah 1 Fishing Harbour

NA (complimentary dine)

Alto Mar has only been open a couple of weeks and is in one of the most obscure sites in Jumeirah, but is already starting to fill up on Thursday nights. Chef Luís Salgueiro has come from Picante at the Bur Dubai Sheraton, and is serving up some very local fish with Portugese flavour. All the seafood is bought from traders at the souk next door, and the Jumeirah 3 fishing harbour, and is squeaky-fresh. There’s also some live lobster and crab available if that’s your thing. Greatest dish of the night goes to a house smoked salmon, which arrives at the table under a cloche, and is lifted to release the smoke still trapped inside. We also tried an immaculate salt-baked sea bass, which was disected on a trolley beside us, steaming and cracking and making the other diners wish they had ordered it. Dessert also a highlight – poached saffon pear with sablet and ginger icecream- stunning. Lovely family service. Only downers are the weird yellow lighting and small number of outside tables.

Events

Dubai Food Festival-logo2Introduction to the Dubai Food Festival

Food Media of Dubai united under Omnia Gourmet’s hanging garden to get the brief on this year’s mammoth Dubai Food Festival. I was involved last year, putting together the Dubai Gourmet Trail, and this year it’s going to be even bigger. News is, they are going to ramp up the offer at each event (listing here), with a bigger emphasis on home-grown talent, street food and Emirati cuisine. I’m particularly looking forward to the Mystery Dining Nights with Lime and Tonic, and the Street Nights to be held in Al Quoz. All in all, it sounds like it’s going to be grander and a whole bunch of fun this year. Can’t wait.

Cafe Belge beer glassesBeer and cheese matching at Cafe Belge

Frederic Van Tricht popped into Dubai with a little contraband and gave us a look at some pretty damn special dairy and Belgian brews at Cafe Belge in the middle of last month. It ran as I would run any wine tasting, with the beer served in various stemware designed to enhance the flavour, and each matched with a completely different cheese by this star ‘Kaasmeester’. I particularly enjoyed the Duvel with Comte – a classic pairing, and not particularly adventurous, I’m told, but hey – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I had a splendid time with Debbie from Coffee Cakes and Running, lapping up Cafe Belge’s Gatsby-era ambience, dropping innuendos and taking selfies. I made a lot of notes, but lost them all. Probably the fault of the following titillating tuna tartare and gorgeous Mastroberardino di Avellino they kept topping my glass up with afterwards. Will have to go back and learn it all over again. There’s some more sensible Q & A on Yummy Dubai and Foodiva. I’d suggest keeping in touch with Cafe Belge on their Facebook page if you want to be at the next one, which I would thoroughly recommend. Photo Gallery here

al maha desertFood and Wine matching at Al Maha with Sarah Walton and SPG Serious Eats

I teamed up with my great mates from Lime and Tonic to educate some very refined diners on the benefits of making your food and wine friends. The whole night was a secret – guests were picked up by Careem limos and delivered to the Sheraton Four Points, then coached out to the desert to watch a falconry exhibit over a glass of bubbles and under a setting sun. We then retired to the presidential suite, and after sneakily taking photos of ourselves lying on the master bed and in the tub, had a starlit dinner of seven courses with wines selected by me, and accompanied by the dulcet tones of a violinist and my voice (rambling on about wine and the palate, not singing, thank God). This was only the first in a monthly series, the next is with Style Drifter in Abu Dhabi, followed by a secret iconic location with Dubai photographer Katarina Premfors on Jan 20. Stay tuned for more, becuase Lime and Tonic’s Secret Suppers are now reaching a new level.

9 thoughts on “Food and Drink Bites from Dubai, December”

  1. Well that took some reading but enjoyable reading I have to say!! I have been busy recently with the day job and haven’t had time to get out and about as much as I would like. Thanks or sharing, will check out Alto Mar 🙂

  2. Wait for these avidly now – and this one doesn’t disappoint … loads to try here… and so glad you mentioned that mandi place as I always say ‘there’s one that Sarah goes to somewhere along here”! I am a teenager at heart – thankfully I didn’t follow the urge to dance and embarrass myself.
    Agree wholeheartedly with your recommendation of Sea Fu – and would proclaim from the rooftops if my head didn’t feel a teeny bit fuzzy (why does fine dining forget to include carbs?).

  3. Thank you Sarah for you always so helpful reviews! I don’t go out very often – so I probably won’t be able to try all the places you visited, at least shortly – but your “tales and opinions on eating out in Dubai” are always a perfect starting point to decide where to go. Also because so far I have always agreed with you after visiting a place you reviewed; maybe we have similar tastes…

  4. Wow… I have started waiting for these monthly recount. Lime & Tonic… would be interested to join in, if you ever do the next one (promise you its your voice that tempts me, not the snooze in the Presidential Suite!). Al Maharbani – that’s what I am aiming for next.

  5. Dear Sarah,
    Thank you very much for your blog, every time I read it I always find something interesting! Your recent post is very useful for all of us. I am going to visit Dubai next month, so now I know where I will have lunch) To show my gratitude and appreciation, I would like to share a very good free app with you. It is called Carde and it is at http://www.carde-app.com. I’ve discovered recently. All image content of top social networks is there, so it saves time. I will be looking forward to your feedback. Thank you again and I will be waiting impatiently for your new posts!

  6. By any chance you checked the Laal Qila resturant located at December first street ? i would love to ready what you have to say about it as its one f my favorite restaurants here in Dubai..

Some other suggestions or opinion to add? Please comment