Kerry has been writing radio copy for donkey's years, & also dabbles in short stories & travel writing. She works, plays and explores largely in the CDB and inner suburbs, gets everywhere by public transport and is the self-professed Zone One Queen.
Published September 4th 2018
Cut to the chase - try a recommended place
Got one or more nights stopping over in Dubai? You might be wondering where to go for a nice dinner. What's out there, apart from the places near your hotel? How to choose from the plethora of guidebook and online recommendations?
To help you out, here are a few that I've enjoyed. These are mainly in Downtown Dubai, the central entertainment district where the towering Burj Khalifa is a magnet for tourists, with numerous dining establishments in its vicinity. Note: most are reasonably pricey, so be prepared. But you're on holiday right? Treat yourself.
Sean Connolly @Dubai Opera House. This restaurant is flash with a contemporary flair, yet offering down-to-earth dining with simply great steak and seafood. You can enjoy getting glammed up to dine here, whether you're attending the opera or not.
Part of the charm is the stunning opera house building; like a huge designer oyster shell containing the gorgeous Pearl Bar which showcases a stunning view of the Burj Khalifa, while the restaurant occupies the open plan top floor with utmost style.
Thiptara is a classy Thai restaurant situated right on Burj Lake at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. It offers alfresco dining on a terrace with the best view in town, especially if you land a table right by the ornate balcony railing as we did. 'Thiptara' means "magic at the water", and indeed you will be treated to a premium view of the tower lit up for the night, and the spectacular Dubai Fountain display.
The fountains 'dance' at regular intervals every evening, choreographed to a popular song or classical piece. Along with the fine food, it's quite an experience.
Most eateries catering to tourists serve alcoholic beverages, and as alcohol is frowned upon by Emirati society, such restaurants are generally located out of sight. You won't find them sitting right on a street, or with patio-style tables out the front, as is common in western nations. Often, they will be situated within the grounds of a hotel, and you'll need to traverse a foyer and maybe an elevator to find them.
Toko is located at the back of hotel Vida, also in Downtown Dubai, and is a well-known social spot. The décor is on-trend, including outdoor cabana seating. The interior low-lighting and chill-out electronica set the ambience. The modern Japanese cuisine is divine, with tender and subtle flavours and stunning presentation.
During our visit, as the night moved on, the music increased in volume and we noted more of a party crowd starting to arrive. A great place if you want to settle in to enjoy drinks, eats and DJ beats with friends. Toko is also renowned for its Ladies Night (now hard to find in PC Australia) on Wednesdays, offering free drinks for ladies who buy food.
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro offers fine Italian dining in the grounds of the luxury Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel, not far from the iconic The Palm Jumeirah on Dubai's coastline. Modelled on their home establishment in Florence, Il Borro is ultra-sophisticated and popular, with a muted décor palate and attentive staff. We enjoyed our champagne at the bar on arrival, and a nice variety of bread at our table whilst awaiting beautiful Italian fare with a Tuscan flair. Try the osso bucco. See their website for directions to navigate your way through the hotel to find the restaurant.
(photo by Phil Todd)
Travel a bit further down the coastline to the Madinet Jumeirah, and you can dine in view of another spectacular sight, the Burj Al Arab hotel. You'll be spoiled for choice. Located beside the hotel, the Souk Madinet Jumeirah, designed with traditional souk architecture in mind, has around 25 restaurants offering global cuisine (they are not easy to find online, so take a stroll around and take your chances).
Meanwhile, the nearby Jumeirah Beach Hotel appears to have an extraordinary number of bars and restaurants with a beachside ambience – this website scrolls you through these, with booking options.
And finally, my favourite cafe for breakfast, brunch and lunch: The Lime Tree Cafe, which has four locations noted at the bottom of their home page. The cabinets are packed with mouth-watering quiche, frittata, salads, and baked / dessert items. You may have a hard time choosing. No alcohol is served here, but the coffees, teas and fresh juices are spot on.
A final note: Remember to dress nicely for dinner, respecting the local culture by not flashing too much flesh. Ladies, it's best if your hemline is on or below the knee. Keep bare shoulders and cleavage covered by a pashmina until you're inside the restaurant, then take your cue from the tone of the place. Casual chic can be seen everywhere, once out of the general public eye.
Do you have any recommendations for where to dine in Dubai? Please let us know in the comments section.