TRAVEL: DUBAI Find­ing the food se­crets among the sky­scrapers

Get some win­ter sun and try su­perb Emi­rati food with an un­for­get­table es­cape to Dubai. We’ve un­cov­ered some of the best Arab eats, hip ho­tel hang­outs and places to shop in this Mid­dle Eastern foodie oa­sis

BBC Good Food - - Inside Goodfood - Words EMMA HODG­SON & CHRIS­TINE HAYES

Many peo­ple come to Dubai and never ven­ture be­yond the ho­tel beach clubs and ubiq­ui­tous city malls, where restaurant chains serve up dishes you could find any­where in the world. For many years, lo­cal Emi­rati cui­sine has been un­der­rep­re­sented on the city’s food map, no doubt in part be­cause Emi­ratis only make up around 15% of Dubai’s pop­u­la­tion. Re­cently, this has started to shift, with an in­creas­ing num­ber of ex­cit­ing new Emi­rati restau­rants open­ing across the city. To get a taste of Dubai’s culi­nary his­tory, es­cape the sky­scraper ho­tels and get a taxi to Deira, Dubai’s old­est quar­ter. Taxis are cheap: jour­neys cost less than £1 per mile, and the city – for tourist pur­poses – doesn’t sprawl. Get there early to ex­pe­ri­ence the Water­front Mar­ket (opens at 6am, get there 9am lat­est), and hag­gle along­side chefs, lo­cals and ex­pats for the best deals on huge slabs of tuna, Ara­bian caviar and seabream. The city’s tra­di­tional mar­ket, Spice Souk, is around 10 min­utes in a taxi from there, and the best place to stock up on ba­harat (an Arab mixed spice), car­damom and cin­na­mon. Dubai is one of the eas­ier cities in the Mid­dle East for west­ern­ers to nav­i­gate, with ev­ery­thing from restaurant menus to road signs in both Ara­bic and English. From the Spice Souk, it’s a two-minute walk to the water­front where you can catch a dhow across the river to Bur Dubai (a one-way trip costs 20p), and stop at the Ara­bian Tea House (ara­bi­antea­house.co), serving lo­cal mezze sta­ples with freshly made khubz bread. Don’t miss the tra­di­tional fire pit bread oven, where chefs pull khubz straight on to your plate.

WHERE TO TRY EMI­RATI FOOD

To ex­pe­ri­ence some of the new­est lo­cal café trends in the city, head down to Box­park (box­park.ae) in Al Wasl, and stop off at Logma. The place is busy in the morn­ing with lo­cals tuck­ing into cheesy khameer – a lo­cal bread served with creamy cheese and date syrup. At lunchtime, the restaurant serves a rich, spicy Arab lamb biryani (less fiery than the In­dian ver­sion, made with a spice mix called bezar). Be sure to try the cheese sam­boosa. logma.ae

A world away from the £1,700-a-night Burj Al Arab ho­tel ( jumeirah.com) that it over­looks, the seafood restaurant Bu Qtair (+971 55 705 2130) in Jumeirah was orig­i­nally set up to serve lo­cal fish­er­men, and over the years has be­come pop­u­lar with both lo­cals and ex­pats. Its stripped-back set­ting in­cludes a can­teen counter where you can choose from the day’s catch. Food is served sim­ply, with the choice of Ara­bic bread, rice and curry sauce as sides. Ta­bles can’t be booked in ad­vance and the restaurant doesn’t ac­cept cards, so bring cash and get there for 7pm – any later and there will be long queues. Din­ner for two, £20.

Set on the Dubai Creek in the Radis­son Blu Ho­tel is one of the most ex­cit­ing new Emi­rati fine-din­ing restau­rants in the city. The menu at Asee­lah (+971 4 222 7171) is split in two, serving both tra­di­tional and ex­per­i­men­tal dishes. It’s also one of the few Emi­rati restau­rants that serves al­co­hol. Its chicken mar­googat dish is a must-try. Din­ner for two, £90 with wine.

TOP IN­TER­NA­TIONAL RESTAU­RANTS

Head chef Colin Clague at Ruya trav­els ex­ten­sively in Turkey to pro­duce a unique take on Ana­to­lian food. High­lights in­clude aubergine purée with aubergine crisps;

lak­erda (raw bonito), cu­cum­ber & tarama; lamb manti – tiny pasta parcels tangy with yo­gurt and mint; 24-hour slow-cooked short rib with Turk­ish chilli, BBQ glaze, and spiced Konya chick­pea purée. The ter­race is the place to book – and you do need a reser­va­tion. This place is buzzing, so much so that a sec­ond branch will open in Lon­don this May. Three-cour­ses from £30. ruyadubai.com A good spot for sun­down­ers: Folly by Nick & Scott, two young ex-gor­don Ram­say chefs. Start with a wa­ter­melon mar­tini and lob­ster crack­ers just be­fore 6pm when the sun sets. There are set tast­ing menus (four cour­ses, £70). Play­ful touches such as Mar­mite cour­gette rolls show the chef’s her­itage. The kitchen’s skill is fur­ther high­lighted with monk­fish cheeks, pa­prika and lemon, and lamb sad­dle with whipped pine nuts. folly.ae

From Bice Mare’s ter­race, you can see the top of Burj Khal­ifa, the world’s tallest build­ing, on the other side of Dubai Foun­tain. Seafood is the fo­cus at this lively Ital­ian (mains from £28), with some cheffy touches: king­fish ‘sea urchin’ spikes fash­ioned from squid ink spaghetti, served over dry ice; seared tuna with daikon, green tea, ap­ple and lemon mash. The sig­na­ture dessert is sugar-free: lemon semifreddo with cu­cum­ber, radish and tiny cauliflower meringues. bice­mare.com

PLAN YOUR STAY

Radis­son Blu Ho­tels have dou­ble rooms from around £118 per night in ei­ther the Me­dia City or Deira (radis­son­blu.com). Park Hy­att Dubai, with Mediter­ranean style grounds and views of the Dubai Creek, has dou­bles from around £295 per night (dubai.park.hy­att.com).

If you’re fly­ing from the UK, Emi­rates of­fers good-value direct fares, with re­turns from £250 (emi­rates.ae).

Bice Mare; the place to eat Ital­ian food Sip wa­ter­melon mar­ti­nis at Folly by Nick & Scott Smart takes on lo­cal dishes at Asee­lah

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