It’s hard to keep up with the fast pace of development in the UAE. The emirates never stop coming up with astonishing new projects, architecture and recreational facilities such as the new branch of the Louvre, which was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and opened in Abu Dhabi in 2017.
Dubai is the most famous emirate and megalopolis on the coast of the Persian Gulf (or the Arabian Gulf, as it is known in the Middle East). It is hugely multicultural; in 2017 it had over 15.5 million visitors, up 6.2% on the previous year. Tourists come in the greatest number from India, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, the USA and other countries in the Middle East. According to 2018 data, the emirate has over 3 million residents, 85% of
whom are immigrants, mainly from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Africa and the CIS.
This multinational population has had a significant influence on Dubai’s food scene, making it a city for gourmets. Almost all the world’s cuisines are on offer here so that everyone will find something to suit their taste and pocket, from an Indian biryani for $5 in the Karama district to a dinner at a 7-star hotel for $400. Alcoholic beverages in the emirates are sold only at licensed restaurants, which are often located in hotels. Sale of alcohol in shopping malls and street cafés is strictly forbidden.
The so-called ‘fine dining’ restaurants are usually located in 5-star hotels and in the financial district, the DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre). This is where meat lovers will find Gaucho, the Argentinean steak restaurant, as well as Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian steakhouse, where you can find authentic churraskostyle cooking. The most famous of all is the Nusr-et Steakhouse Dubai, owned by the internet sensation and meat king from Turkey, Nusret Gokce. A meal here will set you back, on average, between $100 and $150 a head.
One of the most luxurious restaurants in Dubai is the Al Mahara, managed by
British chef Nathan Outlaw. It is located in the 7-star Burj Al Arab hotel and specialises in the finest fresh seafood. Instead of an internal wall it is wrapped around a vast circular aquarium full of exotic fish and is a memorable location for a romantic date. An exquisite dinner for two will cost from $350 to $400. If you like seafood and want to budget for the whole family, find your way instead to the Ibn Hamido fish restaurant in the Al Barsha district, not far from the Mall of the Emirates. This is now one of the most popular local restaurants with visitors from the CIS and is a good replacement for the old favourite, the Golden Fork, which has slipped down the ratings. Here, a seafood soup followed by fresh fish as a main course will cost around $30.
As well as expensive restaurants, Dubai also has a great number of more affordable options, with the most budget-friendly in food courts at shopping malls where you will find Indian, Lebanese and Chinese cuisine and every variety of fast food. Alongside the opportunity for a quick snack, malls also offer a wide range of good value cafés and restaurants. The most popular of all in the Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall is the cult American restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory, where portions are so large that one dish can easily feed two or three people. During the day
lunch-size portions are offered, which are slightly smaller and cheaper than the standard ones. The food here is very good, there is a cosy atmosphere and the warm bread offered free of charge is delicious. Don’t forget to leave some space for cheesecake as there are over 40 different varieties to choose from. A hearty dinner for two will cost around $60.
Not far from the Dubai Mall is a small shopping centre called Souk Al Bahar, which means ‘sailors’ market’. It is designed as an Arabic palace and houses over a hundred shops and twenty restaurants. One of the most popular restaurants here is the Abd El Wahab offering traditional Lebanese cuisine. The selection of Arabic snacks (meze) includes chicken liver in pomegranate sauce and a variety of grilled dishes. The terrace opens on to a beautiful view of the Dubai fountains, which are 275 metres long and shoot water over 150 metres into the air. An
average dinner for two costs $80.
You can’t come to Dubai and not eat Indian food. There are many Indian restaurants for a range of budgets, such as lunch at the Karachi Darbar, which costs less than $10.
The Ravi Restaurant is a local legend offering traditional Pakistani dishes where a lunch of biryani or roast beef with naan bread will also cost around $10.
For those who miss their native food, Dubai has cafés serving Russian, Kazakh and Uzbek cuisine, such as the Uzbegim restaurant, where a business lunch of salad, soup and a hot dish with tandoor bread costs $10-12. It is hard to list all the most popular restaurants here, so one excellent option is to stroll through districts such as The Beach, City Walk, La Mer or Box Park, where everyone will find something to tempt them in the wide range of restaurants on offer.