Dubai has made great strides over the last few years to keep up with the middle-range food movements that make eating out in cities like London and New York fresh and exciting. Now you can find plenty of innovative and creative dining experiences at manageable prices scattered across the city.
Dubai’s fashion and music scenes are merging with, and inspiring dining experiences – a perfect example of this is Sole DXB, the annual street culture festival that brings together global and regional leaders from across music, style, sports and design. The 2015 festival featured a huge open-air restaurant and bar by New York-based Jamaican restaurant Miss Lily’s.
Currently street food is the biggest dining-out trend in Dubai, and there is a bi-weekly Food Truck Jam held at The Emirates Golf Club, while food trucks can be found at just about any event. Healthy options are also gaining prominence on the Dubai dining scene, with smoothie bars and gluten-free restaurants opening across the city. The weekly Ripe market is a great place to buy fresh organic produce.
Tom and Serg are emerging as Dubai’s leading restaurateurs, known for their four stylish and on-trend eateries. They opened their second offering, The Sum of Us, in spring 2015, and it has been packed-out since. The menu at this gigantic 200-plus seater, all-day dining establishment features dishes made from fresh, locally sourced produce, with an emphasis on flavour and an attention to detail in presentation.
The onsite bakery sends out a daily fresh selection of breads, cakes and pastries, almond milk is pressed in-house and coffee is taken very seriously here – there’s a roaster onsite as well, which also acts as a coffee education centre. Here, expertly trained baristas will enthusiastically pass on their knowledge about the journey of the coffee bean or even latte art.
Friday is the first day of the Dubai weekend, and the Sum of Us is one of the most popular brunch spots in town, so it’s worth getting there early to bag a table, although the expansive breakfast menu is served until 5pm. The Eggs Florentine is a real highlight, served on a croissant with a rich truffle hollandaise sauce and finished with shaved parmesan: it makes for a decadent breakfast treat.
Dubai is fast becoming a recognised art hub. The annual Art Dubai festival, held every March, attracts galleries and dealers from all over the world and there has been a big surge in new gallery openings over the last few years. Alserkal Avenue is one of the city’s most creatively engaging and innovative offerings. The 46,000-square-metre warehouse is home to a multitude of independent galleries, artists’ studios and a live music venue.
A4 by Alserkal Avenue is a collaborative, collective space, created to celebrate, inspire and influence artists, freelancers and the culturally curious. This multi-purpose community space features a screening room, a project space and a concept store. At the heart of A4 is Appetite the Shop. Popular with freelancers, the emphasis at this café is on healthy eating with plenty of choices, including wheat free and vegan. The menu is full of fresh foods, all using locally sourced produce, such as super food salads, smoothies and the newest addition, black rice nori rolls. Organic raw coffee ensures everyone using this as a space to work can keep going.
Described as a ‘street food treasure hunt’, entry after 7pm to this pop-up is strictly by key only. Locations to find the keys are sent out daily by Instagram and Snapchat. Parker’s draws on street food from around the world, and the dishes are beautifully executed – and combined with the setting, this is dining outdoors at its best.
It’s definitely worth putting in the effort to find the key to access this scenic part of Al Khazzan Park. Set back from a busy crossroads at the centre of town, Parker’s location combines a calm spot in the park with an awesome view of the iconic Burj Khalifa tower.
Served from a van to outdoor tables, the menu is the ultimate in comfort food, with portion sizes that encourage sharing and sampling. Favourites include the crunchy chicken slider, fried mac ’n’ cheese and street fries. Definitely worth trying is the choco x coffee slider: a burger of coffee-infused Wagyu beef topped with cheddar cheese.
British chef Gary Rhodes already has two restaurants in Dubai, and last year he developed a dining concept at the Vox Cinema in Mall of the Emirates.
This is truly the ultimate cinema experience, with incredibly considered attention to detail. On arrival moviegoers can spend time in the lounge looking through the menu. It’s then possible to eat before the film or organise specific timings for very discreet service during the screening.
All dishes on the menu were specially designed by Rhodes to enable ease of eating in the dark, while also offering a proper restaurant experience. The foie gras panini is one of the most popular dishes, but Rhodes has also given his twist on American classics such as burgers and hot dogs. Even the popcorn has gourmet influences, including truffle and Parmesan flavour or caramelised pecan.
All the food is prepared onsite by a team of Rhodes’ chefs. Dishes are served in the cinema on Japanese-style spa trays, which can be rested on knees or on a side table, and even the plates have been designed to ensure they fit neatly on the trays and show off the food in low light.