5 restaurants born and bred in Dubai
There is no shortage of Michelin-starred restaurants or celebrity-branded eateries in Dubai, where you can eat gourmet food worthy of the Masterchef finals. But not every culinary experience in the UAE needs to be an import from elsewhere. There are plenty of local restaurateurs who have set up establishments dedicated to serving high-quality food.
Here is a few of our favourite restaurants Made in Dubai for Dubaians. Dubaites? Dubaybies?
When it comes to Arabic food, there are few more popular outlets than Reem Al Bawadi. The ambience is that of an indoor garden party, with vine leaves and lanterns on the walls, while the lively waiters regularly break out into song – and not just for birthdays. The near 20-page menu will guarantee something you like, from mezze staples such as tabbouleh and hummus to creative entrees like Hammour fillet with almond sauce. With outlets in Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and along Sheikh Zayed Road, you won’t have to drive more than 10 minutes to find excellent Lebanese cuisine.
The first branch was opened in 2001 by Palestinian entrepreneur Ayman Abdel Jaber. He now has his sights set on global expansion, with franchise plans in the works across the GCC, UK and Europe. Each place has its own appeal, from the sidewalk of the Dubai Marina branch to the glitzier branch in Downtown Dubai with prime seating facing Burj Khalifa.
Tom & Serg
Where: Al Quoz
Cuisine: International, health
There’s a reason why this quirky cafe gained a popular following despite a random location in the industrial area of Al Quoz: the food is so good that lines regularly form when they have special theme nights, such as barbeque. Who knew that next to Ace Hardware was this little oasis of heavenly food? The Bhutanese Eternal Salad is as tasty as it is healthy, packed as it is with ingredients like chia seeds, beetroot and spinach. Tom Arnetl and Sergio Lopez are the founders of this unique eatery and what brought them together is a love of great coffee. The dynamic duo has also just opened another cafe, The Sum of Us, because people can’t get enough of what they are serving. Nothing like a ristretto and a chocolate almond mousse to make your day.
Cuisine: Seafood, Indian
Part restaurant, part tourist destination, this is a great spot to bring guests from out of town who want to see the other side of Dubai – the less flashy, five-star city that most experience on a day-to-day basis. This shack just off Jumeirah Beach Road – on Road 4d, near Burj Al Arab, to be exact – is still operated by the Karim family from Kerala that opened the restaurant about ten years ago and you’ll feel like you’ve travelled to the backwaters of Southern India without ever leaving the heart of town.
Prepare to stand in line for about half an hour, but it’s worth the wait; not only are surrounded by the aroma of spices but it guarantees only the freshest fried fish in town. You make your order at the counter of a tiny shack and then take your meal to white plastic tables set up right outside among trees. Lick your fingers with delight for a meal over too soon as you dig your toes in the sand at Bu Qutair.
Where: Green Community, Umm Suqiem
There’s a reason why this festive spot is always packed. Away from the hubbub of the malls, skyscrapers and highways, Maria Bonita offers some of the best fajitas in Dubai. This colourful restaurant, nestled in Umm Suqeim, is something of a Dubai institution that has been around since before the Burj Khalifa, Atlantis, Dubai Mall or JBR even existed. Mexican pilot Jorge de Anda opened the restaurant in 2003 to enjoy and share his family’s recipes. The guacamole is made right in front of your table and we dare you not to finish the bowl of crunchy homemade tortilla chips before your main courses arrive. The food is delicious and very filling, so be prepared to EAT.
Where: Jumeirah 1
Cuisine: Vegeterian, Mediterrannean
There’s a je ne sais quoi quality to Comptoir 102 that will make you feel like you should put on a French accent when you order here. This place is certainly about more than just food; furniture and art are often exhibited here, while there are frequent live performances. The mainly vegetarian menu is made from sustainable and locally sourced products, which adds to the organic vibe, so sit back in a bamboo chair and sip on a green juice until your organic labneh Panini with olives and walnuts arrives. The owners of Comptoir 102, Alexandra de Montaudouin and Emma Sawko, worked with Barcelona chef Eva Barril to create a concept based on macrobiotic diets to ensure that Comptoir 102 is not just about lunch, it’s an experience. Located in a villa-style venue in Jumeirah, it’s a nice break from eateries at malls and hotels.