Paella is, as we know, a deliciously delicate concoction featuring olive oil, tomato, rice, saffron, vegetables and – usually – seafood and/or chicken. It’s also a delight that tells a historical culinary tale that sees Romans, Iberians, Moors and New World characters all playing starring roles. Evolving over the centuries, the first references to “rice a la Valenciana” can be found in dusty 17th-century tomes, while some attribute “paella” to the Arabic word “ba’eeah” or “the remains”. It is, though, the 19th century in which we first see references to the wide pan in which the rice feast was cooked – which was also an ideal way to feed multiple hungry workers at the same time. Today the dish satiates everyone from foodies to fashionistas and celebrities.
If you’re looking for an upbeat spot to enjoy a proper Spanish fiesta, this is the place to go. You can get into the swing of things with a round of cold and hot tapas – we love the Ensalada De Lentejas Casa De Tapas (lentil salad with house salsa, Valencia oranges and roasted red peppers) and Pulpo A Feira (Atlantic octopus served on crushed potatoes with paprika) – and then order the hero of the day: seafood paella. A dish featuring langoustines, mussels and clams draped over slow-cooked rice, this one tastes just like the variety you’d find in Barcelona. There’s also a squid ink version.
Where: Casa De Tapas, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club
Contact: +971 4 416 1800, website
Arroz de la Huerta con Azafrán
Vegetarians rejoice: all you need to know from the name above is that you can safely eat this. Featuring wild mushrooms, in-season garden veggies and La Mancha saffron, if you didn’t believe you could find vegetarian paella in here, a spoon of this will convince you. If you’re a carnivore who just can’t wrap your head around the idea, order the Marisco paella with Boston lobster, prawns, mussels, clams and calamari; the Valenciana, with chicken, rabbit, globe artichokes, and garrafón white beans; or the Arroz Negro con Carabineros, Calamares y Sepia, with squid ink, red prawns, cuttlefish and and calamari.
Where: Toro + Ko, City Walk
Contact: +971 4 590 5344,
Fusion Seafood Paella
This contemporary version of the dish features a collection of saffron, fresh seafood, peas and peppers. If you are in a party mood, head to the eatery on Wednesday nights for unlimited seafood paella and free drinks for ladies, or – for a long, lazy lunch with your other half – order the Mixed Starter Platter featuring a selection of appetisers – including prawn tempura, prawn cakes, crispy calamari, spring rolls and chicken satay served with three dips and sauces – before tucking into the paella. Cool down for an afternoon siesta with the restaurant’s mango and basil sorbet finished with pistachio powder.
Where: Aquarium, Yas Marina
Contact: +971 2 565 000,
A stylish, satisfying and highly moreish dish whipped up by a South African restaurant franchise that’s made a real splash since its arrival in the UAE. Featuring the usual mussels, prawns, clams and squid, this dish receives a twist in the form of beef chorizo that adds a pleasingly warming and smoky-paprika vibe to proceedings. Marrying perfectly with creamy rice and the subtle scent of saffron, this gorgeous offering’s final flourish is a dollop of garlic aioli that’ll make your taste buds want to do the paso doble. You’ll find it on the restaurant’s “Inspired By” menu.
Where: Tashas, Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi
Contact: +971 2 445 0890,