Oh hey everyone, apparently I wrote this a year ago and never published it! ENJOY!
This is the Pheebz Unofficial List of Things to Eat in Dubai. Go forth and eat! (Don’t disappoint me!)
1) Frying Pan Food Adventures
So I may have already listed this as top of my Things to Do recommendations. That’s because eating and doing are very much interlinked for me; in fact, they’re pretty much like. Everything I do involves eating or is planned around what/when/where I can next eat. Stay tuned for the full review of Frying Pan Food Adventures because no foodie will ever want to miss a four four food marathon of amazing Middle Eastern food, would you now?
2) Bateel dates
Have you ever wished we had better, healthier food to snack upon? Unconvinced by sweet chilli rice crackers? Yes, me too. Dates are the way to go. If I lived in Dubai, I would eat these every day. Several times a day. I would also get a little flatulent. There are trade-offs to everything.
Bah. Whatever. Dates are the new chocolate. No, dates are the new everything! And Bateel do simply fantastic dates. My absolute favourite are the khola dates – golden, small, sweet, toffee-ish dates – stuffed with caramelised pecans, although the larger, darker, less sweet and fleshier khidri dates are also great. A word of advice – sadly, their date cake in Café Bateel turned out to be tasteless stodge, so I would probably stick to just ordering dates in the shop.
3) Baker and Spice
Originating from the upmarket area of Marylebone in London, and relatively unknown in the UK, I was amazed to hear repeat mentions from Baker and Spice. One evening, desperate for some kind of familiar food, I relented and visited for dinner. Their menu consists of a few constantly changing specials. We ordered a boneless half chicken with pumpkin, shallots and courgettes, and a sea bass on a bed of sweet potato with an avocado salsa. The food ticked the boxes we were looking for – it was comforting, homely fare. The chicken wasn’t the most well-seasoned but it went beautifully with the vegetables, and I wolfed it down. What’s more, the sea bass – though very slightly dry – was phenomenal when paired with the sweet potato and avocado. I must include a photo of my appreciation of familiar tastes that weren’t greasy shwarma:
The next day, feeling decadent, we popped back for breakfast. Thank goodness their organic bread is as good as promised. I also tucked into a ridiculously thick Mexican hot chocolate (28 AED) and my co-diner worked through a date syrup and tahine smoothie (30 AED) – delicious in my opinion, but not for those who don’t like sesame. I’ve subsequently been tipped off that the blueberry and banana smoothie (35 AED) is excellent.
We worked through some homemade beef, leek and onion sausages (28 AED) – nice but they weren’t pork, some beautifully poached eggs (30 AED) and some French toast (38 AED) with caramelised sour apples and date syrup toffee, which was lovely for a few mouthfuls after which only those with the most determined sweet tooth could proceed comfortably.
4) Arabian Tea House
In the courtyard of an old wind tower building in Bastakiya – a traditional neighbourhood in Dubai that’s been around since the 19th century – is this beautiful tea house. Never underestimate the power of a garden and stone walls in a high-rise city. Also never underestimate the ubiquity of air-conditioning – large transparent screens were deployed so we could enjoy the tea in the garden in cool comfort (and let’s try to not to dwell on the ecological impact too much…).
Their tea selection is fantastic and all so reasonably priced – we shared a large pot (25AED) between three of their karak tea (masala chai), which came accompanied by some kind of noodle sweet, which perplexed by companions but I rather enjoyed it.
Where: Al Fahidi Street Bur Dubai, Dubai U.A.E
5) Sim Sim Dubai
Dubai does not run on the pricing standards that you might find in Jordan, for example, where you can get the most delicious falafel and hummus breakfast with black tea for ~£1.20. Dubai is a bit more like London. So although I winced slightly when the bill came, I couldn’t help but enjoy my time at SimSim, which serves up a broad range of Levantine fare that is simple but good. The outside currently looks like a building site but the inside is wonderful. Brightly painted chairs are arranged around wooden tables with the walls decorated with stools, plates and Arabic sayings, one of which roughly translates as “Not everyone can be a great cook, so you have to try hard.” I sighed a little at that and strengthened my resolve to become amazing at cooking.
The head chef is from Alexandria while another chef is from Jordan. These guys are proud of their dishes – say hello and ask them about what inspires their cuisine.
We ordered the SimSim salad (42 AED) – a house speciality containing mixed greens, cherry tomato, cucumber, avocado, palm hearts and sweet corn, with a choice of grilled chicken breast or tuna Despite my initial reservations, it was one of the best salads I’d had in ages – a beautifully fresh dressing and diverse range of flavours. Their hummus and mutabbal (aubergine puree with sesame, lemon and garlic) (both 22 AED) were both good accompaniments. We also sampled Arayes SimSim (39 AED) – pitta bread stuffed with mincemeat and tomatoes – which was a little greasy for my liking and not exciting enough for my palate. Overall, SimSim makes a good place if you’re looking for a simple lunch if you’re in the Jumeirah Beach Residence area.
Where: Ground Floor, Sadaf 4, The Walk. Adjacent to Movenpick Jumeirah Beach hotel. Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR).
6) Balqees Honey
In a little stall in one of the walkways in the Dubai Mall is Balqees Honey. And they offer you free samples. Trust me when I say – you ought to try the free sample! Their best seller is the Raw Yemeni Sidr Do’ani. I wish I’d bought a jar – I mean to go back to do so but never made it in the end. Honey never tasted so special – complex yet subtle, sweet yet delicate.
7) Vietnamese Ice Coffee from Hanoi
I’ve heard the food can be a little hit-and-miss, but when you’ve walked through the heat outside, an iced coffee (16 AED) with plenty of sugar syrup is the perfect solution. Watch it drip through onto the ice, stir and enjoy!
Where: Gold Crest Executive Building, Cluster C, Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT),
This place was recommended in my guide book as a great place for a snack in Deira. The shwarma is pleasing but nothing special. The real stars here are the juice drinks with all the tropical things you can think of. I got this tanker of mango and it was all kinds of refreshing.
Where: Perfurm Souk, Sikkat al Hkail Road.
After an unpleasant dining experience at Al Ustad Special, I was recommended Abshar by an acquaintance and Arva, who runs the Frying Pan Food Tours. After a Frying Pan Food Tour, I definitely trust anything that Arva recommends so my advice is to go here!
Where: Four branches, including one in Deira
10) Cultural breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)
This was recommended by an acquaintance and my guide book. It’s 75 AED, which is pricey for breakfast, but you can dine with Emiratis and ask them any questions about the country, which sounds like a great opportunity for cultural exchange and maybe even a chance to make new friends. I really wish I’d managed to organise this whilst I was there. If there’s ever a next time in Dubai, this’ll be for me. I’ve also heard the food is pretty delicious (or I wouldn’t have recommended it!)
Where: Al Musalla Road
11) Wafi mall food court
This was an accidental discovery after going to check out the ridiculous Egyptian-themed mall, where I naturally practiced walking like an Egyptian….
Here it’s all about fruit, nuts, sweets, pastries, ice-cream and generally high-end food products. We had some great knafeh here – a kind of cheese soaked in sugar syrup and topped with wheat noodles. Warning: they charge you loads to eat in so takeaway is a must unless you’re feeling flush. The ice-cream wasn’t too my taste but you can sample Arabic ice-cream made with mastic (the ingredient in chewing gum) which makes it really stringy to eat. I like the texture far more than the flavour. All this aside, you can probably find everything here in Bur Dubai or Deira, whilst only spending a fraction of the cost…
Where: Oud Metha, Sheikh Rashid Road