Dubai, with its towering architecture, emphasis on business and multicultural lifestyle, represents a sensory experience like no other. The city boasts a “more is more” vibe that carries through to the dining scene, which offers its own form of spectacle.
As Dubai established itself as a business capital, it began to attract some of the world’s top chefs. Uwe Micheel helped launch this new culinary chapter more than two decades ago when he opened the European-inspired Le Ciel, elevating the culinary scene with his Michelin-star credentials. Before long, celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Nathan Outlaw opened restaurants catering to the city’s upscale business travelers. Dubai’s restaurant scene continues to evolve as haute cuisine and high design take center stage.
Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton is one of the latest on the scene with his Mediterranean-inspired cuisine at Marina Social at InterContinental Dubai Marina. Atherton created the “social” concept to offer diners a more creative experience, where conversation and sharing are on the menu. His plays on familiar foods include dishes such as goat cheese churros with truffle honey, pulled duck agnolotti, “KFC” grilled chicken thigh and BBQ lamb rump.
With Choix Patisserie and Restaurant, Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire brings high tea to Dubai at InterContinental Dubai Festival City. The white, minimalist decor belies the decadence of the tea menu, which features Parisian pastries such as éclairs and camel-milk entremets. Gagnaire’s savory menus pair classic French flavors with regional specialties — think lentil hummus with pan-fried foie gras or Omani shrimp with avocado, mint and edamame.
Dubai has no shortage of accolades (biggest this, most expensive this) and the city can also claim the world’s tallest restaurant. At.mosphere, situated on the 122nd floor of the famed Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, features floor-to-ceiling windows that offer spectacular sunset views. The French-inspired multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings is a similarly over-the-top experience.
On the 15th floor of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is Mint Leaf of London, where the authentic Indian cuisine matches the opulence of Dubai. The vegetarian tasting menu puts a modern spin on Indian classics like tarragon roasted paneer, beetroot pudina tikki and Noori paneer sushi. The interior is calming and relaxed, with dark finishes and low lighting, to accent the skyline view of Dubai.
Another design-driven space, Zuma, located in Dubai’s international financial centre, brings together elements of fire, water, air, wood and iron. The restaurant’s focal point, as envisioned by Tokyo-based Noriyoshi Muramatsu, is a massive bamboo sculpture set against the backdrop of gritty, rusted steel walls. The food is equally impressive, served Japanese Izakaya-style with shared dishes.
Every international business destination needs a fine French restaurant, and La Petite Maison certainly fits the bill. The French-Mediterranean cuisine matches the classic white tablecloth ambience, with beautifully presented dishes like whole roast black leg chicken and rack of lamb with spiced couscous.
Choosing a destination and cuisine can prove mind-boggling in this city of excess and just to add to the indecision, the Marina’s Pier 7 hosts seven fine dining options under the same roof. The circular glass building offers 360-degree views of the city and the Arabian Gulf with a different dining experience on each floor. You can choose among traditional Arab cuisine, British gastropub fare, Asian dishes and even Mexican food.
While Dubai offers its share of fine dining destinations, it also boasts any number of casual cafes that give you another taste of Arabia. Al Ustad Special Kabab, or known to locals as Special Ostadi, is a legendary Iranian restaurant in Old Dubai. The food and the decor are homey; diners can sample kebabs and other Persian favorites while sitting amid a wall of photos that document the owner’s heritage.
Arabian Tea House has several locations dotting the city. When your day calls for a bit of peace and quiet and a spot of tea, the original location in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is a tranquil oasis featuring a courtyard under a canopy of trees. The Marina and Al Bada locations, meanwhile, offer a more modern atmosphere.
Late night, Zaroob is the place to see and be seen, and enjoy a bite of authentic street food. Zaroob, meaning “street alley,” is open 24 hours, serving traditional Arabic dishes hawker-style with open cooking stations. It’s loud, festive and vibrant with manga-style artwork and neon lighting.
Perhaps no other dining experience captures the authenticity of Dubai as the six-course luxury desert safari. Dining tables are antique Arabic doors and the seating is also unconventional — you may find cushions on the floor atop silk carpets. The menu features modern Arabic cuisine, like white-truffle custard and tea-smoked lamb.
The views are unmatched as the sun sets over the Arabian Gulf, and you can take in post-dinner entertainment by exotic belly dancers under the stars, or for thrill-seekers, camel rides through the dark desert.
To experience Dubai with a sense of sophistication, consider booking Club InterContinental at InterContinental Dubai Marina or InterContinental Dubai Festival City for a new level of personalised service and luxury experience.