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No one would have imagined just ten years ago that Dubai was to become a world-famous gourmet destination. Here, the cost of living is high but here are our usual tips for enjoying billionaire locations without having to be one yourself. So long as you don’t have a fear of heights, you cannot possibly miss a dumbfounded glimpse of Dubai from the highest observation point of the Burj Khalifa. The At the Top SKY experience will use up your entire budget for a simple cup of Arabic coffee and a tray of dates served in the exclusive SKY Lounge. No restaurant but you may nourish your spirit with a 148° view from the highest observation platform in the world.
Here are some recommendations on where to eat in Dubai, with some experiences you can enjoy while spending up to 25, 50 or 100 euros.
From 0 to 25
On the lowest budget, it is difficult to satisfy your appetite in this luxury paradise. However, the Buddha Bar, generally considered to be one of the city’s best locations, is a good choice. Its name derives from a giant statue of Buddha guarding over the venue. It offers a restaurant, bar and an open-air space, all of which look out onto the Arabian Sea. Settle for a good drink, a view of the Dubai Marina and some excellent music, widely imitated by cocktail bars all over the world.
After a shopping spree at the World Trade Centre, enjoy a welcome break at the Cake café inside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Here the menu offers some excellent cakes and pastries, light meals and coffee throughout the day. Everything is chic and delicious, starting from the mythical Ritz-Carlton Cake: rich layers of chocolate cake infused with candied orange peel & Grand Marnier. For those who prefer savoury snacks, there is a salad of Black Quinoa with Salmon, quinoa, baby spinach, feta, pomegranate, corn, avocado and orange dressing (15 Euros).
From 25 to 50
Rhodes W1 is a British starred-cuisine experience with a French touch. Dubai does not yet have its Michelin Guide but it does adopt Michelin starred chefs in its downtown venues, such as Gary Rhodes, chef of the prestigious Grosvenor House Hotel restaurant. Here, the gourmet menu is the most popular with clients and is based on fresh European ingredients, accompanied by a vast selection of new, old and vintage wines. All of which is out of the question on this budget, but you can treat yourself to a spectacular afternoon tea served on Fridays and Saturdays from 14 to 17 h (40 Euro approximately). Two hours of sheer bliss, enjoying sweet and savoury treats in a relaxing atmosphere. Tea is served in fine Wedgewood china cups.
Entering the luxurious Raffles Hotel, you will first be awestruck by the lobby on the ground floor, but carry on, as your final destination is on the 17th floor. It’s here that you’ll find Tomo, one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city with a 360-degree view of Dubai’s skyline. And here, chef Takahashi and his team offer their alternative menus, even vegan. The right one for your wallet is Hana, which captures the high level of cooking in six courses: miso soup, asparagus salad, the unmissable sushi, sashimi and superb wagyu beef.
From 50 to 100 Euro
The Al Hadheerah Restaurant is the signature restaurant of the Bab Al Shams Resort at 60 minutes from the airport, nestling amidst the desert dunes. This is the quintessential experience of Arab culture, from its food to the amazing entertainment staged by riders on horseback and belly dancers. A sequence of dishes will take you right through to the end of the show (80 Euro approximately).
Take the bling words of modern catering; seasonal, fresh and organic, add in Italian taste and style and a touch of Tuscany and you have the award-winning Borro Tuscan Bistrot. Whether you order a bruschetta, a pappa al pomodoro and a dessert or the most sumptuous Chianina steak and a glass of red, the choice is yours. Especially if you're fortunate enough to have a large budget.
The Social is a creation by three-starred chef Heinz Beck who, for this venue, has chosen a fine-casual dining formula to offer the best of Italian contemporary cuisine. We are on the premises of the splendid Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Hotel of the Jumeirah chain. There is a 5-course menu at around 100 euro comprising vitello tonnato (veal in tuna sauce) and tiramisù. A compendium of the Italian culinary tradition in a three-star interpretation. If you arrive in Dubai on Friday, remember the Social's Signature Brunch which offers a full immersion in Mediterranean cuisine.
Do you think that the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the ultra-luxury, 280 m high hotel shaped like a sail and built on the Persian Gulf, is unaffordable? Well, think again. You may have to do without the Rolls-Royce with the option of a chauffeur, the helicopter trip or a relaxing day on the breathtaking terrace with swimming pools and beach huts at 280 metres above sea level but there are restaurants and plenty of bars with a spectacular view.
You can afford to enjoy a meal cooked by acclaimed British chef Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara on the first floor of Dubai’s most symbolic hotel. It is specialized in serving fish of extraordinary freshness, so go for the Wild Cornish Turbot, Peas & Broccoli, Warm Tartare Sauce or King Crab Legs, Truffle & Parmesan Mayonnaise (80 Euro). Watch the drinks, though, which will cause you to exceed your budget, but even without beverages, you will be able to say “I have been there”.