To be honest its hard to write a post on the top picks for food in the UAE because on my holiday there recently I loved every place, every restaurant and every store I ate at/got food from. I found that the food was really good everywhere I went and I rarely had an issue with what I’d ordered. But having had a bit of a think about it, I’ve settled on 10 places, 5 each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that I’d go back to again and again.
If you’re not familiar with the UAE (The United Arab Emirates) its the Middle East’s fastest growing country and it just happens to be the halfway point between Australia/Asia and Europe/North America. Dubai airport is now the biggest and busiest in the world.
One of the great things about the UAE is that it’s a melting pot of people and cultures – and they all get along! There is no racism and almost no crime. Now that’s a place worth exploring and that’s exactly what I did earlier this year.
And because there’s such a mix of people and cultures the food is so good! So if you’re thinking about a trip overseas you really need to check out Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the UAE’s two biggest cities. I promise you you’ll love the food, especially if you check out the places below.
1. Le Cafe at Emirates Palace
My husband ordered a gold cappuccino which is a cappuccino with gold leaf on top, worth about AUD $25. It was worth every penny too, according to my husband, and he tried it because he’d been told its a MUST when you visit Abu Dhabi. I ordered the Devonshire tea and have never had such an amazing spread before. Not only did I get jam and cream, but I got 3 types of jam, lemon curd and some fresh blueberries and raspberries too. It’s more than one person can consume but it looked great, the platter took up half the table and you definitely get value for money on that one. If nothing else visit the Emirates Palace and soak up the atmosphere but if you have the time head to Le Cafe too.
2. Jumeriah at Etihad Towers
The best part about Jumeriah at Etihad Towers is the view. The second best thing is the high tea. In price it compares favourably to high tea in Melbourne or Sydney, but there was so much food! 3 plates of sweets and savoury treats, and that was just for me. Add to that unlimited tea and coffee and I practically rolled out the door. I highly recommend the TWG Alexandria green tea blend or the Moroccan mint. The food was tasty, plentiful and complimented the amazing view. You can see all of Abu Dhabi while you sip tea and taste the handcrafted delights.
3. Peppermill at Al Wadha Mall
This was hands down the best Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to. I order malai kofta at every Indian restaurant I go to and Peppermill makes the best malai kofta I’ve ever eaten. I even asked the waitress if I could get takeaway to Australia! The waitresses were rolling around with laughter on that one. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this restaurant and even though it’s located at a mall it is a separate restaurant with beautiful decor and plenty of seating. The night we went it was quiet and we got really good service, great food and had a laugh with the waitresses. I wouldn’t change a thing about that night, except to go back and do it again. It’s one of the best Indian restaurants and totally worth a look.
4. Le Brioche
Le Brioche is a cafe chain open around many of the malls and shopping centres in Abu Dhabi. I loved Le Brioche because of the mocktails: the one I ordered was called Moulin Rouge which had strawberries, orange juice, limes and grenadine in it. Super tasty and great to quench your thirst on a hot day. Le Brioche also have meals and an all day breakfast (which I love because I like to get eggs at lunch when I have a bad tummy) and they also have many yummy patisserie items, such as the madeleines we ordered.
5. Fairways at the Westin hotel
Even though I wasn’t staying at the Westin we decided to have breakfast there because the Westin is just outside of the main part of the city so we went there before heading to Ferrari World. The restaurant actually overlooks a golf course (as you might have guessed from the name) and you’ll see plenty of Westerners dressed in golf gear. The atmosphere is nice and the breakfast is a buffet (which I totally love cause I can always find something I like). While this breakfast buffet has all the regular foods you’d expect, you have to try the ful meddames. Ful is the Arab version of baked beans and it tastes 1000x nicer than your regular old Heinz! Have it with some labneh balls for a more traditional meal or add it to your eggs and toast. But don’t go past the bircher muesli either – it’s the best I ever had!
1. Sahn Eddar at the Burj al Arab
The Burj al Arab is the sail or yacht shaped building you will have seen on TV. It’s the only 7 star hotel in the world and even if you’re not staying head to the Sahn Eedar for breakfast (but make sure you have a booking because they don’t let you into the Burj al Arab without a restaurant booking if you’re not a guest). The breakfast is expensive but you get excellent food, full of flavour and plenty of it. It had the best tasting ful meddames I’ve ever eaten and the Danish pastries were fantastic. And you can eat it all overlooking the beautiful beach with turquoise waters lapping at its shore. Pure heaven!
2. Abd el Wahab at Souk Al Bahar (near the Dubai Fountain)
The Abd el Wahab restaurant serves Lebanese food and is located right beside the famous Dubai Fountain so while you eat all the yummy food you can watch the fountain display every hour on the half hour after dark till midnight. The food was amazing, full of flavour and worth every bite. I had the hummous fatteh which is a dish of chickpeas, yoghurt and fried bread (like croutons made out of Lebanese bread) and I’ve never had softer chickpeas! It’s also my favourite Arab breakfast, though I had it for dinner. The fattoush (bread salad) was lovely as was the Eggplant Kebab and the hummous was very smooth.
3. Paul French patisserie
I love croissants, and over in the UAE you have many different types of croissants, and they’re sold everywhere. And I don’t mean just a plain croissant with different toppings, but the UAE sell croissants that are filled with different flavours that don’t need toppings. What do I mean? Zaatar croissants! And cheese croissants! So totally yum, and you can just pull them out of the bag and start eating. If you’ve had an almond croissant or a chocolate croissant you’ll know what I mean. And speaking of almond and chocolate croissants, at Paul (they’re everywhere in Dubai) you can get the best croissant I’ve ever had – it was a croissant that included both almond and chocolate. A-mah-ZING!! Perfect for a quick breakfast at the hotel before a busy day touring the city.
4. Sheik Mohammad Cultural Understanding Centre – Traditional Emirati food
When you’re on holidays you want to try something from the local culture and that’s exactly what we did when we went to the Sheik Mohammad Cultural Understanding Centre in Dubai. The Cultural Centre sits within a replic of an old Emirati-style village which acts like a museum. You can walk around the area at your leisure or take part in a tour and share a traditional meal with your Emirati host. We attended a Q&A session with the tour and then attended the lunch. They served us machboos (a meat and rice dish, also called kabsa in other parts of the Gulf – we had a choice of chicken or beef), saloona (a tradition meat and vegetable stew) and legimat (also spelled liqeemat or luqaimat – mini doughnuts or the “holes of the donughts” as they were described to us) for dessert. As you can see, it all looked great and tasted even better. This was accompanied by the traditional Arabic coffee (made with cardamon and saffron – and you’re not allowed to refuse it as thats an insult to the host!), and Arabic tea (strong and sweet black tea).
5. The Palace at The Address
There is no place more expensive, expansive and has such an array of food as the buffet dinner available at the Palace at The Address right next to the Burj Khalifa (the tallest tower in Dubai) and the Dubai fountain and Dubai mall. They have a lovely inside area where the food is spread out over several tables and fixtures which includes salads, rice and meat dishes (I’ve never seen a dish so big!), an array of olives (no less than 8 types), an array of dates (about 5-6 types and sizes) as well as traditional Arabic foods like kibbeh (meat and potato varieties) and umm ali. They serve fruits and vegetables in various ways as well as fancy desserts and gelatos. But outside is where the magic is – it’s where the live dancers are showcasing traditional Emirati dances with the tourists, where the massive outdoor BBQ is set up, and where you can sit under a tent in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa and smoke shisha while you eat your fill of the lobster, prawns, chicken and lamb skewers hot off the grill. Ah, take me back there now!
So, if you’re ready for a holiday with amazing food and lots to enjoy, then the UAE is the place to go!