My first guide on traveling to Dubai (published here) served as an introduction to Dubai if you have never traveled to the UAE before.
It featured some of my favourite eateries (those that I managed to get to within the short time frame) and I decided to repeat the idea into a second article below. The food scene in Dubai is so diverse, with beautifully styled restaurants and something to suit every palate. However, eating out in Dubai is never cheap. Whilst you pay top Dirham at some of the fine dining, luxury restaurants, it helps to make an informed decision before visiting so you really make the most of your Rand while you’re there, and try at least one nice-ish restaurant for the experience.
A trip to Dubai demands good food at some of the best locations. Whilst Zuma is always on repeat, we popped into some new dinner spots on this round, and I thought I’d share our experiences with you.
Mercato: traditional Italian trattoria and panificio (bakery)
Location: DIFC Gate Village, building 1
Inspired by the Mercato Centrale in Florence, Mercato Dubai offers fresh Italian produce including a fully stocked retail space, positioning itself as an Italian grocer. Mercato provides a cozy, quiet atmosphere that matches the delicious food. Nothing here is pretentious; seating is laid back and casual, just like mamas kitchen.
The essence of Italian cooking today is simplicity. One uses the freshest seasonal ingredients and basic cooking techniques to simply enhance the natural flavor of the food.
Mercato also bakes its own bread on-site and has a full-time artisan baker in residence.
It’s all about what you eat and the quality of the ingredients you use.
What did we think about the food:
- The food is comforting; extremely unfashionable dishes that people are continually drawn to – which is a good thing! I really love that everything is traditional; pastas, pizza, bread sticks – everything that you would find made in a traditional Italian kitchen – authentic and fresh.
- There is no alcohol served on the premises, making it completely Halaal suitable for visitors who won’t eat at a restaurant serving alcohol. All the meats are Halaal.
- The menu changes regularly, which is great because you’ll rarely see the same thing on the menu.
- Seating is plentiful; there’s a large wooden dinning table in the middle of the store which encourages community style eating. In the cooler months, you may be seated outside too.
- Kids are welcome, and encouraged. It is suitable for large families and there is something for everyone to enjoy on the menu.
- The service is exceptional and if the manager, Grazia is around, she will ensure that you have the best time whilst there. She is able to share her personal recommendations and available to chat to patrons about the food and their experience whilst there without being obtrusive.
- The interior plays a huge part in the overall vibe. I like the bread sticks on the tables, with the fresh herb pots. Everything feels authentically Italian, the interiors haven’t missed a beat with the decor.
- If you are vegetarian, there are loads of meat-free options for you. In fact, pass on the meat the next time you visit. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Mercato doesn’t usually take bookings, however if you are a larger crowd, perhaps send them a message to check whether they are able to accommodate you. I highly recommend popping in for lunch, they’re well priced (for Dubai), and it’s a great break from eating at food courts.
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday – 7am until 6pm / Friday and Saturday – 9am until 6pm
La Serre: French style bistro and boulangerie
Location: Vida Downtown Dubai
La Serre is a traditional Parisian-feel boulangerie and a bistro encased in a two-storey glass facade. The inspiration was to combine the charm of a Parisian street café with the electricity of a Downtown Dubai hotspot.
La Serre’s interior is a clean, white palette throughout with natural light pouring in, and come evening, the space transforms into a romantic, fine dining experience with a fabulous ambiance.
What did we think about the overall experience:
- I wish I could stop for a minute and not compare it to La Petite Maison (LPM). Both are equally as good, similarly priced with about the same ambiance. I’m glad to have tried both and notably each just as good as the other.
- I like the French-Mediterranean inspiration of the dishes. Flavours are singular, and the quality and freshness of the produce comes through with minimal fuss on the preparation. You are able to taste the natural flavours, so the seasoning doesn’t deter from the actual taste of the product.
- The menu categories are all in French so if you’re not familiar, you might struggle slightly, however it is quick to figure out.
- For the amuse bouche, we received a sliced tomato (and trust me, there isn’t anything quite like the French tomato!). And without comparing, at LPM, the whole tomato is placed on your table for you to chop and season as you prefer.
- This rates on a much higher end of the dining scale, so check online for their menu and make certain that it is within your budget before going. If you’re in Dubai for one night, or have only a single evening to spare at a really nice French-style restaurant, then rather head over to LPM instead.
- The staff are courteous and the service was exemplary. If you’re in a spin on what to order, listen out for their recommendations (although we were absolutely certain that we were going to order the lamb).
- Alcohol is served on the premises, so exercise caution if you prefer to dine at restaurants with a no-alcohol policy.
- The crowd varies from casual chic to dressed up. It’s usually frequented by couples at night, and there wasn’t a kid in sight (I’m not certain what their policy on children are).
- We recommend ordering the Burrata, Marinated Lamb Cutlets with spices, Gnocchi with cherry tomato, burrata, garlic and parmesan, Watermelon Salad with Feta and Basil, Crab and Prawn Croquette.
Opening hours: 7am (for breakfast) to 10.30pm
Zuma: Japenese, Fine dining
Location: Podium Level, Gate Village 6, Sheikh Zayed Road, DIFC, Dubai
What can I say about Zuma that I haven’t already said before! This is undoubtedly my favourite dinner spot in Dubai. From its contemporary ambiance, to consistently impeccable service and faultless food, Zuma always delivers on the best evening out. From the minute you walk in, you are graced by beautiful people, intense lighting, and a view of the chefs preparing for the evening ahead. If there is ever one meal that you absolutely have to eat in Dubai, it has to be here!
What was our overall experience like:
- Ask to be seated in the Premium lounge seating located on the Upper Level. The premium and semi-private area is a great way to enjoy the ambiance of the lounge from the luxurious sofa seating overlooking the main dining area.
- Alcohol is served on the premises so exercise caution if you prefer establishments that don’t serve alcohol. The music also tends to be quite loud in the evenings, so choose your time carefully if you wish to dine here. Zuma is classified as a retro-bar-lounge, with its almost club-like ambiance.
- This is our favorite spot in Dubai and usually one of the first places that we love to dine at when we arrive. We love the vibe, the food is outstanding and usually have great service even though they are busy all of the time. I’d really love to have lunch here on our next trip to get better images to share, and to experience the venue and the view during the day.
- Standard; we recommend ordering a platter of sushi and the chili Edamame beans. Zuma follows the izakaya style of dining where food is meant to be shared.
- We recommend dressing up if you’re going out in the evening.
- Expect to pay top Dirham, so budget accordingly. You really do get what you pay for, we’ve never had a disappointing meal here. Make certain that you make a reservation.
- We recommend ordering a few dishes between you so you are able to taste most of what is on the menu. Read more of what to order here: http://www.niqi.co.za/dubai-where-dreams-play-out-in-the-warmth-of-a-summer-afternoon-a-guide-from-a-south-african-traveler/
If you’re staying at the Four Seasons Hotel DIFC, Zuma is located within the building. What a fantastic opportunity to visit and not have to travel back to your hotel after dinner!
Opening hours: 1230pm to 12.45/1.45am
Roberto’s: Classic and modern Italian cuisine coupled with contemporary design and a cosmopolitan experience
Location: Gate Village 1, DIFC, Dubai
I think we really appreciated dining at Roberto’s as we just landed in Dubai from Paris and it was already very late into the evening. The concierge at our hotel managed to get us a booking and all we needed to do was take an elevator down from our room and walk out through the main reception. We were dressed quite casually and didn’t feel out of place here, although it is quite upmarket and leans towards luxury dining.
I think above anything else, we really wanted good pizza! And we were not dissapointed! In fact, I can almost smell the herbs and garlic from the base of the pizza that we ate!
What was our overall experience like:
- The service was dissapointing. Through the brief time that we were there, we possibly had 3 different waiters attend to us in a non-welcoming way. Where we not suitably dressed? Did we arrive late? We’re not certain, however we quickly overlooked that as we had gotten a table whilst they were extremely busy and we didn’t spend much time there. This wouldn’t deter me from returning, and possibly we shall have better service with more attentive waiters on the next round. Also, I think making a reservation is absolutely necessary.
- The ambiance is upbeat however loud. If you’re in the mood for something slightly quieter, perhaps try to book a table towards the entrance of the restaurant. Its appeared less busy and less noisy here. The smoking area is near the bar which has a DJ so that area is as loud as it gets. The vibrancy of the place has to be its stand-out factor, people are there to enjoy the food, have a good time and socialise.
- Alcohol is sold on the premises.
- The food and drinks are outstanding. I really don’t think I’ve eaten a better pizza in all the world! The base had just the correct amount of crispness, there was something so inviting about the smell of the herb on the pizza. It was a basic Margherita but it was a memorable meal.
- There is an impressive selection of mocktails which works well with the ambiance. Swop your Cola for a Pina Colada for extra poshness, after all you are in a really nice-ish place!
- I am eager to revisit and try out all the bells and whistles over lunch (for better pics too!). There is more to the Italians than just pizza!
Opening hours: 12 noon to 2am daily.