Sure, Dubai pretty much deals exclusively in the ‘fancy’, ‘expensive’ and the ‘worth splashing out on’ (though that last point is dubious), so telling you where exactly to spend mounds of your hard-earned dirhams on a single dinner is forward of us, we know.
Also – we agree that we’re all but contradicting every single thing we said in our cheap eats section, too. We already gave you a disclaimer that insisted we’d be caught out for contradicting ourselves at least once – so don’t say you weren’t warned.
But while you’re busy not falling into the superficial and lavish trap of living in this country and mixing in circles where people just have way too much disposable income, we think it’s important to have a balance. After a hard’s week cooking at home, and eating well – why not indulge in a Dh150 rack of lamb? Why not try out that gold-dusted burger at the highest restaurant in the world?
While the latter is taking things to a bit of an extreme (which doesn’t mean we’d exclude it… read on), I do believe in indulging every now and again.
What’s the gym for if not for working off the last week’s overindulgence? (Probs shouldn’t read my fitness entry then either).
In the wise words of our personal hero, Tom Haverford: “Treat yo’self”.
Fume, Pier 7, Dubai Marina
Like fried chicken? Like breakfast? Thank god Fume deals emphatically in both. And yes, like us, if you’re arriving after a particularly rough night – you can have them at the same time.
I cannot think of anything better than sitting in one of the most picturesque locations in the Marina, with a freak shake inevitably too big and packed full of sugar to ever actually eat and a plate full of the city’s best fried chicken. And not just for my Instagram game (which is actually decidedly poor). Fume does bloody excellent food at not-too-bad prices, but the indulgent stuff is where they really shine (or glimmer, like a mound of sugar in the sunlight if you will). So think of this entry as a ‘treat yo’self’ calorie-wise, rather than spending-wise.
The buttermilk fried chicken and comeback sauce is what gets most of Dubai buzzing about this place, and it is particularly epic. Just like what you’d expect from a grandmother in Louisiana whipping up a round of healthy treats for her grandkids. It’s served after 12pm, so if you play your cards right like us, you can come in for breakfast at 11am and then have post-breakfast fried chicken (and freakshakes and pancakes) at 12pm. Blame it on a big night, okay?
The lotus pancakes are another one for cheat day. Absolutely drowning in caramel sauce and cream – this is one for anyone with a sweet tooth, or a whole mouthful actually. It will also mean you should forgot the metro home. For the next 15 years.
There’s plenty of healthier stuff on the menu for the waistline conscious ( the Beach board is an entertaining make-your-own scenario, with the best guacamole in at least 500 metres), but honestly – where is the fun in healthy when there’s deep-fried chicken and freak shakes on offer. C’mon.
In the almighty words of Ron Swanson: “I’m a simple man. I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food?”. We’ve never admired you more, Ron.
Lotus pancakes: Dh45
Fried chicken: Dh54
Popping cereal monster shake: Dh53
(Various other orders we will not divulge for fear of actually outing self as gluttonous hag: Dh100 ish)
Sean Conolly at Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai
Sure, the food atop one of the most prized pieces of real estate in Downtown Dubai is pretty spectacular, but it also probably helps that the man behind the name is an absolute GC aswell. Welcome to Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera, what one would think would be the most pompous, outrageously-priced and ostentatious eateries in town. Thankfully, one would be quite wrong.
The setting certainly evokes an air of just-don’t-show-me-the-price-list, but during a meet-and-greet for The National, Connolly is very quick to insist this is no high-brow dining experience. For starters, there’s a whopping great pizza oven. How many fine dining establishments are likely to offer you a slice of margherita before a show? Or, more importantly, that wood-fired garlic and onion pie served up with great dollops of ricotta, honey and pine nuts. Serve us that in a bucket and leave us to it.
And finally, we’ve found a man who hates edible gasses and time-consuming gastronomy; Connolly just cooks good, home-style food with a bit of an upmarket twist.
Case and point: slow-cooked New Zealand lamb with raspberry vinaigrette and star anise — the latter being a favoured ingredient for Connolly — duck-fat chips, and a monstrous grain-fed Australian T-bone; two throwbacks to the environments where his culinary prowess has thrived. A final accompaniment is a family tribute: “Grandma’s carrots, cooked within an inch of their life — five minutes later and they’ll be soup.”
But what endeared us to this place the most, is Connolly himself. A man who doesn’t mince his words – not quite at the Gordon Ramsay end of the spectrum, but he’s definitely no Pete Evans either – this is a celebrity chef who doesn’t quite care being about a celebrity chef. He’s as happy effing and jeffing (still, not the same as a Ramsay effing and jeffing session) with his patrons about disappointing plane-ride movies (Get Out: ‘stupidest effing thing I’ve ever seen’, which we emphatically agreed with) and the Mighty Boosh (‘love that shit’). Sure, if you want to talk about the Chardonnay vinaigrette he’s not going to decline, but we get the feeling he’d much prefer sharing his latest must-views on Netflix.
Read my full review for The National here.
Chez Charles, D3, Dubai.
Ever wanted to eat a snail, but aren’t quite willing to up sticks and fork out for a flight for France to indulge? Well, in case you’ve ever been partial to possibly the weirdest craving of all time, crave no longer, because escargot is on the menu at this new D3 establishment.
The Burgundy snails à la Provençale are the last thing we want to be ordering not under duress, but at the waiter’s excited recommendation we agree, albeit tentatively. To say we were pleasantly surprised by the little slugs is an understatement – who knew garlic butter, herbs and tomato could turn something more at home on Fear Factor than at a dinner table, into something quite delicious. We were, however, rebuffed when we asked about the secret ingredient. But apparently even the waiters don’t know. “The chef won’t tell us. He just says ‘and more’.” Indeed.
The whole sea bass is another highlight, decapitated and filleted table side, and doesn’t need a speck of tartare – just a drizzle of lemon is enough to dress the moist fish. Seeing a lamb shank on the menu almost gave me heart palpitations, being the diehard New Zealander I am and fantasizing about Mum’s slow-cooked lamb on a freezing-cold winter’s night, and I was thankfully not disappointed (I probably shouldn’t point out that my Mum is a relatively shit cook though).
Now, please excuse me, while I wax lyrical about a side dish. The Venere rice, was apparently a dish reserved for Chinese emperors. Upon hearing that, I ordered it immediately: if it’s good enough for an emperor it’s good enough for me. And though simple, it was freaking delicious. Next time, I’m going back for 15 bowls of that. Just that. And although the waiter swears it’s just butter, rice and Parmesan, I fail to see how something so heavenly could be that simple.
For dessert, the fail-safe options are the tropezienne, a brioche so light and so drenched in orange blossom, it disintegrates the moment it touches your tongue. We had to make sure we were in fact eating solid food. And because we are absolute suckers for a chocolate fondant, the chocolate moelleux had to be sneakily added to the order. How can anyone go past a cake pretending not to be a cake, which explodes upon first fork-piercing, spewing piping-hot chocolate and pistachio in every direction? Let me tell you, if that doesn’t spin your wheels – I just don’t think we can be friends. Philistine.
Read my full review for What’s On here.
Burgundy snails à la Provençale: Dh46
Sea bass: Dh225 (but could feed two)
Lamb shank: Dh158
Venere rice: Dh34
Chocolate moelleux: Dh40
At.Mosphere Lounge, Burj Khalifa
Okay, okay, we hear you – this is about as Dubai as you can get, and at the time we actually hated ourselves for it. Don’t get us wrong, of course we were on snapchat and telling our nearest and dearest all about it at the same time, but we were severely disappointed in our social media-bandwagon jumping too. That was, until we actually ate it.
This monstrous burger looks like something straight out of an experimentation lab, or a plastic factory, or basically just anywhere that makes food that doesn’t look edible. Under no circumstances have I actually ever wanted to eat gold, and there was a part of me that wanted to see if I could just scrape it off and see if I could fashion it into something to wear around my finger, but if you’ve lived in Dubai and hadn’t eaten gold – have you ever really lived in Dubai?
Unexpectedly, but on second thoughts completely expectedly, the burger was whisked to our table on an under-lit platter – just so all the gold could glisten and glow in its inedible glory. While it didn’t look appealing – let me tell you (and At.Mosphere did not threaten to open a window and toss me out the Burj if I didn’t write this) this was the best burger I’ve eaten in a long time. It almost pains me just to write that. All that Wagyu beef, truffle, foie gras and wild mushroom (all things that made us uneasy to see all in one sentence) really culminated in something spectacular. And while we still shudder at the name, The Billionaire Burger is almost, almost worth the price tag. Actually wait, I just checked the price again. Oh god.
Billionaire burger: Dh375