Choosing a place to eat out in Dubai can spur a long process of deliberation, as we are quite literally spoiled for choice. With such a melting pot of cultures, you can find almost any cuisine imaginable. From inexpensive and authentic Asian cuisine in the heart of Satwa or Bur Dubai and Lebanese bakeries open round-the-clock; right through to gourmet meals prepared by celebrity chefs. All this and more can be found in Dubai. It’s picking the one that’s right for the mood and moment that can be the challenge.
Downtown Dubai has established itself as the hub for upmarket leisure and entertainment and that is no more than true than when it comes to dining out. With a tremendous variation in choices of cuisine and views, it is no wonder that it is both the city’s most aspirational place to stay, whether you are a resident or a visitor.
When I’m eating out in Dubai, I’m rarely going out just for a good meal as I’ve come to expect that as the minimum return on my well-earned dirhams, instead I am seeking the full experience, from the service, to the venues, to the photo-worthy views, which is why Downtown Dubai seems to be top of my suggested Uber rides! I’ll give you a rundown of my best picks.
One foolproof option that I always recommend to guests in the city, or to those who want to celebrate a special occasion, is At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa. Thanks to its location on the 122nd floor of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the restaurant has that instant wow factor. It’s sleek and elegant, with floor-to-ceiling windows that make the most of the incredible city views. There’s nothing quite like enjoying gourmet cuisine while gazing down at the skyscrapers below, and on a clear day being able to spot the desert dunes and beaches in the distance.
I would definitely recommend booking ahead to make sure that you get a window seat, for the ultimate dining with a view experience. Not only a dinner option, you can also visit for breakfast when skies can be particularly clear, or go for a traditional afternoon tea. It’s also within walking distance of everything the vibrant neighbourhood of Downtown Dubai has to offer, so perfectly placed for exploring after your meal.
While you’re ticking things off your Dubai bucket list, don’t miss out on another Downtown Dubai haunt with exceptional views: Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera. Nothing feels quite as glamorous as getting all dressed up for a pre-show meal in this celebrity chef-fronted restaurant. Instantly recognisable with its sleek, ship-like shape, inspired by the region’s maritime history and traditional dhow boats, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is a chic restaurant where the food is refreshingly unpretentious.
It’s all about high-end, yet down to earth cuisine: think simple dishes that are uniquely prepared with the best possible ingredients. Be sure to try the freshly shucked oysters, one of the chef’s favourites. There’s also a pre-theatre menu and the rooftop terrace is a perfect spot for al fresco sundowners with stunning views of Burj Khalifa.
So that’s the evenings taken care of, but what about the day time? La Serre Bistro is a top choice for a stylish but laid back lunch. It’s one of the best places in Dubai for French cuisine. In the mornings, dine on freshly baked pastries and great coffee – the croissants here are exceptional – while lunch time can be spent lingering over classic French dishes from sole meunière to bœuf bourguignon. La Serre is just a short walk from all the main attractions of Downtown Dubai, including The Dubai Mall, The Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa, but you might be too full after your meal to contemplate anything more strenuous than dessert.
While La Serre feels like a little slice of Europe, Vida Downtown’s other popular hangout, Toko feels like you’ve landed in Asia. The restaurant offers Izakaya-style dining, and anyone who’s travelled to the Far East will probably feel a pang of nostalgia as they tuck into Toko’s authentic menu of Japanese and Chinese food, ranging from crispy duck to all-you-can-eat dim sum. The sleek decor and stylish al fresco dining area makes its a top choice for a night out with a group of friends.
If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, I’d also recommend a visit to Katana. It’s at Address Downtown, and has some of the best views in the city, thanks to its location overlooking Burj Lake and looking up at Burj Khalifa.
The Los Angeles import is apparently a favourite with A-listers, and it’s easy to see why, with its hip yet relaxed vibe. I can’t promise that you’ll spot any celebrities, but you shouldn’t be disappointed by the food, which is a modern twist on traditional Japanese dishes. It’s another good option for a group night out since everything is served sharing plates style with tasty dishes such as yellowtail sashimi, tuna carpaccio and popcorn shrimp, alongside robatayaki-style grilled skewers of wagyu beef and Chilean seabass.
There are also a number of standalone restaurants and coffee shops that literally line Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard. One of my favourites is also The Restaurant at Address Boulevard, which is curated like a penthouse apartment. Without a doubt, every time I come to Downtown Dubai, I am spoilt for choice.
Emma S. is an Dubai resident and an avid traveller and foodie