This fine-dining venue set in the heart of Old Dubai offers a contemporary twist on traditional flavours in both its subtle aesthetic – think sand-inspired colours and a jute-draped Ghaf tree centre piece – and its menu.
As well as classics such as samak (fish in gravy with spiced rice), the selection of dishes imaginatively combines indigenous ingredients with European cooking and presentation techniques. The space also boasts a separate lounge area.
Try: Poached Arabian lobster with herbed pilaf, pureed peas and fennel salad
Located in one of Dubai’s funkiest strip malls, Boxpark, this casual café serves up authentic Khaleeji cuisine (food from the GCC region).
The fresh, modern environment is perfect for tucking into everything from breakfast specialties such as chebab (Emirati pancakes), and khameer (flatbreads served with date syrup and cheese) to heartier dishes such as Emirati-style chicken and rice.
Lunch options include salads, signature sandwiches and that quintessentially Emirati dessert, luqaimat – sweet, crunchy dumplings best washed down with a cup of karak chai (milky tea).
Try: Balaleet – Logma’s version features sweet vermicelli with a saffron-spiced omelette
Paying homage to the seven emirates in both its name and the Arabesque décor, this elegant restaurant enjoys a prime waterfront location in Jumeirah Beach Residence. Traditional dishes are brought bang up to date with a lighter touch and a dash of creative flair, although serving sizes stay true to their roots…they’re generous!
After a hearty spread, head upstairs to the spacious terrace for a cup of tea while taking in the beach views.
Try: Aishu laham – the rice-based dish features slow-cooked lamb, flavoured with dried lime and saffron
With several outlets dotted across the UAE, this immersive restaurant offers a faithful recreation of old-world Arabia with rustic-style decor – complete with traditional wind-tower design, vintage lanterns and life-size Bedouin statues.
Try: Grilled saffron prawns
Located in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is a great place to sample the full variety of authentic Emirati cuisine while learning about the local culture at the same time.
Through its regular program of tours and lectures, visitors can tuck into breakfast, lunch or dinner while relaxing on the cushioned floor in the courtyard of the centre’s beautiful merchant house. Dishes are prepared using age-old recipes, thus preserving the traditions and customs of the Bedouin meal.
Try: Traditional Arabic coffee
Nestled along the slick promenades of City Walk, B’dou is a culinary gem. Inspired by the rich heritage of the nation, the cafe serves up a unique fusion of Emirati flavours. This all-day haven has it all. Try the delicious breakfast balaleet rolls – saffron-infused vermicelli rolls with fresh eggs – or feast on the signature rice-based lamb shank machboos.
The setting is just as inspiring as the food with large murals of Arabian horses, traditional coffee pots and chic majlis-style seating.
Try: Luqaimat – sticky sweet dumplings, drizzled with date syrup
A spin-off of Al Fanar, which is also featured on this list, Treej Café is dedicated to expanding the landscape of local cuisine. Under the slogan ‘Emirati and beyond’, this youthful restaurant at La Mer marries traditional recipes with contemporary ingredients to capture the essence of the ever-evolving nation.
Try: A spicy serving of fouga deyay – a rice dish with grilled chicken marinated in Emirati spices
Sikka Café embodies a rich legacy of the United Arab Emirates, connecting its pearl diving history to its modern cosmopolitanism via taste. Its expansive menu boasts a mélange of local, Indian and Persian cuisines, celebrating flavours loved by Emiratis for over 100 years. The eclectic menu, buzzing atmosphere and trendy location make this a sure-win destination for explorative foodies.
Try: The royal tandoori platter, which is piled high with succulent grilled kebabs