Dubai has become a popular destination for celebrity chefs looking to expand into new cities. At the same time, the local restaurant scene has been exploding with homegrown food outlets, creating new concepts and merging international and local flavours. Vision explores some of the most successful cafes created in this multicultural city.
Baker and Spice
Over the years, Baker and Spice has expanded into a chain of four outlets in Dubai, and is known for its casual atmosphere, freshly baked pastries and delicious salads and homemade-style dishes. This is the place to go for Dubai’s best Shakshuka, a North African dish made of eggs that have been poached in a slow-cooked, spiced tomato sauce. The dish is meant to be shared between two people and is served with fresh country bread.
At GolosItalia, 80 per cent of the customers are Italian and 90 per cent of the raw material used in the kitchen is sourced from Italy. Looking for a taste of authentic Italian coffee and pastry at a reasonable price in Dubai? This is it.
Sebastiano Maio, one of the founders, left a job as a pastry chef in Sicily to set up the cafe, seeking to bring something “real Italian” to the emirate. After a bumpy start, the place developed a loyal following. “We are famous for our pastry and here you get both quality and a good price,” says Maio. “We now have an Italian chef who’s very good and we are growing.”
Treat yourself to a cornetto – the Italian version of the French croissant – stuffed with nutella, cream or jam, with a steaming café latte. Otherwise, the tiramisu in tiny edible chocolate cups is divine.
La Serre Brasserie
Located in Vida, a boutique hotel in Downtown Dubai, La Serre is divided into two parts, a bistro and boulangerie. The boulangerie is casual yet chic, and the decor is not the only French thing about it. It’s hard to resist the French-style pastries and desserts, let alone a main dish prepared with fresh ingredients by Chef Izu Ani, who helped start a branch of upscale restaurant Le Petit Maison in Dubai.
A café as well as retail store, Comptoir 102 is not your typical food outlet. Started in 2012 by Parisians Emmanuelle Sawko and Alexandra de Montaudouin, it has become known for both its healthy organic food and concept store, which sells items ranging from furniture and funky lighting to jewellery and fashion collected from around the world. Located in a redesigned villa on Jumeirah Beach Road, just a step away from the beach, Comptoir’s chef prepares healthy and delicious meals and desserts that are often dairy, gluten and sugar-free.
Tom and Serg
Tom and Serg was founded by Australian chef Tom Arnel and Spanish businessman Sergio Lopez. This bustling two-storey café just off Dubai’s main highway has proved a great success among the city’s residents. Head there for an excellent cup of coffee or a spot of breakfast or lunch. You won’t find a 10-page menu, but their selection of delicious, heartwarming dishes has an irresistible appeal.
While food trucks have become common in many parts of the world, the concept only made it to Dubai recently, thanks to duo Amal Al Marri and Deem Albassam. The joint has become popular with locals and tourists frequenting Jumeirah’s bustling Kite Beach. While SALT is famous for its burgers and secret sauce that’s made with 15 ingredients, its fresh ice cream is a must have.
The Hamptons Café
This family-run café in a converted villa on Jumeirah Beach Road opened in spring 2014 by Khalid Hussain, who wanted to bring delicious baked goods and quality coffee to the neighborhood. He’s been able to do so successfully. The menu is varied, and relies on using simple cooking with natural ingredients that are fresh and locally sourced. Whether you try the fresh salads, sandwiches or main courses you won’t be disappointed. The dessert menu is something else, with a wide selection of cakes, tarts, viennoiserie, and macarons. For a real treat, check out the sticky date pudding topped with vanilla ice cream.
Looking for a taste of the Middle East in a modern setting? Check out Nofara Café in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers district. Nofara prides itself on its coffee, with a number of organic options and its own blend of Monsoon Malabar and Ethiopian Sidamo roasted in-house. The food combines traditional Middle Eastern recipes with international ones, creating a unique taste. For instance, take a typical Italian burratta cheese, place it on a bed of pomegranate seeds, alongside molasses marinated aubergines, and you’ve got your Nofara starter. Another signature dish is the Nofara Famous Moussaka, prepared with minced lamb, aubergine, tomato, chickpeas and Parmesan.
Omnia Gourmet is celebrity chef Silvena Rowe’s first venture into Dubai. Nestled in the heart of the charming Jumeirah Fishing Village, this café prepares healthy and delicious dishes made with locally-sourced and organic ingredients. The menu is almost entirely gluten-free, and has a wide variety of delightful desserts that are raw and free from sugar, gluten, dairy, while also paleo and vegan. Pick from the fresh daily dishes and enjoy one or two small desserts along with Omnia’s signature hot drink of ginger, orange and honey.
Nestled in the older part of town, in Oud Metha, Tea Junction is any tea lover’s dream. Its menu includes more than 30 different varieties of tea served hot and cold, ranging from creative chai blends to classics. Try the Wild Arabian tea blend, a combination of Kashmiri tea, mint and orange juice. The menu also includes snacks and home-cooked meals. Want to make an evening of it? Enjoy your tea with friends and grab one of the different games, from Scrabble, Jenga chess, dominoes and Uno, available for customers.