Read Part 1 here..
- Weslodge. Weslodge surprises with a minimalistic yet extravagant approach to design that whispers elegance and luxury. The sign on the door says “saloon” but it’s the only clear indication to categorize Weslodge this way. The polished look is accented by a museum-like art collection arranged with a personable touch to create the illusion of home. The importance of detail is evident in the shining crystal glasses, exhibition of occasional eccentrics (skull wall decor, central spider chandeliers and a giant orchid on a red velour sofa). In the past year Weslodge diversified their otherwise steak-oriented menu by introducing dishes unavailable anywhere else in Dubai (try Hamachi). If not for dinner, stop by for arguably the best cocktails in Dubai created by award winning resident mixologist Emilio (try peanut butter infused whisky). Ask for Riona to help you with the menu. She is a true expert and a fun soul.
- Hoi An. The Dubai interpretation of Hoi An is very visual with colourful lanterns, framed snapshots of Vietnam, wooden banisters, domesticated palm trees and statues of Buddha. Vibrant lights reflected in panoramic windows add a rather exotic feel to the place. The food is authentic and spiced on demand. Hoi An serves the best pho soup in town and I keep on coming back for a steaming bowl of delicious broth with herbs and chillies on a side.
- Thiptara is the best Thai restaurant in Dubai with the magical views on Dubai Fountains, Dubai Opera and the tallest tower. Like Asado it’s located at the Palace Downtown where luxury exceeds any expectation but stays within the expected price range for Dubai. Chef Nguyen Thanh performs miracles in the kitchen every night managing her team and a very intense wok station. Pair her papaya salad, green chicken curry and everything cooked in a wok with Sauvignon Black or very dry Riesling and you’ll thank me later.
- Waka. Waka has the personality of the amazing chefs who own and run it. Sometimes you can spot them at the bar chatting and mixing Piske Sours, plating a special treat for a guest or showing the Latin moves to the amazed public. The Peruvian theme is noticable all over the place, the food is just incredible and the very relaxed party yet private atmosphere will keep you engaged through the dinner.
- Pierre’s Bistro is a new fine dining restaurant with a lovely easy going atmosphere and magical French contemporarily cuisine designed by Chef Pierre Gagner himself. A wonderful mix of bright and soft interior colours sets an appropriate mood for various areas: exotic lush green lounge with DJ booth, energetic bar sparkling with reflections, spotless chrome kitchen with one transparent wall shared with a hall, lovely terrace and less dramatic but still eccentric salon with macaroon like chairs, cheeky paintings and soft light. Despite the appearance the place is not pretentious in any way and neither is the food. It’s light, innovative and delicious in every bite. The dinner usually starts with a freshly baked baguette and French butter. I love to end my experience with the best apple tart I had in my life (ever!). It’s a must try.
They say life is like a sea of fish, you never know what your going to catch. Well, whenever needed certainty I go to the The Fish House at Dubai Festival City’s Intercontinental Hotel. This cosy restaurant with charming pastel coloured furniture, copper lamps, a school of metallic fishies on the wall, themed décor with an Emirati touch, partly open kitchen with giant counters filled with the catch of the day and a colourful bar in the corner, is a bit idyllic. I loved it!
On arrival the coolest looking crew with top model hair greeted me with dazzling smiles. I smiled in return, boosting my karma with a year’s worth of positivity and followed my host to my table (I always reserve a table even during the week to assure I get the best one in the house). First thing I noticed was the display of today’s catch arranged nicely on giant ice cubes, resembling one at the market (but not fishy). Nothing revealed its speciality except a few ornaments. I loved that!
A weather glitch for the last couple of days delayed the arrival of humid nights and I was so pleased to stretch the springtime by sitting on a beautiful terrace outside. A cool breeze gently rushed out every time sliding doors opened or closed adding an extra pleasant feeling to the experience, and when I thought it was time to order a show had started. The show was a mix of visual and vocal extravaganza, which created the atmosphere of a Wonderland on the waterfront. It was also a perfect background for all related Instagram photography and stories. I loved that! After a quick consultation with Daria, who immediately impressed me with soft communication skills but very sharp service, I knew what I wanted. “Grilled octopus, shrimp cocktail, sea bass cooked in a coat of salt and arguably a dessert,” I announced my selection in less than 30 seconds and slouched in the chair in anticipation of a deliciously relaxing evening. A few minutes later when starters arrived following a complimentary dish of incredible fried sardines, I loved what I saw!The sardines were rich and crunchy. A very generous serving of a grilled smoky octopus paired with delicately sweet pumpkin puree could easily pass for a main course, as could the shrimp cocktail. Shrimps ranging from tiny to giant were served soaked in a horseradish sauce and sprinkled with crunchy bits and a few extras on the side.
Done with appetisers, I anxiously awaited my sea bass. Daria rolled it in on a big open cart and the next couple of minutes were well spent watching my fish being striped off its coat and bones. What a great delicacy it was; tender and fragrant. Feeling pleasantly full, I still craved something sweet and what followed had greatly surprised my taste buds and me. Intrigued? Ask Daria :)
Last month the largest shopping mall in the world got a little bigger, introducing a beautifully designed addition of retail, walking areas, lounges, glass roof with the famous Burj Khalifa peeping through, well-fitted curiosity objects and restaurants facing the Dubai fountain (another must-see). During my recent stroll between shops I discovered the gem of the hidden gems, Cova.A landmark on its own, Cova first appeared in Milan at the beginning of 19thcentury; soon transforming into a place to see and be seen. With irresistible aromas of freshly baked pastry mixed with intense espresso, Cova immediately won hearts and minds. While many went in in expectation of exceptional delicacies, others fell in love with Cova’s elegant design accented by a bit of a sparkle from their crystal chandeliers and decorative glass. Forced to relocate following the WWII, Cova sustained the ambiance of aristocratic luxury and delicious recipes being once again the destination for a stylish dining experience. No wonder Downtown Fashion Avenue in the trendiest shopping district was selected for Dubai’s flagship.Designed to resemble the original location, with prevalent classic oak furniture adorned with branded dark blue and gold, Cova Dubai is so Milanese. As I walked through the restaurant (my tongue refuses to call Cova a café), a feeling of glorious heritage kicked in, adding a rare emotion: “Look, this place has a past” as opposed to the usual “shine bright like a diamond” local interiors.
While I debated with the rising sun if the weather would permit us to sit outdoors, my waiter gently placed a well-printed menu of the closest to the window table and gently pushed a chair out for me. If only all decisions were that easy!The lunch rush was ending and I witnessed a transformation from super buzzy to stylishly reserved. Only a few were leaving empty handed, many opted to carry a little box of Cova’s chocolates or delicate looking cakes. I turned my head to the menu hoping for a serving of creamy burrata. My habit of reviewing online menus prior to a visit always pays off.
Once settled in a very comfortable chair, probably one of the best restaurant chairs in Dubai, I suddenly felt very hungry; a result of watching the tables around me. A few sips of sparkling water helped and I occupied my mind with the upcoming order. The burrata was accompanied by beautifully sliced veggies and left me happy. It was sweet, creamy and as delicious as I imagined it to be. My penne in pink sauce, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan was excellent in its simplicity. The veal Milanese, coated in crunchy bits, was very tender and accompanied by a side dish of finely chopped ratatouille a la Provençale.
What followed was a trip to the terrace and a cup of coffee in a special Cova cup paired with the best tiramisu in the city. Come and try for yourself!
La Mer, a beautiful “Arabian coastal chic” neighbourhood spread across the beginning of Jumeirah beach is turning into everyone’s favourite hangout. Delightfully diverse in every aspect, it’s a place to witness cultures of the world mixing together and carrying their own identity. Cheerful crowds in colourful swimwear coexist with locals dressed in traditional outfits sipping tea on Persian carpets. With free parking, Wi-Fi, outdoor showers, street art at every corner, plenty of attractions open and a few more on the way, every visit to La Mer is an exciting discovery. For me things got super exciting when I’ve discovered Masti, where sunset cocktails are no longer a dream.
The first time I heard of Masti was from one of the restaurateurs. “How intriguing,” I thought. It is not common for competitors to speak highly of another business, or insist with a little glimpse of naughtiness that I must check it out immediately (in fairness the conversation took place as I typed my pin code). “Are they open now?” I wondered. The response startled me: “Be there after five”. Obviously overwhelming curiosity won, bringing me there at 5 o’clock sharp, thirsty for a new experience.
Masti translates as “fun and mischief”, a concept that appeals to all sort of cool folks: millennials, hipsters, Instagram stars, desperate housewives, startuppers and “seen it all” DIFC girlz and boyz (these are the categories that popped up first in my head). The restaurant’s approach of blurring limits applies to everything you see, hear, touch or taste. Being the first (and only at the moment) licensed restaurant at La Mer, they are obliged to experiment and amaze.
Extraordinary, but fact: the restaurant with a “license to pour” is not a part of a hotel, but a completely independent establishment at the South side of La Mer. The existence of Masti is a fantastic occurrence on its own, inaugurating a new era in UAE food and beverage business, and paired with some pretty awesome cocktails is an offer one cannot simply miss. The the restaurant consists of two levels, with drinks served after 5pm on the first floor and their fantastic upper terrace overlooking the beach and the Downtown.
While many may stop to sip the night away, Masti is definitely not just a pretty lounge with epic cocktails. The majority of dishes on the menu represent the change in dining happening all over the globe. Set as Indian Fusion cuisine, the restaurant breaks all obvious stereotypes and expectations by offering food that exists nowhere else. Have you ever tried any of the following: naan pizza with burrata and butter chicken, tuna tartar mixed with crunchy puffed rice, caved in a shell of unsweetened sugar, smoky lamb croquettes with a side of chopped sweet onions, lotus cookie tiramisu in a pool of saffron or a mysterious sounding dessert called “raspberry rose”?
For two years City Walk has been the hottest neighbourhood in Dubai, immensely popular among locals and especially charming at night. It’s unsurprisingly the result hard work and smart marketing. Free, spacious underground and outdoor parking, edgy design, futuristic lightening, street art and a rare opportunity to explore places on foot contributes to City Walk’s fame. However, only a few had enough time and patience to discover the hidden gems of this district. One of them is incredible Turkish restaurant that serves freshly baked bread and out of the world Bakhlava (Babaji). Only a few days ago I discovered that a glass of red is not taboo at City Walk either.
To be honest, Lima, a new Peruvian restaurant is slightly off he beaten path. That’s why I produly call it “a hidden gem of City Walk”. Reach the square and the head towards Al Wasl street checking places on your left. Once you spot a few steps leading up, you are probably on the right path. Google maps are extremely helpful.
The first thing you’ll notice is lush greenery. Lima’s cosy outdoor terrace is covered in plants and bushes, creating the feeling of a little oasis in the center of urban Dubai. Step in and be surprised once again by the warmth and authenticity. Expect smiles reaching out to you from every corner.
I started my night at Lima on the first floor, right at the bar where Max and Luis were creating the best traditional Pisco Sour I’ve had in my life. Mixing bartending and story telling, Luis conveyed me of fables of past and present, and in a few minutes I was very aware of Peruvian dining rituals. Equipped with a drink I lost myself to the Latin tunes, nestling in a cosy hanging chair made of wood. The DJ’s booth at the opposite corner was barely noticeable but his work pushed my soul to dance.
An hour later, all set with aperitifs, I made my way to the cevicheria, placed in a way that all cooking magic would be visible from anywhere at Lima. While I watched salmon being gently sliced, chef Diego Sanchez has appeared at the counter and I couldn’t resist but speak to him. Quick and very very charming, he talked me through the variety of ceviche dishes served at Lima and his passion to tweak traditional recipes introducing new flavours and tastes. A challenging task in Dubai, he thought. A big fan of a change I quietly disagreed, because only a silly girl would argue with a great chef while he is cooking for her.
Chef Diego Sanchez started when he was just 17, a fact recognized by me as a huge achievement. With a little candid smile and eyes sparkling with passion, he immediately wins over his guests, capturing respect and attention. His charm continue with the taste of his dishes, perfected to the ultimate beauty in taste and presentation. I couldn’t stop applauding every time he appeared from the kitchen, adding a fantastic touch to the whole dining experience.
This landmark villa on Jumeirah Road is a magnificent white castle neighbouring Kite Beach on one side and Jumeirah Public Beach on the other. Complimentary valet parking assures your trip to Chateau Blanc will be a stress-free.
Started by Chef Lal De Silva in Indonesia, the brand expanded to the Middle East and transformed into Chateau Blanc, a family run business. With a fully operational kitchen, elevator and a fantastic sky view terrace with reclining roof, Chateau Blanc has stepped outside the boundaries of the fanciest French patisseries.
The ground floor of the villa features panoramic windows, comfy sofas, shelves with house-made goodies and hand painted wall art. Murals resemble the facades of Vienna, Paris, Florence, Venice, St. Petersburg and a few more places around the world known for Baroque architecture. Baroque motives spread across the vast array of pastry, artisanal chocolates, 3D cupcakes and “decorated to serve” cakes.
All desserts are crafted from the finest ingredients and traditions. To preserve the quality, all cakes to order are decorated a few minutes prior to serving or delivering.
The last floor of the villa is a newly opened terrace to enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea or snacks and fragrant shisha in the evening. There is a bar, non-licensed but nonetheless busy, mixing signature drinks, juice, smoothies and fruit mocktails.
Have you heard of the ancient town of Hoi An? Referred to as the Venice of Vietnam, with its narrow water canals, it was once the crossroads of the spice trade. Hoi An now is loved for oriental architecture influenced by the neighbouring countries Japan, China and Indonesia. Today the city has developed into a popular tourist destination, opening its streets, temples and local businesses to the curious eyes of the world. To experience Hoi An in its brilliant glory, arrive when during a full moon which adds mystery to the local night scene, where hanging lanterns shine to their brightest and the streets are overwhelmed with buzz and flavours… You can imagine my excitement when I discovered a little replica of Hoi An in Dubai, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel.
The drive to Shangri-La on Sheikh Zayed Road is busy in all directions with Thusday partygoers. But! Curiousity is a strange thing, particularly when fed by hunger. I patiently navigated the traffic, craving authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Complimentary valet parking at Shangri-La was a nice reward for an hour of hustle, and in a perfectly fine mood I walked into the warm welcoming lights of Hoi An.
The Dubai interpretation of Hoi An was very visual with colourful lanterns, framed snapshots of Vietnam, wooden banisters, domesticated palm trees and statues of Buddha. Vibrant lights reflected in panoramic windows looked rather exotic. A little candle sparkling through the petals of a textile lotus added an oriental feel to the table.
A hot towel scented with invigorating jasmine stole my heart, and a serving of crunchy Asian crackers with a side of sweet chilly sauce, my full attention. Without further hesitation I started my food journey with a cup of green jasmine tea served in an emerald-green kettle, which was poured for me with traditional gentleness. A quick look through the menu reassured I was at the right place.
I decided to leave my appetite in the hands of beautiful Vietnamese servers April and Tam, who passionately mixed dish descriptions with anecdotes. I giggled happily, feeling as I was right in the middle of the midnight city chatting over a cup of tea with new friends. My amuse-bouche was a piece of boneless chicken steamed and seared on a pan and then topped with a yellow flower. Spiced mildly for my complicated taste, it signaled a desire to popularize traditional Vietnamese cuisine by introducing it to a wider audience. Not everyone is a crazy chilly monster like I am.
I started dinner with a selection of appetizers placed around a spicy house-made sauce. My main course consisted of baby chicken, giant shrimp and a delicious fish, tender inside and crispy out. All food was prepared using traditional techniques modernized to European taste.
The best part of my evening was a bowl of pho soup with herbs, sauces and fresh chilies on the side. I spiced up my pho to the maximum with as many chillis as possible. What a delight!
Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.
“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.
In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.
When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.
Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.
Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.