Middle East's 20 hottest new restaurants

Its getting crowded in the F&B scene in the Middle East, and there have been a number of openings over the last few months, with many more to come. In light of these launches, Caterer Middle East magazine picks its 20 favourite new outlets.
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It’s getting crowded in the F&B scene in the Middle East, and there have been a number of openings over the last few months, with many more to come. In light of these launches, Caterer Middle East magazine picks its 20 favourite new outlets. (Above photo is of Jumeirah Zabeel Saray's new Royale Brunch)
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1. Thai

\nYou can find it in ... The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa.
\nIt opened in ... June 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Pan-Asian with accents on Thai and sushi.
\nThe head chef is ... Rerkden Paensurin.
\nThe concept is all about ... a casual lounge and bar.
\nThe interior designer is ... MasMardi Architects.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 34 indoors and over 80 people on cabanas and sunbeds.
\nIts USPs include ... floor-to-ceiling glass walls, which offer views of the ocean and the hotel’s grounds, focus on authentic flavours, the pool area with a DJ spinning tunes at night, and colourful décor.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the suphanahong that serves as a bar is a sight to behold, and during a recent visit we noticed the restaurant grows most of its own herbs (including Thai basil) in its garden.
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2. Mayrig

\nYou can find it in ... Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai — where over 50 new outlets have opened.
\nIt opened in ... August 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Armenian.
\nThe head chef is ... Leba Makhoul.
\nThe concept is all about ... being the local outpost of the famous Armenian restaurant from Beirut, serving hearty, traditional Armenian food with recipes passed down through the generations.
\nThe interior designer is ... Sandra Maacaron.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 220 people.
\nIts USPs include ... authentic, vibrant Armenian cuisine, home-made dishes, traditional setting, grandmas full-of-love recipes.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the interiors which have been decorated to give an authentic feel of a traditional Armenian home highlighted in rich jewel tones and plush fabrics.
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3. La Serre Boulangerie & Bistro

\nYou can find it in ... Vida Downtown Dubai.
\nIt opened in ... August 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... French Mediterranean.
\nThe head chef is ... Izu Ani.
\nThe concept is all about ... an authentic French boulangerie downstairs and modern bistro upstairs.
\nThe interior designer is ... Bishop Design Associates.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 136 in the boulangerie; 140 in the bistro; and the bar seats 10.
\nIts USPs include ... the chef’s table adjoining the kitchen, artwork from XVA Gallery showcasing artists from the Middle East, Britain and Myanmar, the bistro and chic cocktail bar.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the fact that early-risers can enjoy the first batch of homemade breads and pastries still warm from the oven as early as 6.30am — the head baker arrives at the venue at 3am and works until dawn to bake baguettes, pain au chocolat and an assortment of croissants from scratch.
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4. Izel

\nYou can find it in ... Conrad Dubai.
\nIt opened in ... October 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Latin American.
\nThe head chef is ... Luis Del Hoyo.
\nThe concept is all about ... Latin American supper club bringing to life the vibrant history of Latin American culture from the live beats of Latino bands, to the smoky flavours of the cigar humidor and the taste of authentic and delicious dishes and cocktails.
\nThe interior designer is ... WA International.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 300 in the lounge; 150 in the restaurant; and 20 in the humidor.
\nIts USPs include ... live Latin American music, one of the UAE’s largest cigar humidors with a sommelier and authentic, and delicious Latin American dishes and cocktails.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the dramatic interiors, with Mayan and Aztec-inspired murals and décor, plus the venue really comes alive once the band starts performing.
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5. Jamie’s Italian

\nYou can find it in ... Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai.
\nIt opened in ... October 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Traditional Italian.
\nThe head chef is ... Abs Patil.
\nThe concept is all about ... a partnership between Jamie Oliver and his Italian mentor, chef Gennaro Contaldo; the family-friendly restaurant offers dishes you would find people eating all over Italy.
\nThe interior designer is ... Black Sheep.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 249 people.
\nIts USPs include ... a stunning terrace overlooking Burj Al Arab, open kitchen, antipasti kitchen, and an entrance market place selling Jamie Oliver merchandise.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the venue staying true to other Jamie’s Italian restaurants, with the Jumeirah Beach Hotel venue featuring quirky twists to its five-star location with its rustic décor and bright, open space.
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6. Yuan

\nYou can find it in ... Atlantis, The Palm.
\nIt opened in ... October 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Chinese.
\nThe head chef is ... Jeff Tan.
\nThe concept is all about ... a blend of traditional Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine and culture, bringing together the fiery and diverse flavours of the Sichuan province, served in a distinctively modern style.
\nThe interior designer is ... Steve Leung.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 120.
\nIts USPs include ... Szechuan cuisine, which isn’t found as often in Dubai. The restaurant offers three separate dining areas — the Oriental Inner Courtyard, designed using Chinese elements of harmony and balance, the Principal House, where the scenes of nature and warm interiors are reminiscent of dining halls built for Chinese nobility, and a private dining room.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the design which mirrors a Siheyuan —a traditional Chinese house — while each dining area has its own distinctive style.
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7. Story Rooftop Lounge

\nYou can find it in ... Holiday Inn Express, Dubai Media City.
\nIt opened in ... October 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Peruvian.
\nThe head chef is ... Angelica Espinosa.
\nThe concept is all about ... an everyday space for intimate experiences with friends and new encounters with like-minded people. Story Rooftop Lounge provides a picturesque setting for after work drinks and starlit nights, at a terrace venue with unparalleled panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf and Dubai’s skyline from sunset to 3am.
\nThe interior designer is ... Prospect Designs.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 250 people.
\nIts USPs include ... laid back through to upbeat entertainment from DJs, while being served all your favorite drinks and cocktails alongside a modern Nikkei menu that incorporates an after work aperitivo with an assortment of fresh tastes.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... its convenient location for professionals in Dubai Media City and Tecom area to unwind, while the Peruvian menu has made us curious.
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8. Koi

\nYou can find it in ... The Collection, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.
\nIt opened in ... October 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... contemporary Japanese.
\nThe head chef is ... Sang Lee.
\nThe concept is all about ... imaginative dishes inspired by traditional Japanese preparations, then deconstructed and infused with modern California accents.
\nThe interior designer is ... Bishop Design Associates.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 100 in the dining area, 45 in the lounge, and 14 in the private dining room.
\nIts USPs include ... a 700m2 venue, a dedicated sushi bar, cocktail lounge and terraces for outdoor dining. The design features include fire and water elements at the entrance, a variety of funky seating options for pre-dinner drinks or casual dining, and a bamboo wall that divides the lounge and restaurant.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the semi-open nature of the restaurant, which seems to merge smoothly into the outside of the venue.
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9. Mekong

\nYou can find it in ... Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa.
\nIt opened in ... October 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Thai with hints of Chinese and Vietnamese influences.
\nThe head chef is ... Piroon Pumicone.
\nThe concept is all about ... being based on the river Mekong — the restaurant takes guests on a culinary journey through Thailand, China and Vietnam.
\nThe interior designer is ... Stickman Tribe.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 144 people.
\nIts USPs include ... guests being instantly transported to Asia as they hitch a ride on a tuk tuk before entering the distinctively designed restaurant, where a giant, ferocious tiger greets diners on arrival.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the traditional rickshaw seating and the décor, which conjures up pictures of quaint riverside towns.
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10. Tom & Serg

\nYou can find it in ... Joud Centre, Al Quoz.
\nIt opened in ... November 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Modern Australian café food served for breakfast and lunch. Think homemade, light, colourful and adventurous dishes which are well-balanced. Think lamb, quinoa and carrot slaw with feta, cranberries, almonds and pomegranate dressing.
\nThe head chef is ... Tom Arnel, who is also the co-owner.
\nThe concept is all about ... providing the people of Dubai something they can relate to with a bit of face and personality for breakfast and lunch. The food and coffee menu is simple and short, yet precise.
\nThe interior designer is ... London-based firm H2R.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 200 people.
\nIts USPs include ... honesty and transparency. Its customers know exactly who the owners Tom and Serg are. The owners are two young guys having a go at something because they are passionate about it.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the space it’s housed in. A warehouse showroom, the interiors are minimalist and indeed, the owners said it reflected “a sort of rebellion against the big money franchises” and said the design is inspired by the Melbourne minimalist café movement.
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11. Paper Moon

\nYou can find it in ... Al Jaidah Square, Doha.
\nIt opened in ... November 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Italian.
\nThe head chef is ... Fabrizio De Togni.
\nThe concept is all about ... delivering trademark Italian par excellence in food and service.
\nThe interior designer is ... United Designers of London.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 180 inside and 56 on the terrace.
\nIts USPs include ... using the freshest seasonal ingredients, with Italian-inspired furniture and equipment that perfectly complements the overall Italian dining experience.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... a shaded terrace located in a brand-new, seven-storey, state-of-the-art, environment-friendly and efficient commercial landmark.
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12. Iris

\nYou can find it in ... Oberoi Dubai.
\nIt opened in ... December 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... contemporary Mediterranean inspired food.
\nThe head chef is ... Olivier Dechaise.
\nThe concept is all about ... combining elements of both an upscale restaurant and trendy lounge. Following its success in Beirut, Iris Dubai hopes to stand out as an open-air city retreat offering guests a relaxed ambience in a refined setting.
\nThe interior designer is ... Suzanne Nasr.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 250 people.
\nIts USPs include ... a rooftop experience with modern food and beverage menus, while live bands and a resident DJ keep guests entertained.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the unobstructed view of the Burj Khalifa and panoramic views of Sheikh Zayed Road. The informal seating arrangements create a laid back vibe at the business hotel.
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13. Eataly

\nYou can find it in ... Dubai Mall.
\nIt opened in ... December 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Italian.
\nThe head chef is ... Hadi Al Awar.
\nThe concept is all about ... an Italian market, where they cook what they sell, and they sell what they cook.
\nThe interior designer is ... from Eataly in Italy!
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 350 people.
\nIts USPs include ... its pastas and pizza — which are also the venue’s best-selling items.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... in addition to the imported cheese, diners can find scamorza cheese made in-house and presented in an area where each ball hangs from the ceiling.
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14. Maison Mathis

\nYou can find it in ... Arabian Ranches.
\nIt opened in ... December 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... dishes from the heart of Europe, with a Belgian influence reflected in the menu.
\nThe head chef is ... Paul De Visser.
\nThe concept is all about ... Belgian all-day dining. Maison Mathis is the first location in the Middle East for the concept, and its vision is an honest reflection of the local food culture in Belgium — simple and fresh with a love of quality ingredients.
\nThe interior designer is ... Creneau International.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 300 people.
\nIts USPs include ... all day dining in its fully-licensed restaurant. Bread is at the heart of the menu, with an on-site bakery providing the freshest bread, cakes and pastries throughout the day. The vast outdoor terrace overlooks the ninth hole of the Arabian Ranches Golf Course, giving a view to match the delicious dishes.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... its breakfast of Pain Perdu, patisseries and Belgian waffles every morning from 7am.
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15. Katsuya by Starck

\nYou can find it in ... Dubai Mall.
\nIt opened in ... December 2013.
\nThe cuisine is ... Japanese.
\nThe head chef is ... Gerard Ruvira.
\nThe concept is all about ... delivering authentic Japanese cuisine, in a stylish and trendy environment.
\nThe interior designer is ... Philippe Starck.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 240 people.
\nIts USPs include ... the stylishly designed interiors by design impresario Philippe Starck, direct views of the Dubai Fountain at the base of the Burj Khalifa, an authentic Japanese menu created by master chef Katsuya Uechi, and an extensive mocktail menu.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the central live sushi station. We love how it’s the first thing you see when you enter the restaurant and watch the chefs chopping away.
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16. GQ Bar

\nYou can find it in ... JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.
\nIt opened in ... January 2014.
\nThe cuisine is ... international.
\nThe head chef is ... Portuguese-born Bruno Carvalho.
\nThe concept is all about ... bringing the GQ brand to life through slick and stylish spaces with modern, stylish and tasteful décor. It is the quintessential meeting place for people to enjoy social drinks and entertain professional guests.
\nThe interior designer is ... Bash Hesnef.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 70 in the restaurant, with a total venue capacity of 450 people.
\nIts USPs include ... just the right amount of style and luxury without any pretentiousness. The bar also brings the trend-setting, fashion-forward element of the GQ brand to the venue. The second floor features a brass-finished product display adorned by luxury functional items coveted by the GQ man.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... stand out dishes including scallops with black truffle and mascarpone gratin; sea bass with black quinoa, roasted baby leeks and celeriac purée; beef fillet with spinach esparregado and porto sauce; truffle french fries; and The Funky GQ Bar Sundae.
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17. Sapori di bice

\nYou can find it in ... Citywalk Mall, Dubai.
\nIt opened in ... January 2014.
\nThe cuisine is ... authentic Italian cuisine, with a range of organic and gluten free options.
\nThe head chef is ... Roberto Pagni, who heads up a full Italian culinary team to create authentic dishes.
\nThe concept is all about ... embracing the brand’s original ‘trattoria’ spirit, with Sapori di BiCE offering casual chic dining, with a focus on farm-to-table dishes.
\nThe interior designer is ... BiCE International team.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 120 indoors and 120 outdoors.
\nIts USPs include ... an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, live cooking stations with an open rotisserie and wood burning ovens. In addition, a dedicated children’s menu and activities are also available. A set of steps for children allow little ones to create their own pizzas in different shapes at the main counter. It also features 10 flavours of gelato made fresh daily. The new outlet, which is an all day dining venue, marks a return to BiCE’s original roots and dining philosophy. It is the latest concept to be introduced by the BiCE restaurants and marks the group’s newest entry into the casual dining world.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... a 100-year-old olive tree trunk which forms the eye-catching centrepiece of an indoor “social table” which can seat up to 10 guests.
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18. Cielos Tapas Bar & Lounge

\nYou can find it in ... Dubai Creek Yacht Club.
\nIt opened in ... January 2014.
\nThe cuisine is ... Spanish and tapas.
\nThe concept is all about ... a two-floor Spanish-themed tapas bar and sky-lounge overlooking the Creek featuring a Bodega-style restaurant, chic roof terrace, live music and sports. The tapas bar will feature a DJ playing Latin music, live sports, as well as live performances on offer from Flamenco dancers.
\nThe interior designer is ... Prospect Design International.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 220 in the tapas bar, and 400 in the sky lounge.
\nIts USPs include ... the amazing view and sunset. The venue combines both food and somewhere to party which is great for the fashionable crowd in Dubai. The tapas food and rustic chic ambience makes it the new go-to Spanish restaurant and bar.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the menu, which has dishes from across Spain but with a special focus on Andalucia. Examples of what diners can find include pulpo Gallega, grilled squid ‘Pulpo e Feria’ Mediterranean octopus, and ‘Tostada de Sobrassada de Mallorca’ toasted rustic bread served with Sobrassada, honey and melted cheese to name a few.
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19. Choix Patisserie & Restaurant Par Pierre Gagnaire

\nYou can find it in ... InterContinental Dubai Festival City.
\nIt will open in ... March 2014.
\nThe cuisine is ... French.
\nThe head chef is ... Olivier Biles.
\nThe concept is all about ... French patisserie and restaurant.
\nThe interior designer is ... Kristina Zanic.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 140 people.
\nIts USPs include ... Choix is a home-grown brand and the first of its kind in the UAE for multi-Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire. It offers a myriad of choices of French pastries with a modern twist, an evolving menu featuring seasonal French products, and the finest cakes reflecting the quality of world-renowned Chef Pierre Gagnaire.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the restaurant’s afternoon tea, which combines Middle Eastern elements such as camel milk entremets with French classics such as éclairs and macaroons.
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20. Stratos

\nYou can find it in ... Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi.
\nIt will open in ... April 2014.
\nThe cuisine is ... international.
\nThe head chef is ... Uditha Iroshan Wijewaradana.
\nThe concept is all about ... a high-end lounge bar and grill. Stratos is envisioned to become ‘the place to be’ in the capital where affluent guests gather to have a refined culinary experience.
\nThe interior designer is ... LW Design.
\nThe venue can seat a total of ... 120 people.
\nIts USPs include ... being the only licensed revolving lounge bar and grill in the capital when it opens in April. The restaurant will serve a selection of premium beverages paired with quick bites and snacks as well as the finest seafood and beef charcoal-grilled.
\nWhat caught Caterer’s eye was ... the interiors. When Caterer spoke to executive chef Justin Galea, he compared the restaurant to “something out of a Bond movie” and we couldn’t agree more — the 360-degree views of the capital will be a big draw for the restaurant.