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\n\nThis 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. \nAs 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.
\n\nTry: Poached Arabian lobster with herbed pilaf, pureed peas and fennel salad
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\n\nLocated in one of Dubai’s funkiest strip malls, Boxpark, this casual café serves up authentic Khaleeji cuisine (food from the GCC region). \nThe 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.\nLunch 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)
\n\nTry: Balaleet: sweet vermicelli with saffron omelette
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\n\nPaying 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.
\n\nTry: Aishu laham: rice and slow-cooked lamb, flavoured with dried lime and saffron
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\n\nRecently reopened after a refurbishment, this cosy Jumeirah café is where you’ll find modern Dubai on a plate thanks to the funky fusion dishes on offer. Stuffed parathas, for instance, reflect the popularity of this Indian flatbread among Emiratis and residents. Other examples include the Jumeirah khameer sandwich (Emirati bread with marinated chicken) and achar pasta (pasta with pickle). If this is too adventurous, you’ll find more traditional favourites on the menu alongside delectable desserts, milkshakes – which locals love – and specially brewed coffees.
\n\nTry: Baith al tamait: fresh scrambled eggs with tomatoes and parsley
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\n\nDubai Festival City
\n\nWith 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. With a varied menu to match, featuring Emirati classics such as balalit (sweet noodles) and jesheed (baby shark with Arabic spices), Al Fanar offers a quintessential Arabic dining experience.
\n\nTry: Shorbat adas: lentil soup
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\n\nSouk Al Bahar
\n\nImposing arches, Arabic calligraphy and horse sculptures all come together to evoke an Arabian Nights-style ambience at this Downtown venue. The food is a modern reimagining of Emirati-Levantine flavours, from the warm date and kale salad; lobster kibbeh (stuffed savoury dough balls); chicken biryani, served in a flatbread parcel; or mouhalabiya (Lebanese milk pudding) served with with 24- karat gold honey.
\n\nTry: Grilled saffron prawns
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\n\nLocated in Al Fahidi, 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.
\n\nTry: Traditional Arabic coffee