DIFC has a tonne of brilliant eateries, here are ten to try
If you’ve ever spent an evening in the uber modern-looking DIFC, you’ll know there are loads of brilliant restaurants to be found just by having a wander. Whether you’re after some indulgent American eats, or some Indian fine-dining, there is a wealth to explore. We’ve wrapped up ten of the must-try restaurants in the area, and you can even book your table directly through Time Out Dubai – just click on that shiny red button. You know you’ve always wanted to hit the red button…
We know that everywhere now has a “sharing concept”, but it all originated in Spain with tapas. And BOCA, the laidback, funky restaurant and bar, takes tapas as its starting point and runs with it. Most of the dishes on the menu are Spanish but there are also French and other Mediterrannean plates available, all done with the same eye for flair and emphasis on quality, tasty core ingredients.
DIFC’s Bazxar – which pays homage to the street food vendors of New York City – is the real deal. The funky space is split into different areas – the meat district, the wok station, Mediterranean and the dining room. Each has its own style and is represented by a section of the menu. The dining room offers a much more fine dining kind of food – but one that is still interesting. However, the graffiti-inspired meat district, all metal pipes, communal benches and neon lighting is where we recommend parking yourself. The menu is designed for sharing. The pricing is surprisingly competitive, especially for DIFC, and for less than Dhs400, you can sample a whole load of food that will fill three, easily.
Since opening, this cool venue has gone from strength to strength. As well as the diner area, there’s a bar (where you can also eat) showing games on big screens and offering happy hour drinks deals. In an unprecedented move, the Dubai branch has also messed with the concept and expanded the menu. No longer are the only things available a lobster, lobster roll and burger. There are now creative and fun variations (that, it should be pointed out, still stay true to the core ingredients). So, try the Beast Burger – a beef burger topped with brie and lobster tail and flanked by two enormous claws. It looks the part, but crucially, also tastes it.
American celebrity chef Michael Mina’s DIFC venue celebrates the great American diner. The décor is somehow modern and crisp and totally on-point when it comes to the retro look, complete with old-school jukebox (we always feel a little bit like Marty McFly in Back to the Future when we step inside). The menu covers American classics such as buffalo chicken wings, a selection of burgers and lobster rolls, however, despite this having the name of a Michelin-starred chef above the door, the ingredients, presentation (and prices) are not above what you’d get in your run-of-the-mill diner.
Straddling the line between steakhouse and Latin American restaurant, Gaucho is one of the most consistently good venues in Dubai. The stylish dining room has plenty of cowhide in it, should you somehow forget what the main draw is. And we always find the steaks here are of the highest quality. They’re presented to you by a waiter who talks about the different cuts and breeds and how each one tastes. We love the Tira De Ancho, a spiral cut rib-eye dressed in chimichurri sauce.
A markedly different proposition to many of its neighbours when it arrived in the city’s financial centre, INDIE still attracts a different – but still happening – crowd, thanks to its unique sounds and hipster vibe. It’s also, generally, packed. A cracking menu helps. Its mains are largely of an Italian persuasion, risottos (particularly excellent), gnocchi and tagliata sitting alongside salmon, sea bream and more. While its starters are a mix of Spanish (pimientos de Padron), Peruvian (there are some fine ceviches) and Japanese – the standout for us is the spicy raw tuna on crispy rice cubes, a perfect accompaniment to many of the broad range of mixed drinks.
A light and airy “concept store” and restaurant, everything from the leather seats (the same used in Lexus cars) to the bamboo detailing on the walls (the same as used on the grille) and even the carefully curated selection of art and design books spread across six pillars in the venue, is seamlessly themed. The intriguing and tempting dishes available for breakfast, lunch and dinner (though the morning options are much more standard) feature a range of top-notch ingredients and clean flavours that work well. We love the surprising beet and barley risotto. The barley has been stewed in beetroot juice, which provides a depth of flavour that we couldn’t anticipate, and is served with slices of colourful heirloom beetroots and a sour crème fraîche that cuts through all the sweetness. Topped with fresh springs of parsley, chives and an array of edible flowers, the plate is as pretty as it is delicious.
One of the consistently high-quality Indian restaurants in the city, Mint Leaf has so far resisted the urge to join in with the molecular gastronomy crowd. And we like it all the more for it. Instead, what you get at Mint Leaf is a fine dining take on classic Indian flavours and ingredients. At the start of 2017 it also widened its menu to take in more international touches (see the shiitake mushroom pizza and the tempura soft shell crab) but at the heart of the restaurant are wonderfully fragrant and subtly-spiced curries (including excellent dhal makhani and sea bass mussalam options) and grills (prawns roasted in Goan coconut sauce and spices and tandoor lamb chops). Everything looks and smells the part as it comes to the table, too. And the restaurant and bar’s décor is cool and modern with a funky vibe.
A classy, atmospheric restaurant with a beautiful garden terrace, everything about Royal China gets you in the mood for an excellent experience. From the unintrusive waiters to the deep house playing in the background, it has a relaxing and casual aura. And yet it’s the quality and novel flavours of the food that really make Royal China Dubai’s finest and saw it named Best Chinese in the 2017 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards. As far as appetisers go, the bite-sized and beautifully battered deep-fried squid is quite simply addictive. The accompanying “special” chilli salt lifts the flavour and adds something different to this well-known dish.
There’s strong competition when it comes to finding a place to eat in DIFC, and The Gramercy has carved out a niche as a laid-back gastropub. It’s busiest during weekday evenings when hungry and thirsty workers pour out of the surrounding offices, but is good for a quiet catch-up or as a place to watch the football during weekends. The menu isn’t overwhelming, with only one page featuring starters, sandwiches, salads, steaks and a few other main courses. It’s an international selection, taking in everything from tagliatelle to fish and chips. By focusing on a core of well-known meals, The Gramercy is able to consistently serve up satisfying dishes, particularly suited to hungry diners.