Dubai’s restaurant scene is thriving, and choosing the best restaurants in Dubai is a lot harder than it used to be.
Growing travel interest in the restaurant scene here has been sparked by a recent influx (and sometimes just as speedy exit) of celebrity chefs such as Pierre Gagnaire, Gary Rhodes and Jamie Oliver as well as the arrival of restaurant brands such as Hakkasan, Gaucho, Nobu, La Petite Maison and Zuma.
Money plays a big part in attracting those big names.
“Where there’s an emerging international business hub, a culturally diverse population, many with a high disposable income, and a relatively under-developed restaurant scene, there are opportunities to grow a brand,” says James Brennan, former Middle East chairman of the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards and restaurant editor of the Zagat Dubai guide.
It’s not just global brands. A number of homegrown restaurants have prospered, including Table 9, which replaced Gordon Ramsay’s Verre – Dubai’s first celebrity chef restaurant – when it closed after a decade in 2011. It has since moved on but its legacy remains – driving Dubai’s dining roots even deeper.
With such a potent mix of celebrity chefs, global names and homegrown brands, it’s no easy matter choosing where to dine in at this Persian Gulf destination. Unless you have some help.
So work up an appetite and enjoy seven of the best restaurants in Dubai:
1. La Petite Maison, French
The most sought-after food in Dubai is the fresh plates of Niçoise cuisine served at the city’s most popular restaurant, La Petite Maison.
LPM, as it’s commonly known, is the Dubai outpost of a three-restaurant global group. Its reservations book is always full.
The kitchen turns out un-fussy dishes such as peas, basil and tomatoes, razor clams with an herb crust and a justly popular cheesecake, all made with high-quality seasonal produce.
2. Okku, Japanese
In a city dominated by global brands and international chefs, Okku is a rarity.
The brainchild of resident entrepreneurs Markus Thesleff and Ramzy Abdul Majeed, this sultry, subterranean nightspot serving sushi and imaginative Japanese dishes and excellent cocktails plays on the same field as the big boys.
3. Zuma, Japanese
Beautiful people love beautiful food. And other beautiful people. This is where they all come together to admire each other.
The Dubai outlet of Zuma – chef Rainer Becker’s six-strong chain of izakaya-style Japanese restaurants – serves inventive small-plates of Japanese cuisine in a bright downstairs restaurant and strong cocktails in a dimly lit upstairs lounge bar.
4. Rhodes W1, British
British chef Gary Rhodes loves Dubai so much that he recently packed his bags, hopped on a plane from London and became a full-time resident of the city.
As a result, you can often find the energetic chef at his eponymous fine dining establishment – Rhodes W1.
At Mezzanine, he oversees one of the most skilled kitchen brigades in the city, ensuring that his “British classics with French flair” are prepared and presented perfectly.
5. Table 9, Hilton Dubai Creek
Who would have thought Gordon Ramsay’s departure would be a good thing for the Dubai restaurant scene? Well, it was.
Thirty-something chef duo Scott Price and Nick Alvis came to Dubai to head up the celebrity chef’s Verre, but when Ramsay departed the city in 2011 the pair stayed.
They turned his European fine dining establishment into Table 9 and introduced a chef’s table, local artwork, a more laid-back style and one of the most exciting and creative menus in the city.
While they may have upped sticks in 2013, their legacy remains and Table 9 is still one of the most sought after bookings in town.
6. Roberto’s, Italian
The vigorous Italian Roberto Rella was once famed as the manager of BiCE, where he was instrumental in taking one of the city’s favorite Italian restaurants to the status of culinary institution.
His job done, he sought out an impressive property right at the heart of Dubai International Financial Centre, amid the biggest names in the restaurant industry.
Here, he opened Roberto’s Italian, modestly naming it after himself.
Retaining the Italian classics that continue to make BiCE such a success, and adding an impressive raw bar selection and cocktails, Roberto’s is just as popular as its owner.
7. Armani/Amal, Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa
Question: When famous hotel group Emaar Hotels & Resorts meets renowned fashion designer Giorgio Armani, what do you get?
Answer: Armani/Amal restaurant, in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
This top restaurant recreates a taste of India in Dubai, complete with stunning views and an outdoor terrace.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2012. It was updated, reformatted and republished in 2017.