The Holy Month of Ramadan is drawing to a close, so try one of these delicious iftars while you still can.
Social House, Dubai Mall
With its stacks of vegetables and racks of spices, Social House has the feel of a quirky fresh café and the eating area is a lovely tucked away tree-lined garden.
As well as the usual international a la carte, during Ramadan diners can choose from a small iftar menu. From this we ordered the lentil soup, beetroot falafel and mixed grill.
The food arrives on a ‘serve-when-ready’ basis from the bustling open kitchen and we’re soon slurping the hearty lentil soup. The beetroot falafel was an interesting twist on the classic, giving a fresh and tasty alternative.
A mixed grill of well-seasoned chicken, lamb and beef is served on a bed of salad and hummus, which we pair with flavoursome ordered Singapore noodles from the main menu.
Ramadan a la carte menu served from sunset. Dishes from AED 45-AED 85. Lower Ground, Dubai Mall. 04 339 8640
Bombay Brasserie, The Taj Hotel
Head to Business Bay to be transported from the contemporary Indian restaurant to the ancient foods of the Mughal kitchens, where secret recipes were created for Emperor Shah Jahan and his royal banquets.
From this lofty premise Chef Thoufeek Zakriya has distilled a set iftar that starts with a ritual handwashing at the table before starters of lamb trotter’s soup, chicken kebab, fish kebab and rich fermented flat bread are spread out before us.
Definitely one for the lamb lovers (which we are), we enjoy main courses of aubergine and lamb mince with saffron, rice cooked with fragrant goat stock, and chicken mince with broken wheat and caramelised onions, but the star of the show is the gold leaf-topped lamb shank.
Sweet Indian pudding phirni is just too good to say no to and a brisk walk round the small park behind the hotel will revive diners from a post-iftar slump.
The Taj, Business Bay. From 7pm-12am, 225 AED per person. 04 438 3100
Olea, Kempinksi Mall of the Emirates
So vast was Olea’s Levantine spread that it was hard to choose what to eat. We made up our minds while watching saj bread being freshly baked. This bread deserves a separate review, as it is amazing even just to watch the process of preparation.
Olea specialises is raw kibbeh (yep, that’s uncooked meat). Not for everyone, but we brave a mouthful to discover it is tender and so good.
Desserts again spoilt us for choice, but chunks of pistachio-studded Turkish Delight are the ideal size for nibbling on as we listen to singer Ayad Al Ameer croon traditional tunes.
Sunset onwards. AED 175 AED including water and all soft drinks. Half price for kids aged six to 12. 04 409 5111
3in1, Vida Downtown
Vida Downtown is rightly renowned as a fashionable destination – and that applies to iftar.
In the modern calm of the 3in1 restaurant, overlooking the pool area, the showpiece illuminated wine locker is filled instead with soft drinks and fresh juices in dinky little bottles.
Spacious layout includes a range of attractive cold starters and salads – and some excellent pizza, in regular supply from a central pizza oven.
Hot mezzeh and breads aren’t in short supply and the beetroot moutabal is addictive.
One of the most refreshing aspects of the Vida iftar, however, is the mains; served a la carte to reduce waste, Arabic favourites are done with a twist and delivered to your table.
They change daily, but we sampled a moreish shish tawook (poshed-up by pomegranate molasses), a gorgeous kofta khashkhash (the spicy lamb lifted by charred tomato salsa and pomegranate) and chicken potato (given a lovely chili and lemon kick). They also give fish harra, chicken mloukhieh, vegetables salona and lamb darwood basha the treatment.
It proved tough leaving space for dessert, but with an indulgent date pudding among the options, belts were again loosened.
The quality level is high and there’s a peaceful ambience to this contemporary iftar that makes it a treat, whether you’re fasting or not.
From sunset until 9pm, AED 170 for adults; 50 per cent off for kids aged six-12 years (free for under fives). 04 428 6888 or email email@example.com
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Al Fahidi
A healthy dollop of culture flavours a traditional iftar spread of harees, machboos and biryani enjoyed from red and gold cushions inside a maze of old lanes and wind towers.
Emiratis mingle with guests to share experiences and information, and there’s the chance to visit the nearby Diwan Mosque.
We finish with Arabic sweets and the chance to wear an albaya. Leftover food is packaged up to share with our friends and family and the whole experience is simple yet vastly heartwarming.
Thoroughly recommended, but you must book in advance.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. AED 139. From sunset. Booking essential: www.cultures.ae/ramadan
Ashiana, Sheraton Dubai Creek
Vegetable and spinach curries are the stars of the Indian-themed iftar at one of Dubai’s oldest restaurants.
We ask for seconds of garlic and plain naan breads, which are served hot to the table. Small bowls of kheer and assortments of colourful sweets round off the meal.
Refreshing ginger tea is the perfect finish to this casual and welcoming iftar, which makes a change from traditional Arabic cuisine.
Baniyas Street, Deira. AED 139. Sunset-11pm. 04 207 1733
Catch Dubai, Fairmont Dubai
Iftar is all about sharing and Catch offers a cosmopolitan melting pot of worldwide finest cuisine with strong influences from, but not exclusive to, an American seafood concept.
A New York late 20’s speakeasy vibes is reflected with brickwork walls, leather benches and Bansky décor.
On the table, we discover an elaborated balance of Mexican, Japanese and American dishes, without losing sight of its Arabic origins, from dates at the start to a sugary dessert of S’mores pizza.
Respectable starts of crispy shrimps and short rib tacos were highlights, followed by eye-catching lobster rolls. Out of a generous five main courses, the 48hr hoisin-braised short ribs and the Korean fried chicken keep everybody busy at the table.
7pm-9pm. Fairmont Dubai, Level 1, Trade Centre Area. AED 200 per person. 04 357 1755
Al Hadheerah Tent, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Definitely worth a short trip out of the city, this is part theme park, part traditional iftar.
We enter through a small souk that sells abaya and other souvenirs.
Our table is already laid out with a selection of hummus and hot Arabic bread and we’re shown round the buffet, which has a generous amount of vegetarian options – stuffed vine leaves, koshari with fried onions, falafel with aubergine and more.
For the meat eaters, chicken is grilled in front of us and served with vermicelli rice and tabbouleh. The steak was absolutely delicious, with the option of rump or fillet.
Those with a sweet tooth might wish to slope off to the ice-cream corner and dessert zone, but don’t miss the talented oud player or the neon skirts of the tanoura dancer. Outside, there’s the chance to met a camel, meet falcons and watch skilled horse riders.
This was one of our favourites iftars, but if you’re not driving, remember to book a taxi in advance for the ride home.
Sunset until 10.30pm. AED 250 per person (including food, still water, Ramadan juices, soft drinks and Arabic coffee) – Sunday to Wednesday. AED 270 per person – Thursday to Saturday. 04 809 6194
Sikka Café, City Walk
Sikka Café, meaning ‘alleyway’ in Arabic is the perfect place for an Emirati iftar.
The restaurant blends traditional and modern, with vintage photos of Dubai and bold pops of colour that all merge together seamlessly.
For only AED 99 you can enjoy an array of Arabic starters, one a la carte main and a sweet treat. The starters are a meal in themselves; home-made lentil soup, very smooth hummus with freshly baked Arabic bread, falafel with sesame seeds, the signature Sikka salad that tasted much like a fattoush, mixed pickles and three types of sambousek pastries. All are prepared perfectly and go very well with the Ramadan juices.
Equally delicious were the mains.The meats on the mixed grill are very tender and seasoned to perfection and the classic butter chicken did not disappointment.
For those with a sweet tooth (and space in their stomach), syrup-infused Arabic desserts are the ideal conclusion.
AED 99, sunset to 9pm. City Walk, 04 385 6524
Pinch Gourmet, Al Quoz
In-between the warehouses and auto repair shops in Al Quoz there’s a small pop-up Ramadan restaurant that promises a #ASeriouslyGoodIftar.
The experience is magical; the warehouse is filled with dim yellow lights dangling across the ceiling and soft jazz music follows in the background. The vibe is great, and we’d give it a 9.9 out of 10 for ambience.
A little bit of everything from the menu is provided for everyone to taste, and it’s all provided at a relatively low cost of AED 195 per person.
We have some chicken freekeh soup for starters – this happens to be our absolute favourite – then the table is quickly filled up with a mezze platter and soon after that, the mains start rolling in. However, one of the dishes that stood out unequivocally was the quinoa date edamame salad. We are not sure if it’s because of the citrusy taste or just because quinoa is a superfood.
To wrap the night up, we indulge in some chocolate mousse cookie and BBQ pineapples.
The Courtyard, Al Quoz Industrial 1. Doors open at 6.45pm, iftar 7pm-10pm. AED 195 per person. 050 100 4860
The Meydan Hotel Ramadan Tent, Nad al Sheba
Pack a sweet tooth or two for this relaxed yet opulent iftar.
Vegetarians may struggle with the mains, as there was only spinach cannelloni on offer when we visited. But after filling up from a bountiful buffet of sushi, salads and soups, we hit the dessert table hard for double helpings of a delicious date cake and copious bowls of creme brûlée to leave perfectly satisfied.
Be sure to ask for a stomach-settling peppermint tea to sip after enjoying this generous buffet.
04 381 3111. AED 190, children under four go free and five to 12 year olds half price. 7pm-9.30pm.
Burger and Lobster, DIFC
We are pleasantly surprised by this alternative iftar, where we eat crustaceans like kings for a fairly reasonable price.
The DIFC restaurant has same buzzing atmosphere as its big brother in Central London and the food is equally good.
Salted caramel milkshakes arrive along with the soup of the day – sip or slurp to your heart’s content. We order our signature cheese burger medium and it’s cooked perfectly, accompanied by a tasty lobster roll with a soft brioche bun.
Wait, that was just the starters. We’re equipped with tools for our main course – half-a-pound of grilled lobster and fries. Our favourite part is breaking open the huge claws to get at the delicious meat inside.
We need a break after that, as the portions are huge, but we’re glad we made room for pudding, as there isn’t a dessert in Dubai that can compare to the Tres Leches.
Burj Daman Building – Al Sa’ada Street. Daily, iftar-11.30pm. AED 119 for a five course set menu and milkshake or soft drink. 04 275 9086
LIWAN by Mohammed Al Hakim Ramadan Majlis, City Walk 2
Ramadan tents always feel like the most traditional way to break fast and these authentic majlis are a real taste of Arabic culture.
Folk music, live cooking stations, steaming coffee poured from a ‘dallah’ and sticky Arabic ice-cream – it’s all here, though we admit to having a soft spot for the not-so-traditional penne station, with its choice of freshly-prepared sauces.
Try the traditional milk drink sahlab if you fancy something sweet but light.
Sunset-9pm. AED 195 per person. 05 338 0088, www.citywalk.ae
Bayside Restaurant and Terrace, Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay
Although the terrace isn’t seeing much action over the summer, everything we need is indoors at this authentic iftar.
Greeted by Ramadan juices (rose water is always too sweet for us, but lemon and mint hits the spot), we browse a buffet of post-fast staples – labneh, olives, hummus and fattoush – with hot stations that change every day. On the menu when we visit are some more unusual Khaleeji favourites, including creamy lamb shakriya and salty ackawi cheese.
Of course a huge tureen of lamb ouzi takes centre stage, but there are also some tasty nods to the hotel’s North European heritage, with squat rye loaves alongside paper thin rotis and pale German cheesecake competing with the ubiquitous umm ali.
Al Abraj Street. AED 165 per person. Sunset-11pm. 04 369 000
Miss Lily’s – Sheraton Grand Hotel
Dubai’s favourite Caribbean hot-spot, Miss Lily’s, will stay true to its Jamaican roots by offering an unconventional spin on iftar meals this Ramadan.
Instead of the usual buffets, Miss Lily’s has prepared a special a-la-carte menu for the Holy Month – serving up dishes like red pea soup, jerk chicken roti, ackee hummus and date cheesecake!
We tried out Miss Lily’s special iftar menu and loved every single bite. Our favourites? You MUST try the jerk corn, ackee hummus, garlic roasted lamb, cod with rundown, mac and cheese and all the desserts.
Vegans, vegetarians and pescetarians – Miss Lily’s has plenty of options and will also customise dishes based on your dietary requirements (just let them know in advance).
6pm-1am, AED 230 per person. 5th floor, Sheraton Grand Hotel, SZR. Call 04 354 4074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah – Al Iwan
In Dubai’s most iconic building the evening started with traditional juices and a fantastic array of cold mezze plates already waiting on our table.
By day the seven-star hotel’s Arabic restaurant has staggering views over the sea and for our evening visit it’s dressed with dramatic red drapes, flanked by the world’s tallest atrium.
A buffet of traditional eats awaits iftar diners, including salads and humus, seafood and lobster. The centre piece is a huge lamb kabsa – an Arab paella, the chefs tell us. The rice is infused with spice and flavour, though our firm favourite was the chicken biryani.
Desserts of rice pudding, cheese cake, macaroons and local pastries are served in small portions, which is pretty much all we can manage after this generous feast, enjoyed to the sounds of traditional kanoon and challou instruments.
AED 290 per person. Sunset to 11pm. 04 301 7600 or BAARestaurants@jumeirah.com
The Ritz Carlton DIFC
Traditional juices start our iftar experience, which is held outdoors in the Sunken Gardens, because indoor majlis are still being set up (they’ll look like the photo above, FYI).
The al fresco eating area has been styled with Arabic drapes, to give us a feel of how it will be presented in the hotel’s ballroom, and a long table is heavy with food.
Everything in the buffet is sourced locally, we’re told, and with good conscience we graze from salads, grilled chicken, lamb chops, hummus, fish and, our personal favourite, spiced kebab.
We like that the desserts of rice pudding and sticky toffee are served in small portions (food wastage is not cool) and the hot toffee pouring sauce is tasty and impressive to watch.
Sunset to 8.30pm. AED 215 for adults, AED 107 for children aged 6-12. Children below 6 dine for free. Prices include soft beverages. 04 372 2323 / email@example.com
Cavendish restaurant, Bonnington JLT
Excellent value for money can be found at this buffet of local and international cuisine.
Beetroot moutabal is a light start to our meal, and a prawn curry is packed with flavour. Leave room for traditional lamb ouzi – so good we went back twice.
Fruit on the dessert table helped us redeem some calories and entertainment comes courtesy of the chefs rolling out bread for fresh shawarmas.
Sunset onwards. AED 159. Book before 25th May for an early bird discount of AED 119 per person. 04 356 0000
Günaydin, Souk Al Bahar
If you’re thinking about an iftar with a view and some lovely Turkish treats, then Günaydin is the place to be!
The set menu begins with a wide selection of cheese, bread, dry fruits and olives, which is followed by a variety of popular grilled meat delicacies. There’s certainly enough variety for everyone to choose from!
Speciality teas are the perfect place to a filling meal during Ramadan evenings with family and friends.
But you’re looking for vegetarian or vegan options, then you may be disappointed as the menu has limited vegetarian and almost no vegan options!
Sunset to 9 pm. AED 220 per person. Group discounts for more than 10 people. 04 554 0700
Khaymat Al Bahar, Jumeirah Al Qasr
Perfect for couples or small group, this Lebanese restaurant ups the intimacy by transporting guests by boat, but we caught a buggy, which was still good fun.
Real effort has gone into the decorations, though they can’t distract from the spectacular coastal views.
A la carte options include chicken wings, whipped wheat dish lamb harees, which always tastes so much better than it looks, and fish taouk.
Sunset onwards. AED 195 per person, including soft drinks. 04 432 3232 or Restaurants@jumeirah.com
Suq, Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach
We’re welcomed by the smell of baking bread, always guaranteed to power the tastebuds into action.
Once we’ve devoured a few fresh rounds, smeared with beetroot hummous and moutabal, we brave Arabic sushi, topped with halloumi cheese and shawarma chicken. East meets East with butter chicken and tandooris served alongside lamb kofta and the ever-popular machboos.
Once it’s in full flow, iftar guests will be treated to a live barbecue, Indian food station and 18 different home-made ice-creams.
We finished off with a fraction of these flavours and are pleased to hear the Four Seasons is offering complimentary group walking sessions every Sunday and Monday from 6pm, as part of its #MoveThisRamadan campaign.
Sunset to 9pm. AED 245 per person. Children up to 12 get 50 per cent off.
We also want to try…
Inked at Alserkal Avenue
Pop up art space slash kitchen has been bringing an unconventional dining experience to the creative hub since it opened in spring this year.
For Holy Month it turns to traditional roots, drawing on the gastronomic heritage of North Africa and the nomadic Berber people.
Expect this unassuming space to be filled with diners enjoying zucchini zaalouk salad with roasted almonds and pomegranate dressing, and tiger cake with raz al hanout, a spice mix from North Africa.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Ramadan. AED 300 a head, including juices and coffee. www.inked.ae
Roast versus Raman, Tom&Serg
Queues were out the door of Dubai stalwart Tom&Serg for their Return of the Ramen and Rule the Roast evenings, so in a true mad scientist-style, they’ve smushed the two together.
Pick a side, find a table and tuck into a starter and main course from either team for AED 100. If you can manage desserts, they’ll be extra.
From 7pm-10pm. Tom & Serg, outside Al Joud Centre, Al Quoz. 056 474 6812
JW Marriott Hotel Dubai, Deira
A unique iftar experience with side order of cultural awareness awaits in the heart of old Dubai.
Book a room at the hotel, and go on a tour across the Dubai’s Spice Souk and Fish Market with one of the hotel’s chefs. They’ll help you pick out ingredients to make your own personalised iftar that will be cooked up by them back at the hotel.
While you’re there, be sure to check out artwork by Mawaheb from Beautiful People, as the studio for people with special needs brought to life the hotel’s seasonal theme of ‘Ramadan along the Spice Routes’.
Abu Baker Al Siddique Rd. Packages start from AED 650 and can be booked on www.marriot.com