Where so many new Dubai restaurants focus on stiff service and training staff with regimented precision, El Noctámbulo takes an altogether much more relaxed and friendly approach. The menu is divided simply into guacamoles, starters, tacos, four mains, sides and desserts that fit easily on one single page. Designed to share, the dishes arrive as they’re ready, although you can request they come in a strict course order if you prefer.
An order is taken without the need for it to be written down, recommendations are given in a way that’s believable rather than pushing the highest price items on the menu, and the general manager pops by between courses in an informal and non-invasive way. Coupled with a menu of affordable, tasty and inventive Mexican dishes, El Noctámbulo proves that it’s more than worth its salt.
Building 8, Dubai Design District, daily noon to midnight. Tel: (04) 566 8374. facebook.com/elnoctambulo.d3
Not content to have just one restaurant in Dubai, Gordon Ramsay has opened Hell’s Kitchen – named after his hit TV Show where chefs face-off to prove themselves to the master – at Caesars Palace on Bluewaters Island. Made to feel like you’re in an actual episode of Hell’s Kitchen – minus, thankfully, ongoing competition between warring chefs – the high-ceilinged space inside Caesars Palace is sleek and shiny, with a slight Art Deco feel and plenty of the show’s signature pitchforks hidden throughout (including in the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling).
The red-and-blue open kitchen is the dramatic centerpiece of the restaurant, and while promotional materials claim that it will make guests “feel like they are on the studio set,” it thankfully isn’t overly distracting. Overall, it’s athoroughly enjoyable – and over-indulgent – Hell’s Kitchen experience. Avid fans of the show will recognise that many dishes on the menu are some of the items that contestants had to create on the series such as the pan seared scallops, lobster risotto, beef Wellington, and sticky toffee pudding. The restaurant could easily coast by on its namesake brand, but the attention-to-detail, excellent service and quality dishes prove that this team is hell-bent on being more than just a themed restaurant.
Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai, daily 7am to 10.30am, noon to 3.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm. caesars.com/dubai
Hakkasan Dubai closed its doors in Jumeirah Emirates Towers last summer and headed for Atlantis The Palm. Currently, you’ll find it at the entrance of The Avenues, occupying the space where another high-end Chinese restaurant, YUAN, used to be. This is only a temporary home, though – Hakkasan will move to The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences when the new hotel is finished at the end of 2019.
It might be a short-term tenancy, but no expense has been spared in making the new Hakkasan just as slick as its predecessor. Intricately carved wooden panels divide the restaurant into compartments, so though it’s busy when we visit, it still feels intimate. Pumping DJ beats and dim lighting add to drama, but thankfully each table has its own pendant light, so you can see what is in front of you. It will be interesting to see what Hakkasan does with their move to The Royal Atlantis in a year’s time. But based on our experience, there isn’t much they need to improve on. Welcome back.
Hakkasan Dubai, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, daily 5pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 426 2626. hakkasan.com
Any restaurant found in a palace sets a royally high standard, so we had high expectations for Villamore, the new European spot found inside the Emerald Palace Kempinski. The self-titled ‘beachside hideaway’ is an accurate description, and you’ll find Villamore tucked away in its own building on the opposite side of the expansive resort pool.
The two storey space is stunning; think whitewashed and nautical interiors in the indoor restaurant, striped canopys adorning white cushy cabanas on the leafy terrace and a chic open-air rooftop that wouldn’t feel out of place in an upscale hangout in Mykonos. Villamore is the kind of place you come for lunch and stay late into the night, thanks to its welcoming vibe, high quality dishes and friendly, five-star service.
Villamore, Emerald Palace Kempinski, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, daily 12pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 248 8890. villamoredubai.com
If the fusion of Italian, Indian and Japanese flavours sounds unexpected, it’s not the only surprise All’onda has in store for you. Perched on the sixth floor of Emerald Palace Kempinski, this flashy restaurant has a few tricks up its sleeve. First, there’s the view from the rooftop terrace, which provides a panorama of the Dubai skyline, from the Burj Khalifa to the southern end of the Marina.
You’re going to want to book one of the alfresco booths to capitalise on the vistas, but if you do find yourself at an indoor table, never fear: the sleek space of curvy black chairs, luxe textures and gold mirrored surfaces is just as eye-catching. For such a glam setting, you’d expect the menu to be suitably steep, but this is where All’onda surprises once again. It’s a well-priced menu that’s unique, intriguing and, most importantly, delicious. Perhaps the final surprise is that All’onda isn’t busier, but we predict that rooftop is going to be hot property as the weather warms up.
All’onda, Level 6, Emerald Palace Kempinski, Crescent West, Palm Jumeirah. Sat to Wed 5pm to 1am, Thur and Fri 5pm to 2am, Fri brunch 1pm to 5pm. Tel: (04) 248 8870. kempinski.com
With wooden flooring, soft suspended lighting, and earthy décor, finished with rattan chairs and marble table tops, La Strega, Dubai Marina’s latest Italian restaurant is warm and inviting, without being too try-hard. It’s the type of venue where you could go casual or for a mid-range date night.
The menu is perfectly uncomplicated, loosely split into antipasti, hot appetisers, homemade pasta, pizza and mains. On our visit, it was too heavy a meal for us to get through to desserts but we’ve heard folks waxing lyrical about the cannoli, rich in pistachio and ricotta. Is it our favourite Dubai Marina Italian eatery? Not yet, no. But the excellent starters, lauded canolli, and wonderfully-friendly service give us hope…
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, daily 7pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 316550. lastrega-dubai.com
The Duck Hook
A mere 15 minutes from The Greens, the new Dubai Hills Golf Club is offering a peaceful place to tee off and tuck in, with two restaurants: Hillhouse Brasserie and The Duck Hook both giving off fantastic views of the city in the distance. Our first stop is the Duck Hook, which has been handsomely designed, with a lovely oak floor, and anthropomorphic duck paintings on the walls. The vibe feels relaxed, as if everyone dining here is on holiday.
The menu is predominantly British gastropub fare with dishes such as duck scotch egg, duck pate terrine, and the duck confit (notice the trend). It’s not all quackers though – you’ll also spot a steak and ale pie, fish ‘n’ chips, beef Wellington and the all-important pub burger.
Dubai Hills Golf Club, Sat to Wed noon to midnight, Thur and Fri noon to 1am. Tel: (800) 666353. facebook.com/theduckhookdxb