the United Arab Emirates, which consists of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and four other tiny former kingdoms) has astutely
realised that one day the oil will run out, so they had better think of how
else to make a living. The one other
useful asset they have is guaranteed sun and sand, ideal as a beach
resort. The city has about 2 million
people of which a remarkable 70% are expatriates, a genuinely cosmopolitan
place with a particularly high Indian population (Dubai is at the eastern end of the Gulf,
not that far from India).
The city is very modern, and indeed until this century was just a
village of mud huts, so don’t expect any great architectural treasures
here. Even the gold souk
is now an air-conditioned shopping mall of jewellery shops, which of course is
very practical but not in line with one’s Lawrence of Arabia-fuelled fantasies. The wealth of the place means there are
plenty of restaurants, some of a high standard.
Don’t be put off by the fact that most restaurants are in hotels – this
is simply because hotels are allowed to serve alcohol, albeit at fiercely taxed
mark-ups. As a distraction from the
beach you can head off into the desert and drive up and down sand dunes, but
that is pretty much the limit of the things to see unless you are keen on camel
racing. There is a small zoo with desert animals as well as the usual suspects,
and on our visit in 2003, two lion cubs that we were allowed to play with (an
enchanting experience). There is little
public transport but taxis are plentiful and cheap.
Dubai is relaxed by Muslim standards, and about the only thing to remember is
not to eat or drink in the street during Ramadam. If you are not too bothered about alcohol
then your visit will be a lot cheaper, since mark-ups are daunting. A beer in a hotel will cost from £4 to £7,
while wine is strictly for rock stars and investment bankers. A Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, which can be
obtained retail in the UK for less than £10 if you look hard enough, was on one
wine list at £160. Another wine, the
basic Cotes du Rhone from Guigal,
which is a bit more than a fiver in the UK in the high street, was at £40, and
that was the bargain of the list (one side effect is that you will go back to
London restaurants and for a couple of days think “wow, only three times
retail, what a bargain” before sanity sets in again). The weather is excellent from November to
March, with temperatures when we went at the very beginning of March around
25-30 Celsius, but it was getting warmer by the day, and in the summer
temperatures of 50 Celsius are common.
January and February are “winter” at around 20 Celsius or so, and while
there are rain storms here their annual rainfall would barely register as a wet
day in Manchester. Be aware that the weekend here starts
Thursday, and there is indeed a “TGI Thursday”.
very classy, with even clapped out chains like the Hilton somehow offering
genuinely stylish surroundings here. At
the top end there is only one choice, the Burj Al
Arab – see my notes: Hotels
Gordon Ramsey at Verre
Address: Hilton Dubai
Creek, P.O Box 33398, Dubai
Telephone: +971 (4) 227 1111
getting away from him. A team from
Gordon’s main restaurant London opened here in 2001, and I have to say they are
doing a very fine job indeed, producing a meal better than can be had at either
Claridges or the Connaught
in London (both under Ramsey’s supervision).
The dining room is on the first floor at the surprisingly sleek and
sophisticated Hilton in bustling Dubai Creek (I never thought I’d have sleek
and Hilton in one sentence, but there you are).
The dining room is modern and elegant, with top-class white linen
tablecloths – you have to pinch yourself to realise you are not in London.
An amuse guile of chilled pea soup was rich and excellent, and the
breads here are baked fresh and delicious.
Sea scallops were roasted and served with a superb caper and raisin
dressing (sounds odd but it worked) and with baby raisin beignets giving a
texture balance, along with a silky cauliflower puree – the sharp taste of the
capers was an excellent foil to the gentle flavours of the cauliflower puree
and scallops (8/10). Ravioli of lobster
and salmon had excellent pasta and high quality salmon and lobster, a little
marjoram adding a well chosen additional dimension, with an intensely flavoured
veloute of lobster (7/10). John Dory was roasted and served with wild
mushrooms and an elegant veloute of ceps, with a
little brandade of the John Dory on the side
(8/10). Halibut was pan fried and
offered with another fine ravioli, this time of
langoustines, with a Sauternes sauce and a little oscietra
caviar. There is a cheese board but you
can’t get unpasteurised cheese here, so I skipped
this. The service is excellent and even
the coffee is top notch. Just don’t read
the prices on the wine list or it will ruin your evening. The food itself for two came to under £90,
and there is a long tasting menu fro about £50, so this represents excellent
value apart from the alcohol.
Overall an easy 7/10, pushing 8/10. Last visited: March 2003.
Address: Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel and Towers
Telephone: +971 (4) 228 11 11
Rated in a couple of surveys the best Indian restaurant in Dubai.
It has fairly tasteful décor with lots of wood panelling, and even had
live Indian music on the evening we visited.
The food is genuinely good, with tandoori
dishes such as chicken tikka capably executed, and
curries with good quality ingredients and careful use of spices. Breads were very good and portions
generous. Prices are rather high, and
although we just drank four bottles of beer the price was still £100 for two,
which is pretty steep (I suppose the sitar player added to the bill). However the food is
genuinely good and the service excellent.
3/10. Last visited March 2003
Address: Sheraton Jumeira Beach Hotel & Towers
A Chinese restaurant that is generally reckoned to be the best in Dubai.
It managed fair dim sum, though the dumplings were just a little chewy,
while Szechaun prawns were well cooked as a main
course. However bak
choi were horribly overcooked, and overall this is
pleasant at best. Service is excellent
and prices just about tolerable, and they did have
excellent Jasmine tea. Worth a look if
you are craving Chinese food, but don’t make a detour for this place.
Overall just under 1/10. Last visited
Return to AndyHayler.com