Although there is no official 'Food Capital ranking', there is a general consensus surrounding the best cities for stuffing your face. Cities in America (The Big Apple – c’mon it’s nickname is even food related!) the UK, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, to mention a few, are well-known food destinations and Dubai is fast becoming another addition to the list.
As if the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest mall, the world’s most impressive police fleet weren’t enough, Dubai is now vying to become one of the world’s best destinations for food, adding just another string to it’s bow.
While we’ve seen Dubai spring up over the past few decades and have probably been paying more attention to the sparkly buildings, the Emirate has always had a strong connection to food. Like much of the Middle East, there is a culture of hospitality and spending quality time with friends and family over dishes. Even strangers are welcomed into Arab homes, and regardless of income, guests are always treated to a full spread of treats and Arabic coffee and tea – obvs!
Food here, brings people together, and is deeply engrained in the way of life. For example, Ramadan, the holiest time of the year, is about self-discipline and abstaining from food and drink, yet Iftars are a big deal. Breaking the fast with dates and milk or water is tradition and family time is everything. The food scene in Dubai completely changes during this period, but restaurants welcome visitors after sundown with special deals and concepts.
We take food very seriously and saying a city should be considered a food capital isn’t taken lightly, so let’s back it up…
Here Are Nine Reasons Dubai Should be:
Well over two thirds of the world’s population live within 8 hours flight from Dubai. Dubai’s airport is one of the busiest in the world and thousands of travellers have stopovers every day – they need to eat! With so many visitors in and out, on a daily basis, Dubai had to up its food game to impress them, and give them an incentive to return! With huge events like Expo 2020, where 25m visitors are expected, the F&B industry is just gearing up to impress.
2. By our calculations, there is a restaurant for every 294 people in Dubai.
There are said to be 9,000 F&B outlets in Dubai, in 2.643m, that equates to one restaurant for every 294 people. There are new outlets that pop up every week! The turnover is high so just like all the other food capitals, if you ate a different restaurant in Dubai every day, you’d probably never run out of new ones (you’d also have to join a gym or something…)
3. Variety & accessibility - we are spoilt for choice
With over 2.6m residents and over 200 nationalities in Dubai, there has to be variety. Despite its rep for glitz and glamour a majority of F&B outlets are casual dining, meaning everyone can eat out. There is every kind of cuisine possible and the price range is wide. Not to mention the settings. Whether you fancy street food or a cuppa in designer mugs, you’ll be catered to.
4. Big name chefs
The best celeb chefs have appeared at venues all over the emirate and some have even set up their own restaurants. Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Nathan Outlaw to name a few have recognised the need to build a brand in Dubai. If they think it, it must be true! The Taste of Dubai Fest earlier this year, saw a 7 Michelin star chef line-up highlighting the need to make an appearance here. While we don’t yet have Michelin star venues, Dubai is making a splash on the regional food scene, we’re excited about seeing the BBC Good Food Middle East Awards results in little over a week!
5. Erm… can we address the 7* hotel?
So we have the only 7* hotel in the world here. It’s a symbol of the city and has it’s fair share of stunning restaurants. You can surround yourself with gold, and even drink it at the Burj Al Arab’s stunning Gold on 27. Almost everything is made of gold and you’ll be treated to unique bites to accompany the fanciest and cleverest cocktails. One of the most Dubai-ish things we’ve ever heard but there’s an example of how Dubai does things a little differently – there’s this edge to even the food scene that other cities just can’t match.
So from gold and glitz to food trucks… They pop up randomly all over the place and we’re lucky to have a park dedicated to the upgraded meals on wheels in the form of Last Exit. As well as being somewhere exciting to visit, the food truck idea just adds another dimension to Dubai’s food scene and we loved visiting them all the Dubai Food Festival. They also look super cool…
7. Imported talent
While the biggest restaurants expand, it’s now unthinkable to leave Dubai off the list of locations. Infamous brands like Hakkasan, Nobu and Burger and Lobster, to name a few, understand the importance and benefits of opening branches in Dubai. Then we have the chains. If you don’t have an outlet here, then are you really even a contender?
8. Home-grown talent
Dubai isn’t just about importing brands, it’s also about creating strong brands, that really stand the test of time and the movement of people through our hub of a city. Rüya Dubai born and raised is looking to expand to London. Reem al Bawadi is a household name and could spread to Europe. You’ve got the smaller but just as loved restaurants like Bu Qtair and Ravi’s, which are amazingly affordable and delicious!
9. Food zones & trends
Forget all that SS / AW stuff, food trends come and go faster than fashion, just minus the pressure to make sure you’re keeping up. Then you have the areas to head to if you’re fancying something specific. JLT is notorious for gorgeous cafs, Satwa for authentic and affordable Asian food, the Marina for shisha and Downtown for pretty much anything else. Also, where as some cities go through one food trend per season, there could be a few happening in Dubai at any one time, for example there is a born again Peruvian / Asian trend taking place right now at the same time as a revival and modern twist on Turkish cuisine.
So there you have it. Food makes everything better and Dubai hasn’t ignored this during its evolution. With so many people living and travelling through here, food is a way to share cultures and bond. It’s all about diversity and Dubai does it so well, with something for everyone. Always.