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Where to eat British food in Dubai

September 22, 2014

Where to eat British food in Dubai on mycustardpie.comImmigrants always bring their food with them and as Dubai has more expatriates than locals, there are restaurants from every corner of the globe. British expats were always catered to by the odd thing on the menu (fish and chips) and a clutch of pubs (avoid at all costs), but about five or six years ago the wave of modern British cooking hopped on a plane and landed in the Emirates. Whether you are visiting and want to experience traditional food with flair after a day on the beach or a new expat who craves a taste of home, there are plenty of options.

COMFORT FOOD

These restaurants have a lot in common with very good gastro-pubs in the UK. However, expect to pay more at a UAE licensed premises; don’t focus on the bill but the beautiful view and the lovely weather instead.

 

Rivington Grill

There are two branches is now one branch of RG; book (way ahead) to eat on the terrace of the one at Souk Al Bahar if you want a good view of the Dubai fountains. Fish and chips will always be on the menu, as well as their famous Scotch egg, and Eton Mess plus a ‘pie of the day’. If all this sounds a bit working men’s club, think again. Solid, white monogrammed china, white linen, and a menu which definitely falls into the more Modern British category without pearls and foam. The ingredients are seasonal – i.e. British seasonal – so expect to eat samphire or rhubarb, flown in from the UK. Highlights from their summer menu included. Call me a cliché, but this is probably our most-visited non-street-food restaurant in Dubai (plus KP and his mates hoover up chips in curry sauce from the bar snacks menu).

Where to eat British food in Dubai on mycustardpie.com

Bread and butter pudding at Reform Social and Grill

Reform Social & Grill

This restaurant moved into the clubhouse space within The Lakes, a high-end housing development, so it’s a favourite of expats rather than tourists. Open verandas look out onto a swimming pool and the dark wood interior has a few quirky decorations like daleks and Cluedo for a stamp of Britishness. As well as comfort-food favourites, and an alcohol license (and some very good cocktails) it has a pork license which is much more of a rarity. Expect to book ahead for Friday breakfast because of the latter. It has some very silly, thin board things that the starters perch upon which I dislike. However, the puddings are a real highlight and come with a jug filled generously with real vanilla custard and the menu encourages you to ask for more (custard heaven). Pies, steak and pork belly – plus fish and chips of course – make this a real gastro-pub style British menu.

Other options: The Dhow & Anchor at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Alfies at The Boulevard, Emirates Towers,  The Scene Dubai at Pier 7, Dubai Marina which is celebrity chef Simon Rimmer’s first international venture.

MODERN BRITISH

Expect more formal service, swish surroundings, fancier food and to splurge more.

Rhodes W1 and Rhodes Twenty Ten

A Michelin-starred British chef who came and stayed (Gordon came and went), Gary Rhodes is almost part of the community now. Both restaurants serve his signature dishes and he visits several times a year. Rhodes W1, is a brand new reincarnation of his old restaurant (Rhodes Mezzanine) and opened this weekend at The Grosvenor House Hotel, Dubai. The interior is bright white, with bleached wooden floors, modern chandelier and yellow furniture. The menu is very modern British and very Rhodes: buttered cabbage, cider steamed cockles, new potatoes, peas and crispy ham; roast rack of lamb; summer pudding. It’s described as casual, but this is in Dubai terms. I’d call it dead fancy and you’d definitely need a posh frock on to visit.

Rhodes Twenty Ten at nearby Le Royal Meridien is a steak restaurant with dashes of Brit influence such as cauliflower mac and cheese, Welsh rarebit topped champ potatoes, and yes, fish and chips.

Wheelers of St. James

Marco Pierre White has put a few of his toes in the Persian Gulf and Wheelers seems to be the most successful to date. Situated in Dubai Financial Centre, it’s best to enter from the Al Sa’ada street entrance. A soothing, minimal, plush interior sets the tone. If you want a sophisticated brunch with impeccable service and very pretty food, this is the place. I sampled their elegant Celebration of Wheeler’s menu but this has just been relaunched to include many more traditional British favourites like Welsh rarebit, and a carvery with serving different cuts of meat throughout the season including salt marsh lamb and grass-fed beef. Desserts include sticky toffee pudding, and rhubarb and custard (hooray).  You are welcomed with a glass of Pimms and each course is matched with a different wine. Portions are dainty – KP would hate it; sophisticated, bright, young things love it.

The Ivy

Not nearly as smart or as starry as its legendary namesake in London, The Ivy in Dubai has quite a casual atmosphere, thoughtful food and impeccable service (charming Irish Alan has been there from the start). The menu is a shade fancier than the Rivington Grill (same group) but the vibe more chilled, with a dark wood, Art Deco style interior and a really good crooner or jazz band for entertainment. The menu is seasonal British (ingredients flown in) and follows British trends and regional influences. Lobster macaroni cheese is on the new Autumn menu for instance. Steak tartare and Dover sole rub shoulders on the menu with Asian-spiced crab with mango and kimchi pickle, and caviar. You can add a Welsh rarebit topping to your hamburger and finish with Banoffee pie but take your gold credit card. By contrast, on a Wednesday, eat fabulous cheeses matched with excellent wine at really great value. (Forgive the pics: it’s very dark plus two taken on iphone)

Other options: Marco Pierre White at The Conrad and Retro Feasts (by Luke Thomas) at The Beach JBR. Newly launched The Croft at the Dubai Marriot Harbour Hotel in Dubai Marina is inspired by Darren Velvick’s upbringing in the rural country English village of Hampstead Norreys.

FISH AND CHIPS

If you want your fish and chips out of newspaper rather than on fine china, there are a few options. While they won’t rival a really good chippy in the UK (Simpsons in Cheltenham, TJ’s in Tavistock and Squires in Braunton), when the craving sets in they are perfectly good for a takeaway.

Rock n Sole Plaice

A very British chippy experience beamed down in Jumeirah (and Green Community). Choose from battered imported cod, plaice or more local varieties like ‘rock’ and hammour (overfished so please don’t order) with chips. Fish cakes, scampi, mushy peas, pickled eggs, pickled onions – everything you’d expect is on the menu. Some friends order children’s portions for their parties which arrive hot, fresh and wrapped in paper which are devoured instantly.  I just noticed they now deliver, which is very dangerous news indeed.

Other options (not tested by me): The Fish and Chips Room, London Fish and Chips, Salt and Pepper Fish and Chips (who I’m told do deep-fried, battered Mars bar). For high end fish and chips and an array of seafood, Geales Urban Seafood and Lounge – the London original comes highly recommended by a friend and there’s now a branch at Le Royal Meridien.

BRITISH CURRIES

Of course you can choose from hundreds, thousands of wonderful places to find a curry in Dubai.; from meaty Pakistani to fragrant South Indian and everything in between (and I hope you do). But where do you turn for a Birmingham-style Balti or where they’ll know what you are talking about if you order chicken tikka masala? Onion Bhaji, dhansak, korma, jalfrezi, rogan josh will also be understood. That particular tomatoey, slightly creamy, saucy style of curry which has now been recognised as a British export is being served, complete with regional accents, from a few curry kitchens.

British Tandoor

This tiny hole in the wall near the Mazaya Centre was the first place to serve British curries (formerly known as the Ajman Tandoor). Good quality, reasonably priced and always helpful and punctual delivery. Details here

Brick Lane

Serving the new communities of Dubai from Al Barsha, another friendly and reliable supplier. Details here

Other options: BritBalti (similar menu but they need to improve their delivery time and accuracy). And then of course there’s Michelin starred Atul Khochar’s Rang Mahal for a totally different experience of British-origin Indian cuisine.

BRITISH BRANDS

Carluccios Dubai inside and out

Carluccios Dubai

Also worth mentioning are British names renowned for afternoon tea. Visit the Ritz-Carlton for cucumber sandwiches under the parlour palms. Fortum and Mason is a new arrival with a tea terrace overlooking the Dubai fountains; their Welsh rarebit is irresistible but I have it on good authority that the service leaves a lot to be desired (hope it improves).

There are several British restaurant brands which are taking the world by storm and have branches in Dubai. Hakkasan is elegant, modern Chinese food with a lovely bar and excellent wine list. Gaucho serves the best Argentinian cuts of beef in a dramatic black and white dining area – with a fantastic South American wine list to match. Sadly Jamie’s Italian hasn’t lived up to its UK equivalent as far as I’m concerned. And Carluccio’s makes up for the lack of a wine (it’s dry) with a great view of the Dubai fountains. And for drinks there are clubs like Embassy and Mahiki

Rivington Grill

Rivington Grill Madinat Jumeirah (this branch now closed)

Disclosure: I was a guest of Rivington Grill to sample their summer menu (although have been there countless times under my own steam), Reform and Wheelers (would recommend both) – opinions my own.

and This article coincides with British Food Fortnight. Are there any great purveyors of British food in Dubai that I’ve missed?  Do you make a bee-line for British food when traveling or avoid it for exciting alternatives?

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46 Comments
  1. September 22, 2014 6:21 pm

    Fabulous places! I wish we had such restaurants here…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • September 24, 2014 7:40 am

      Thanks Rosa – I didn’t eat out when I was in Switzerland as it was so expensive!

  2. September 22, 2014 6:22 pm

    I had Fish and Chips along the beach at Edinburgh topped with chippy sauce (only in Edinburgh) last month for a holiday and it was just amazing! Great post btw! 🙂

    • September 24, 2014 7:41 am

      Sounds great – I didn’t get to the water when I was in Edinburgh this month but heard about some great seafood places there.

  3. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    September 22, 2014 6:31 pm

    Great review Sally, keep them coming!!

    • September 24, 2014 7:41 am

      Thanks GA – plan to do a lot more in my own kitchen. Will leave the reviewing to you 🙂

  4. September 22, 2014 8:32 pm

    Your lists are always comprehensive Sally, Well researched and written. I might have been the last person in Dubai to visit Rivington in March this year. Loved the fish and Chips but missed the extra grease and goodness a good ol newspaper provides!!!

    • September 24, 2014 7:42 am

      I rarely order fish and chips at a restaurant – but other people must do because it’s on every single menu of the restaurants above (apart from the curry houses…I think)

  5. September 22, 2014 8:50 pm

    Brilliant round-up Sally. Riv leads the pack for me 🙂 Just adding Ghaf’s food truck for its posh fish finger butties and Eton Mess. Wholeheartedly agree on Fortnum’s dire service 😉

    • September 24, 2014 7:44 am

      Ghaf nearly made the list but until they put the events on their own website I found it hard to steer people to an informative link. I must try those fish finger butties.

  6. glamorous glutton permalink
    September 22, 2014 9:39 pm

    Great round up. I’m sending the link to my Dubai friends now. GG

  7. September 22, 2014 11:00 pm

    Fantastic work, Sally – you really covered all your bases! One question, though – after once being stuck in a German-occupied corner of Mallorca where the only food on offer were sauerkraut and pork trotters, at 40C: do you really feel like eating ‘English’ food in all that heat? I never miss it in the heat, but when it’s cold and rainy I long for bangers and mash, Guinness pie or that beautiful bread and butter pudding …

    • September 24, 2014 7:47 am

      I confess that I do – and it’s not searing heat all the year round. It might be down to my Mum who served up stew and dumplings throughout the year, even in July. It’s between 35 – 40 C at the moment and I made Shepherd’s pie and a rich beef stew last week.

      • September 24, 2014 10:05 am

        It’s funny how we do crave the tastes and textures we grew up with, isn’t it? You are very lucky with Dubai being such a multi-cultural and prosperous city in that you have these wonderful choices. I doubt the majority of fish&chip shops and ‘Irish’ pubs in Mallorca can compete here 😉

  8. September 22, 2014 11:14 pm

    You always take such care with your posts and this is no exception. I will be passing this to a friend who will be visiting soon. Such a lot of fabulous British restaurants in a place so very different from their origins. I beat nearly all have terraces. *sigh*

    • September 24, 2014 7:48 am

      Rivington Grill terraces are rather lovely I must say

  9. daver001 permalink
    September 22, 2014 11:18 pm

    Interesting as always, Sally, but it does feel as if the places you cite are more about English cuisine. Sure we get the Burns’ Night hoolies but where would you go for proper sessional, Scottish or Northern Irish food? Let alone anything from Wales or the Isle of Man? and thinking of English food, where would you go for the real classics? A proper ploughman’s or a grilled kipper? Dressed Cromer crab or kedgeree? Boiled eggs with soldiers or a decent glass of cider? After my UK/France trip and the last weekend with killer chefs across Europe congregating in Zurich, I see Dubai focusing more and more on the slightly from-frou modern British dishes and turning its back on the solid classics we grew up with. Tomorrow I want beans on toast with a poached egg on top – where do I go?

    • September 24, 2014 7:51 am

      Such a good point Dave and actually I notice that MPW menu calls it ‘English food’ not British. RG does dressed crab from the West country and those cockles are pretty quirky.
      I would say it’s difficult to get a proper Ploughman’s in the UK – most resemble a salad.
      A good egg and soldiers? You may have started something…

  10. September 23, 2014 12:03 am

    I remember when I lived in Japan the only place we could get British food was the embassy cafe!

    • September 24, 2014 7:52 am

      I love hearing the tales of food shopping from people who lived in Japan. Most of the food in supermarkets seems unrecognisable to Westerners. We are very spoiled here in that we can buy everything from Marmite to corn flakes.

  11. September 23, 2014 2:38 am

    Sounds to me like a British culinary invasion…. I mean that in a good way!!

    • September 24, 2014 7:56 am

      A mini one… there are 5590 restaurants listed on Trip Advisor and there are so many more than that in Dubai.

  12. September 23, 2014 7:33 am

    Great post with great photos!

  13. September 23, 2014 8:22 am

    Thanks for the review, Sally 🙂 The honeycomb cheesecake looks so tempting.

    • September 24, 2014 7:57 am

      We were a bit dubious about it but the chef insisted we try it – and then we yomped it down. Very good indeed.

  14. September 23, 2014 9:05 am

    I miss the madness of Dubai and have started to look back at all the unusual and hilarious things that happen to people there.

  15. September 23, 2014 9:15 am

    Rivington Grill is our favorite! Love the food, atmospehere, and the fact that the kid’s menu is just smaller portions of what is on the adult’s menu (big bonus).
    Will try Reform and Wheeler’s as well if we can drag ourselves away from Rivington 🙂

  16. September 23, 2014 1:50 pm

    You have me craving classic British comfort food now 🙂

    • September 24, 2014 7:59 am

      Hmmm – I think I always do!

  17. JayEIm permalink
    September 23, 2014 5:55 pm

    I enjoyed reading your article. Thank you.

    The Rivington Grill…..it will be.

    As for the search for “beans on toast with a poached egg on top”. Please add a Chip Butty to the list…..with brown sauce pleaseeeeeeeee.and Pulled Pork and a Salt Beef on rye bread with a pickle!

    • September 24, 2014 8:00 am

      Pulled pork …. hard to get pork on menus due to the regulations that restaurants have to comply with. It’s something I make a bee-line for when I travel.

  18. andreamynard permalink
    September 24, 2014 1:15 am

    Lovely review as ever Sally, but it’s the pic of that jug of custard (glad to hear there are lashings of the stuff all around you) that has made me hungry. Chillier evenings mean it’s definitely time for a few proper puds here.

    • September 24, 2014 8:02 am

      Would love a chillier evening here but it won’t happen for a few months. Love a pie, tart or crumble with custard. A good steamed pud is also fantastic but I don’t think it ever gets cold enough to justify …

  19. daver001 permalink
    September 24, 2014 8:05 am

    Should add Geales to the fish ‘n’ chips list. Haven’t been to the Dubai branch but used to eat weekly in London, when I lived a short distance from Notting Hill. Of course, fish ‘n’ chips is arguably an Eastern European Jewish dish and only English by adoption…

    • September 24, 2014 8:17 am

      Completely off my radar Dave – will add it now.

  20. September 24, 2014 10:03 pm

    wow, looks like you have some amazing places to eat there, and a great choice of food

  21. September 25, 2014 1:26 pm

    A home away from home of restaurants. Lovely!
    Have a super day Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  22. ramblingtart permalink
    September 26, 2014 2:41 am

    What a good post to bookmark. 🙂 As much as I love eating traditional food while I’m traveling, sometimes it’s awfully nice to sit down to familiar, comfort food. 🙂

  23. September 26, 2014 3:58 pm

    I always enjoy reading your blog – and this blog post was no exception. I think Alfie’s at The Boulevard, Jumeirah Emirates Towers also serve some very good British food. And for some mouth-watering haggis (according to my husband😉) head to Girders at JA Ocean View Hotel, Dubai Marina!

    • September 26, 2014 4:00 pm

      Brilliant Randi – Girders was way off my radar. I’ll research and give it a mention. Mentioned Alfie’s as an option but have never tried it (apart from at Taste of Dubai a few years ago). Have a great weekend.

    • September 26, 2014 4:11 pm

      Looks like Girders also has the best value full English breakfast in town and a pork license.

  24. September 26, 2014 10:08 pm

    This must have taken you a long long research and time – brilliant round up. We used to visit Double Deckers at Al Morooj Rotana very much when S’s colleagues from London came down – they love the ambiance. Fish & Chips Roon also has the batter fried Mars bar – too too too good!

    • September 27, 2014 1:59 pm

      I admit I have never eaten a deep fried Mars Bar – and probably never will! I left off the drinking dens in Dubai – I didn’t think about Double Decker for food.

      • September 27, 2014 3:53 pm

        Hmm so that’s why they love Double Decker – drinking den? Batter fried Mars bar is probably not the most healthiest dish on the earth!!!

  25. October 2, 2014 12:50 pm

    excellent round-up – my mouth is watering! For a taste of home I swear by the spicy cod and chips at Bob’s Fish and Chips (run by former owner of the Fish and Chips Room, which has suffered greatly as a result – def wouldn’t recommend anymore. They refried chips twice before I stopped ordering from them). Bob’s cod has lovely crispy batter, huge portion of chips and a tantalising sauce.

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