It’s 5,248km from the tip of the Eiffel Tower to the pinnacle of the Burj Khalifa, but the bright lights of Dubai have proven irresistible to some of France’s top chefs. Whether it’s Michelin-worthy haute cuisine or a cosy bistro serving delectable steak frites to the sounds of Edith Piaf, there’s something here for every Francophile.
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire
Six-time Michelin star-winning Pierre Gagnaire is famous for culinary experimentation that is, in his words, “facing tomorrow but respectful of yesterday.” Reflets is a rare experience from the moment you enter the private elevator to your last bite of the Le Grand Dessert (featuring seven delights, all as beautiful to the eye as to the palate). From the degustation menu we sampled a grey shrimp cake with ratte potatoes, an amazing lavender ice cream, and blue lobster prepared in three ways.
INFO: 7pm to late daily, InterContinental Hotel, Festival City, 04 701 1127, www.diningdfc.com.
Many restaurants in Dubai are lucky to last a year, so Le Classique, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, must be doing something right. The location doesn’t hurt either, as diners can sit on a tranquil terrace overlooking the gorgeous verdant first tee of the Emirates Golf Club. The intimate and interior provides a perfect atmosphere for romance, enhanced by nice touches such as the flambéed lobster and tiger prawns in Pastis, prepared at your table.
INFO: 7pm to midnight, every day except Monday, Emirates Golf Club, 04 417 9999, www.dubaigolf.com.
Hugo Café is new on the scene, but it’s sure to become one of Dubai’s favourite lunch spots. Although named after the gloomy author of Les Misérables, it’s a bright and inviting café with a literary theme that offers a selection of French classics, many with a Vietnamese twist. There are still a few kinks to iron out – why is there a National Geographic DVD about meteors playing in the background instead of, say, Amelie? – but their perfectly prepared salads, exquisite crepes, and delectable desserts will keep their patio hopping once the temperature starts to drop.
INFO: 8am to 11pm daily, Palm Strip Mall, Jumeirah, Dubai, 04 386 3100, www.hugocafe.com.
We keep going back to Traiteur, and they’ve never put a foot wrong – not that they couldn’t hide it if they did. With an open kitchen entirely visible from the grand dining room, the chefs are literally ‘on stage’ throughout the evening, which is testament to the total confidence and professionalism of everyone involved. Traiteur’s goal is to take bistro food to the next level, and they do so by perfectly realising a variety of French classics. Even a fussy eater will fall for their succulent snails in parsley butter, and their beef Rossini – topped with a thick slice of foie gras and a very truffley Périgourdine sauce – can’t be beaten. INFO: 7pm to midnight Sunday to Friday, 12.30pm- to 4pm Friday, Park Hyatt Dubai, 04 317 2222, www.dubai.park.hyatt.com.
Sometimes it’s about quality and quantity. The gargantuan Imperium – adorned with the crystal chandeliers and Roman columns that we’ve come to expect from a Jumeirah hotel – doesn’t do things in half-measures. For Dhs225 you can order your main from the menu, and sample everything else from the buffet. We recommend the Millefeuille au Crabe, with sweet roasted peppers and light-as-air crab meat. Imperium is also, to the best of our knowledge, the only restaurant in town to offer cuisses de grenouille (that’s frogs legs, for the uninitiated).
INFO: 12.30pm to 4pm and 6.30pm to 11pm daily, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, 04 453 0444, www.jumeirah.com.
For many, the mere mention of French food brings to mind the Michelin guide, haute cuisine, and a countless array of confusing cutlery. In reality, the heart of French eating is the bistro, where comforting, home-style meals are served in a casual environment. Bistro Madeleine’s French staff understands this perfectly, and spoils their guests with a variety of hearty and satisfying classic dishes. Don’t miss the Entrecote grille, served with a rich wild mushroom sauce and heaps of shoestring frites. We recommend stopping by on a Thursday night, when you can enjoy an endless buffet to the sounds of a live chanteuse, starting at Dhs185.
INFO: 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm daily, InterContinental Hotel, Festival City, Dubai, 047011127, www.diningdfc.com.
Le Petit Maison
Le Petit Maison is not just the best French restaurant in Dubai – it may be the best restaurant in the city, period. Perfection, you see, is not about bells and whistles – it’s about doing what you do in the best way possible. For example, you don’t expect much when you order ‘marinated beetroot,’ but you’re left stunned when you’re served not just a beetroot, but The Beetroot – the one that all other beetroots aspire to be. This confidence and attention to detail touches everything they do. There’s no assigned waiter, just a roaming group of charming, attentive staff that appear exactly (and only) when they’re needed. And do not leave without trying their perfectly creamy burrata cheese, served with the sweetest cherry tomatoes that have ever existed.
INFO: 12pm to 3.30pm and 7pm to 11.30pm daily, DIFC, 04 439 0505, www.lpmdubai.ae.
Stay by Yannick Alléno
Even the most spoiled diner can sometimes find ‘fine dining’ to be too much like hard work. The food’s interesting but you leaves hungry, you don’t recognise half the things on the menu, the place is pretty but you spend the whole evening worrying about your posture. Stay by Yannick Alleno is an exception. The interior is elegant, but broken into tiny intimate booths where you can be yourself; the food is creative but never alien, and the service is professional and anything but snooty. And, with a ‘pastry library’ in the middle of the dining area where you can order desserts by the metre(!), the only reason you’ll want to leave is to grab the complimentary goodie bag on your way out.
INFO: 7pm to 11pm daily, One&Only The Palm Dubai, 04 440 1030, http://thepalm.oneandonlyresorts.com.