13 FEB 2017:Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, sits strategically at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. The discovery of oil in the late sixties put its development on the fast track, though now it's tourism that’s the driving factor. This city with its gigantic malls and iconic skyscrapers is over the top with incredible buildings, hotels and restaurants.

The city has arisen like a phoenix from its low-key pearl diving origins on the Persian Gulf coast to unbelievable heights. The Mall of the Emirates with its indoor skiing complex, Burj Khalifa the world’s tallest building, the Dubai Fountain (world’s largest with its stunning water show every half hour in the evening), the man-made Palm Jumeirah archipelago built in the shape of a palm tree in the Persian Gulf, the list of amazing infrastructure goes on and on.

So perhaps it’s no surprize there are 540 listed hotels in Dubai including many of the world’s most spectacular. As for restaurants, virtually every national cuisine from around the world has a presence here. Trip Advisor offers reviews of some 9,000 of them. Three star Michelin chefs and media celebrity chefs have outlets in five star hotels, familiar and famous restaurant chains are well represented and many places offer stunning décor and amazing views along with unforgettable culinary experiences.

It’s worth noting that of this city’s 2.7 million residents, only 17% are Emirati. (People must have a residence visa to live in the UAE and there is no possibility for expats to gain citizenship, not even children who are born here - they take the citizenship of their father.) This diversification means that an ethnic restaurant can easily have all their staff from the Chef to the bus boy from their own country be it Morocco, France or Thailand.

Given all this choice, it’s hard for the tourist to know where to begin. However on a recent trip, I assured my husband that wherever we landed was sure to be great and it was. We spent our first couple of days at the Waldorf Astoria on Palm Jumeirah. The island was just being built (entirely from sand and rocks - no concrete or steel was used) when I was last in Dubai in 2002. Now completed it consists of a tree trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 kilometre-long breakwater.

The Waldorf is on that outer breakwater island and has stunning views of Dubai skyscrapers across the water, a private soft-sanded beach and six distinct restaurants and lounges. We considered dining at Social by Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck but instead opted for the Vietnamese culinary journey at LAO. Chef Mai of course was from Vietnam and the dishes authentic and delicious.

The rest of our time in Dubai was spent at the One&Only Royal Mirage. This stylish beach resort is on the mainland overlooking Palm Island bay. It has its own kilometre of private beach and 65 acres of landscaped gardens. Architecturally stunning modern buildings tower outside its gates but the resort itself is elegantly low rise with three separate and distinct residences: The Palace, the Arabian Court and the Residence and Spa. Guests may wander about the entire resort and enjoy dining at any of the eight themed restaurants.

We chose the first night to try out Tagine, their Moroccan restaurant. The furnishings, artefacts, Tadlekt hand polished walls and terracotta tiled floors were all procured from Morocco to create the ambiance of an old home in Marrakech. All the staff was from Morocco, including the live entertainment and female chef. We had chorbat khodar (vegetable soup), pastilla bil hamam (pigeon pie), tagine soussi (lamb and vegetables cooked in a tagine and served on couscous) and other tasty dishes all washed down with Moroccan wine.

Celebrities restaurant under deputy executive Chef Laurent Michel from Cannes, France, was French to the core, even the butter came from Charente-Poitou. The pigeon dish and warm apple tarte were divine. Eauzone, the resort’s Asian fusion restaurant excelled at Thai curries and Olives at the Palace and The Rotisserie at the Arabian Court both had generous breakfast buffets with choices that encompassed Arabian, European and American dishes.

The sister property to the One&Only Mirage, The One&Only The Palm, is a five minute complimentary boat shuttle away. We went there to dine at STAY by three star Michelin Chef Yannick Alléno. Chef Alléno visits three times a year to check up on things and do a special dinner for guests. The rest of the time STAY is in the talented hands of Chef Gaschi, native of Strasbourg, France. On offer the night we attended was a special black truffle menu which we devoured with delight.

Communications Director Anthony Pollock, who has been with the One&Only for 17 years, told us “People say Dubai is a transit destination but people come back here every year….we have a 40% repeat guest ratio, that climbs to 60% at peak times.” He also told us that many guests spend pretty much their entire time in the resort only venturing out perhaps for shopping. We could see why. www.oneandonlyresorts.com

 

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Margaret Swaine

Margaret is a nationally published wine, spirits, food and travel writer, who has authored thousands of articles on these subjects for magazines and newspapers.

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