Iftar is the traditional meal served to break the day’s fast. Here are some memorable ones we’ve tried that you can enjoy with family and friends.
Baÿty Restaurant, Carlton Downtown
While restaurants are competing with each other this Ramadan to serve and value for money Iftar, Carlton gives you a bit of both for AED 199.
From the pastry of the appetisers to the juices everything is produced in-house. “Freshly cooked meals food high quality of ingredients, is the number one priority,” Chef Khedr Al Issa tells us. Succulent specialities like Ouzi Syrian whole roasted lamb, roasted catch of the day, Moroccan lamb couscous and a live cooking shawarma station keep us coming back for more.
The busy restaurant has a warm and familiar atmosphere and the number of customers doesn’t affect the service. Overall good choice to try something new around Downtown for a reasonable price.
Once your appetite is satisfied, head to the 47th floor and enjoy live Arabic music, tea and an a la carte, in the Moonlight Tent
Sheikh Zayed Road, near Financial Centre Metro Station. 7pm-9pm daily during Ramdan at AED 199 per person. The Moonlight tent is open from 7pm to 2am. Call 04 506 963.
A La Turca, Rixos The Palm
If you are keen to try something different this Ramadan, head down to Rixos the Palm Dubai for a truly Turkish delight, after which you can step over to Nu Air Lounge as they fire up a delectable à la carte selection for suhour.
The reception at the Rixos is something special and allows you experience the warmness and hospitality, that is an important part of the spirit of Ramadan, from the moment you enter. The spread has variety of true Middle Eastern cuisine, but with an emphasis on their Turkish roots.
Aside from the quality of the Ottoman delicacies, what sets this iftar apart from many of the others, is the live cooking stations – you choose your seafood or meat (again the range is impressive, premium cuts, skewers, chops, beef sausage, etc) and hand it to the chef. This live cooking service is also available for pasta and traditional Turkish bread. It’s worth bearing in mind, strategy is key here, as the meat and seafood will take about 10 minutes to prepare, so get that done before dishing up all the sides. They also have sharing tables with a constant provision of sharing plates.
The dessert offering is strong as well, we all know Turkish cuisine takes sweets very seriously. Except for the teasing Turkish ice cream serving ritual, which of course is both theatrical and a bit of a work out for all involved. This iftar is a strong consideration for an all-round joyful experience.
AED 230. Throughout Ramadan. From Sunset -10.30pm. Rixos the Palm Dubai, Palm Jumeirah. 04 457 5454.
365 restaurant at Novotel Al Barsha
A great spread of dried fruits greets us as we enter the hotel’s all-day diner, which is transformed for Ramadan into a Moroccan iftar tent, serving aromatic food from the North African country. Servers in traditional flowing dress serve sweet mint tea to slake our thirst before we browse the buffet.
The authenticity of this is guaranteed by Chef Habiba, who has been flown in especially from Agadir in Morocco. Her salad bar is refreshing way to break fast and on the main course, we are happy to see a well-balanced set of dishes for vegetarian and non-vegetarian guests. Tagine is offered in fish, chicken and eggplant and platters of pastilla (a meat pie) and baghrir (pancakes) are equally tasty.
Sweet biscuits flavoured with anise and sticky rolls of chebakia (fried dough) finish our spread, overseen by restaurant staff dedicated to making sure guests are served well.
Opposite Sharaf DG Metro. Daily during Ramdan, sunset-11pm. AED 125 with soft drinks. Children from 12 to 16 years old get a 50 per cent discount. Kids under 12 go free. 04 304 9000.
Seven Sands, JBR, The Beach
Whether fasting or simply curious to partake in an iftar meal, Emirati style – Seven Sands could beckon. The restaurant on JBR’s The Beach serves a tasty insight into dishes happening in UAE households this holy month. Welcomed with Arabic coffee and dates on arrival, you’re led to a modern seating area that includes an outdoor terrace with stunning views of the Ain Dubai wheel.
Beyond good hummous, zesty moutabal, salads and soup, this sensibly planned buffet includes dishes that may not be on your Arabic food radar. Inside elegant brass tureens we found juicy ouzi aishu lahem (lamb ouzi), hearty lamb okra stew and golden shark/kingfish sambousa.
Emirates favourite, chicken madrouba has a porridge-like consistency – which can initially seem odd – but with lentils, oats and coriander leaves among the ingredients, is both substantial and tasty. Rice-based fish machbous also hammers an appetite and sits well alongside Bedouin thereed vegetable stew.
Another regional winner, harees, is a little like meat porridge with its wheat and chicken components and colour. Again flavour soon over-rides any texture misgivings. Seven Sands, like most iftar venues, balances healthy essentials with satisfying comfort food. For the latter there’s sticky date pudding no plate should be without and umm ali that’s hard to better. The fluffy kanafa also deserves plate space.
Daily from sunset, throughout Ramadan, until 9pm. AED 155 per person, including soft beverages; 50 per cent off for children aged 6-12; children below six years dine for free. Call 04 551 6652.
Abd El Wahab, Pier 7, Dubai Marina
It’s hard to go wrong with delicious homemade hummus, fattoush and the many Arabic dips and delicacies offered at this iftar. The brand was born in Beirut and you can taste the authentic Lebanese flavours in every bite that’s delivered to your table.
With sprawling marina tower views, Iftars at Pier7 give you a personal sense of humble place, appropriate for many of the themes in this Holy Month. With the welcoming staff and warm restaurant atmosphere, this location scores well on hospitality.
You’re invited to try a rich mixed meza of hot and cold dishes from the popular kebbeh kras, chicken livers, makaneh, fattoush which come as sumptuous starters. The main course comes in the form of a choice between, either the restaurant’s signature meat-packed mixed grill or a chef’s choice ‘daily dish.’ We have a delicately prepared fillet of white fish, which is cooked perfectly and provides a nice balance to the strong perfumes of the other plates.
The restaurant also mentions a live buffet station for dessert with a selection of kellaj ramadan, beklawam knefe, umm ali, dates and dried fruits. This was not available in the preview.
It is worth noting that this restaurant’s iftar option is a set menu, so is suitable for smaller appetites.
Sunset to 10pm across all venues. AED 150 per person. Abd El Wahab at Pier7. Reservations can be made by calling 04 432 5772.
Park Inn Motor City
Park Inn by Radisson may have been open barely a few months in Dubai’s Motor City but it already has iftar in place. The only hotel in the suburb has a small restaurant, but in Head Chef Nasr Khaldoun has someone who clearly knows his way around Arabic food.
While the spread is modest in size it features (at least at the preview night) a couple of less frequent iftar mains. These include aisha khanoum – a seemingly simple Lebanese dish with robust flavours. Samak bil tahenh has a more subtle flavour and appearance while chicken jagin/tagine was given a vibrant and standout flavour with the inclusion of olives and dry fruits.
While these main dishes will rotate during the holy month, the juices – kmar el dain, jallab, karkadaih etc – and hot and cold mezza, including good mouhamarrah and makali salad, will remain. Desserts include wardat al sham, creamy bundles of halwat el jeben and atayef assafiri. The venue is bright and modern and the iftar selection brief but not short on quality – which, reassuringly, means there should be little wastage at this excellent value for money iftar.
Sunset until 9pm. AED 89. Park Inn by Radisson, Turin Blvd Road, Motor City. 04 249 4100
Ghaya Grand Hotel, International Media Production Zone
Away from the landmark hotels some lesser-known venues are set to serve a fast-breaking buffet to rival more obvious options. Among them is Ghaya Grand Hotel, in Dubai Production City, aka IMPZ.
It’s Red Diamond restaurant does well with salads of Thai beef, tandoori chicken with green lentils and air-dried beef with artichoke and grilled zucchini. Come Ramadan, also expect mussels with ginger and coriander sauce and smoked salmon salad with mushrooms and green beans. On the cooked side, lamb ouzi sits well alongside warm mezze, although best dish of preview night for this palate was fiendishly good shish barak – Lebanese meat dumplings in plain yoghurt stew. Oh, and chicken musakhan; wraps of Palestinian-style sumac-infused chicken and caramelised onions.
Among the night’s non-Arab food winners was moist butter chicken and Thai vegetable red curry, packing a lively kick. Fish with harra sauce scored well and pasta and antipasti is also available.
Red Diamond, thankfully, doesn’t go overboard with desserts. Familiar belt-busters include katayef bil kashta (pancakes filled with cream and syrup), osmalieh (crispy vermicelli and cream), aish al-saraya (creamy sweet and sour blend with pistachio nuts and cloves) and mohalabiya (milky Lebanese sweet with dried fruit and syrup).
Fruit is available to offset the above, or strawberry cheesecake, carrot cake or various pastries.
Daily throughout Ramadan, sunset to 8.30pm. AED 115 per person; children aged six-12 dine for AED 55; kids under six dine eat for free. 052 7872 698 or 04 429 3300.
Bab Al Shams
Built in the style of a traditional Arabic fort, this desert resort and spa takes iftar diners on a journey through 1001 Arabian Nights from its Al Hadheerah tent.
Highlight for us carnivores are the Arabic barbecue stations, from the fresh catch of the day to the succulent kebabs, with the bread oven nearby churning out the requisite Arabic bread. Rice lovers are in for a treat too, with four different biryanis to choose from, alongside curries and stews. Dessert options are delicacies sourced from around the Arabic world and the Turkish ice cream station’s antics will definitely keep you entertained.
Every evening during Ramadan, a show of horses, camels and actors tell the history of the UAE for a true cultural and culinary journey.
Al Qudra Road. Sunday to Wednesday, AED 265; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, AED 295. Children up to four dine free; 50 per cent off for five-12 years. 04 809 6194.
Masti, La Mer
Colourful and stylish Masti shuns the traditional iftar buffet for a sharing concept.
There’s no faulting the presentation skills of the kitchen, as we’re presented with impeccable-looking small plates of Indian fusion – edamame and cassava chaat with pretty garnishes of flash frozen yoghurt crackers, slow-cooked lamb croquettes and fries. Vegetarian and meat options are available for starters and mains, with a diverse choice of chicken or vegetable biryani or bao.
Water is available in unlimited amounts and we’re greeted with a mocktail. A chocolate Lotus Tiramasu version of the traditional Indian dessert basundi is delicious, but not quite enough for two to share. Overall, particularly hungry diners may be left wanting more, especially if they’ve strolled through the stunning La Mer beachfront.
Daily during Ramadan, 7pm-9pm. AED 150. La Mer South. 800 62784.
Address Dubai Marina
We walk in to the hotel’s Constellation Ballroom past a mesmerising display of delicacies and start with traditional dates, nuts and juices. The appetisers cover hot and cold mezze are equally authentic – we dig in to kibbeh, fatayer and pakoras. Small glasses of beetroot, orange and carrot shots are welcome refreshment. There’s a lot to choose from the main course and Arabic, Indian and Italian dishes are well represented, with a good balance of vegetarian, chicken, meat and seafood options. On to dessert – we could have eaten the entire roll of sticky halwa, if we hadn’t already stuffed ourselves with freshly-baked kunafa.
A contemporary dining area and live band are added perks to this enjoyable iftar.
Sunset until 9pm, daily throughout Ramadan. AED 22o per person, kids aged six to 12 are AED 110 each. 04 436 7777.
Friendly, top-class service has become synonymous with Raffles, and the iftar at Azur there didn’t disappoint. The buffet has the perfect mix of Arabian dishes seamlessly integrated with international favourites. We see buffets as a range of dishes that must be sampled entirely, so we can vouch that each was prepared with the upmost attention to detail and it was hard to fault any of them.
Chef de Cuisine Mazen Abdallah has more than 20 years’ culinary experience and it shines across iftar favourites like shawarma, manakish and kunafa. Classic Ramadan juices tamarind, qamar al deen and jallab go down a treat. The atmosphere at Azur is relaxed and inviting and true to Ramadan hospitality, we share our table meet new people.
AED 195, inclusive of Ramadan juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea. Children under the age of six dine for free (per two paying adults) and it’s AED 98 for children aged six to 12. Sunset until 9pm. daily during Ramadan. 04 324 8888. Sheikh Rashid Road, Wafi City.
Yalumba, Le Meridien Dubai، Airport Road
The iftar spread at Yalumba is a globe-trotting affair, with dishes from Morocco to India. With meatless options of paneer masala and veg biryani and a table of 20-plus salads for the health-conscious, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Expectation-defying highlights for us are one of tastiest shawarmas in Dubai, with flavourful chicken or lamb rolled with fresh pickles and veggies. We’re told the bread is baked fresh every day too.
No iftar is complete without traditional Middle Eastern desserts and Yalumba covers this base commendably, with a couple of surprises. Camel milk ice cream is light, creamy and delicious and a Kit Kat chocolate cake is a refreshing riff on indulgence. Don’t leave without passing by the live dessert station, where the chef creates freshly fried mshabak with a generous helping of sugar syrup!
AED 169. Sunset to 9pm during Ramadan. Airport Road, Garhoud. 04 702 2455.
The Retreat, Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel
This is not your conventional iftar. The Retreat on The Palm bills itself as Dubai’s first holistic wellbeing resort and has put an interesting twist on the traditional fast-breaking ceremony.
Iftar begins with affirmed expectations – moutabal, hummus, lamb with rice and the deeply sweet, but entirely irresistible umm ali – but this is where tradition ends. Once you have enjoyed the feast, there are other activities on offer to help you unwind.
A selection of mini-treatments are available to enjoy including guided chakra meditation, colour therapy, oxygen therapy and mini massages. After taking full advantage of the iftar buffet, this makes us relax completely and at the end of the experience we float out of the hotel.
Standard iftar is AED 165 with the option to upgrade to a package which includes access to the Wellness Lounge and one treatment, for a total of AED 215, something that we would definitely recommend. The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel, East Crescent. 04 524 7766.
Ewaan, The Palace Downtown
Few venues are surely better suited to iftar than The Palace Downtown Hotel’s elegant Ewaan restaurant.
Intimate despite its size, the space is enriched for Ramadan by strategically placed decorations, soft lighting and an oud player dispensing traditional music. Throughout Ramadan, a large ‘tent’ extends the venue onto what is usually the outdoor terrace.
As previous patrons of Ewaan might expect, the kitchen gives good iftar. Regular dishes include sumptuous lamb ouzi, refreshing salads such as spinach bel zeit and fried baby marrow with yoghurt tahini, and favourites shish tawook and muhammara pepper dip. There’s hearty roast beef and chicken for big meat fans, and moist beef rib eye enhanced by wild mushroom sauce – plus colourful sushi for lighter savoury appetites.
Ewaan chefs stretch our tastebuds with zesty coconut chili prawns and bold mutton chukka while shining with seabass cooked with subtle carrot and cumin sauce and decadent roasted quail with sumac. Clipper lobster, baby calamari and spiced malfouf mahshi (meat-stuffed cabbage leaves) also merit plate space.
Desserts include eye-catching dainty creations and lavish chocolate mousse cake.
Sunset until 9pm, from first day of Ramadan. AED 255 per person (25 per cent off during the first week of Ramadan), inclusive of buffet, Ramadan juices and water; children aged six-11 dine at 50 per cent off and children below six dine for free. 04 888 3444. The Palace, Downtown.
Bayside Restaurant and Terrace, Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay
The best way to describe this iftar is Arabic, with an Asian twist. Staff in traditional Arabic dress make for a sense of occasion and we can’t complain about our table, right next to the dessert counter.
Before we dive into the sweet stuff starters, we graze on moutabel, kibbeh and falafel, served with irresistible bread that’s baked in-house. More international fare comes as sushi and Indian chaat prepared in front of us. For mains we are spoilt for choice. Of course we have to go with authentic lamb ouzi, which is just perfect. We also sample stir fries of prawn and beef, a chicken shawarma and some biryani. What a mix, but all equally tasty!
Our dessert place is a smorgasbord of mini cheese cakes, carrot cakes, rice pudding and pistachio mousse. We finish the evening with a cup of Arabic coffee – the perfect end to our feast.
Sunset-10.30pm daily during Ramadan. AED 195 per person. 04 369 0000. Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay, Al Abraj Street.
Khaymat Al Bahar, Al Qasr Hotel Madinat Jumeirah
No matter how long you have lived in the UAE, iftar with an undisturbed view of the Burj Al Arab is a treat. On top of that, Khaymat Al Bahar ticks all our boxes when it comes to a lush, Lebanese dining experience.
The pool-side restaurant is reached by a short stroll through Al Qasr’s beautiful gardens. For those of us who don’t fast, it’s not nearly enough time to work up an appetite for this generous buffet. The salad bar offers a selection of favourites including hummus, moutable, fattoush, tabbouleh and grilled vegetables, accompanied by six different types of bread. We also indulge in homemade falafel with tahini dip, kibbeh, lamb and spinach fatayah, cheese sambousek and watch manakeesh being made in front of us.
The chefs aren’t shy when it comes to the mains; there is an impressively-sized king fish on display, as well as a gigantic dish of biryani with lamb. The selection of traditionally-grilled meats makes our mouths water.
Do leave some space for the desserts, or sample bitter Arabic coffee offered round from a traditional gold dallah – it’s a taste worth acquiring.
From sunset daily during Ramadan. AED 195. 04 432 3232. Jumeirah Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah.
Al Maeda at Doubletree Hilton, JBR
The venue has made a deliberate and, in our view, successful attempt to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere through inviting lighting and decoration plans.
There are interior and exterior seating options. We chose to sit inside (closer to the food) but the terrace offers great views over the beach and Ain Dubai and is decorated with a romantic scattering of fairy lights.
The food followed iftar format, being presented as a buffet that begins with classic Arabian dishes, before growing to include a full range of international delights. The iftar at Maeda featured lots of salads, including delicious specials such as pistachio hummus, beetroot moutabel and moutabel ganoush with a baker’s feast of fresh warm bread offered too.
We sampled the saffron fish and prawns in lemon butter. Both were strong dishes. The shish barak and the whole roasted lamb were also excellent but we could not wait to hit the desert station. The umm ali was amongst some of the best we’ve tasted! Regional comfort food at it’s finest, with a little bit of fresh fruit on the side, it finished our iftar off perfectly.
The selection of food available is not the largest available out there by any means, however, the overall quality of the food was excellent. And incredibly good value for money.
Served from sunset to close. AED 139 per person. Maeda at Doubltree Hilton, JBR. 0551 668 092.
Great British Restaurant, Dukes Dubai, The Palm
Like all good expats, this quintessential English restaurant adopts Middle Eastern flavours over Ramadan. Five different iftar menus rotate every five days, but the recurring theme is buffet dining, with live cooking stations and carving points. Arabic food dominates, but we’re pleased to spot the ever-so British roast beef. Our favourites are the shish tawook and there is a good selection of chicken – especially the musakhan (baked chicken) rolls.
Thai coconut and watermelon are a refreshing twist on the standard Ramadan juices and an uplifting view over the beach is just a few minutes walk away.
Sunset to 9pm. AED 185, including soft drinks. 04 455 1101. Dukes Dubai, The Palm.