Iftar is the meal that marks the end of the day’s fasting during Ramadan. From contemporary menus to set buffets, here’s what available around Dubai.
The Holy Month of Ramadan officially began on Monday, 6th May. During Ramadan, office hours and the school days are shorter. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk and everyone is expected to refrain from eating and drinking in public during these times.
At sunset, friends and families gather to share food at iftar meals and even if you’re not fasting, joining one is a great way to learn more about this holiest time of year.
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The Loft, Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai
If you attend just one restaurant iftar this Ramadan then The Loft at Dubai Opera could be it.
The Gold & Honey iftar is all that you might expect of this prestigious location, from a unique setting high in the stunning building to food that you’ll want to break into song about.
Chefs give the iftar template a spin in several ways, starting with several hummus choices that include beetroot, sun-dried tomato and red pepper infusions, and tabbouleh taken up an octave by gorgeous chilli marinated prawns.
The skill and ideas put into the cold mezze alone justify the visit; farro with spinach and tahini dressing, quinoa and pomegranate, roasted fig and feta crostini, chickpea and onion with lemon yoghurt dressing, all honed with finesse.
That said, lobster and truffle mac and cheese and The Loft’s Arabic chicken stew are flavours you’ll wish to savour and replicate. Kapsa style lamb with wild rice and grilled fish ratatouille tick more taste boxes, while it’s hard to ignore a carvery section of grilled salmon, prime rib, and shoulder of lamb.
Desserts might be a struggle, but at least spare a spot for rose cheesecake washed down with strawberry and mango ice tea.
Gold & Honey Iftar, The Loft at Dubai Opera, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, from sunset until 10pm. AED 265 adults, AED 125 kids aged six-11 (under sixes free). Call 04 362 7312 or email email@example.com
Few iftars this Ramadan will involve travelling by car, boat and then electric buggy. But Kingfisher Lodge is not your usual hospitality destination.
Opened a year ago, this eco-friendly ‘glamping’ resort at Kalba, on the east coast of Sharjah, is in an isolated setting – yet that doesn’t see it holding back from a memorable iftar this Holy Month.
It presents a spread that’s more about quality than quantity, with stand-out tastes coming via fragrant salads of marinated squid and snow peas, Thai shrimp with julienne vegetables and orange and rocca.
Main courses range from zesty fassula bil zait and samak sadaiya to juicy Moroccan lamb barkook and Western fare such as lasagne. Jordanian chicken mushakan, here served in addictive saj-style wraps, was arguably our highlight flavour.
Traditional juices and desserts round off an iftar that should probably conclude with an overnight stay.
From sunset. AED 170 (including tea, coffee, soft drinks but not taxes); 50 per cent discount for kids six-12; under sixes dine free. 092 011 900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Atrium, Grand Millennium Dubai
The one thing better than enjoying a good iftar this Ramadan is attending one that’s also helping a good cause.
Grand Millennium Dubai has partnered with Al Jalila Foundation – and a portion of every iftar guest spend supports the ‘Basma’ campaign, which aims to provide life-saving treatment and transform the lives of children in the UAE.
If that’s not incentive enough, the food and atmosphere at the hotel’s international dining restaurant The Atrium should be. Tasty authenticity enhanced by an oud player beckon alongside a broad cold mezze selection. This includes refreshing salads of feta and watermelon, grilled pumpkin with cottage cheese, beetroot with lychee and orange, and spicy cauliflower, alongside regular fattoush and baba ghanoush.
Jordan influences some main courses, such as fermented yoghurt and lamb dish mansaf ordony, and sweet onion-driven chicken mousakhan. Lamb mandai is satisfyingly simple, mixed grilled meats good, and veggies courtesy of braised green beans in loubieh bil zeit, marrow-based kousa bil zeit and kousa mahshi stuffed zucchini.
As well as a rich umm ali and range of mixed baklava, try the creamy Lebanese treat osmaliya with kashta and strawberry. Simply delicious!
Sunset-9pm. The Atrium, Grand Millennium Dubai, Barsha Heights. AED 199 per person, AED 89 for kids aged five-10 years (below fives dine for free), including a cinema room for children to watch movies. Call 04 423 4170 or email email@example.com
Serdaal Ballroom, The Westin Mina Seyahi
Amid the mind-boggling array of Dubai iftars, those hosted in a ballroom arguably offer a sense of occasion.
Such is the case at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marin where scale and elegance meet in the hotel’s Serdaal Ballroom for iftar and suhoor.
Food stations tender everything from roasted and grilled meats and the usual hot and cold mezze items, plus sushi and traditional juices such as tamer hindi, karkade, jalab and qamar al dene. Scoring highly for these taste buds were chicken tagine, fish sayadiya, murgh tangdi kebab and cheese baladi, served alongside Indian and European options – all soundtracked by an engaging oud player who could be heard throughout the venue.
Desserts include a range of Arabic sweets, gooey cakes and a Turkish Delight section, while kids get a kick out of the animated Turkish ice-cream man and a chocolate fountain.
Sunset-9.30pm. Serdaal Ballroom, The Westin Mina Seyahi. AED 155 and AED 55 for children under 12 (free for under-sixes). Call 04 511 7373.
Yalumba, Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre
The long-standing favourite venue has more than 250 chefs working on its menus, and it shows.
There’s a good choice of salads and dips, including an interesting roasted cauliflower hummus and beetroot moutabel. Pumpkin with feta was our favourite, along with a Waldorf salad packed with healthy walnuts.
Vegetarians are well-catered for – load up your meat-free plate with honey-roasted carrots, aubergines, asparagus and broccoli, vegetable moussaka and curry. Meat eaters, try the fish tagine and melt-in-the-mouth chicken mulukhiya.
Chefs are on hand to offer help, should you dither at the samosa station. A variety of fruit and ice-cream finishes our evening on a sweet note.
Sunset to 9.30pm. AED 169. Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Airport Road, Garhoud. 04 217 0000.
Azur Restaurant, Raffles
A classy iftar, where we’re invited to sign up for cooking classes in preparing traditional Ramadan dishes.
If eating’s more your thing, start with the salads that are carefully laid out on a long table. From the roast chicken, lamb and turkey on offer, we choose turkey. We are happy to report that the bird is perfectly cooked and comes with roasted vegetables and a choice of gravy.
We watch a demo of traditional ‘booza’ ice-cream being churned and decide to sample some of the sticky, elastic goodness with a selection of Arabic sweets.
If you like a side-order of culture with your iftar, on display are pottery and calligraphy paintings by a local artist AlTayeb Amer.
Sunset to 10.30pm. AED 205 per person inclusive of Ramadan juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea. Cooking classes available until the start of Ramadan, AED 230 per person. Sheikh Rashid Road, Wafi. 04 324 8888.
A.O.C International Buffet, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach
The Sofitel’s all-day diner is transformed with ceiling drapes and hanging lanterns.
The buffet style iftar was well laid-out, with plenty of space to enjoy your food and views over Ain Dubai. Highlights for us were skewers of grilled beef, cooked to your taste, and chicken and a fresh riff on the usual salad bar offerings – we spot white bean salads, beetroot, green peas and plenty of other colourful vegetables.
If you’re keeping up the healthy vibe, dates and dried apricots hang from decorative ‘trees’ and all your favourite Ramadan juices are here – lemon mint, tamarind and jellab.
However, we’re lured in by the dessert display, centred around a two-metre-long eclair and chocolate fountain. It’s all about balance!
Sunset to 10pm. AED 160 per person, including juices, water and hot drinks. Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR. 04 448 4848.
Crescendo, Anantara The Palm
No shortage of food here, but first a good choice of Ramadan drinks, served from a decorative gold decorated chest.
The lustrous theme continues, as we try vegetable spring rolls and samosas from silver urns. There’s a luxurious choice of salads, with Scottish smoked salmon, asparagus with marinated in bottarga (fish roe), and quail eggs. The compressed watermelon with heirloom tomato with burrata is great if you are vegetarian. For those who enjoy seafood, the prawns, crab and mussels are amazing.
Don’t leave without trying the soufflé mousse. Made to order, there is a small waiting time as you have to watch it rise but trust us, it’s worth the wait.
From sunset to 10.30pm. AED 199 per adult and AED 100 per child aged six, including tea, coffee, water and juices. Crescendo, Anantara The Palm. 04 567 8304.
Ewaan, The Palace Downtown
If you’re looking for iftar with one of the widest ranges of dishes we’ve ever seen then look no further than Ewaan at The Palace Downtown. There’s enough Arabic, Indian and continental dishes to fulfil anyone’s taste with a particular emphasis on a range of grills, shawarma and wholesome favourites.
A fabulous array of desserts provides the perfect end to the meal.
A tanoura dancer, as well as oud players, provide live entertainment to make sure of a festive but traditional accompaniment to the wonderful food. The team at Ewaan have also decorated the restaurant to really give it a really charming feel for the Holy Month.
Sunset to 9pm. AED 255 per person inclusive of buffet, Ramadan juices and water. 25 per cent off bookings during the first week of Ramadan. 048 883 444.
Chival, La Ville, City Walk
Iftar was always likely to be a little different at this swish hotel – and underwritten with a sense of classiness at its black and white eatery Chival. The sassy dining spot is presenting iftar colour via a served-to-table experience with a focus on family-style sharing.
Under the auspices of Syrian chef Kinan Ibrahim, guests receive iftar staples done with flair and finesse, such as a moreish garden hummus and bold muhammara, delicate lentil soup and standout wood-fired manakish. Pomegranate sauce garlic and lemon juice lift the chicken liver dish to another level.
For the mains, an Iranian mixed grill of moist lamb kofta, shish kebab and taouk chicken is matched by sumptuous lamb shank and gorgeous lamb shish barak.
Hard as it might be, try to leave room for desserts such as kashta-pashmak and, intriguingly, a light tiramisu.
Sunset to 9pm. AED 239, including food and juices (50 per cent off for kids aged 6-12). 04 403 3111.
Al Khaima, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa
This stunning outdoor iftar is presented in a traditional Arabic setting, where we’re welcomed with white coffee and melodious singing.
We graze from hot and cold mezze like fattoush, baba ganoush and tabouleh, served to the table. If you love grilled meats, there’s shrimp, lamb and shish taouk and lots of Arabic home-style cooked dishes, like mulukhiyah (marrow leaves), kibbeh bil laban (meat patties) and yabra (stuffed vine leaves).
The nostalgic theme continues into desserts, with umm ali, maamoul (buttery date cookies), fresh dates and sticky nougat.
8pm to 1am. AED 190 per person inclusive of Ramadan juices, water, coffee and tea. Six to 12-year-olds are half price. 04 317 6000. Al Khaima, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa.
Al Massa Ballroom, Sofitel Downtown
Under twinkling crystal lanterns, a buffet ifar is laid out with plenty of space for people to be able to serve themselves. There are stations for Indian, Italian, Arabic dishes and vegetarian food and from these, we highly recommend the butter chicken, and slow-cooked lamb, which is the highlight of the night.
Salads are decent – our favourite houmous doesn’t disappoint, but we are pleasantly impressed by the baba ghanoush. The display of fresh fruit is equally impressive, but a real treat can be found among the many Arabic sweets and chocolate fountain.
For simpler appetites, there’s a great range of bread and the famous akawwi, plain lebneh and shankliah cheeses. Juices, coffee, water and tea is also available.
From sunset to 10.30pm. From AED 175 per person, including Ramadan juices. Sofitel Dubai Downtown, near The Dubai Mall. 04 503 6666.