Dubai 2016

What. A. Trip. Literally 10 days in paradise – incredible views, an amazing hotel and more food than I think I’ve ever eaten over a ten day period.. and that’s saying something, because I’m the greediest person I know 😛 Even looking back I’d forgotten so much of the good food which we found – I originally started off with over 100 food pictures for this post and I’ve had to do some serious cutting back!

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I love Dubai. I can see why it’s a marmite holiday destination as it’s so different to anywhere else in the world but for us it has everything we could want – luxurious hotels with beautiful views, big rooms and king size beds for us to laze around, sandy beaches, perfect blue skies, hot weather, a huge range of things to do and most importantly good food! We stayed at Fairmont on the Palm and it was beautiful.. we even got upgraded to a suite with an incredible view for our last few nights!

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There are so many incredible places to eat, every cuisine you could think of and some amazing Aussie coffee shops, but the quality of the hotel food is also second to none. We’ve stayed at two different hotels now and the buffet food was unreal – I’ve never been to an all you can eat buffet where you can get the range and quality of food that we got here. At breakfast there was every type of bread, pastry, bagel and cake under the sun, the most perfect soft salty pretzels, donuts and muffins.

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There was a cold meat and fish section with smoked salmon, trout and mackerel, turkey, ham and chicken, eggs every way you could think of and a stall with a guy making French toast, waffles, crepes and pancakes with all of the sauces, fruit, cream and a huge tub of warm Nutella. They even had four types of bacon (turkey, beef, pork back bacon and pork streaky bacon), each one cooked to perfection. Look at that streaky bacon!

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As well as all of the usual breakfast dishes they had Arabic mezze, cheese pastries and traditional dishes such as shakshouka. There was a giant cheese board featuring no less than ten cheeses each day – at breakfast these were sliced up (except the huge slab of brie!) but at lunch there were just giant blocks which you could help yourself to along with dried fruits and nuts. Their soft goats cheese came in a huge round and I may have given myself stomach ache on more than one occasion! I don’t think my stomach likes huge amounts of dairy, but for some reason goats cheese really p*sses it off – and of course it happens to be my favourite cheese.

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day and I did not hold back.. 😉

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Okay last one 😛

Lunch and dinner were just as good if not better! They had huge platters of the most tender meat and fish. Their beef tenderloin was cooked medium and it was so juicy and tender that I could’ve eaten it forever.

There were so many options at every single meal and each meat/fish dish was served with beautifully cooked accompaniments – sweet potato hash, meditteranean cous cous, creamy bulgar wheat, mushroom risotto, tomato and basil gnocchi and caramelised onion potato wedges are just a few of the hundreds they had which I can remember off the top of my head. They had a whole area for Arabic mezze with about 8 different dips in a beautiful array of colours (smokey aubergine, hummus, beetroot, cracked wheat and pumpkin are the ones I can remember) served with flatbreads, tabbouleh and a huge array of wonderful cheese/meat/veggie stuffed pastries! Each day there was an Indian section with the most delicious selection of meat, veg and fish curries, crunchy poppadums, the softest fluffiest naans, perfectly steamed basmati and dips and chutneys. My favourites were the prawn and chickpea curries, but their biriyani was also amazing!

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They had fresh seafood, a huge salad bar, all you can eat sushi (proper sushi too, not the crap one piece of cucumber or red pepper stuff supermarkets try to fob you off with!) and the most heavenly dessert bar.

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There was an ice cream station with no less than twelve flavours (which varied each day) with a range of toppings and sauces. The ice cream was so good too – I’ve been to countless buffets serving only chocolate, vanilla and a bright pink strawberry that tastes of anything but! This one had homemade Oreo ice cream (with chunks of Oreo so big that on more than once occasion I actually got an entire Oreo hiding in my bowl!), pistachio (proper pistachio, a natural as opposed to artificial bright green colour with real pistachios inside), coconut and what was possibly surprisingly my favourite – Arabic Mastic. It was a sweet ice cream with pistachios and date pieces scattered throughout and it was delicious 🙂

I could have filled up on ice cream and toppings alone, but there was a chocolate fountain with marshmallows, a range of small desserts (creme brûlées, mousses, etc) and a huge range of incredible cakes. Look at that red velvet!!

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And this beauty.. eat the rainbow, right!? 😉

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As if that wasn’t enough, each day they had a hot dessert.. and god they were good!! My favourites were the sticky toffee pudding and the apple crumble. I can’t even count how many bowls full of apple crumble I had but the crumble topping was insanely good. The sticky toffee sponge was soft and sweet with a delicious sauce, but it hadn’t completely saturated the sponge so it wasn’t unbearably sweet (which I used as an excuse to eat more as it wouldn’t make me feel sick :P). They also had a beautifully rich chococolate pudding – cakey, fudgy and topped with an incredibly thick bittersweet chocolate sauce. It was just impossible to not leave every single meal with food triplets!

Anyway enough raving about the hotel food (which I could definitely do for much longer!) and onto a few of my other favourites.

Leopold’s of London

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I absolutely love this place!! Although we weren’t in Dubai for long we had to visit Leopold’s three times! They serve the most amazing food and possibly the best coffee in Dubai (bold statement I know, and obviously that’s just based on the places that I’ve been!). They take huge pride in their coffee and it shows – they both taste and look delicious and you eve get a little amaretti biscuit on the side 🙂 One night I went and got my perfect salad! I love salads with some substance – I would never order a salad just full of leaves – I don’t find it tasty or satisfying but this was incredible. They have a range and I chose two to mix – one was quinoa, beetroot, goats cheese and pearl barley, the other was puffed wheat, broccoli, kale, sundries tomatoes, feta and pine nuts. Both came with amazing dressings too – I’m usually quite fussy about dressings but these were incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever had pearl barley before either but it was so filling and I loved it.

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While we were there I also had their quiche and their lasagne. Their quiche was huge!! A thick slab of creamy, cheesy deliciousness wrapped in buttery pastry and their lasagne was equally delicious. I left that night in an absolute carb coma.. but it was a happy one 🙂

The final time we went I tried one of their sandwiches. I went for poached chicken, artichoke, white bean spread, kale and cheese.. and they let me sub out the normal salad with my favourite salad from the first night! There’s also a choice of seven homemade breads! I had a hard time choosing (and I can’t remember the names of them all) but I’m pretty sure whichever one you go for it’ll be a winner.

Then there are their cakes! They have a  huge range of freshly baked cakes in a huge array of flavours. They have a whole section of the menu dedicated to red velvet and they execute it perfectly. There’s also a selection of more refined patisserie style cakes – they looked beautiful (though personally I’d never choose a dainty pastry over a big slab of cake 😛 but for those who would – they looked perfect!).

Bateel

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Date lovers.. this one’s for you! When I was younger I used to laugh at my dad for liking dates (and Marcus laughs at me now!) but I love them now. Emiratis love their dates – we got them every day to mark the start of Iftar (when the fasting ends), they’re sold in so many shops and were widely available as snacks in the hotel but Bateel take them to the next level and combine them with my two favourite things – nuts and chocolate! Be warned – they aren’t cheap, but they are incredible!

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I didn’t want to buy too many and I had a seriously hard time choosing but every single one I had was incredible. You can find them stuffed with every type of nut (except peanut – yay no contamination issues!).. the caramelised macadamia and honey pistachio were divine! They also dip or completely coat them in chocolate. They also do amazing coffee and food in their cafes.. and for Londoners there’s one on New Bond Street 😀

Bystro

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This was the first place we went! I stepped off the plane, met Marcus (he’d flown from a tournament in Asia) and went straight for brunch! It was a lovely cafe – modern, spacious and open with so many options.

The cakes weren’t particularly exciting but the food and coffee were amazing 🙂 I had a cold drip coffee which was so strong.. I didn’t think caffeine affected me at all but after that I certainly didn’t struggle to stay awake despite missing a night’s sleep (I stayed up watching films rather than sleeping on my night flight..). I wanted to go back to try their lunch/dinner but unfortunately they were closed over Ramadan.

Tom & Serg

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We’d already been here the first time we came to Dubai but we went back as their coffee is incredible! They do a range of food which is nice – not incredible but it’s definitely worth a visit for their coffee, and they do a lovely range of cakes 🙂 It definitely seems to be the case that ‘nice’ cafes and coffee shops are expensive here.. Where I moan about paying over three pounds for a coffee in London the standard price here is at least four if not five for a standard coffee!

The Cheesecake Factory

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Holy crap.. It was my first visit to this place and I totally fell in love with it. Of course I did – it’s all about massive portions and I’m a complete and utter sucker for a big meal. LOOK at the size of this burrito!

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It was called the monster burrito, and it was exactly that. Pretty much the length of my forearm, and packed with chicken, rice, cheese, peppers, beans, guac, salsa and sour cream. Despite doing the most ridiculously extensive menu (there’s literally something for everyone) and having the most ridiculous portion sizes I don’t think that they compromise on quality. My burrito genuinely tasted delicious and I saw other meals coming out that looked equally amazing.

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But let’s be honest, by far the best thing about this place is the cheesecakes themselves! I mean is there anything more perfect!? They all looked incredible but for me there was a clear winner – Chris’s Outrageous Cheesecake – it just had everything! A chocolate chip coconut cheesecake with layers of chocolate fudge cake, brownie and a coconut pecan frosting studded with pecans and chocolate chips. Heaven in my mouth. And for once I didn’t finish a dessert desperate for more! 😛

Common Grounds

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With the same owners as Tom & Serg it was always going to be good! We went for brunch and the food was lovely. We got the zucchini fritters w/ poached eggs, charred avocado, rocket and tomato relish and the Cuban Reuben (beef brisket, pastrami brioche panini) with some fries. The fritters with poached egg came with charred avocado which was incredible and the pastrami sandwich was delicious. The coffee, as expected, was perfect. But it was pricey. REALLY pricey. A pastrami sandwich sets you back about twelve pounds and it comes alone. We ordered fries on the side for another four pounds.

Burj Khalifa

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Somewhere else that we’d already been but it was so special to us as it was the night that we got engaged, and it’s beautiful there. We went for cocktails and snacks in The Atmosphere bar and lounge, and I’d definitely recommend it. My favourites were probably the mini sliders and lobster tacos – you also get unlimited olives and smokey BBQ almonds (and trust me you’ll be thankful they’re unlimited!)

You have to pay to go up there anyway, so in my opinion you may as well go up and relax there with a beautiful view! The cocktails are (as you’d expect) not cheap but they are amazing.. I tried a fair few and they were all delicious.. plus they have one which is made with espresso beans, ristretto, banana, brownies, Hershey’s chocolate cream, Taylor’s 20 port, Bacardi and frangelico!

Dubai Mall

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There are a ton of food options at both malls but Dubai Mall is my personal favourite. It’s huge and it has everything you could possibly want to eat! My personal favourites were Cinnabon, Coldstone Creamery (you pick a flavour and they mash up toppings to go inside – they then flung the finished ice cream across the stall and someone else caught it in a cup which was pretty amusing!) and Yogurtland (not as good as Pinkberry but self serve and it has a bottle of hot Nutella!).

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And as always we went back to Pinkberry again..

.. and again.. and again.

If you only do one thing when you go to Dubai, go and see the fountains at the Dubai Mall. They have so many lovely places to eat that I don’t think I could pick a favourite but if there is one thing that is absolutely impossible to rival it’s the fountain display they put on every 30 minutes (from 7pm I think). It’s absolutely breathtaking and photos can’t even begin to do them justice! 🙂

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If you go during Ramadan I’d advise you to go half board. There were a few cafes open during the day which were lovely, but generally wandering round in public or at the mall it felt like a bit of a ghost town, whereas at night it really comes to life and has a lovely atmosphere. We chose to have breakfast and lunch in the hotel most days then went out for dinner and dessert in the evening once everything had opened. The sun sets a lot earlier over there, so most places start opening up around 7pm, which is perfect for dinner.

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A few restaurants unfortunately shut completely over Ramadan though – we generally found that most hotel restaurants remained open (which would seem fairly obvious given the amount of holidaymakers there), but the Saffron bottomless brunch at the Atlantis was shut for the entire month of Ramadan which we were extremely disappointed about. It seems that a lot of places decide last minute about whether or not they will be open, as I made a couple of bookings (one at Saffron and one at Marina Social – a Jason Atherton restaurant) but they both emailed me last minute to say that they had cancelled my reservation as they wouldn’t be open over Ramadan. Marina Social emailed me on the day we were meant to go! This is definitely something to be mindful of – we weren’t short of options as there are still plenty of places to eat but it’s something to bear in mind when planning 🙂 I’d also probably advise you to stock up on drinks outside of the hotel. There are big supermarkets in the malls so we bought a lot of our drinks there – in the hotel it was about four pounds for a bottle of coke, but in Carrefour it’s forty pence!

If you’re going on holiday this Summer I hope you have an amazing time 🙂 If there’s one time when a relaxed attitude is vital it’s definitely when you’re on holiday! A couple of weeks eating everything you could ever dream of will not make a difference in the grand scheme of things and for me it forms an essential part of overall balance. For anyone who struggles.. yes maybe don’t go crazy like me but challenge yourself to eat out and eat good food which you truly want. Don’t be frightened of being outside the control of home cooked, portion controlled food – seriously, what’s the worst that could happen!?

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Don’t let yourself come home wishing you’d allowed yourself to try more food, experience more of the culture or indulge more – for most people holidays come only once a year and for most people, if you’re like me and don’t compete for a living, your self worth and happiness should absolutely not be defined by the number on the scales or your body fat percentage – there’s so much more to life! Although I don’t struggle so much with the food side of things, I do really struggle to switch off from the stress of work and even all the things I have to get done in everyday life. Getting away from it all and fully allowing myself to rest and relax was perfect – I’ve honestly never been happier 🙂

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