Dubai’s café scene has exploded in recent years, with new speciality shops offering a variety of styles from around the world. Here, Culture Trip gives you the low-down on where to get the best cortado, cappuccino or traditional Arabic brew.
Dubai’s café culture has grown significantly since the days of sipping tea on the carpets of majlis (traditional meeting tents). These days you can take it with cucumber sandwiches at the top of the world’s tallest tower, or order a gold cappuccino from the Armani Hotel. In a city teeming with these kinds of Guinness World Records options, it can be hard to know where to begin. However, this selection of 10 cafés and restaurants – all of them beloved by residents – is a good place to start.
The options range from Japanese and Turkish coffee to contemporary Emirati cuisine, English tea and everything in between. What these venues have in common, however, is that they’re all perennially popular.
Sah El Nom
Serving up traditional Damascene food with shisha and delectable desserts, Sah El Nom ticks all the boxes of an Arabian coffee-shop experience. At this Syrian café, patrons can enjoy caramelised figs with mint tea and shisha late into the night. Its dessert menu alone is enough to warrant a visit, with a variety of extravagant options. The semolina maamoul Nutella cookie and cardamom-date cake are guaranteed winners. As it’s located at Bluewaters, you can also drink in views of the Ain Dubai observation wheel.
Minimalist design and Japanese coffee-roasting techniques come together at % Arabica, which serves up some of the most intriguing blends in the city. With a laser focus on the quality of the brews it serves up, the café attracts Dubai’s keenest coffee connoisseurs. Highlights on the menu include a regionally inspired honey latte along with Spanish and dark chocolate lattes. In general, however, it doesn’t go too crazy with the options; the menu is just one page. There is, however, a broader menu of beans to take home. It’s no wonder that % Arabica has expanded, and now boasts several branches throughout the Emirates.
Emirati artist Mattar bin Lahej was thinking outside the cup when he founded Sketch Art Cafe. No longer restricting coffee art to the outline of a leaf in the foam, Sketch Art Cafe encourages patrons to draw or paint directly onto the cups. Also, the café space is tastefully decorated with the works of coffee drinkers past. Add in a selection of sandwiches, tasty desserts and a convivial atmosphere, and it becomes obvious why people view this Jumeirah café as a perfect place to socialise while dabbling in a bit of creativi-tea.
Tania’s Teahouse is a charming café specialising in tea and sweet and savoury treats | Courtesy of Tania’s Teahouse Dubai
A large, welcoming sign reading “hey there, habib-tea” (a play on the Arabic word habibi, meaning “my dear” or “my love”) is the first thing that greets you when you walk into Tania’s Teahouse. It also tells you everything you need to know about the café’s atmosphere. Tania’s is so cosy it could almost be mistaken for an English bed and breakfast. If you like rose-gold interiors and a wide variety of tea blends (from iced bubble tea to cardamom and matcha flavours), this is the place for you. Pair your drink with a tea cake or a “Scone With the Wind”.
Bringing a taste of Java to Dubai, Nusantara is a hip café in Ras Al Khor that serves up ethically sourced and organic Indonesian coffee. Boasting strong flavours and direct ties with the coffee farmers, the shop offers unique es kopi (Indonesian-style iced coffee) blends that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. The decor is a mix of modern coffee machinery and sepia portraits of the coffee growers and Indonesian farmscapes.
Healthy with a quirky twist, this Hawaiian-inspired superfood café in JLT serves food as fresh as its decor. Blue net chairs and menus painted on surfboards set the tone. Its açaí bowls, avocado-on-toast breakfasts, poke salads and coconut juices make it perfect for a post-gym hang-out, or a guilt-free brekkie spot. It’s a little pricey for a smoothie-bowl café but wholly satisfying and a great option for the health-conscious.
This corner café at the foot of Burj Al Salam on Sheikh Zayed Road is run by Melbourne duo Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez, whose Al Qouz café Tom & Serg made them famous among Dubai locals. The Sum of Us is the duo’s new initiative – a similarly vibrant sourdough bakery serving up delicious food and, of course, coffee all day. With lots of outlets and free filtered water, the venue is popular with remote workers toting their laptops, as well as the breakfast and business lunch crowds.
The pancakes at Clinton St Baking Company are a must-try | Courtesy of Clinton St Baking Company
The best pancakes in Dubai are at Clinton St Baking Company. The warm, fluffy short stacks feature a drizzle of maple syrup and sprinkle of chocolate chips that melt off the top. Located in Dubai City Walk, the city’s trendy shopping district, this modern American diner also serves up Southern classics such as chicken and waffles and pumpkin pie. There are also breakfast classics, including huevos rancheros and salmon eggs benedict. The prices are good value for money given the quantity and quality of the food.
It’s all about hearty breakfasts and lunches at this South African café. With a varied menu chock-full of exciting dishes such as hummus toasties, lettuce cup burgers, quinoa beetroot salads and steak tagliatelle, you could visit multiple times and still not try everything on offer. Featuring a relaxed vibe and excellent coffee, tashas is a popular weekend spot, so be sure to grab a table early or prepare to wait. The only downside is that it’s a little hard on the wallet, which is why most locals regard tashas as an occasional weekend treat.
Flaky, buttery croissants, brûléed french toast and perfectly cooked omelettes – it’s all available at La Serre Bistro and Boulangerie. Facing the iconic Burj Khalifa, this French café-bakery has outside seating when the weather permits, creating a perfect environment for chatting with friends while French music plays softly in the background. The prices are above average for a café experience, but with those views, that address and delicious pastries, it’s to be expected.