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Best for: Gourmet Geeks 

New: Michelin

Ever since Gordon Ramsay chose Dubai as the launch point for his first international venue, the city has become so full of Michelin-starred chefs it’s a veritable gourmet Milky Way.

Ramsay’s Verre has, alas, recently been put out to pasture, but there are offerings from the likes of Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and the late Santi Santamaria.

However, the best deal on haute grub comes from one of the city’s most expensive restaurants. French celebrity chef Pierre Gagnaire promotes himself as an artist in the kitchen.

The food he serves up at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire is irresistibly playful (think langoustines sprinkled in a spice mix made from their own barbecued shells).

The lunchtime deal here can’t be beaten. For £31, you can fill up on three courses of Dubai’s very best fine dining.
http://www.ichotelsgroup.com

Old: Emirati eats

The UAE may be the only country where the locals are a minority. The influx in recent decades of expats and labourers means that Emiratis only make up 10 per cent of Dubai’s population.

As a result, many locals tend to keep their culture – and that includes their food – close to their chests. For locals, Emirati dishes represent a taste of home. As such, they’ll go home to eat it, not sit in a restaurant and order it.

As a visitor, it’s nigh-on impossible to get a taste of Emirati food: no restaurants serve it, even if they claim to. Camel burgers and camel curry at Bastakiya’s cunningly named Local House do not count.

The best place to experience the real stuff is at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which regularly hosts Emirati breakfasts and lunches.

Serving up a massive buffet that includes luqaimat (deep-fried dough balls covered in date syrup), harees (a meaty porridge) and saloona (a rich, chicken stew), while you fatten up, staff field questions about the local culture and religion.

They’re not skittish, and have addressed topics as controversial as terrorism, sex, the Islamic dress code and marrying multiple wives.

http://www.cultures.ae; the breakfast is £10, lunch is £12

 

Old and New: Future travel in the past

It’s not easy to meet the locals as a visitor to the desert city – you won’t see Emiratis driving taxis or working in shops. As a result, for most tourists, interaction with the locals is limited to going through customs.

To remedy this, two Emirati entrepreneurs have launched a company called Buksha, which will offer travellers the chance to stay in an Emirati home.

In the pilot programme, guests stayed in a majlis (or tent) on a mountaintop farm, ate dinner with the owner, and were even able to attend two local weddings.

While still in the developing stages, it’ll offer a Dubai experience wholly unlike any other.
http://www.csralahligroup.com

 

Getting there

Return direct flights from London Heathrow to Dubai start at about £360 with Royal Brunei.

When to go: In the summer months, Dubai heats up to the point that it defies credulity (think upwards of 45˚C). In winter, it can be a bit chilly for the beach. Autumn and spring are the best times to visit.

Currency: £1 = AED 5.73

Accommodation: The Dubai Youth Hostel (the only one of its kind in Dubai) is fairly removed from the centre, but the rooms are cheap, and there’s a pool and gym. From £17pn. 

The Arabian Courtyard Hotel is more central, but you pay for the convenience. Rooms from £45pn.

Photos: Getty, Thinkstock, Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Royal Shaheen Events

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