In a city of superlatives, it can be hard to be impressed. But we challenge you not to walk through the Moorish archways of The Palace hotel, past the pool with its shisha cabanas and then into the water-ringed Thai restaurant Thiptara and not omit at least one audible ‘wow’. This is, without a doubt one of the most spectacularly located restaurants in the city – the name translates to ‘magic at the water’ – and, thankfully, the food lives up to its surroundings.
When you book a table, ask for a spot on the terrace if you don’t mind the heat, or book a window seat, as the pagoda is an island perched in the middle of the Dubai Fountain lake, offering panoramic views of the mighty water jets. It’s now the place we’ll take visitors to view the Fountain (all the spectacle, but none of the suffocating crowds).
Once we’d finally stopped pointing out all the amazing elements of the wooden room (did we mention there are giant flames surrounding the building, and a bustling open kitchen?) we focused on the hefty menu, which covers all the Thai classics, but has an inventive twist – particularly with the seafood dishes. Chef Sutthipunth – who hails from a town between Chiang Mai and Bangkok – clearly takes pride in his food, and this shows in everything from the produce selected to the creative combinations of flavours.
We genuinely could not choose just one starter, so opted for a greatest hits-style platter called Thiptara ruam ruedu – the artfully laid out dish boasted fresh papaya salad with juicy prawns and squid, delicate crab cakes, exceptionally well-marinated satay chicken and beef and vegetable spring rolls that made us realise just how good the simple roll can be if executed properly.
For mains, we were drawn to the Goong mung korn pad grapoo – crispy pieces of battered lobster covered in a sticky sweet chili sauce with an accompaniment of seasonal vegetables. The flavour combination was pitch perfect, and the crisp veg counterbalanced the decadent lobster well. While this is a must for seafood fans, red meat lovers shouldn’t look past the red curries – which can come with beef tenderloin or, unusually, a rich lamb shank. The Aromatic curry – which came out in a hot pot – danced on the tongue and was just spicy enough. And after mopping all this up with sticky rice, we were almost at bursting point, but the chef kindly sent through a sample of a dish he’s hoping to add to the menu soon – yellow curry with soft-shell crab. The sticky, paste-like curry with caramelised onions and peppers combined with the crispy texture of the perfectly cooked crab was, we have to say it, the best dish we’ve eaten this year (and we’ve eaten a lot).
As we sat drinking lemongrass tea and nibbling on coconut bon bons, we were treated to a musical interlude of Michael Jackson’s Thriller – the restaurant synchs its music to the Fountains’ so you get the full experience. Sitting there, having sampled one of the best Thai meals we’ve ever devoured, while listening to one of America’s most iconic pop songs synchronised to the world’s most impressive fountain we realised just how superlative-worthy a meal at Thiptara really is.
Location The Palace, Downtown Dubai
Timing 7pm-11.30pm, daily
Tel 04 888 3444
Tasty trio: Lakeside Eateries
The classic black and white pictures on the walls and the classy service make this Italian joint one of the most high-end in the city. Brave the heat on the terrace and you’ll get to look over the iconic Dubai Fountain lake. When there, definitely order seafood – we love the simple yet fresh seafood pastas.
Location Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai
Timing 12pm-4pm, 6pm-11pm, daily
Tel 04 423 0982
Healey’s Bar & Terrace
This is really a cocktail bar – but when we went we were surprised at how brilliant the food is – the pizzas are particularly memorable. Sit out on the terrace (it is a bit hot at the moment, however) and you can gaze across the JLT lakes and marvel at how much the area has developed. Definitely head down on a Thursday night, as you’ll find a brilliant jazz pianist and singer performing.
Location Bonnington Hotel, Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Timing 6pm-3am, daily
Tel 04 356 0000
This unassuming little spot in the Springs serves delicious Persian food and boasts a lakeside terrace. The food is delicious and made with care by Iranian home cook, Nilufar Mortazavi, who decided to open her own spot after she received countless compliments on her comfort cooking from friends. There are Iranian grills and appetisers, but it’s the stews that will keep you coming back for more.
Location Meadows Village Centre, Emirates Living
Timing 12.30pm-midnight, daily
Tel 04 360 8880