You know you’ve found a good Spanish restaurant when you realise the huge wedding party sitting at the next table are made up solely of extremely happy looking Spanish people – and the rest of the place is packed with tables groaning under the weight of half-empty earthenware dishes. Rather annoying since we had only discovered this clearly massively popular tapas treasure on my seventh Dubai birthday, but no matter – it looked like a great place to celebrate a mini milestone.
With a brilliant table overlooking the Madinat’s waterways, and a fantastic Spanish guitarist playing in typically emotive fashion across the terrace, a quick scan of the menu confirmed my prediction that this was going to be a very good night indeed. I’m a huge fan of tapas – every time I go home, I go to the same, family-run tapas bar I’ve been going to for (eek!) almost 20 years to kick off my (non-Spanish) holiday in the best way I know how – and while Al Hambra may be a lot more showy than my beloved British local, the awesome traditional food and buzzing Mediterranean atmosphere in the uber-glam Al Qasr brought on that same warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I’m in the midst of a food-focused nostalgia moment. I digress.
The tapas menu is excellent. Packed with dozens of delicious traditional Spanish dishes, our waiter suggested we try six to start with, then more if we were still hungry (amazing value at just Dh195). Good plan too, since I always over-order, so we kicked off with boquerones (marinated anchovies, my total fave), patatas bravas, tortilla, prawns in garlic, chorizo frito and albondigas – meatballs in rich tomato sauce, topped off with a jug of sangria.
Arriving swiftly at the table, the food is beautifully presented, as you would expect of the restaurants in Al Qasr, and truly spectacular tasting. The chorizo frito is a standout – totally non-diet friendly but utterly moreish, the succulent Spanish sausage cooked with shallots is ridiculously good, and even better when paired with a few chunks of patatas bravas, rosemary-infused potatoes topped with spicy tomato sauce. My boquerones, as I’d hoped, were amaze; the meatballs the best I’ve had in Dubai, and I plan one day to make tortilla as flawless. After seven years of waiting to fly home to get my fix of perfect tapas, it looks like I’ll be using my air fare elsewhere.
Location Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah
Tel 04 366 6730
Timing 6-11.30 pm Sat-Thurs, 7- 10:30pm Fridays
Tasty trio: Top tapa bars
With knockout views of JBR’s beaches and Dubai Marina, 101’s stunning location isn’t the only great thing about this new luxurious bar. The tapas served here are totally delish (as is the rest of the Mediterranean-inspired menu) and cannot be beaten for a super-chic couple of sundowners
Location One & Only The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Timing Daily 11am-1am
Tel 04 440 1010
One of the city’s most well known Spanish hangouts, Seville’s boasts a loyal following who love its great offers (the long-running paella and sangria deals are brilliant value), huge outdoor terrace and regular live music nights. There’s even flamenco dancing and salsa classes for the brave!
Location Wafi, Oud Mehta
Timing Sat-Wed 7.30pm-1am; Thu-Fri 7.30pm-2am
Tel 04 324 4777
Tapas & Tinis at Vantage
Thursday nights are particularly busy at Vantage – easy to see why when ladies are treated to an extra 50 per cent off of the Tinis and Tapas menu. Amazing value, with five ‘tinis paired with a plateful of great tapas for just Dh200 per person, grab a table outside and enjoy great views of the Burj
Al Arab and beyond.
Location Pullman Dubai Mall of the Emirates, Barsha, Dubai
Timing Daily 6pm-2am
Tel 04 377 2356