By Naushad Khan
Dubai is known to do things on a rather grand scale and the recent Dubai Food Festival was no exception. I was lucky enough to be one of the 24 member international media delegation to be invited for the inaugural event.
Organised by Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), the Dubai Food Festival was a citywide celebration that saw over 11 key events, 26 international chefs, and over 700 restaurants host, and participate, in a range of food-related events, tastings, activations and promotions. Appealing to both residents and visitors, the Dubai Food Festival showcased the diversity of the Emirate’s culinary offerings with cuisines inspired by the 5400 restaurants operating in the city, and the over 200 nationalities who call it home.
Having spent six days of dining at some of Dubai’s finest and unique gastronomy havens, I managed to taste and experience some of what is fast becoming a global stage for food; from the simple falafel and hummus to extravagant creations by some of the biggest names in the culinary world, the event had it all.
Indeed, Dubai has attracted the very best to set up shop here with restaurants by star chefs including Jamie Oliver, Garry Rhodes and more recently Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay protégé Jason Atherton.
Starting on February 21, with the new Dubai Food Carnival, and ending with Taste of Dubai 23 days later, the Dubai Food Festival saw a diverse array of over 11 consumer and industry events take place across the city.
Our first stop was the highly popular Dubai Food Festival Beach Canteen, which took place on city beaches between February 27 and March 8. The Beach Canteen saw 16 restaurants “pop-up” to create three tempting, yet temporary dining districts on Jumeirah 1 Open Beach, Sunset Beach and Kite Beach.
The seafood I sampled from the pop-up Seaview Restaurant on Kite Beach was absolutely fresh and delicious. They only serve locally sourced seafood that is caught on the day. The grilled prawns they prepared for us was spiced right and grilled to perfection.
Restaurants, malls and hypermarkets across Dubai also got in on the appetising action with a series of activities and specials. Over 700 restaurants, ranging from the five-star Blue Jade, to chic yet casual cafés such as Bateel Café, created special set menus and special dining promotions to celebrate the inaugural Festival.
Bateel Café is part of Bateel International, who have taken the humble date to ne
w heights in the gourmet world. Their production unit in Dubai is a special treat for any sweet-toothed foodie and we were lucky enough to be granted a visited.
They make gourmet cookies, cheesecakes, chocolates and even date champagne. Their range is extensive and they have now opened Bateel Café across the Middle East, serving date inspired treats and healthy Italian inspired food. The cheesecake touched the spot for me with its pleasant slant to the sweeter side. Enjoying a specially prepared lunch by International Michelin star chef Greg Malouf (pictured) at Nawwara located in the JW Marriott Marquis, must rate as the best experience on my Dubai culinary adventure.
Greg is the pioneer in taking Middle Eastern cuisine to the global stage. His preparation of orginal Lebanese dishes with a modern twist is pure genius. His main course of a duck tagine with buttered almond couscous was superb.
* For more information on the Dubai Food Festival, visit www.dubaifoodfestival.com.