Food and the Gulf city
Pull out your knife and fork, and leave your white shirt at home (or bring a bib). This weekend is all about elegantly stuffing your face, with the return of Taste of Dubai (TOD), the food festival which is now in its fourth year, from tonight until Saturday. It's a combination of dishes by local restaurants — from Mango Tree to Mezza House and everything in between — appearances by celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations and new ingredients, in a relaxed outdoor setting.
This year's edition sees new faces alongside the return of several chefs who've made their mark here before. Hot young British chef Jun Tanaka will be showing off his skills for the first time, while British TV star Gary Rhodes, Vineet Bhatia and Richard Sandoval, all of whom have restaurants in Dubai, are back at the Media City Amphitheatre to showcase their British, Indian and Mexican food, respectively.
Visitors will be able to watch them cook their restaurant dishes in the Chef's Theatre with demonstrations taking place throughout the day, while those wanting to get their hands dirty and up close to the stars should head to the Cookery School, where groups of 35 guests can take part in hands-on classes taught by the chefs. Places are limited, so e-mail email@example.com to get a slot.
But TOD isn't just about being awed by the celebrities. Just want to eat? Take your pick from 22 restaurants which will be serving mini versions of their dishes, priced from Dh15-30. There's everything from P.F. Chang's dynamite shrimp to Rivington Grill's fish and chips with mushy peas, Certo's Italian goat cheese ravioli with blueberries and porcini mushroom and Almaz by Momo's north African Couscous Mechoui.
In a welcome change this year, entry prices have been reduced and the Dellas system of coupons has been replaced with cash and credit card payment for food and drinks.
Another don't miss is a restaurant that's not even open yet — The Ivy. The British celebrity favourite will be opening its doors in May at Emirates Towers, but head chef Tim Hughes will be at TOD to showcase the restaurant's dishes — everything from fish and chips to caviar, from steak and kidney pudding to Thai green curry — and encourage diners to make advance bookings.
In the words of David O'Brien, the Operations Director, The Ivy only books a very limited number of tables in advance, so "if you don't book now, the chances are you won't get in for months".
"Very famous people eat at The Ivy every day. They are attracted by everything that you or I would like about the restaurant — plus the fact that we do not answer questions about their identities and eating habits!" he says.
Don't miss it
Taste of Dubai standard tickets are Dh60 online, Dh75 at the door. A VIP ticket with fast-track entry, two beverages, four dishes and access to the VIP enclosure is Dh200 or Dh500 for a three-day pass. Visit tasteofdubaifestival.com to buy tickets.
By Natalie Long
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