What better way to celebrate the UAE’s 45th National Day than with an Emirati lunch at Local Bites Cafe right on Beach Road?
A recent addition to my favourite cuisines list, Emirati food is something really special, the blend of flavours, the light but hearty dishes and the warm hospitality that comes along with it ensures you just cannot go wrong.
The small cafe recently changed hands and underwent a huge revamp, which meant I received a lovely invitation to give it a try. The new interior has gone a long way into injecting a subtle sense of Emirati style into the decor and sprucing up the menu to feature some of the regions favourites – surprisingly not all traditional fare.
Located on Jumeirah Beach Road the restaurant does offer valet parking, because we all know that finding a roadside spot at any time of day is near impossible. The restaurant itself is simple and warm, with traditional style cushions on the booths and dark wood contrasting with the light walls, giving the small space a much more spacious feel.
We started our feast with a small sampling of the restaurant’s best selling starters; tabblouleh, fattoush and their signature salad…it was the perfect way to start. Light, flavoursome and delicious.
I always find it funny that most, if not all, Emirati restaurants serve “traditional” salads like fattoush and tabbouleh despite them not being one of the regions actual traditional dishes. Think about it, the UAE was built by Bedouins, travellers and fishermen who would not have been able to grow, store and transport so many fresh vegetables…these are dishes brought in by expats from surrounding Arab counties – namely around the Mediterranean – which became popular with settlers. Still, I love fattoush so I won’t complain.
Their signature salad is interesting, I wasn’t expecting it to taste the way it did as I first tucked in, the mix of finely diced carrot and cauliflower with the delicate and perfectly balanced spices made for an absolutely moreish dish, I could have happily indulged in a whole bowl of it.
Now I know many people are of the same opinion as me: you can always judge a Middle Eastern restaurant by the quality of their falafel and hummus, while we may have forgone the hummus this time we were sure to order a plate of crispy chickpea dumplings.
They arrived with a refreshing pot of labaneh for dipping and each one was cooked and seasoned to perfection; the shell was crisp while the inside was warmingly soft. They were delicious, really really good.
We also indulged in one of the restaurants popular paratha sandwiches, the Mash and Cheese offering. Stuffed with a delicate blend of cheese, roughly mashed potato and a spice of coriander and mint giving each bite a refreshing and exciting twist. The paratha itself was delicious, still quite dry without too much grease but soft and warm – thankfully it also didn’t fall apart as you tried to eat it!
So while the paratha was the other half’s choice, mine was one of their khameer sandwiches, I am a sucker for Emirati bread and khameer is easily one of my favourites. This one was the Jumeirah Khameer sandwich and it was probably the best dish of the lunch, filled to the brim with fresh lettuce, succulent chicken which hand been marinated in a subtle blend of Middle Eastern spices and a generous helping of tahini sauce it was like a shawarma on steroids. I appreciated that the bread was completely filled and not just a half hearted attempt and the dough itself was delicious and baked to perfection.
Once the meal was over there was no way I was leaving without an order of Lugaimat, my favourite part of any Emirati meal. Local Bites Cafe make their dough balls perfectly bite sized and they are served with traditional date syrup, and they’re not shy on how much they give you! Served in a cute pot with toothpicks to keep your fingers clean these should be shared but since no one else wanted any I ended up taking them home with me to snack on throughout the day…I count it as a win.
Overall Local Bites Cafe is easily a great spot for lunch time dinners, it’s small, the food is good, light and flavoursome – though I can’t speak for the pasta offerings, that seemed a little too off base for me. Just make sure you have time because like most places serving this cuisine the service is a little on the laid back side and you could find yourself enjoying a lazy two hour lunch even when it’s quiet – but it’s worth it!
This is a sponsored post. I was compensated, but all opinions are my own.
Local Bites Cafe:
Address: Zia Medical Centre Building, Jumeriah Beach Road
Umm Suqeim 1
Tel: 04 2753174