From inter-emirate travel to communal dining and balcony gardening, there’s a lot on the menu as the weather (finally) takes on a cooler turn…
Two years ago we started writing projections for the food industry in the UAE, which have earned the respect of the food and beverage and hospitality industries in the UAE. We are back with this year’s instalment, which was first published on October 17, in Kari’s long-running food column in the Khaleej Times.
Here are our predictions and do share your opinions with us as well!
Dining with strangers
I must say it is always a treat to dine in this great country. Recently, I have been trying to attend more food industry events as my baby is now a toddler and does not need me quite so much. I must say that I am rather selective in the events I attend but when I received an invitation by Badoit for a gourmet dining experience at the Chef’s table at La Serre, I quickly booked my seat. The chef — Izu Ani — was recently handpicked by the French water brand to represent them as a spokesperson. It was a special menu, which Chef Izu had decided on in the moment, and that made for a rather exciting dining experience.
It was my first time trying out the Restronaut dining service, which is the third of its kind to hit the UAE market. The Abu Dhabi-based service is the newest to hit the UAE dining scene after Lime & Tonic, Frying Pan Adventures, The Dinner Club by No. 57 and Club Uno. All of these models offer strangers a seat at a table based either on invitation or by paying upfront.
This makes for a more communal dinner experience, and a chance to share with people of like minds instead of dining alone, with the same people all the time or waiting for a date. It’s also a great way to network meaningfully.
Steakhouses are going to replace the fine-dining craze that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are coming out of.
With more of the market preferring casual to semi-formal dining, restaurateurs and hotels are taking note. Take a look at the number of new steakhouses opened over the past 12 months with more on the horizon. There are even rumours of an iconic over-the-top fine dining hotel restaurant being converted to a steakhouse. The UAE is showing much appreciation and appetite for steaks and the good ones will continue to stand out from the growing crowd.
Travelling across the Emirates for meals
People are looking for value and, frankly, for something different. With really efficient trans-emirate road networks, it is quite easy to drive from one emirate to another just for a meal. If the restaurant is worth the travel, the people will go. That is the history behind the Michelin Restaurant Guide. As the breathtakingly beautiful winter climate sets in, road trips will increase and dinner at the end of the day will be the pièce de résistance.
Speciality food shops
The market, supermarket and small convenience store will continue to be the main backbone of food purchases but I think that people are getting more and more savvy about getting extra special ingredients from time to time. It could be top butchers like Prime Gourmet or Park & Shop or gourmet grocers like Lafayette Gourmet or Markets & Platters — and I hope to see this trend spread out of Dubai to Abu Dhabi and the other emirates.
As people continue to get more discerning about their foods, growing their own, buying from certified organic farmers and speciality stores, the artisanal movement will also feel a spurt. Makers of fine foods, preserves, homemade cakes and bakers and food crafters may increase in places like the ARTE Markets as well as the Ripe Foodie Market and the Farmers Market on the Terrace.
Container vegetable gardening
As the weather cools and social media shots get littered with pictures of seedlings, more and more people will at least attempt to grow a few vegetables alongside plants. Whether it is to save a few dirhams, harvest fresh local and organic produce or just fo r the pleasure of being connected to our food, I really think the number of balcony farmers in the UAE will grow this year. I am personally getting my pots and soil ready and hoping to expose my apartment-bound baby to a bit of down-to-earth living.
I also predict that small home-based caterers will be in demand to provide fool-proof, successful dinner party meals for persons who are too busy, cannot or simply do not wish to do all the work for the event themselves.
Frying Pan Adventures, the food tour business by Arva Ahmed of the I Live in A Frying Pan blog, has started a revolution in the market, exposing lots of residents and visitors to Dubai’s budget-friendly food spots. As expenses continue to rise, more people will look for more bang for their buck and these small shops will continue to trend, not only amongst those trying to save a dirham but also with those who want to be worthy of being called foodies.