Iftar, anyone?

We’ve taken the hard work out of deciding where to dine this Ramadan with our pick of the most interesting options in town.

Nawwara, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

With a focus on quality rather than quantity, this Iftar offers a slightly more controlled approach to Arabic dining in a setting that is all understated sophistication – think muted neutral colours, sleek, contemporary lines, and Arabesque trellises and globed chandeliers adding glamour. The cold mezze is served table-side, so you can start your meal immediately – there’s everything from hummous and mouttabel, to a delicious spinach salad and grilled cauliflower and aubergines on offer. For salads and soups, you can make your to the buffet, but the friendly staff are happy to bring them to the table as well, if you should prefer that. The Levantine specialty restaurant serves up its signature dishes for mains, also available from the buffet, including mixed grills, samak harra (fish in a tomato-based sauce), chicken with freekeh, lamb tagine, and even an ouzi – Oriental lamb with rice dish. There’s enough variety to satisfy everyone, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. Desserts continue to showcase Arabic specialties with kunefeh and Umm ali, but there’s also an assortment of cakes, pastries and puddings. Washed down with Ramadan and other fresh juices, this intimate affair makes for a refreshing change from the overladen, overcrowded buffets typical of most Iftars.

Dhs195 per head, call 04-4143000.

Ushna at Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi

For an Iftar with a difference, head to this multi-award winning Indian restaurant, which is sophisticated and classy. An intimate setting with private alcoves means even when there’s a good crowd during Iftar, you can relax in privacy while feasting on the eleven dishes served directly to the table. It’s easy to see why this restaurant has won various awards, as the Indian dishes have a great spin to it, and are definitely some of the best we‘ve tasted under the fine dining category. Some of the dishes on the set menu feature chicken dumplings in a light creamy almond broth (murgh badami sherwa), slow cooked whole leg of lamb with spices (Raan – E Lucknowi), which, with a mix of Indian and Arabic flavours, was extremely tender, and a warm carrot and date cake with orange sauce which provides the perfect end to a fabulous meal.

Dhs225 per head, call 02-5581769.

Four Seasons Doha

The Four Seasons Doha has gone the extra mile to create a very special Ramadan experience. They have abandoned the traditional ballroom set-up for Iftar, creating a special, beautifully decorated (fully air conditioned!) tent in their garden terrace area. With comfy couches and tables with space for larger groups, the compact but hot and cold buffet offers delicious options of Arabic dishes, but not so much variety that you don’t know where to start! The shwarma station and fresh salads don’t disappoint, but it’s their dessert area that is causing a big stir. The freshly made date ice cream is unique and addictive. Add to this a great atmosphere and attentive staff and you have the best Iftar experience in Doha’s very competitive market.

From QR225 per head, Sohoor buffet is QR 275. Call +974 4494 8888.

Lafayette Gourmet, The Dubai Mall

This food court-style venue is transformed into an Arabian wonderland over Ramadan with fairy-lit white drapes and suspended lanterns creating a magical environment. The Iftar buffet is laid out along a central aisle, and showcases the best of the multi-cuisine offerings here. A selection of starters include everything from fresh salads and Spanish gazpacho to the usual suspects of hummous and babaganoush. Mains feature highlights from the international kitchens, with Indian curries, Moroccan tagines, and even freshly made pasta on offer at a live cooking station. An array of fresh juices and teas laid out along one side, make up the beverage offerings. Using fresh, high-quality ingredients, this is one Iftar where you can expect good, honest food with authentic flavours complemented by friendly, efficient service. With a good-value price point, this is a family-friendly Iftar you should definitely make it to – just be careful not to end up blowing your budget with the tempting shopping options on offer!

Dhs150 per head, call 04-3399933.

Al Majlis, Madinat Jumeirah

Starting with the petal-shaped lights along the driveway, to the majestic décor of the tent, with arched enclosures along the edges, this is a truly awe-inspiring destination. With cold towels at the door, and smiling staff guiding you to your tables, it’s five-star all the way, right up to the buffet offerings. Of course all the Arabic classics are there, including hearty soups, delicious kibbeh and fatayer, and succulent grills, plus Emirati delicacies such as harees, but the buffet offers far more in terms of variety – complemented by breads and dips laid out at the table. From Asian stir fries and noodles, to a full roast selection, there is something for everyone here – mix it all up, or, if you’re suffering from hummous overload, just go for the international cuisines. Dessert is equally multicultural, whether you opt for puddings or cakes, but the hot luqaimat temptingly served table-side, and the delicious Turkish ice cream – the entertaining ice cream man is a draw in himself! – are must-tries. This is a special occasion Iftar no one should miss this Ramadan!

Dhs195 per head, call 04-3666730.

Asateer, The Palm

The Asateer tent is as lavish as it gets when it comes to Iftar dining, with everything from the décor to the traditional outfits worn by staff making for an authentic experience. Step into this enchanting beachside tent, and quench your thirst with cashew saffron or pistachio rose beverages from Essentially (a healthy juice brand). Take a seat indoors on a plush couch, or outdoors at the air-conditioned tent to break your fast with a variety of dates and juices, and then help yourself to the appetiser buffet to try the chicken Waldorf salad, or Arabic-style items like spinach fatayer and fattoush. The big brass pot nestled in between the main course and appetiser station is sure to catch your attention so stop by it for a helping of succulent lamb with rice. Other main course options offered feature stuffed marrow with meat, baked chicken, seafood and biryani. The dessert station was our favourite bit as it had a colourful macaron tower, warm kunafeh with syrup and even sticky toffee and date pudding. Large enough to accommodate hundreds of people without making it feel crowded, and with plentiful, well-spaced out buffet options, this is an ideal destination for large group Iftar gatherings.

Dhs195 per head, call 04-4260800.

Almaz by Momo

This Moroccan restaurant, tucked away inside Harvey Nichols at Mall of the Emirates, is bustling during Iftar. Moroccan-style design elements, lanterns, ambient lighting, relaxed couch seating, and an open kitchen on one side give this restaurant an elegantly Moorish ambience. The buffet, served in a separate room adjacent to the seating area, offers everything from baked breads to dessert. Start the meal with Ramadan juices like jallab and qamardeen (apricot juice), and then try the tasty fried marrow salad, beetroot hummous, a selection of cheeses, and Arabic bread. For mains, you won’t be able to resist the many tagine dishes on offer, from chicken and lamb to fish, cooked with apricots, raisin and herb sauces. We loved the lamb shoulder dish that was tender and moist. With a selection of authentic sweets on offer, you have to try at least the Umm Ali or baklawa, or, for a more interntional flavour, you can opt for lemon tart, fruit tart, or pudding. Sit back and enjoy a cup of Moroccan tea after the sumptuous meal.

Dhs170 per head, call 04-4098877.

Lalezar, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

If you’re looking for an alternative to an Iftar buffet, try the appetising offerings at this Ottoman-inspired venue, where dishes are brought to the table, so you don’t have to budge from your seat. The décor is exquisite and features stained glass chandeliers, and intricate details on the ceilings to reflect the Ottoman Era. Begin with lentil or cauliflower soup, followed by chicken liver with pomegranate – great blend of sweet and savoury flavours – and juicy Turkish sausage for starters. Mains showcase chicken machbous cooked in local spices with dried lemons, fish with mixed vegetables, and a creamy pasta with garlic yoghurt and mint butter that’s full of flavour. We highly recommend trying at least a bite or two of the pumpkin pudding with saffron, white chocolate sauce and biscuit – it’s absolutely moreish and worth ending the meal with.

Dhs195 per head, call 04-4530444.

Al Ghurair Arjaan and Rayhaan by Rotana

Liwan is the place to visit for European, international and Arabic delights served at a widespread buffet. The restaurant is inviting and offers a friendly atmosphere, making it great for families. Try the selection of teas on offer – we really liked the Moroccan green tea – served by the hospitable staff dressed in traditional Arabic clothing. The restaurant offers private seating, and is quite spacious for large Iftar gatherings as well. A highlight, and must-try, from the main course station is the juicy lamb cut right in front of your eyes and the lamb ouzi. A selection of Arabic and international dishes are available, but we suggest leaving space for dessert as the Umm Ali is absolutely divine. Throughout the month of Ramadan, diners get a chance to win weekend stays, meal vouchers and a trip to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.

Dhs149 per head, call 04-2933000.

Suhoor specialty:Layali El Hilmiya, Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi

The Suhoor takes place at the massive, elegant tent built around the outdoor swimming pool, and is a great option for a laid-back late night meal with family and friends. The lavish entrance of the tent takes you to a dimly-lit tunnel with fresh flowers and paintings that brighten up the space. Indoors, you will find large screen TVs, date palms and dining tables spread out around the pool. An à la carte menu is available for Suhoor, and we highly recommend trying the mixed grills of lamb, chicken and kofta, chicken shawarma, and the absolutely divine dessert of nuts, honey, cream and coconut (Fateer Mishaletet). A selection of Arabic sweets and coffee is available for you to tuck into, while relaxing back and listening to the Arabic band.

A la carte menu. Call 02-6742020.