Anti-food waste: 5 alternative Dubai Iftars

It's not about the all-you-can-eat tented sacrifices to gluttony. Quirky Iftars are what's trending. 

Neil Churchill July 12, 2015

Google’s definition of Iftar is as follows: 'Iftar /ˈɪftɑː/ Noun. The meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan.'

Note that nowhere does it say that Iftar is an excuse for hotels and restaurants to prepare mountainous amounts of food, only for much of it to go to waste.

Unfortunately though in the UAE, the latter seems to happen an awful lot and to be quite frank, the thought of it is enough to put EDGAR off going to any big, overblown Iftars that are taking place this Ramadan.

Instead, we are far more interested in the alternative, quirky, anti-food waste Iftars, of which there are several.

With one week of Ramadan left, if you haven’t been to an Iftar yet, we strongly recommend these five in Dubai for a unique experience.

La Serre Boulangerie, Vida Hotel, Downtown Dubai

The popular Dubai restaurant has transformed its downstairs Boulangerie into a pop-up art concept, dubbed ‘The House’. Local art collective The Animation Chamber was given free reign to the blank canvas walls, so amid the rows of freshly baked bread and sugar-rich pastries, a Renaissance-inspired art installation covers the walls. 

The term ‘anti-food waste’ shouldn’t be misconstrued as ‘lack of food’. This a la carte Iftar will leave you feeling full until Iftar the following day, if you attempt to sample each one of the 12 main dishes – not including desserts or sides. 

The food is so incredibly tasty, and in some cases unusual, that it was hard to pick out a favourite. The watermelon with feta is a mix we’ve never considered before, let alone tasted, and the rib eye steak Provençale style was melt-in-the-mouth good.

You better hope that the saying ‘there’s a separate stomach for sweet’ is biologically accurate, as the dessert offerings are a tad insane: chocolate fondant, crème brulée, date cake, tiramisu and several sweet pastries. 

Don’t even think about going as just a two; this Iftar is strictly for minimum four people. AED 275 per person.

Ramadan Garden by Ghaf Kitchen and A4 Space, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz

Iftars don’t come more alternative than this. Situated in Alserkal Avenue’s A4 Space, Ramadan Garden is one for groups, families, work colleagues and generally any unpretentious soul who you’d be happy to share food with. 

Hanging plants, trestle walls, terracotta pots, jars on steel ladders, hanging lanterns and fairy lights give a great summer picnic ambience; the huge indoor space must be the closest thing in Dubai to a giant’s greenhouse. 

The food is simple but heart warming. Dates, lentil soup, Arabic bread, marinated feta, beetroot hummus and house-cured olives break the fast, all for sharing of course. 

The choices of main course are threefold: rotisserie chicken, posh slaw and fries; roast leg of lamb with roast potatoes and green beans; or a ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich, made with fresh haddock, mushy peas, tartar sauce and fries.

Just as they sound, all dishes are finger licking good, and leave you comfortably full without the overindulged feeling. That is before the dessert options arrive: trifle burger, Eton Mess and lemon meringue pie.

Served in potting crates with retro milk bottles and bottle-topped carafes, you won’t find a quirkier Iftar in Dubai. On top of that, board games are on hand for some competitive fun afterwards, and films will be screened on Wednesday and Thursday night this week. AED 95 per person for starters and main course, AED 160 all-inclusive.

VIDA food truck, Manzil, Downtown Dubai

If Dubai’s infatuation with food trucks comes to one good thing, it’s that you can take Iftar from the side of the road. 

VIDA’s food truck is by far the lightest and most simple form of Iftar you will find this Ramadan in Dubai. If you hate the post-Iftar food coma, then this is what you've been searching for.

Offering traditional Arabic dishes in mini form, take your pick from lamb ouzi sliders, cheese zaatar sandwiches, mini chicken shwarmas and a range of dips.

While by its very essence the truck is mobile, you’ll find it throughout the rest of Ramadan outside of Manzil hotel in Downtown Dubai, open from Iftar to Suhoor. 

Junoon, Shangri-la, Sheikh Zayed Road

With Indian culture being so prevalent in Dubai, an Indian Iftar is by no means a strange thing. However the tastes on Junoon’s Iftar menu are certainly strange and wonderfully so. 

Dates, buttermilk, melon chaat and sherbet break the fast, followed by sweet potato bonda, vegetable pakora, rajma ki shammi, murgh tikka hasnu and goat kebab. So far, manageable. 

Then the restaurant unloads on your table: fish curry, haleem, murgh korma, black daal, chicken biryani, goat biryani, not mentioning the rice, chutneys and assorted breads. Or the desserts: kulfi tasting and mango sago. 

The style and servings make this an Iftar unlike most others, while the flavours and spices make it unlike most other Indian cuisines. AED 220 per person - we recommend you go as a four.

Vida Hotel, Downtown Dubai

Vida spoils you this Ramadan. If you’ve already tried La Serre’s Iftar then go next door and experience the hotel’s own alternative meal. With a commitment to cut down on food waste, the hotel uses a semi a la carte style, with starters and desserts served buffet style, with the mains coming from the menu. 

The food is traditional with Arabic dishes including saj, kibbeh, beetroot humus, lentil soup and cheeses to start. Remain seated for the mains including lamb ouzi, chicken molokhia, a mixed grill and vegetable salona. 

The dessert station is by far the most varied so be sure to leave room for sweet. Baklava, umm ali, kunafeh, basbousa, halawat el jibn, zainab fingers… that’s not even half the choices. AED 170 per person.