Following on from the tradition in Dubai, where they prefer to buy the best and the biggest, you will be glad to know that when it comes to coffee machines, they have not compromised and have bought the best – La Marzocco. Yes ! probably the best commercial coffee machine in the World. It’s like the top salesman at La Marzocco went to Dubai on holiday and has retired there, with all the machines he or she sold. In the biggest mall outside north America, the Mall of the Emirates, almost all the coffee shops and there are many, have a La Marzocco machine. The only downside, as with many of the good stuff, is that the machine is not being used properly to produce good espresso. In testing the baristas, I may have been a bit unfair, as I only really ordered espressos – the main way to test how good a barista is. I also feel comfortable only drinking espressos or non-milk coffee drinks in the afternoon – after all I was on holiday with the family, and by the time we got out bed, had a lavish breakfast, it was of course after-noon. In any case, most of the cafes tend to follow the American style layout and offerings- dark wooden interior with dim lights, cheesecakes, muffins, etc with the usual offerings of espresso, cappuccino, lattes and smoothies. With so many Starbucks and Costa Cafes there too (largest UK coffee chain), people seem to choose a cafe that they are used to.
There are some that try and differentiate themselves with the decor, like Art Cafe on the second floor of the mall, which interestingly has a pop-art decor with palm like cup seats in bright orange. You also have Barista (dangerous name for a cafe, if it doesn’t serve coffee like a true barista), with some coffee history written on the wall. Actually Barista is India’s second largest coffee chain, but they have recently been bought by the Italian coffee maker, Lavazza – smart move ! Barista also boasted that all their coffees were roasted in Italy and their lattes weren’t bad – I didn’t try their espresso as I had a free voucher for a latte – hmmmm ! There’s also a Dubai coffee chain called Second Cup, which also sell coffee beans to take home, but I wasn’t convinced by the way they were stored, nor by their freshness and so I didn’t enquire. In the mall, they also have Paul – the famous French pattisserie, opening stores in London and getting big in Dubai too. So if you fancy a nice croissant or pain aux raisin with coffee, then head over there too – it’s quite popular because I think people love the cakes. Another French style outfit, Le Pain Quotidien (also on Marylebone High Street, London) serve hearty soup, salads, sandwiches and cakes and of course coffee. However, there was one coffee shop I really wanted to try in the Mall of the Emirates, the Emporio Armani Caffe – designer coffee from Italy. The ambience was dark, more like a night club scene, but the coffee was not as good as the clothes. I think there’s a gap for a really good quality coffee shop offering coffee made with real attention. Anyone want to move to Dubai and set up a coffee shop ?
Outside of the malls, the only place I managed to try for coffee was Dome Cafe (an Australian outfit) and for me, the coffee here was the best, perhaps the strong coffee culture from Australia managed to transport itself to this cafe. Dome Cafe is situated in tourist magnet, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, where there’s lots of restaurants and souvenir style shops to keep you occupied. I’ve heard that there are many other places, like in the Bastakiya district of old Dubai, but with 40C heat outside and no car, I decided to leave that adventure for another trip when I visit again God willing.