We had been wanting to visit Seven Sands for quite some time now, having been bombarded with appealing Instagram photos and outstanding Zomato reviews for the best part of a year – the restaurant was quickly making its way to the top of our ‘must visit’ list.
The unique selling point of Seven Sands is that it specializes in Emirati Cuisine, which (despite us being in the UAE) can be quite tricky to track down. Arabic food is available in abundance throughout the UAE dining scene, but we are not talking Lebanese, Turkish or Iranian – we are talking about the traditional heritage cuisine of the Emirates.
The reason for our trip to Seven Sands was that we had guests visiting from the UK and we wanted to show them a different side to Dubai and let them sample some of the traditional food of this great nation that we now call home. The restaurant is located at the far end of the beach at Jumeriah Beach Residence (close to the Sheraton Hotel) and it is a fantastic location away from the hustle and bustle of The Walk. Upon entering you immediately feel as though you have been transported to another world.
Entering the restaurant you really do get a sense that you are in Arabia. The fixtures and fittings are adorned in traditional Islamic designs, whilst Arabian stained-glass lamps hang from the ceilings, and the seating is predominantly low slung sofas. It is a decadent and classy affair which we found to be very appealing and inviting.
The standout feature on the ground floor are the glass panels which contain sand from each of the seven Emirates (hence the restaurants name). As you ascend the ornately carved spiral staircase you are likely to be impressed by the walls which are engraved to show the history of the UAE, starting with Bedouin camel herders and progressing all the way up to the construction of iconic landmarks such as the Burj Arab and even Ferrari World. Even the bathrooms are impressive with their gold bowled sinks and striking tiles.
The restaurant is spread over two levels, and due to the pleasant evening climate we opted to sit outside on the terrace. This transpired to be an excellent decision as the views over the beach to the waters of the Arabian Gulf are truly spectacular. To the left you can see the construction of Bluewater Island and the Dubai Eye rapidly taking shape on the horizon. To the right is the man-made Palm Jumeriah. Our guests were suitably impressed before we had even had a chance to peruse the menu.
The vibe and atmosphere were exceptional and despite there being few diners at the time of our visit (it was early), we immediately felt like it would be a special dining experience. Our waiter soon arrived with menus and thoroughly explained to us the concept of the restaurant and the details of the Emirati dishes on offer – we were overwhelmed by his knowledge and friendly demeanor.
Our meal started with drinks and the selection on offer was quite extensive with a selection of fresh mocktails and juices. We sampled the black cinnamon mojito which was refreshing and had a hint of sharpness from the blackberry that really complemented the cinnamon and lime flavours of the beverage.
We also tried the date frappe which has to be seen to be believed! Served in a long thin glass that stands about a foot tall – this is the pinnacle of chilled beverages with date syrup layered between large amounts of cream. Surprisingly it was not too sweet and despite being slightly dubious about the date flavour, it turned out to be spectacular.
To begin our meal we ordered the Moutabal (grilled eggplant puree), hommous and shark sambousa. The dips were shared among the guests on our table and were devoured pretty quickly with the fresh warm Arabic bread that resembled puffed up pillows.
We hadn’t originally planned on ordering the shark sambousa but our waiter had insisted that we tried it and he was not wrong. The dish is golden fried pastry stuffed with minced shark and bezar spice. The dish had a nice fishy tang that was not too overpowering and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
For our main courses we tried to sample as many of the traditional Emirati dishes as we could and ended up ordering chicken fouga, lamb thereed, aishu laham and the catch of the day. All food came with complimentary cheese manakish which was greatly appreciated and very tasty.
Aisha Laham is a rice and lamb dish flavoured with ginger, garlic, lime and saffron. The meat was deliciously tender and the rice was flavorsome, we were impressed to say the least.
Chicken Fouga is a traditional Emirati dish where the chicken and spices are cooked together within perfumed stock. The dish was served with a generous portion of basmati rice and a pan jus reduction which was aromatic and very flavorsome.
Lamb Thereed is a traditional Bedouin stew cocked with pumpkin, marrow, potato and tomatoes – served within a rigag flat bread. Having the stew served encased in flat bread made the bread become moist and soak up the flavours of saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The food on offer is hearty and delicious.
Seven Sands sells traditional Emirati food and also dishes with a modern twist. So for those of you looking for koftas, kebabs, shawarma and falafel – these items and all represented on the menu. Most interesting though is the ouzi which is a whole roasted baby lamb to be shared by a large number of guests. If this is something that appeals to you, then the restaurant requires 24 hours notice so that they can prepare the dish.
We rounded out our meal with Legamat, which was the only Emirati dish that we had previously tried. For those who do not know, Legamat are deep-fried dough balls which are then covered in date syrup and sesame seeds. Though the ones on offer here at Seven Sands were slightly smaller than what we are used too – they were the perfect way to finish off our meal and a great dish for sharing with friends.
What we really appreciated about dining at Seven Sands was the fact that not only did we get to try some new dishes that we had never sampled before, but we were also educated about the food, its traditions and how it is cooked. As self-confessed foodies there is nothing we like more than trying new things and learning about different foods and the way in which they are prepared.
Suitably impressive were the staff and it is safe to say that the team at Seven Sands has some of the most courteous and friendly staff that we have encountered on the UAE dining scene. They are a complete asset to the establishment for their knowledge and professionalism.
The potions on offer are relatively large and though not the cheapest place to eat, we did find it to be good value for money (it is also currently on offer in the Entertainer for BOGOF main courses). Parking is available in the underground car park at The Beach and the restaurant will validate you for three hours free parking if you spend over seventy five dirhams – just don’t forget to give them your token for validation.
We left the restaurant wondering why Emirati cuisine is not served more widely – is there not enough demand for it? One thing is for certain and that is the fact that we will be returning soon, if only to try the date pudding, Emirati breakfast and karak tea. A number of dishes on the menu were recently included in Time Out’s best fifty dishes to eat in Dubai – so it is nice to see the restaurant being recognised for its great cooking and aromatic flavours. The whole experience is a true reflection of Emirati hospitality and reaffirms to us that JBR really is the place to be in Dubai.
Location: The Beach, Jumeriah Beach Residence, Dubai
Opening Hours: 8am – 1am daily.
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.