Near+Far’s best restaurants series explores the very best culinary options in the Middle East, and the world. For those looking for the best restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and the most interesting and beautiful destinations across the world.
Near+Far rating: 8/10
Why book Jaleo by José Andrés Dubai
Dubai’s culinary scene is booming, but while there’s no shortage of Pan-Asian, Mediterranean and local flavours, it’s hard to find good Spanish cuisine, let alone in an elevated setting. Enter Jaleo by José Andrés, one of the five restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs at the talked-about new Atlantis The Royal. The restaurant is the acclaimed group’s first opening outside of the US, helmed by Spanish-American chef José Andrés and bringing all the hallmarks of its North American outposts to Dubai. There’s the rich and authentic sangria, an all-encompassing selection of bold Spanish wine, complemented by classics like tapas, paella and fresh seafood – plus Andrés’ signature twists on classics. As expected of the new resort, the setting is modern, sprawling and elegant, with outdoor and indoor seating and a large circular bar specially designed to enjoy the beloved Spanish tradition of drinking and snacking late into the evening.
The interiors: 8/10
Everything is bigger at Atlantis The Royal, and Jaleo’s dining spaces seem to never end – stretching from an elegant indoor seating area with a central bar outside to a sprawling terrace. The colour scheme is a nod to the Iberian nation’s flag – filled with warm red and yellows – and design details like patterned tiles, cosy seating areas, and an open-view wine cellar add to the sophisticated vibe. Guests won’t need to jostle for an outdoor table – located in the shadows of the looming cantilevered structure – as the terrace comprises various seating areas and is fitted with 100-year-old olive trees – a nod to Andrés’ self-confessed adoration of olive oil. While reservations pick up, the space can feel a little thin and spread out, but with a packed house, the atmosphere will be suitably festive.
The food: 8/10
Humble ingredients and humble dishes are the backbones of Jaleo by José Andrés Dubai, and while the Royal Atlantis outpost does elevate things to a more refined dining level, the dishes are still created to be casually shared with friends – typical of Spanish cuisine. All the classically Spanish, and with some indulgent, ingredients are here: eggs, sea urchin, Cantabrian anchovies, truffles, oyster, and Jamon, which come together to create classic dishes like Paella Valenciana, tortilla and croquetas de Pollo. There are also plenty of greens and fresh salads, sometimes an afterthought in a Spanish restaurant, which is delightful for those who want something fresh to accompany the rich, primarily fried or meaty flavours of Spanish cuisine. Jaleo is all about sitting back, sampling many courses and enjoying time with friends and loved ones, and the Spanish Sips package offers diners a selection of Spanish wines and beverages paired with your meal for AED395.
The signature dishes
The menu can be overwhelming, as groups are encouraged to order multiple small plates per persona and all enjoy together, so the best way to get the signature Jaleo experience is with the chef’s tasting menu (AED500): the “eat like José’ experience. There are classics here, like Jamon, croquetas, pan con tomate, and prawn paella, with creative, modern twists on tapas like a foie gras bocadillo and olive-shaped (and flavoured) appetiser that pops a burst of olivey flavour in the mouth. The meal climates in a moreish Basque cheesecake, made with goat’s milk to create a slightly more unusual taste.
The vibe: 7/10
Jaleo translates to “revelry” in Spanish, and chef José Andrés hopes guests will experience this when they dine at Jaleo. With such an ample dining space, it can be hard to create a buzz without hordes of diners, but the corners of restaurants with pockets of diners have a warm, vibrant atmosphere akin to that in a Spanish tapas bar or Mercado.
Jaelo by José Andrés certainly fills a hole in Dubai’s restaurant scene – offering elevated, creative, yet classic Spanish cuisine in a beautiful, design-led setting. People come for the location at one of the most impressive and talked-about hotels in Dubai and return for the hearty classics, friendly feeling and endless supply of Spanish wine.
Atlantis The Royal, Palm Jumeirah, jaleo.com