Wake up in Paris and brunch @La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai

Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.

“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.

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In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.

When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.

Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.

Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.

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Break the sky @At.mosphere Dubai

In many ways Dubai is the most eccentric city in the world. Home to driverless subways, the largest malls, warmest sea, safest environment, the most expensive coffee and the tallest building, it always keeps visitors on their toes, overwhelmed with experiences all year (even when thermometer jumps to +50C). The one truly unmissable attraction is the Burj Khalifa, a tower that holds to the world’s record of 828m since 2010. Dubaians believe if you haven’t been to Burj Khalifa you haven’t really seen Dubai. Many opt to book a tour to the top but there is a better and tastier way to experience it, – At.mosphere.

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Located on the 122nd floor, a minute ride on a rapid elevator, Atmosphere is divided into two establishments: a lounge for high-tea, pre- and post-party drinks, and a luxurious restaurant with private dining. Needless to say the view is fantastic from every window.

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Depending on time, weather and position of sun and moon, the view around Atmosphere changes dramatically making it the most exciting destination to explore the ever-expanding Dubai.

Being a frequent guest of Atmosphere’s lounge for high-tea and pre-dinner cocktails, this time I stopped in to experience the newest breakfast menu created by chef Christopher Graham, formerly of Jumeirah Group hotels.

Atmosphere states the dress code as casual, but I prefer to wear a slightly ridiculous outfit because my photo memories are expected to be spectacular!

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The interior resembles the vibe of London decor with polished wooden panels, reflective aluminum columns, shiny glass, panoramic windows and patches of warm red light here and there.

The new breakfast menu consisted of pre-set dishes paired with eggs as well as tasty delights like organic greek yogurt parfait, waffles, crepes, jams and vanilla butter (with real crushed vanilla).

In terms of cost, it’s quite flexible. The minimum spend is AED 200 per person (window tables are subject to availability upon reservation). A special 35% discount is offered on Decadence Menu (yumm) for guests with a valid Emirates ID card.

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Day & Time: Daily, from 7am to 11am (last arrival time is 10am)

Price: Decadence Menu – AED 325 per person (UAE residents can enjoy 35% discount with their Emirates ID), Prestige Menu – AED 525 per person and À la carte – Dishes start from AED 60. Children below 5 years can dine for free (ID required with date of birth). Children aged 6-10 years are entitled to 50% on Decadence Menu only (ID required with date of birth).

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Mosaico lounge @Palazzo Versace Dubai

Set in a spacious main lobby, the Mosaico lounge is the heart of the Palazzo Versace. With overall tones of gold and red, it’s fashionable in every design detail from textiles to crystal chandeliers.

The first impression is one of being transported to the galleries of the ancient Rome. Panoramic floor to ceiling windows allow for lots of light and an open view of the central pool and Dubai Creek.  Elegance is literally in the air!

I opted to hide at the lounge during the hottest time of the day as Mosaico is a perfect location for a cup of morning coffee or 5 o’clock tea.

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Coya, a bite of Incan Heritage

On July 12, Coya, a contemporary Peruvian restaurant and landmark of the Four Seasons resort on Jumeriah Road, was the hottest place in Dubai. In preparation for the annual La Noche Blanca, a magical event that combines Latin music, food, drinks and entertainment, Coya transformed into the Garden of Eden.

Being a big fan of the city after-dark, I could’t resist the temptation of partying the night away. Luckily the “white” dress code was easy to follow in July, limiting my “getting ready” time to a matter of minutes. Let’s see: voluminous hair, high heels, a touch of highlighter on cheekbones and shoulders, bright red lipstick, goldfish purse and my “fancy Dubai girl” look was complete. Well, almost. Please consider a pair of Angel wings that I borrowed at the entrance as the final touch! Yay or Nay?

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Right from the start I knew the night would be a great success (spoiler, sorry!). A long queue of the fanciest cars possible waiting for valet stretched all the way to the bottom of the hill, making it extremely hard for hotel security to keep order. But no one complained! The expectation of a magical night out had loosened the mood, and smiles were shining from every corner.

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As many, not to say all, I was completely blown away by a fantastic work of florists and the event team. The mesmerizing effect was achieved by millions of flower garlands “floating” in the air, creating the best possible canvas for light to play on. I was speechless, breathless and really anxious to discover more.

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Indoors, surrounded by vibrant Incan colours, I continued looking in amusement from one side to another being slightly pushed by the crowd in the direction of a busy bar.

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The place was a dream!

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Moving away from the crowded bar to my table, I started paying attention to the bespoke furniture paired with carefully selected pieces of art, traditional and very modern, tastefully placed throughout the space.

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It was hard not to notice a very authentic feel to Coya, intentionally or unintentionally created with decorative objects that encouraged guests to interact, explore, ask questions and feel hungry for more.

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Before I could ask any questions, a glass of Moet sparkled in my hand and the feast began!

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Meant to be shared, the Peruvian cuisine at Coya is moderately spicy and pleasantly colorful. The ceviche mixed right in front of me was a real delight with its zesty sauce and freshest ingredients. Grilled chilly peppers were so tender and sweet that I accidentally exceeded my fair share. I was told the majority of ingredients were imported from Peru and the rest locally sourced.

To stop further teasing your growing appetite, I’ll just tell you that all dishes on the menu were absolutely excellent and delightfully unique. Compliments to the chef and the entire team for serving an incredible cultural experience like no other!

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Find out more about Coya right here or on Instagram I hope you’ll get the table!

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#AZtory: Gold, spices and textiles, part 3

Like Alice in Wonderland, who ran after the White Rabbit to escape the boredom of her world, I followed the lady in the black abaya, worrying how easy it would be to loose her in a crowd of other ladies… Read Part 1 #AZtory and Part 2 Old Dubai 

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Despite hostile summer weather conditions, noisy traffic and a nagging companion (me), Zainab never looked back pushing us towards the wilderness of the old souks. “Keep up with me, Anna. The “City of Gold” lies on the other side of this bridge. I bet you’ve never seen anything like it.”

Zainab’s alluring voice triggered my ever conscious curiosity. Following Zainab was a challenge. One moment she walked right in front, the next – she vanished from my radar caught in a circle of similarly dressed people. Plus it took me a while to realize Zainab valued a good photo opportunity higher than a chitchat (even with a super famous blogger like me).

Third stop: Gold market

For half a century Dubai was referred to as the “City of Gold” by those who praised its fantastic development from a little peaceful harbour to a busy futuristic hub where everything unimaginable turned possible.  Zainab intended to amaze me with the materialization of the literal meaning, showing me streets and corners shining with the precious metal.

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“Watch out,” a deep voice suddenly interrupted my random philosophical thoughts mixed with walking and texting. “Young generation!” added the same voice annoyingly, but to me it sounded like a wonderful compliment. I happily rushed away leaving my Generation X status in the air.

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When we successfully crossed the street, gold was everywhere! It happily rested in the rays of the midday sun, smiled with a million rainbows through the panoramic windows of miniature stores, winked at me reflected in street mirrors, and sweetly whispered from every corner: “Take me home, Anna. I’m your precious.” Swirled with temptations I backed away, allowing Asian tourists and Zainab to produce quality photo memories.

When Zainab found me hiding from my inner spontaneous shopper, I was ready to leave. Empty-handed fortunately for my budget. A big fan of glamorous jewellery, Zainab looked a wee bit disappointed with my sudden meltdown, but my promise to be a lot more engaging at the textiles market seemed to reassure her and we continued (spoiler, I lied).

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Forth stop: Textiles and garments

Obsessed with online shopping and luxury retail, my feelings towards fashion from the streets of Deira were rather skeptical and in full contrast with Zainab’s excitement. I noticed a dominancy of natural fabrics made of cotton, silk and cashmere topped with a generous choice of bright attractive colours. Pretending to be interested I looked for the first opportunity to escape. The weather however made me reconsider. Surprisingly, all the tiny stores on all sides of the souk turned out to be air-conditioned and blasting a desirable chilled air in all directions. To Zainab’s delight, I happily followed her inside (however for a different reason) and practiced the competitive art of bargaining. With a bit of experience I’ve discovered that a simple Arabic phrase “Mafi fulus” (I’m broken) would gain me a so desired space in the busiest market even in peak hours. So I didn’t hesitate to use it again and again to Zainab’s amusement.

When we were leaving, Zainab’s hands were no longer empty. With numerous little gifts for family and friends she portrayed a very kind social person, especially when compared to me, who believed that my IG posts were the best presents imaginable. I told her so and she laughed. “Anna, let’s catch a boat to the other shore of the Creek. I want to see if the fragrant smell of Iranian saffron inspires you to cook for friends tonight.” It was my turn to laugh, but the word “Iranian” caught my attention.

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Prior to embarking we stopped to admire the courage of traditional dhows crews (cargo ships) traveling around the Gulf and further. The legend says they sail all the way to Iran carrying the wonders of Persia aboard, but perhaps it was just a modern take of “One Thousand and One Nights” tales 🙂

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We walked to the docks, joined a group of people waiting to cross, and comfortably nested on wide the benches of the traditional wooden boats, abras. The cost of our trip sounded surreal as there was practically nothing one could purchase with 1 Dirham in the UAE (soft ice-cream at McDonald’s was raised to 2 Dirhams). Thoughts of the fresh sea breeze, an adventurous ride and beautiful aqua blue waters occupied our happy minds. For the first time I no longer wanted to run away.

Fifth stop: Spice souk

The Spice Souk greeted us with a variety of colours, textures, smells and shoppers: locals, expats, tourists and residents rushing from one side of the market to another.

“Careful, Anna,” Zainab warned me when I stopped to stare at a curiously looking thing. “Not all you see are spices. The blue balls are dye used to magically turn your casual white pants into jeans”. I was speechless!

I demanded a further explanation and we stopped at Nasser Ali’s for a deep insight in the world of spice, dye and everything fragrant.

When the time came to say good-bye I didn’t want to. Instead I tricked Zainab into promising to see me again to continue our endeavors discovering the secrets of Zainab’s motherland.

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P.S. I am wearing a beautiful silk scarf by Wyilda, “Spring Roar”. Get yours here

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The New Address Hotel, Boulevard Dubai

Last night, on the way to Iftar dinner with a friend who makes this world a better place, we had an opportunity to explore the new Address Hotel and Residences at the Boulevard Downtown.

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With its central location a few minutes away from major landmarks, and views on the tallest tower Burj Khalifa, the Address Boulevard is already a sought after place to stay in the city. Not to mention New Year’s Eve!

Through the glass door we went with expectations of a hearty dinner, and unexpectedly stood still looking around at the little details. The interiors opened up in a beautiful bright space filled with comfort and lots of fresh air. High white ceilings, elegantly decorated walls, and crystal lamps paired with patterned marble floors created an illusion of a private residence lost in the era of Art Deco.

The dinner was served in a spacious Ballroom at a long communal table surrounded by mouthwatering desserts, chilled refreshments and aromatic Arabic coffee.

The feast began after the sunset, and from the first minute we completely lost count of the endless array of irresistible dishes placed in front of our eyes.

Accompanied by the sounds of Oud, the dessert tasted sweeter than ever.

By the end of the evening I really envied the guests who were so well looked after at this beautiful new hotel and residences.

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#AZtory: Old Dubai, Part 2

“Anna!” Zainab’s voice ricocheted off a tiled white wall. She sounded impatient. “Sun is setting higher. Yalah! First you were lost in space and now in time. Let’s get moving to avoid hitting the midday heat.”

Arguing with Zainab or the Dubai summer would be a definite defeat, so I rolled my eyes and complied. Fortunately Zainab didn’t notice my facial emoji. She seemed preoccupied photographing an entire family of three generations: a son, father and grandfather working in the same place all together.

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Happens rarely these days! I tend to swop between projects quicker than scrolling through my Facebook feed. By the way, if you are wondering who the mysterious Zainab actually is, go ahead, review her IG credentials here or read part One of “Anna and Zainab in Old Dubai”.

“Anna, yalah,” smiled Zainab pointing at our next destination. Any guesses?

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Second stop: Fruit and vegetables market

Deira’s fruit and vegetable market used to share its address with the fish market between Ras Square and Hyatt Regency hotel. At this particular moment (June 12, 2017 at 4pm) fish market is relocating to a new waterfront community.

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Walking along endless rows with beautifully ripe fruits, I couldn’t resist the temptation to bargain. Bargaining is a real art in the Middle East, usually mixed with stories and anecdotes shared by all sides of a potential deal: a shopper, a seller and observers.

“Zainab,” I whispered. “Teach me.” Zainab nodded, hid away her inseparable iPhone 7 and confidently walked to a stall. Casually joking half in English (for me), half in Arabic (for better effect) she reached her target in a matter of a few sentences. “Wallah!”

Now it was my chance to shine. Looking as charming as possible I opened with: “Your neighbor offered 2 pineapples for 10 Dirhams” (around $3). Well, you can tell the seller looked unconvinced. The truth was that not only that I didn’t speak with the neighbor, but my LV purse was too small to fit anything bigger than an orange.

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I confessed, initiated small talk about the weather and noticed a little crowd of perspective buyers building up behind my shoulders.

“Mashallah, he’ll sell’em all now,” whispered Zainab and we’ve departed.

Just like Alice in Wonderland, who ran after the White Rabbit to escape the boredom of her world, I followed the lady in the black abaya worrying how easy it would be to loose her in a crowd of other ladies.

“Anna, hurry up. Are you day dreaming or is it the heat?” It was at that moment a very elegantly dressed cyclist stopped by the road to straighten a rose attached to his bicycle. Or was I dreaming?

To be continued…

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