Alserkal Avenue restaurants: Guide to eating in Dubai’s artsy district

Free bone broth, Houston-famous handrolls, Balkan pies, fresh manakish and more

The egg sando at Pekoe Tea & Bread Bar is simple yet elegant. Photo: Keren Ye
Powered by automated translation

When Leon Surynt was looking for a place in Dubai to open his first coffee roastery, he gravitated to Al Quoz, motivated in part by its juxtaposition to the rest of Dubai's modern metropolis impression. He saw roasting as both a “dusty business and a craft form”, so a venue in an up-and-coming district that mixed art and industry sounded like an ideal match.

After several pitches with the Alserkal team, in late 2018 Nightjar Coffee Roasters took up a corner unit directly in front of the now main pedestrian entrance.

In those early, pre-pandemic years, Alserkal Avenue was quieter, known mostly to people as a cultural enclave with galleries, classic car showrooms, an art house cinema and a handful of concept stores. Today, the area thrives.

The eclectic Al Quoz block has always emphasised creativity in the art scene, and now the restaurant business is following suit.

At Nightjar, for example, dishes include parathas, toasties, meatballs and Frankie roll-ups – all coined “nostalgia triggers” by Leon and skilfully crafted by chef Ved.

Elsewhere, pretty French cafe Le Guepard hosts dining pop-ups every third weekend of the month. Cafe10 by Le Guepard has served up dishes such as Vietnamese baguettes by Ugly Noodles’ co-founder Eric Lee; Mexican street food by brothers Isaac Mendoza and Josue Antonio of Tacos Los Hermanos; and an Afro-Japanese supper club by chef Omaka Orubu from Abu Dhabi's excellent Niri.

At last count, no fewer than 15 attention-grabbing restaurants, cafes and food trucks have opened since Nightjar took the leap. Here is a pick of our favourites.

Kokoro Handroll Bar

Kokoro rolls into the cultural enclave direct from Houston. Chefs Daniel “Ducky” Lee and Patrick Pham have dedicated years to redefining the Japanese culinary experience by blending traditional techniques with contemporary flavours. The result is easy-going, counter-service, excellent sushi handrolls and queues already lining out the door.

The concise menu hits several high notes, from an impressive collection of sashimi and nigiri, including bluefin otoro, hamachi and A5 Wagyu, to eight expertly-crafted handrolls. Order the set of four for Dh120, which includes sake salmon, negitoro (minced tuna), spicy tuna and avocado, all individually made and passed over the counter when ready.

Lila Molino

Chef Shaw Lash’s new menu at her second Lila restaurant – the first being the multi-award-winning Lila Taqueria – is going to be unlike anything you’ve had before. The diligent steward of authentic Mexican cuisine takes a studious approach, implementing what she’s learnt over the years working alongside pioneers of modern, regionally inspired Mexican food in the US.

Opening in May, Lila Molina is one-part cafe serving single origin, house-roasted coffee and an all-day dining menu, and one-part retail and tortilleria with fresh tortillas available for purchase.

The regular tacos achieve tortilla transcendence, but the absolute must-orders are the tamales and mole enchiladas. “They really are the heart and soul of Mexico,” says chef Shaw.

Pekoe Tea & Bread Bar

Anything that comes out of Keren Ye’s ovens is worth sprinting to. This is a superb Asian-leaning bakery, where the ultra-buttery, thousand-layered croissants are painstakingly made fresh daily; the butters are churned into wonderful spreads – think miso and sesame, and maple and pecan; and the bread is, literally, frame-worthy. The sourdough – white, rye, pumpkin, cocoa hazelnut, milk bread – sits individually on its own plinth, like works of art.

Most of all, we love the breakfast items, which Keren describes as “drama-free plates that are simple, elegant and show deep respect for nature’s ingredients”. Take Keren’s current favourite, the egg sando. “It’s just milk bread, cheese sauce, egg and chive. When you see it, you know exactly what you’re eating. It’s like tasting a childhood memory, only elevated.”

21 grams Taste-away

After honing their unique Balkan comfort-food formula in Umm Sequim, hyper-talented chef Milan Jurkovic and 21 grams founder Stasha Toncev finally gives Al Quoz the phyllo pie shop it deserves.

Located inside the long-standing shared workplace A4, is 21 grams Taste-away, serving takeaway containers of frittata, Balkan breakfasts, and phyllo pies each served in neat “al desko” portions, perfect for the co-working cohort sitting within.

Word on the street is that come summer, Taste-away will morph into Piehaus, a new 21 grams project focusing on the signature spinach, goat cheese and honey phyllo pies.

Akhu Manoushe

Arabic speakers might chuckle at the name, but the manakish coming out fresh from Akhu Manoushe’s dinky oven is serious business.

A family-run venture headed up by father and son duo Ibrahim Akkaoui and Mohamad Ali, this bright yellow shipping container has a cult-like following, churning out hundreds of “contemporary manakish” to passers-by each day.

The Levant favourite comes with both savoury and sweet toppings, from classics such as za’atar and cheese, to Nutella, marshmallow and banana.


The heart of fine art is probably not the first place you’d go sniffing for first-rate steak, fish and poultry. But Carnistore’s owners Fikry “Fix” Boutros and Daniel Wanies have managed to carve out a place for themselves among all the galleries.

It's their first physical premium butcher shop. People drop in to make their meaty selections from two large touchscreens inside the premises, waiting patiently on leather deck chairs for their orders to arrive through the back door.

While it’s not geared up as a typical restaurant, it’s rare not to see the boys carving up new cuts and throwing them on their indoor grill for passers-by to try. If the grill’s not hot, the bone broth is – head inside for a cup on the house.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 7:44 AM