If the UAE were to be defined by a single colour, that colour would be gold. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi's seven-star hotel, sells solid gold bars from a vending machine, Dubai has an entire souk dedicated to the stuff, and all across the country, people are sprinkling gold on their food.
Quite why this became a trend is unclear, but a trend it most definitely is. From fish and burgers to coffee and desserts, restaurants are adding a 24K sprinkling to their menus and, bizarrely, it sells.
I say bizarrely because gold, it transpires, doesn't actually taste of much. It undoubtedly adds an impressive sheen to a dish and there's a definite change in texture, but in terms of taste – surely the main reason we shell out on expensive dishes – gold does little to warrant the price tag.
Still, the rush shows no signs of slowing, with yet another Dubai restaurant launching a headline-grabbing golden dish last week. This time, it's a 24K steak. Prime68, located at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Downtown Dubai, is offering a 350-gram prime cut, aged for 24 days, served with a side of your choice and a sprinkling of gold flakes. The daily "gold dining experience", available between 6pm and midnight, will set diners back Dh330 per person.
With Prime68 launching its deal, we take a look back at some of the other golden dishes available in the UAE, from the extravagant to the downright absurd.
Emirates Palace Hotel’s 23K ice cream
Places don't come more golden than Emirates Palace. From its gilded dome to its shining suites and decor, there is a definite theme running through this seven-star stalwart. And that theme continues on to the menu at Le Cafe, where gold features in the most unlikely places. From its signature Palace Cappuccino, sprinkled in 23K gold flakes, to its 23K gold-topped ice cream, it's almost impossible to eat here without ingesting at least one karat.
Doors Freestyle Grill’s 23K sea bass
This Dubai Creek restaurant opened its doors last year, and the star of its culinary show is the 23K golden fish. The "royal delicacy", as they describe it, is fresh sea bass marinated and cooked in chef Kemal Ceylan's special orange-flavoured sauce, before being completely coated in edible gold leaf.
The fish is then baked in a bread-covered dish to allow the gold to really marinate, blending seamlessly with its shimmering silver scales to create a mix of metallic tones. The dish, which is unsurprisingly one of the most luxurious items on the menu, will set diners back Dh675 and must be pre-booked. Doors also works gold into several of its decadent desserts.
Burj Al Arab’s 24K Italian cappuccino
Arabian and Italian bling have been merged to create a gold cappuccino at Dubai's seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel. The Jumeirah property describes the drink, in which 24K Italian gold is blended into the foam and topped with gold flakes, as the ultimate gold cappuccino. Burj Al Arab previously offered a coffee with 24K gold shavings. The hotel also features soaring interiors covered in marble and gold leaf, not least in its Gold on 27 lounge, a nightspot on the 27th floor.
Maison Rouge’s Golden Maison Rouge Beef Burger
Who wants an ordinary brown bread bun when you can have a glistening golden one to sink your teeth into? Granted, it may look a little like a takeaway burger that you've forgotten to take out of the tinfoil, but Maison Rouge's Angus beef burger layered with tomato, marinated cucumber, caramelised onions and Cheddar cheese is actually wrapped in 24K gold, and will set diners back Dh365.
Hakkasan’s gold-topped dim sum
Hakkasan has long reigned as the king of luxury Cantonese food, and what's a king without his gold? The Emirates Palace restaurant is known for its elaborate, edible decorations and garnishes, and its dim sum offering is no exception. The lobster dumpling consists of succulent meat with a hint of wasabi, packed into a bright pink casing and garnished with edible gold leaf.
Everything at 24 Karat Dubai
For those who want to sprinkle gold on almost everything they eat, there's a restaurant for that, too. At 24 Karat Restaurant, located at Dubai's Marriott Al Jaddaf hotel, you can top your lasagne, Caesar salad or seafood risotto with a dusting of gold. The restaurant's entire concept is based around edible gold, although expect to pay up to Dh58 over and above the price of each dish if you want it to be gold-coated.