Affectionately referred to as a prized and hidden gem, Bu Qtair in Jumeriah Dubai is most probably one of Dubai’s most famous eateries.
Opened by the brothers Mohammed Kunju Ahmed and Abdul Karim 29 years ago at Umm Suqeim beach, Bu Qtair moved to its little spot across from the Fishermen’s harbour in Jumeriah a decade ago. This little harbour kitchen / beach shack / portacabin / hut / static restaurant has become one of Dubai’s most loved eateries, visited by up to 300 people a day, with the kitchen serving nearly 1,000 people on a busy day.
What I didn’t realise until I read MeFoodie.Net is that the restaurant is open all day, with the main catch of the day ready for the 6pm service. The fish on offer very much depends on the daily catch, but is often a mix of Nile Perch, Sheri, Hammour, Zubaidy, Pomfret, Kingfish, as well as prawns.
The kitchen’s chefs all hail from Southern India, and the food illustrates this in the absolutely outstanding flavours you can taste in their cuisine. The fish is cleaned and then a secret Keralite mix of herbs and spices is rubbed into the skin before being fried to order. In an interview with The National in July 2011, Abdul Karim would only share a small part of the list of ingredients that make up the famous orange marinade, which includes red chillies, coriander and turmeric as the base ingredients.
Once your order is ready, your name has been called and you’ve been shown to your table, you can throw in some additional rice, curry sauce (also known as Indian Saloona), delicious chewy paratha bread, and shredded cabbage and onions.
With no official social media or website to speak of (their Twitter was set up by fans), and with evidently zero advertising budget, this darling of Dubai has done what many brands would love – enjoyed success, popularity and growth from word of mouth alone.
The awful lack of light at Bu Qtair has meant that any photos of the food (including my own) haven’t always come out looking quite as appetising as in real life. But if you’ve never visited, don’t let any amateur food photography put you off.
Upon hearing my surprise at the new location, a waiter was quick to inform me that absolutely everything about the food and experience was the same, and looking around, I’m inclined to believe him.
True to Dubai form it’s all same, same… but different – a similar hole in the wall taking orders and dishing out meals, a similar waiting area with the original small plastic stools are located outside, the fish and kitchen all looks strangely familiar, and the food being passed out to the busy waiters certainly seemed like Bu Qtair fare. Take a look for yourselves below.
“New” Bu Qtair in photos
Bu Qtair says goodbye to its familiar Jumeriah location
Not that way. This way, over here…
Bu Qtair’s new location, across the road, next to Umm Suqeim’s fishing harbour – now with parking… and toilets!
Bu Qtair’s enjoying a slightly grander looking establishment with outside seating, and an outside waiting area
A quick look inside Bu Qtair’s new home
The famous Bu Qtair hole in the wall has made it into its new residence
Plastic plates, fish and curry sauce definitely has us believing Bu Qtair has had a facelift, not a change of heart
The residents of Dubai are still getting used to the new location
The Dubai PR Network explain that the move to the new location is to tie in with the Dubai vision aimed at “boosting Dubai’s tourism industry, focusing on an integral part of Emirati heritage, traditional fishing – which we seek to market and promote into a new tourist attraction in the emirate of Dubai”.
So as with so many things in Dubai, Bu Qtair has had a facelift, prettied itself up and fallen in line with the “out with the old” ethos. But by all accounts it doesn’t seem to have changed the Bu Qtair we’ve all come to know and love, hurrah!
You can find the “new” Bu Qtair, which is due to be inaugurated in January, here (ignore the other “Bu Qtair” marker on the map)
A fun amateur time-lapse of the old shack
The Twitter account, set up and updated (on occasion) by fans
Reviews from its original location across the road
**#COTM review coming soon**