Six top restaurants to discover in the Middle East and Africa

Laura Price - 09/03/2016

Header image (clockwise from top left): Eggplant rolls at Lusin; 'The Garden Pea' at Mosaic; iced nougat and crispy spun pastry at Qbara; Alchemist's infusion at Mosaic; salted caramel pudding and kadajifi wrapped custard fritters at Yeni Lokanta; salted bonito 'Lakerda' at Alancha

From the 'Paris of the Middle East' to the Crocodile River Valley in South Africa, the seventh installment of our monthly Diners Club® 50 Best Discovery Series explores six restaurants across a region rich in diverse dining options. Take a peek through these modern and traditional takes on Middle Eastern and African cuisine and let us know your favourites. 

1. Qbara – Dubai, UAE

Wafi City, Adjacent to Raffles Hotel, Dubai
+971 4 709 2500 


Iced nougat and crispy spun pastry 

Why go? Set over two floors with stunning interior designs, Qbara is one of the most glamorous dining destinations in a city not exactly short on spectacular restaurants. Chef Mohannad Al Shamali's creative and modern approach to Middle Eastern and North African food lives up to the splendid surrounds.

Typical dishes: From epic tasting menus to small sharing plates, all appetites are catered for at Qbara. Stand-out dishes include aromatic spiced beef tartare with tomato and onion salsa or roast cabbage dolma with za'atar and truffle butter. Finish with baked 'kunafa' pastry filled with orange cream and cubes of iced nougat.

Discover more about Qbara

2. Alancha – Alaçati, Turkey 

Alaçatı Mahallesi, 11036 Sokak No.1, Değirmen Dağ Mevkii, Çeşme - İzmir
+90 (232) 716 83 07


Baklava (image: Derya Turgut)

What makes it special: Self-taught chef Kemal Demirasal is on a mission to celebrate Anatolian cuisine and his multi-course tasting menu takes diners through a series of imaginative twists on local favourites.

Typical dishes: Pistachio kebab, a dish originating from the Mesopotamian region, is served with ‘birdshit’ pistachio, while chilled barley soup inspired by a thousand-year-old Anatolian recipe is served in a large bowl made of ice. Other takes on local cuisine include Fish and Bread, Istanbul-style, and an elegant-looking version of the sticky-sweet baklava (pictured).

Discover more about Alancha

3. Yeni Lokanta – Istanbul, Turkey

Kumbaracı Yokuşu 66, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
+90 212 2922550 


Clockwise from top left: bulghur with sour cherries and sumac molasses; oven-roasted green beans with burnt yoghurt from Denizli; carrot, ginger and walnut dip; olive oil braised artichokes with peas (images: Seren Dal)

Chief reason to visit: The name of this effortlessly cool restaurant in the Turkish capital roughly translates as 'new tavern', which neatly sums up its appeal. Chef Civan Er brings a modern sensibility to traditional Anatolian dishes with a focus on bright flavours and superb seasonal produce.

Typical dishes:
A salad of bulgar and sour cherries is dressed with sumac molasses, while green beans are blanketed in 'burnt' sheep's milk yoghurt. The 'kadajifi' (bread pudding) custard fritters with smoked buffalo milk ice cream are another highlight.

Discover more about Yeni Lokanta

4. Em Sherif – Beirut, Lebanon

Monot Street, Beirut
+961 1 206 206


A full platter at Em Sherif

In a nutshell: Beirut's reputation as the 'Paris of the Middle East' may have waned in the face of recent upheavals, but a taste of the city's glamorous heyday can still be had at Em Sherif – an opulent contemporary Lebanese restaurant in the Ashrafieh district.

On the menu: Guests are treated to wave after wave of authentic Lebanese dishes, starting with cold and hot mezze, through grilled fish and meat to an array of desserts. Standout dishes include fattoush with aubergine, 'bourghol banadoura' (bulgar wheat in tomato sauce) and 'meghlia' (a spiced rice pudding dessert). It is food to be shared with family and friends.

Discover more about Em Sherif

5. Lusin – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 

Olaya Street, Al Olaya, Centeria Mall, 2nd Floor, Riyadh
+966 92 000 2690 


Cherry kebabs 

Chief reason to visit: There has never been a better time to eat out in Riyadh, with a plethora of new restaurants bringing sophistication to the city's dining scene. Witness Lusin – a luxurious restaurant housed in the Centeria Mall, which explores the ancient traditions and complex flavours of Armenian cuisine.

The menu: The vast menu takes in hot and cold mezze, soups, salads and grilled meats. Highlights include cherry kebabs (made with minced beef and cherry sauce), beetroot salad and the Armenian cheese platter with honey comb and blackberry.

Discover more about Lusin

6. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient – Pretoria, South Africa

The Orient Hotel, Elandsfontein, Crocodile River Valley, Pretoria
+27 (0) 12 371 2902


'First Growth' (image: Dylan Swart) 

Why go? Housed in the The Orient Hotel, which is a cross between Moorish alcazar and Rajasthani palace, Mosaic serves seasonal tasting menus that explore flavour, texture and colour in exquisitely presented dishes.

Typical dishes: The menu is informed by chef Chantel Dartnall's culinary travels, but are typically grounded in classical French technique. Signature dishes include Earth and Clouds – a combination of sautéed mushrooms with potato purée and black truffle foam – and quail tempura drizzled with tamarind syrup.

Discover more about Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient

Follow @MosaicatOrient

Have you been to any of these places? Share your favourite experiences and pictures with us on Twitter or Instagram:

Next month: in the final part of the series, we reveal six restaurants in the USA and Canada.