Do you remember the fish shack Bu Qtair? A couple of years ago, it was among the most hyped foodie spots in Dubai, but then it was announced that the restaurant would be moving to another location at the fishing harbor across the street. Everybody was holding their breath, wondering what the new Bu Qtair would be like.
Old Bu Qtair
Old Bu Qtair’s unique selling point was first and foremost the location. In a city like Dubai with so many franchised restaurants and imported concepts, Bu Qtair was refreshingly authentic and completely its own. The porta cabin kitchen, and the open air settings with the small plastic stools, were a striking contrast to the increasingly new and polished surroundings. Luxury hotel Burj Al Arab was just a short walk away, and a little further, in the opposite direction, was Sheikh Zayed Road’s skyscraper silhouettes.
Bu Qtair started showing up frequently in publications and travel guides. I even saw the restaurant featured in an Emirates ad, and the restaurant gradually went from being a hidden gem to being one of those boxes, you had to tick when visiting Dubai.
The food was good, no doubt about that, but I think they could have gotten away with serving anything. People would still keep coming, just for the ambience.
New Bu Qtair
I went to visit the new Bu Qtair on a Wednesday afternoon in January. It was a bit quiet that day, and there was no line outside the restaurant. The food ordering process was the same. You line up, choose the fish you want (plus some shrimps on the side) and place your order. Then everything is weighed and a price is assigned.
I was slightly disappointed to see the dining space, which was a very sterile place with high ceilings and no decoration. The patio outside was more appealing, and I even caught a glimpse of the plastic stools from old Bu Qtair. I had a small fried fish and half a kilo of shrimp. It was really delicious, and much better than I remembered it to be. I also noticed that a lot of taxi drivers stopping by for a late fish curry lunch, and this assured me that we don’t need to worry about new Bu Qtair. There may not be as many tourists stopping by in the future, but Bu Qtair has always had a loyal fan base among people in Dubai, and I’m sure they will do fine.
I’m visiting Dubai, should Bu Qtair still be on my list?
I get this question a lot, so here’s my answer:
While the new settings aren’t very unique, the history of the place still makes Bu Qtair worth a visit, if you’re in the area. If you’re staying in Dubai Marina, JLT, The Palm or TECOM, Bu Qtair is also just a short taxi ride away. Besides, Sunset Beach/Public Beach (the beach with the best view of Burj Al Arab) is within walking distance, so you can visit the beach in the afternoon and go for early dinner at Bu Qtair later. The masala marinated fish is really tasty and very different from how we usually prepare fish in Denmark. However, if you only have a few days in Dubai, and/or you’ve already had your share of Kerala fish curries then Bu Qtair shouldn’t be among your top priorities.