Bu Qtair: Seafood Shack
There was a time in early 2000s when Bu Qtair was considered a hidden gem. If you heard about it from friends, the challenge was always finding it and google maps were not in existence to make life easier. Move over to the present day and too many people already know about this place for me to call it a hidden gem, so perhaps gem will have to be suffice. And I promise you, google maps will be required to get you there (its pinned so easy to find).
We got there at 6.15pm and there was already a queue, so I can only assume people had begun to flock there before 6pm (an hour unheard for dinner in Dubai). It was raining (pouring by Dubai standard) and people still stood in line which goes to show you how popular it is. And so the waiting game begins. One of the reasons why the queue appears so long is because every member of every group that has come to sample the food, wants to go up to the hatch to see what is available and order – so at times you have a group of 6 crowded around this small hole in the wall window placing there order.
But let me be upfront – there is NO menu at Bu Qtair. When you reach the front of the queue you’re simply confronted with a tray bearing the catch of the day: vast piles of fish (sheri and black pomfret when we visited) and a mound of prawns. We opted for a medium sized black pomfret and more prawns than I thought we’d be able to manage. The fresh seafood is pre-marinated with turmeric, chilli powder and a ‘secret’ ingredient but as Indian spices go, the seasoning is quite mild, allowing you to properly taste the dishes. The cost of your meal is dependent on the weight of the seafood and the usually comprises of sheri fish, shrimps, pomfret and other local fish. (Free yet important advice: Make sure to order all the seafood you could possibly want because ordering more means joining the back of the line again). Once your order has been placed, you pay for the fish at the hatch and leave your name and then step outside to wait some more.
You can only be seated at a table once your name is called, so you have to sit on stools on the side and be patient. When you hear someone yell your name out loud (don’t be surprised if your name is pronounced in a whole new way which is unusual to your ears) you need to respond to your order. What I found interesting and different to my previous visits was that yesterday we were asked how much we paid at the hatch just to ascertain if that indeed was our order (there must have been experiences of impatient diners jumping the queue by acknowledging someone else’s order as their own).
Once your name has been called, you can be seated at a table (if there is one empty) or they will bring out a new table for you from the back. Once seated, you can watch as the freshly caught and marinated flavoursome seafood with its crisp fish exterior is placed on your table with sliced onion and lemon. The server will then informally take your order for a condiment such as Malabari Parathas (Indian flat breads fried in oil) or a tomatoey curry sauce or plain boiled rice. The only drinks available are water, aerated drinks and tea (Lipton dip dip chai). No cutlery is offered and Bu Qtair is not a place where you want to act precious, so the best thing to do is tuck in with your fingers. The food tastes better that way anyway!!!
While we sat and devoured the meal in front of us, the line waiting to order did not seem to abate and when you looked around you would notice that Bu Qtair is truly a cosmopolitan eating destination that engulfs everyone equally. Once your meal is done, you pay for the condiments and the drinks and as there are more patrons than seating, hanging around after you’re done eating, isn’t essential. The minute you stand up, your table will be cleared and cleaned waiting its next set of diners.
I’m not going to get carried away; it’s highly unlikely that a meal here will be the best of your life. It’s not a place to get dressed up for. But, go with the right attitude, take the place for what it is (a shack near the beach serving good seafood) and I don’t think you’ll leave disappointed. But I must warn you: Be prepared to wait – wait to order, wait for your food to arrive… be patient!!
Location: Close to Burj Al Arab on Street 4D, Jumeirah 3, Dubai (As you head towards the Burj Al Arab from Union House, take a right exit at Street 35a, off Beach Road. Look out for an Emarat Petrol Station before the Umm Sequim Park which houses a small McDonald’s. Once on Street 35a, make a left turn on Street 2b. You will find the Bu Qtair amidst the boat sheds or better still use Google Maps). Open on Sat-Thur from 12noon – 2.30pm and 6pm – 11.30pm and on Fridays after afternoon prayers Tel: +971 055 7052130