While Emirates offers many speedy transits through Dubai Airport, having access to the airline's first class lounges here can be reason enough to plan a longer stopover: or, to arrive early for your flight when beginning the day's travels in Dubai.
Beyond other perks like complimentary shoe shine and day spa treatments, Emirates' three first class lounges provide both buffet and à la carte dining: here's what awaits on your next Emirates journey.
Who can visit Emirates' first class dining rooms?
Nestled inside the Emirates first class lounges at Dubai Airport's Concourse A, Concourse B and Concourse C, these first class dining rooms open their doors to all passengers who can access those same first class lounges.
That list naturally includes Emirates' first class travellers, along with Platinum and iO members of the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program when travelling onwards with Emirates or with Flydubai from Terminal 3, where these lounges are located.
Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members can also visit these lounges prior to Emirates flights, when travelling on a QF or EK flight number.
All travellers above can bring at least one complimentary adult guest into the lounge, and in most cases, two children aged 17 or under are also accepted.
Emirates passengers who don't have access to the first class lounges can also pay their way inside, and dine during their stay.
For those who'd already have business class lounge access, the upcharge is US$136.50, reduced to US$105 for Skywards members of any tier including entry-level Blue members who've joined for free.
Travellers who have no lounge entitlement – such as when booked on a business class 'Special' fare or in economy, without eligible frequent flyer status – can instead pay US$262.50, or US$210 for Skywards members of any tier. All amounts include UAE VAT.
Regardless of how your access to the first class lounge is provided, once inside, visiting the dining room isn't a chargeable extra: as long as you're physically in the lounge, you can take a seat.
Emirates first class lounge dining: buffet
For passengers making a speedy transit or arriving shortly before their flight commences boarding, Emirates offers a variety of buffet options in its first class lounges for a quick and easy bite.
In the Concourse A first class lounge – which is so large that it literally runs from one end of the terminal to the other – there's a helpful list of what's available just past the entrance, joined by a map of where you'll find each item:
But regardless of which Concourse you're travelling through, here's a taste of what you might find.
At breakfast time, expect a variety of yoghurts, fresh fruits, muesli, juices, bakery items and cereals to get the day started:
On the coffee front, there are plenty of self-serve espresso machines to make your own brews, although if you'd like a fresh barista-made coffee such as a latte, just ask the staff. Arabic coffee is on-hand too, with the obligatory dates to match.
Knowing that many travellers flying through Dubai are running on different time zones, there's usually a lunch spread available at the same time as breakfast is served for those who'd prefer it, with fresh ingredients at-hand to create a custom salad.
Depending on when and where you're visiting, you'll also find many antipasto choices, as well as a selection of cheese.
Head to the Mediterranean counter for a broader range of appetisers and smaller bites, or look to the dessert fridge nearby for something sweet.
Alternatively, handmade Arabic sweets are often served at a separate counter – sometimes, later in the day in place of sushi – for those wanting to sample something more local.
A variety of hot buffet dishes are also available and change throughout the day, but if you have the time, a visit to the dining room for a freshly-made plate trumps any bain-marie.
Emirates first class lounge dining rooms
When it comes to table service, Emirates offers this in the dedicated dining areas of all three first class lounges at Dubai Airport.
The tables here can accommodate solo travellers, pairs and larger groups, although in the Concourse C first class lounge – which is noticeably smaller than the other two – passengers have the option of dining at a communal bench.
It's not the only place you can dine, of course, with an array of tables just behind: but when those tables are occupied, it's a good option to have when time is limited, to avoid missing out.
One other tip: although service is usually limited to the pre-arranged dining sections in each lounge, asking the staff nicely – particularly on a quiet day – can allow you to enjoy your meal somewhere else more convenient.
For example, a recent visit to the Concourse A first class lounge found the 'normal' dining area too hot for comfort in the middle of a 44°C Dubai day, even in the air conditioning. However, asking the staff what else might be available saw a table open up in a much cooler section of the lounge, outside the normal restaurant area.
Being away from the windows – the source of much of that heat, despite the tinted glass – made for a much more comfortable meal.
Emirates first class lounge dining: à la carte breakfast
When jetting through Dubai Airport in the mornings, particularly before those pre-lunchtime flights to Australia and Europe, sitting down to breakfast is a pleasant way to begin the journey.
On the menu, you'll find just about everything you'd expect of a local cafe, with Eggs Benedict a common favourite served with your choice of sides, beverages, and a bread basket with condiments, seen here in the Concourse B first class lounge.
As in first class on board, meals here can be customised to suit your taste – so if you like the look of an omelette in one section, and the Marmite soldiers from another dish, ordering them together is easy (and tasty):
Again, as the body clocks of many visitors won't be on 'Dubai time' when zipping through, a selection of dishes more appropriate for lunch and dinner are also available during the breakfast service.
For example, a recent morning visit to the Concourse C first class lounge – at the midpoint of a journey from South America to Asia, crossing numerous time zones in between – called for the Black Angus tenderloin as an early lunch, at what was 8am local time.
Just me mindful that orders from the lunch menu can take much longer to arrive at breakfast: over half an hour for the dish above, versus typically five minutes or less for breakfast egg dishes.
Emirates first class lounge dining: à la carte lunch, dinner
After breakfast concludes, the small selection of 'all day' dishes expands to the full lunch and dinner menu, offering a variety of appetisers, soups, sandwiches, main courses and desserts.
For guests travelling in first class, this provides the opportunity to enjoy a full meal on the ground and either get to work or sleep in the sky, as Emirates offers 'dine on demand' on all first class flights, so you can order what you like, when you like.
As an example, with a mid-afternoon first class flight from Dubai to Geneva, visiting the lounge a few hours prior to departure gave ample time for a leisurely lunch, and then with dine on demand, no need to eat straight after take-off: instead, several hours later prior to the flight's evening arrival.
In any case, lunch or dinner provides a bread basket with a choice of French butter:
The day's selection of local appetisers are available too, such as hummus, olives and tabbouleh to get things started, which is where that bread basket also comes in handy.
What comes next is entirely up to you. For something familiarly Western, the char-grilled wagyu burger is a solid choice, served on a potato brioche bun with caramelised onions, Emirates' signature sauce, aged cheddar cheese, steak fries and dipping sauces.
But you need only look at the menu to find something more refined, like the beautifully fresh foie gras terrine served with mache lettuce, poached peaches and lightly toasted brioche.
It's a similar dish as onboard in first class on some Emirates flights, and having tried both, the 'lounge' version is one not to be missed.
As a main course, the beautifully-presented kibbeh bi laban blends minced meat into crushed and stuffed wheat balls, which is then cooked in yoghurt and served with a side of rice.
The trick is to find your preferred ratio of yoghurt and rice to meat. Personally, a little less yoghurt with a sprinkle more rice hits the spot.
After a good stretch of the legs – the lounge so large that a complete, leisurely circuit takes around 45 minutes – it's time for dessert, where the chocolate delight is a top pick.
This plated dessert combines white chocolate mousse, milk chocolate ganache, dark chocolate genoise and salted caramel ice cream as a beautiful and artfully-presented finish to a great meal.
It's at this point you'll be glad you're flying Emirates first class, so that you have the flexibility to hit 'pause' on the inflight food until you're ready to eat again!
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates.
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- Tasted: Qantas' first class lounge menu for Spring 2019
- The best dining rooms in business class airport lounges