Offering a unique fine dining experience in an eco-friendly camp at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Sonara Camp Dubai officially opened its doors in early December 2019. Experience it with The Huntr now…
Whilst the UAE isn’t short of desert experiences, it is short of noteworthy ones. Sonara Camp Dubai is just that, dear reader. An unprecedented concept for the UAE, this homegrown gem is located in the enchanting Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve – a magnificent area of sprawling sand dunes and natural wildlife, including hundreds of majestic oryx and gazelle. Using solar energy and a zero waste policy, Sonara Camp is also proudly eco-friendly.
Every season French chef Franck Sanna will create a tempting fine dining menu showcasing “Arabic-inspired dishes, East/West fusion and classic French cuisine” and there’s a fully licensed bar lounge. The food is all cooked live in the open air kitchen and there’s something for almost everyone – meat-lovers and vegans included.
The fun doesn’t stop with the food and desert vibes either – as Sonara Camp offer plenty to entertain including live music, falconry, fire shows and camel rides. There’s also a professional telescope that lets you see space and deep sky objects as they are and ‘movie under the stars’ nights. Parents will also be pleased to learn that Sonara is kid-friendly – offering both a dedicated kid’s menu and kid’s camp area with activities to occupy the little ones.
The Huntr visited Sonara on a blissful Saturday evening in late December. We took advantage of the hassle-free chauffeur service (price dependent on number of people and other varying factors), which dropped us directly at the camp just in time for our 3.30pm reservation. There are several time allocations available from 3.30pm onwards until 7pm and the entire experience takes around 4-5 hours from arrival to departure.
The camp is divided between two distinct areas – the bar lounge, which offers an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and canapés/appetizers and the main dining area. We kickstarted the afternoon with some delicious guacamole, tortilla chips and crudités in the lounge area and enjoyed the views and live oud music. After witnessing the glorious sunset we headed down the wooden stairs to the main dining area for dinner, which starts anytime from 6pm up until 9pm. We loved the boho-chic hammocks, cosy seating corners for small and large groups and the central bonfire.
Food-wise we were blown away by the quality and presentation – quite the feat in the middle of nowhere. Every dish was fresh, hot and delicious and the service was seamless from start to finish. We started with a corn-fed chicken shawarma creation that was served in a cone and delicious beef tacos. The fusion-style fattoush and nicoise salad was a great combination and we couldn’t stop eating the tangy, thick hummus and comforting, warm bread. The shrimp and leek ravioli with coconut bisque sauce offered a gorgeous mix of Asian and European flavours, whilst the grilled hammour was perfectly cooked and matched wonderfully with the grilled organic potatoes. The Mediterranean ratatouille melts in the mouth and the grass-fed Angus beef was so tender that the flavour had nowhere to hide. The lamb chops were also divinely sweet and tender. Dessert came in the shape of three splendid sweet creations – the Sonara lemon and mint pie, the cocoa ganache served with avocado emulsion and cumin chocolate tuile and Chiboust cream with strawberry ginger juice in an apple puff. Perfection.
Insider tips: Advance bookings essential. The Huntr recommends opting for the 3.30pm arrival time to experience the camp in daylight, sunset and nightfall – all in one go. The desert is much colder than the city – especially at nightfall and during the winter, layers and cosy jumpers are your friend (blankets are also provided at the camp should you need them). Wifi available but with limited signal (as to be expected in the middle of the desert). On-site (tres chic) washrooms available. Non-alcoholic beverages are included in the package, alcoholic beverages are priced as extra as per consumption. Shisha also available. For the ultimate experience – discover the Nara Private Escape (more details here).