There goes the neighbourhood: A look inside Motor City’s new food hall

Motor City’s Neighbourhood Food Hall fills a much-needed casual, street food space.

Something about Neighbourhood Food Hall feels novel, yet familiar. A backpacker’s Shangri-La somewhere in South East Asia. A place where, once upon a time, I would have stumbled in looking every inch the tourist: camera in hand, a sweaty sheen from outside’s ferocious humidity, surveying food stalls and deciding which $1 bowl of steaming delicious food I would carry to my seat. Once comfortable, I would unhinge my jaw and activate the feed protocol.

But this is not Singapore, Phuket or Manila. This is Dubai and, more precisely, it’s Motor City. Within this nest of cloud kitchens and delivery services, Neighbourhood Food Hall sets up shop a stone’s throw from Dubai’s villa production farms: the Arabian Ranches trinity, DAMAC Hills, Sustainable City and more. I live in these villa orchards, but finding a place worthy of 600 words challenges even me, until now. (Except for Lowe, Lowe is ace).

I would call Neighbourhood Food Hall a hidden gem if that phrase didn’t make me want to hiss like a cat every time I hear it. 

The doors automatically swish open, expelling much-appreciated air conditioning. Ten menus stare back at me. Streetery, a JLT success story, sports a menu the height of a small child. 

Louche is a gentlemanly way to describe the fit-out. Neighbourhood Food Hall possesses a ‘work in progress’ pastiche, as if it was once a wet room or perhaps an abattoir. It’s a seriously unserious place. Casual to the core. Liberated of angry, red buzzers screeching “your order is ready”. Instead, customers rely on good old-fashioned table service where the people who made your food get to know you. Just in time as the recent years of social distancing should make us long for human interaction, lest we forget we are social creatures. 

Looking around, it is like being back in South East Asia as the food stalls represent its diverse culture. Neighbourhood Food Hall packs ten restaurant stalls into a space small enough to maintain eye contact with the owners from every corner. 

Authentic Ceylon’s Sri Lankan menu delivers a signature prawn curry lawned with sticky caramelised onions and fried curry leaves (AED 40). The Meating Room, an Indian barbecue spot, serves up wonderfully-spiced and tender psychedelic lamb chops (AED 72) with cooling yoghurt mint dip and a char-blistered green chilli, for those who like a challenge. The paneer tikka rolls (AED 29) and butta corn on the cob (AED 16), speckled red with chilli powder, are but a few options for those of the vegetarian persuasion. 

Tacos Los Hermanos is Neighbourhood Food Hall’s real rock star, churning out what are easily Dubai’s best tacos. Read that sentence twice. Freshly made, supple corn tortillas layered with marinated carne asada (AED57), a greaseless, slow-roasted birria (AED 57) or marinated shredded chicken (AED 54), to name but a few. A six-hour slow-cooked lengua taco (beef tongue) sings with gamey richness (AED 54). Three tacos per serving come with fresh corn chips and salsa; you can mix and match the tacos too. PS. Their housemade guac and chips (AED 35) is the real deal.

Some friends hot foot over to High Joint for their signature High Jamz burger (AED 55). An architecturally challenged stack of Angus beef layered with American cheese, three-hour cooked bacon and onion jam with crispy shallots. I slipped off to Nampo for ‘casual Korean eats’. Specifically, a tidy clutch of bulgogi mandu dumplings (AED 35), steaming hot and fragrant, plunged into a sprightly soy vinaigrette.

Neighbourhood Food Hall promises more to come. Crumbs and Co will shortly join the tribe, promising coffees and their special brand of sugary goodness. 

Come hungry, bring friends. 

GO: Follow @neighbourhoodfoodhalls on Instagram for more information.

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Liam Collens
Liam Collens is a reviewer and drone photographer based in Dubai. He is passionate about good food, restaurants, travel and drone photography.

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