Table for one sounds like anything but fun? Not when you’re dining at this delightful Central Asian restaurant called Navat Tea House. Each and every one of their outdoor tables already has an occupant when you get there – a giant, cuddly teddy bear! If you can’t bear to eat alone (pun highly intended), the soft toys at this quaint yet lavish eatery in Downtown Dubai sit at the tables with open arms and a welcome smile. All of our childhood dreams of enjoying a tea party with Winnie the Pooh or Paddington come true here.
Give up the location of Navat
Navat is truly a Dubai hidden gem. One whose location I’m loath to share, but here goes. Tucked away in plain sight next to Dubai Opera on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, the restaurant’s quirky teddy-bear-filled outdoor seating is a cheerful sight that stops passersby in their tracks since it opened a year ago in April 2022. I surely did a double-take at the ludicrous sight of teddy bears chilling around on a restaurant patio. On asking the waitstaff whether this was a Valentine’s Day gimmick, I was cheekily told “It’s always Valentine’s Day at Navat”. 12/10 for a clever marketing strategy that did what the blistering Dubai sun couldn’t – melt my heart.
Un-bearably awwdorable concept
Never feeling lonely and always feeling loved is the concept behind Navat’s stuffed toy residents. In a transient city like Dubai where somebody’s always new in town and still finding their friend groups, or living away from family, eating solo at a restaurant can be a bummer. These snuggly bears turn the frowns of single eaters upside down instantly. Consider them your stand-ins for a valentine, friends, parents, or even arch enemies. They make great icebreakers on first dates. Stressed at work? Hug them like squishy stress balls. Some teddy bears wear bow ties and scarves, some are brown, and some are pink. But they’re all so incredibly fluffy and cute, we could die.
Central Asian cuisine and cuddles
Besides these cheerful stuffed animals, the cuisine at Navat will leave you stuffed. A popular restaurant Kyrgyz restaurant chain, Navat has 19 outlets spread across Central Asia, but the bears are unique to Dubai. The hearty Central Asian dishes here are as comforting as bear hugs. Twirl up forkfuls of delicious Boso Laghman – pan-seared noodles with beef and vegetables; samsa, meat-stuffed pastry; deep fried dough triangles called boorsok and manti dumplings.
Where do the bears go when it gets hot out?
These bears don’t go into hibernation. They’re around all year long and will be seated indoors when outdoor seating winds up for summer. Sat amidst red foliage and ornate Turkish lanterns and ceramic art, you and Ted can gobble up great food, click silly selfies and have pretend conversations like you did as a kid. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “it isn’t much good having anything exciting if you can’t share it with somebody.”