2016 | A Year In Review

2016 marked the first anniversary of Out & About UAE and the start of our second year blogging. For us its been a fantastic year, one in which we reached some important milestones including our first 1000 followers on both Instagram and Facebook. We would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us on what has been an amazing journey.

In 2016 the blog really started to take off and the unprecedented success of Out & About UAE in such a short space of time, has allowed us to quit our job and focus on the project as a full-time commitment (while still working freelance on the side to pay the bills).

The beauty of the United Arab Emirates is that it’s a place that allows you to follow your dreams and a place where creatives are not only supported but actively encouraged. As a passion project, this blog could never have happened while we were still living in London and it really does feel as though the streets of the UAE are paved in gold (in fact sometimes they are).

Out & About UAE couldn’t have happened without the support from Mrs. Out & About. My loving wife, partner in crime and part-time blogger. We would both like to give a massive thank you to all of the hotels, restaurants, PR firms and fellow bloggers who have taken a chance on us. Inviting us to events and reviews and allowing us to forge some lifelong friendships along the way. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the help and support of each and every one of you.

As we look back at 2016 with very fond memories, we’d like to share a brief rundown of our particular highlights:

January 2o16 kicked off with some amazing food reviews in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. As we marveled at the quirky fusion concept at Moshi, with their ‘Cheesy Chips Oman Sushi.’ Two visits later, we’re still in the minority in believing that their momo’s are better than the sushi but hey that’s all part of the fun of being a food blogger.

The first month of the year also marked the launch of the fantastic La Patisserie Des Reves in the capital which we still believe to be one of the best kept secrets in Abu Dhabi.

February marked the month that everyone went crazy for organic Korean ice cream. MilkCow at JBR was all over Instagram for its marvelous ice cream concoctions featuring candy-floss, honey comb and some bizarre fluorescent colourations. That thankfully tasted as good as they looked.

Although not usually fans of causal dining, the launch of Famous Dave’s in Abu Dhabi was a big deal and offers not only huge portions and great value for money but some great BBQ food that provides residents in the capital a unique eatery that Dubai does not have.

It was during Valentine’s month that we also got to make cocktails at Abu Dhabi’s Shangri La with the mixologist from the Oscars, Cihan Anadologlu

As the winter months began to subside, early March marked our first staycation of the year and we spent a relaxing weekend on the beach at the Ajman Saray. March was also the month that the Freak Shake craze hit the UAE and we were one of the first to try them at the Black Lion (a place we need to return to for their fantastic roast dinners).

Another obsession that hit in March was Dum Dum Donuts, a UK import offering a hybrid of the cronut and donut that should not be missed. Another UK import that didn’t translate for us was Burger & Lobster and we found it to be a very disappointing dining experience.

Generally, eating out in the UAE is a vastly positive experience but March proved to a tricky month for us as we had another dud experience at Abu Dhabi’s newly opened The Shack. March was also the month of bad weather, with the UAE suffering some of the worst storms for decades.

April brought Easter and another staycation for us, this time to mountainous Fujairah and it’s numerous historic attractions and Wadi’s.

We enjoyed one of our best brunches of the year at Villa Toscana, a real taste of Italy in the St. Regis Abu Dhabi and a property that we have built great relationships with this year.

April also brought the Japanese bakery craze to the UAE and we loved the matcha lattes and ramen burgers from the fantastic Yakitate which has since expanded.

May was a massive month on the Abu Dhabi dining scene as two of the capitals best restaurants launched within a few days of each other. The Pan-Latin BU took the capital by storm with its huge media launch and was followed in quick succession by the modern Indian Tamba – a restaurant that we currently believe to be the best in Abu Dhabi.

May also brought Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen to the Atlantis, a newly launched beach club to Yas Island and another staycation to the secluded Danat Jebel Dhanna.

June was the start of Ramadan and some truly fantastic Iftar experiences. We got to meet Emirati chef and YouTube sensation, Chef B at the Shangri La Abu Dhabi and got to dine in the world’s highest suspended suite in the St. Regis, during their stunning Iftar In The Clouds.

We also got to enjoy the current trend of molecular gastronomy at Junoon and dine on fantastic Khaleeji cuisine at Logma.

July provided us two quick staycations at the Habtoor Grand and Zaya Nurai Island. Zaya Nurai especially was an unforgettable experience and a once in a lifetime oppurtunity that we’ll treasure forever. July was also the month we returned to London to visit friends and family and to escape the incessant summer heat.

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This is the life. Never want to leave!

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August was split between London and Abu Dhabi and we enjoyed our time in the UK by catching up on all the foodie openings, playing junk yard golf and drinking one to many cocktails on one too many occasions.

Back in Abu Dhabi, brunch season was already in full swing and our first brunch of the new season was at the Sportsman’s Arms.

September was a difficult month as we struggled with the sheer amount of launches, brunches and new menus (not that we’re complaining). Abu Dhabi’s Four Seasons hotel opened with a spectacular brunch (which we attended again on Christmas Day).

September also marked the launch of Dining & Nightlife’s ‘Abu Dhabi Restaurant Month’ and we were invited to dine at the great Sontaya (one of the most picturesque restaurants in the capital) and the not so great Acropolis (though it still remains one of the only options for Greek food in Abu Dhabi).

The most exciting part of September were the numerous leisure openings: Dubai’s indoor rainforest, the food truck park Last Exit and the eventual arrival of trampoline park Bounce to the capital.

Our highlight of the month was the opening of Carnival by Tresind and getting to attend the pre-opening made us feel very privileged.

October was another month of brunches, with our favorites being the offerings from the Emirates Palace and the Southern Sun Hotel. The month also took an interactive turn as we indulged in not one but two masterclasses – chocolate and caviar.

During October we also managed to squeeze in a staycation at the Al Raha Brach Hotel and a number of visits to the exceptional restaurants in the Venetian Village.

November brought yet another staycation (#UAEProblems), this time to the Yas Island Rotana, which coincided with visitors arriving from the UK. We enjoyed Brazilian BBQ and Burj Khalifa views at Cabana and truly adored the nightlife destination Lock, Stock & Barrel.

We seemed to spend more time in Dubai than Abu Dhabi in November and the launch of the winter menu at Tresind really impressed. Though the capital had our heart with a dinner at Tamba and the very best brunch in the UAE being offered at the St. Regis Corniche – Brunch In The Clouds.

With the arrival of the December and the festive season things seemed to slow down a little, though two great openings took us by surprise. The brick-by-brick replica of a Scottish pub at Copper Dog and the Nikkei Cuisine at Aji, a restaurant that is the very definition of #InteriorGoals.

Cocktails came to the fore in the run up to Christmas as we indulged in tastings at both the Four Seasons and Carnival – mixology at best!

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A night at the @emiratespalace

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Our Top Five Dining Experiences Of 2016: Indian cuisine reigns supreme and it appears as though the Peruvian ceviche craze may be coming to an end. With the launch of the Hub in Abu Dhabi and Club Vista Mare in Dubai, the dining scene of the UAE is currently undergoing an interesting transformative period:

  1. Brunch In The Clouds: Spa treatments and a private cinema in the world’s highest suspended suite.
  2. Tamba: Hands down our favourite restaurant opening in the UAE this year. Modern global cuisine inspired by India. Impeccable service, amazing drinks and the  very best desserts.
  3. Tresind / Carnival by Tresind: Two outstanding restaurants from Executive Chef Himanshu Saini. Carnival may have the edge for it’s outright quirkiness but the food at both is excellent and utilisises molecular gastronomy to great affect.
  4. BU / Aji: Two Pan-Latin eateries from the same management team, one in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai. Though BU may be slightly better, both restaurants offer exceptional food and some of the most stunning interiors you’ll encounter.
  5. Jodhpur Royal Dining: The third time an Indian eatery appears in our top five (if you’d told us that at the beginning of the year we wouldn’t have believed you). The food is exquisite and the whole concept is brought together by charismatic Chef, Pradeep Khullar.

Our Top Five Dishes Of 2016: Being food lovers we’re often asked what are favorite restaurants and dishes are and although the opinion is completely subjective and constantly changing. These are our favourite things that we ate this year:

  1. The Break-Up: Mention Tamba and the first thing anyone will say is “have you tried the break-up?” A stunning dessert that seems to have the whole of Abu Dhabi talking. A gold sphere sits in the center of a heavy bowl and before your very eyes… the sphere is destroyed! Before being topped with chocolate sauce and a mixture of salted caramel and peanut semifreddo.
  2. Black Miso Cod: Inakaya at the Venetian Village surprised up with a number of dishes and as much as we adored the octopus tempura, the cod was something else. Presented from the robata grill, the fish is so delicate and the caramelized exterior provides a hidden sweetness to the restaurants signature dish.
  3. Life Is Short, East Dessert First: It’s difficult to pick a favourite dish when the quality is so high at Carnival by Tresind. This mixture of sweet and savory is the epitome of perfect execution in a dish.Taken the savory street food snack of chaat and turning it into something completely different. Adding a dollop of fresh yogurt and a spiralled jalebi (a popular Indian sweet), the dish is smashed by the diner and mixed together before being consumed. This provides an experience akin to eating an appetiser and dessert together.
  4. Beef Short Ribs: One of many pleasing dishes at Jodhpur Royal Dining, these short ribs are cooked sous vide style for eight hours before being fried and tossed in a reduction of Aam Papad (also known as fruit leather). In all honesty we have never sampled anything quite like this, with the textural contrasts adding a layer of interactivity to the dish. The interior is tender like a pulled-pork, while the exterior crust (better described as a film) encases the meat and retains the powerful and aromatic flavours of the tamarind and chilli.
  5. Crispy Sea Prawn Dim Sum: As lovers of all things did sum, Hakkasan in the Emirates Palace offers the best in the UAE. Amongst the variety of steamed and fried delights, we favour the crispy sea prawn with foie gras sauce. A rich and inviting parcel of impressive textures that takes on the look of seaweed and tastes absolutely fantastic.

Our 2017 Bucket List: Looking ahead to 2017 we already have a number of surprises in store for you (many of which are hush hush at the moment). Yet we still have a list of things we wish to achieve. Some easily so and others not so much:

  1. Burj Arab: Despite living in the UAE for four years we’ve only admired this sail shaped structure from afar. As the world’s only seven star hotel, we would love to stay but realistically we’d settle for dinner.
  2. Palazzo Versace: A Versace hotel! Right here is Dubai! Sign us up now.
  3. Qasr Al Sarab: This desert hideaway in far off Liwa has long been on our list for a secluded getaway amongst rolling sand dunes,
  4. Fly Boarding. We want to try this new sporting craze, all those water based flips and hovering look like roo much fun
  5. Skydiving: We have actually skydived before. Traveling through Africa in 2002 we skydived in Namibia over the coastal town of Swakopmund. 15 years laters and we feel as though maybe we aren’t brave enough anymore? But to see the Palm Jumeirah from the ultimate vantage point would be awesome.
  6. Travel more: Having visited all seven emirates and partaken in short trips to Oman and Nepal during our time in the UAE. We would love to explore more of the GCC, with Bahrain being on top of the list. Or within a short flight of ether Abu Dhabi or Dubai, our other must visits include the Seychelles, Ethiopia and the Maldives.
  7. Eat Jamaican: Despite the heritage of our family unit, we’re still yet to try one of the two Caribbean restaurants that have opened up in Dubai this year (why none in Abu Dhabi yet)? Miss Lily’s and Ting Irie are high on our agenda for this coming year.
  8. Theme Parks: As avid lovers of theme parks, we plan to visit IMG Worlds and Dubai Parks and Resorts to get our share of thrills and spills.
  9. An Out & About UAE Event: We’d love to arrange a dining event for bloggers and like-minded foodies. There’s no details yet but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.
  10. Eat, Eat, Eat: There’s still so many restaurants we are dying to try. Our Zomato list has over 200 bookmarks and high at the top are Pier Chic, Gurkha, Enigma, Intersect by Lexus, Butcher and Still… the list goes on… and on…

Finally we’d like to give a massive thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all the avid readers of Out & About UAE. Generating an impressive 83,000 views this year alone! We hope that you continue to enjoy our little website. Without you we’re nothing, so please keep liking, sharing and enjoying. We do this for all you guys. Much Love

– Team Out & About