Abu Dhabi provides a stark contrast to the gleaming metropolis that is Dubai. The capital of the UAE is a clash of cultures where Middle East meets the West, with thousands of eateries cloying for space on one small island.
So when the kind folks at Zomato asked us to write an article for their communety blog of our favourite places to eat in Abs Dabs – we were more than happy to oblige. From luxury hotels to hidden backstreet gems, we eat our way around this wonderful city to provide you with the very best that it has to offer…
Afternoon tea with a view: Stratos
This is the best place in the capital to get an unparalleled 360 degree view of the Arabian Gulf and surrounding cityscape. Stratos at Le Royal Meridien is THE revolving restaurant in Abu Dhabi and aside from the spectacular views, it offers a delightful afternoon tea courtesy of celebrity chef Eric Lanlard. Taking the quintessentially British pastime and giving it a unique Arabic twist. Diners can expect Cumin and Pumpkin Macaroons, Orange Blossom and Bee Pollen Scones and a variety of sweet treats featuring the finest Arabian ingredients. Begin with afternoon tea and switch to cocktails as night falls, with two for one beverages during happy hour, which runs daily until 8pm.
Best burgers: Salt
Salt has become a UAE phenomena in such a short space of time. Originating as the Emirates only food truck, this outlet located at Mother Of The Nation Park (formerly Mushrif Park) is a busy spot no matter the time of day or night. Salt is all about Burgers and is famous for its Chicken Cheeto Burger, in which the chicken is covered in cheeto chips. This may sound bizarre to some but we assure you, it is absolutely fantastic! The original ‘Hook Burger’ is also thoroughly recommended alongside the ‘Lotus Softie’ and decadent milkshakes, So grab a seat on the trendy up-cycled furniture and prepare to become a Salter.
Asian delights: Sho Cho
With a spectacular location on Khor Al Maqta, overlooking the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, lies the Asian restaurant Sho Cho. This venue’s decor is a hybrid of luxury yacht and Ibiza chill out lounge, with ambient dance music pulsating gently from the speakers. The menu features Sushi, Ceviche, Tempura and Yakitori. Though our personal favourites are the Crisp Aubergine Salad (featuring aubergine as you have never had it before) and the Rock Shrimp Tempura. Don’t eat too much though, as you will want to save room for the beautifully flavoured Mochi for dessert!
Brunch: St. Regis Saadiyat
Friday Brunch is a UAE institution and requires absolutely no excuse to indulge in the all you can eat/all you can drink extravaganza. For us, there is no finer brunch than the one held at Olea in the luxurious St. Regis Saadiyat. From the picturesque beach front location, to the abundance of choice on the international buffet, not to mention the finest of ingredients. Olea features seafood, salads, sushi, cold cuts alongside live cooking grills, foie gras station and an entire room dedicated to cheese! The dessert station is like Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory with gargantuan candy canes, a toast-your-own-smores section and the ability to fish for your own desserts using fishing rods – that is likely the most fun we have ever had at a brunch. Did we mention that there’s a cheese room? Yes I think we did…mmmm cheese!
Emirati eats: Al Fanar
For those looking to sample the traditional food of the Emirates, head to the Venetian Village at the Ritz Carlton. Themed to look like a traditional souk, the decor features plastic camels, majalis-style seating and ceilings woven from palm fronds. The menu features many Emirati staples and allows you to sample the food of the UAE (which can be quite hard to come by). Ensure you try Chebab (pancakes), Balaleet (sweetened vermicelli noodles with saffron and cardamom), Samboosa (the local version of an Indian samosa), Lamb Machaboos (a rice dish) and the most famous of all Emirati dishes – the deep fried Legamat slathered in sticky date syrup.
Cafe culture: Le Café
The cafe in the Emirates Palace is the place to see and be seen, with tourists and locals alike, flocking to gawp at the beautiful interiors of this beautiful hotel. Be prepared for an overload of gold – from the decor, to the food and even the cappuccino – most guests arrive at the cafe to sample the 24 karat gold cappuccino which features, you guessed it…edible gold. Aside from the decadence there are an abundance of camel-based products on the menu here. Afternoon tea is also available and the rich chocolate fondant is not to be missed.
Fine dining: Hakkasan
Also found in the Emirates Palace is the Abu Dhabi outpost of Hakkasan, a Chinese restaurant holding coveted Michelin stars throughout their worldwide network including London and New York. If dim sum is your thing then Hakkasan is not to be missed, featuring fantastic textures and every kind of steamed or fried dumpling that you could imagine, we were floored by the crispy sea prawn with foie gras and the black pepper pumpkin puffs which actually resemble mini pumpkins – pure artistry on a plate! The signature Duck Pancakes are what makes Hakkasan famous and prepare to be astounded by the sleek slate bar which is the longest and best stocked in the city.
Latin flavours: BU!
One of Abu Dhabi’s newest eateries is becoming a firm favourite in the capital at the moment. BU! is the first restaurant to bring pan-Latin cuisine to the capital and despite its higher than average price point, the food and beverages are thoroughly recommended. This is one of the largest restaurants in the city and features ample seating both indoors and outdoors on the spectacular terrace. You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu as all the food is exceptionally good – from the ceviche and beef strip loin to octopus ‘pulpo tiradito’ – so kindly prepare for an assault of flavours that will leave you yearning for more. Quite frankly you have never tried guacamole until you have tried the guacamole at BU and with it’s Manhattan-loft vibe, this is one of the funkiest places to hang out with friends.
Best Indian: Tamba
Tamba in ‘The Hub’ at World Trade Centre Mall has got Abu Dhabi residents in a frenzy at the moment. This trendy Indian restaurant has taken the dining scene by storm since it opened a few short months ago and is generating an unprecedented buzz all around town. Tamba (translates to copper in Hindi) is a gorgeous space featuring large temple bells, luxurious soft furnishings and a striking wraparound terrace, The modernist food is pushing the boundaries of traditional Indian cuisine and offers some startling interpretations of classic dishes. If a Paneer Apricot Tikka with chutney air or a Roasted Duck Kumquat Korma takes your fancy, then Tamba is for you. For dessert, you will be unable to resist the Break Up – a concoction of dark chocolate mousse, peanut semifreddo, salted caramel and chocolate sauce which are all literally smashed in front of you!
Meat cravings: Famous Dave’s
This is one for all your carnivores out there. Abu Dhabi finally has its first BBQ joint and it is a meat lovers paradise. Found on the upper level of Abu Dhabi Mall, this American import provides some great comfort food – think cornbread muffins, beef ribs, burnt ends, brisket, grilled chicken and piles of slaw. The meat at Famous Dave’s is smoked for 12 hours and caramelised in a sweet and zesty sauce that packs so much flavour that your palette won’t know what’s hit it. With a variety of sauces ranging from sweet and zesty to devils spit and with seating inside a replica cattle shed – it feels like the Deep South transported to the Middle East.
Experience the fun of the circus: Circo
Found at The Intercontinental Hotel, Circo offers some of the best Italian food in the capital within a colourful venue of rainbow lanterns and walls engraved with elephants. Circo’s menu comprises Tuscan dishes and some of the best wood fire-pizzas around, Fresh ingredients are the name of the game here and the dishes are a spectacular blend of colour and flavour. Even your standard Margherita is elevated to greatness via the best Italian ingredients and when it’s time for dessert, ensure you sample the chocolate tiramisu sphere. This is also a great spot to head for a business lunch where you can snap up a two course meal for the bargain price of just 95 Dirhams.
This article originally appeared on the Zomato community blog, which can be found here: