Leopold’s Of London (LOL) is without a doubt, one of our favourite cafe brands in the UAE. As semi-regulars of the Reem Island branch, we were delighted to receive an invite to sample the new summer menu offerings. So why do we love Leopold’s so much? Well for us it’s all about the fresh ingredients, varied menu and exceptional quality.
LOL has a handful of branches scattered throughout the Emirates and the locations are well planned and generally found in more upmarket areas. Think Nation Towers for its spectacular views of Abu Dhabi’s corniche or the Walk at JBR with its perfect beachside setting. For this tasting, we were invited to one of LOL’s newer locations, the smaller branch at Galleria Mall – a luxury shopping destination on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island.
All branches of Leopold’s evoke the same feeling, successfully replicating the coffee culture of a cosmopolitan European city – be it London, Paris or Milan. Each interior follows the same format of sleek blacks contrasted by white marble and an abundance of leafy green vegetation. The space in the Galleria is tucked away from the main mall and is a long and narrow venue. Head towards the back section for the most comfortable and more private dining experience.
The seating area includes smart grey leather booths and a large living wall. Scattered around are piles of rustic logs, old style coffee machines and an open fronted kitchen complete with wood fire oven. We like the fact that LOL exudes a sense of sophistication, the black and white colour scheme feels classy and the slender shiny marble counter is home to some of the most beautiful salads, sandwiches, and cakes, that leave us in awe each time we visit (have you seen the size of those quiches?) There is a sense of transparency, in that you can see into the glass fronted kitchen, meaning that guests can watch their food being prepared with absolute confidence – there is absolutely nothing to hide here.
In the last few months Leopold’s have introduced a new menu, an overhaul which sees seasonal ingredients brought to the forefront and utilised in a number of new and exciting dishes. We were looking forward to trying the healthy juice boosters, but unfortunately the blender was broken on the day of our visit (can’t be helped), so instead we opted for the pre-mixed juices, selecting watermelon and lemon mint.
The juices were refreshing and presented in mason jars (don’t even get us started). The watermelon juice was sweet and seedless, while the lemon mint combination relied more on the flavour of the mint and was an unsweetened delight, with satisfying chunks of lemon and mint leaves adding texture to the chilled beverage.
Like many Middle Eastern cafes it is more than just coffee and cake. The market now demands that main courses be served as well, a factor that is essential for success in the MENA region. International chains are having to adapt their brand to operate here in the UAE and the results are not always successful. Thankfully the food at LOL is exceptional.
The new menu offers a range of appetisers and dining with visitors from the UK, they wanted something distinctly Arabian. Opting for the mezze platter, we were presented with two varieties of hummus (avocado and jalapeño), olives, superfood quinoa tabouleh and a variety of fresh breads. Being suckers for bread, we promptly demolished the flatbreads and brown crusty loaf, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The avocado hummus was a highlight, a combination of pulse and fruit, that we were not sure would work, but is something that we will now attempt to make at home. The cold mezze platter is presented on a wooden board and completed with a delicious baked egg that appeared to look more like a muffin.
Being semi-regular customers at Leopold’s we purposely tried to venture away from our preferred dishes and sample something new. Opting for the baked cod from the summer specials menu, the harissa chicken and a traditional fish and chips.
The baked cod was fantastic, with the fish being moist and tender. Large chunks of white cod were presented on a bed of rich Mediterranean Pachino tomato sauce. The sauce infused the slightly bitter flavour of the Taggiasca olives, while the sliced potato underneath, was cooked slightly al-dente and provide a contrast in texture to the flaky fish. We mopped up every last drop of the tangy red sauce with the accompanying ciabatta. The baked cod should be more than just a monthly special and we truly believe that it should be elevated to a permanent position on the Leopold’s menu.
The harissa chicken was a juicy piece of poultry, nicely charred on the outside and spiced beautifully. Harissa can sometimes be overused, and here it is more of a hint, so the dish doesn’t have too much heat. The chicken is precariously piled atop a mountain of nutty cous cous, an item that many people can take or leave. We love this Moroccan staple and though a lot of the time it can be bland, here at Leopold’s the cous cous has a nice balance of smoky cumin and works as a counterpart to the finely chopped radish and bejewelled pomegranate seeds of the garnish.
One of our favourite dishes is the fish and chips. Being British expats, this is a dish that we are very precious about and the iteration here uses a light crispy batter that keeps the flavour and texture of the fish intact. The chips are also a worthy attempt at ‘chunky chips’ but will never come close to their UK chip shop counterpart. The salad was a little disappointing, but is provided more for presentation purposes than for eating, so we will let them off.
No matter what you order you are unlikely to be disappointed. Leopold’s is a great spot for breakfast, a quick lunchtime snack or a full sit down dinner. Portions are exceptionally generous, the produce is seasonal and the flavours impeccable. Yes it may be slightly more expensive that some of its competitors, but you get what you pay for and what you are paying for at Leopold’s is pure quality.
The food speaks for itself, feeling light and somewhat healthy. No dish is overly spiced or seasoned, allowing each of the individual ingredients to stand alone, uncomplicated by gimmickry to provide simplicity at its best.
For as long as we can remember we have been wanting to sample the cafes signature siphon coffee. A contraption that feels more like chemistry class than the brewing of a specialty coffee and the perfect cure for those in need of an immediate caffeine fix. The process works via vacuum pressure that pushes boiling water upwards to combine with the coffee grounds, before drawing into a downward chamber and leaving the grounds behind.
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The siphon comes accompanied by a barista who talked us through the entire process of brewing. We opted for the Kenyan coffee, which is the strongest blend available at LOL and despite the intensity of flavour, this will impress even the most jaded of coffee snobs. This lesson in the art of coffee brewing doesn’t come cheap though, as the siphon coffee retails at 50 AED.
If tea is more you’re thing, then Leopold’s have an extensive library for you. Walls are lined with jars, bottles and tins containing teas from all over the world, with mystifying names like dragon pearls and imperial roses. For those who are not a fan of hot beverages but still want to get involved in the caffeine action, we thoroughly recommend the Aztec Mocha, a cold espresso mixed with chocolate, cinnamon and the slightest hint of chilli – trust us when we say it’s really good.
Leopold’s has become synonymous with gigantic meringues, slabs of cake and a colourful array of macaroons and we could’t leave without ordering dessert to accompany out coffee. Being big fans of fondant, we opted for the red velvet variety, an item that was a monthly special back in August 2015 and became so popular that is has now been added to the full menu.
The fondant was presented on the plate with a fresh ice cream scattered with chopped nuts, a splash of fresh red berries, chocolate cream and a beautiful raspberry crumb (almost sherbet like in texture). Cutting into the fondant we were slightly disappointed that it didn’t ooze as much as we would expect, yet the interior was gooey once you excavate through the dense exterior. We absolutely loved this dish – it’s rich, a fun dessert to eat and one of the best desserts we have had in a long time.
The fresh berry eclair from the specials menu didn’t have quite the same impact. The dessert looked very dainty and despite lashing of whipped cream and a scattering of fresh berries, the pasty itself was a little dry.
As a regular visitor to LOL the service is always consistent and we always feel well looked after by the attentive staff, who are especially good at providing recommendations and ensuring that all needs are met. Having three courses for lunch is not our usual behaviour, but with the food being this good, we just couldn’t resist.
There is absolutely no doubt that Leopold’s of London is our ‘go to’ spot when we are in need of a caffeine fix and a light bite to eat. For those who are completely LOL obsessed you can purchase merchandise like t-shirts and baseball caps – though we haven’t gotten to that point… yet!
Location: The Galleria Mall, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Hours: 7:30am – 12:00am
Phone: 02 665 5214
We were invited to dine at Leopold’s Of London, but all views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated. First image courtesy of Zomato / Leopold’s Of London.