The tag line ‘good food, better mood’ is used to market Sanderson’s, a cafe concept with a focus on health and wellbeing. Fully embracing Abu Dhabi’s love of cafe culture the small restaurant comes to the capital courtesy of Sergio Lopez, who many may recognise as one half of dynamic duo Tom and Serg. Having launched a number of successful concepts in Dubai including The Sum Of Us, Common Grounds, Brunswick Sports Club and Muchachas, Sanderson’s marks the first solo project from Lopez.
Located in the Al Seef village complex (situated behind Al Seef Mall in the Khalifa Park area of Abu Dhabi) the location is a little difficult to navigate as we follow a warren of Mediterranean streets, complete with al fresco terraces and colourful suspended umbrellas. The area resembles a ghost town on the day we visit, all except for Sanderson’s which is nearing capacity when we drop in for lunch on a Saturday afternoon in September.
Sanderson’s has been thoughtfully designed with many elements specifically included with Instagram in mind. It’s all light wood, gleaming marble table tops and punchy turquoise upholstery that combined with the glass walls and an over-reliance on foliage, feels like dining inside a greenhouse, albeit a particularly chic one.
This is not our first time at the venue having initially visited during their opening phase in summer 2019, where we found the service to be severely lacking. A year on and things are significantly improved! Sure the food still takes a touch too long to arrive due to the kitchens positioning in an adjacent building and not on the premises itself but the team on this occasion are wonderfully friendly. Dressed in vibrant printed shirts and straw hats, there’s a sense of tropical island life that permeates the warm and jovial service style.
The menus features bold prints of tropical leaves and palm fronds and a focus on nutritious and wholesome dishes which use seasonal ingredients. All dishes are cooked from scratch (hence the longer than expected wait time) and bear some kind of health benefits. With a number of gluten free and vegan options also available, Sanderson’s is an excellent choice when it comes to those with dietary requirements.
Superfoods take precedence throughout the Sanderson’s dining experience, whether that be the an acai bowl, smashed avocado toast or a Pandan ice tea. The array of ingredients and methodology behind the concept is quite remarkable.
With breakfast served all day the options are varied and include beetroot and hummus toast, cashew and coconut hotcakes and an appealing sounding pistachio falafel Scotch egg. Unfortunately, our Green Shakshuka Pide (AED 57) doesn’t quite hit the mark with the baked egg arriving slightly over-cooked and the mixture of tomato, chickpea and spinach lacking in the robust Middle Eastern flavours we’d expect. This is a pattern that continues throughout the savoury dishes, with the Good Dog (AED 57). Essentially a vegan hot dog where the meat has been replaced with a poached, roasted and seeded carrot. It’s a case of style over substance, where the presentation is vibrant and striking, the resulting flavours however are not.
The sweet dishes however are a triumph! A plate of Brioche French Toast (AED 55) is light, fluffy and gloriously flavoured. Slathered in vanilla cream and a mixed berry compote before being adorned with flowers and fresh berries. The plate is reminiscent of an edible autumnal garden and one that we wouldn’t hesitate to order again.
Piggybacking on the current trend for all things Lion King, the Lucuma Matata (AED 57) is as playful in flavour as it is in name. A stacked chocolate waffle topped with fresh mango chunks and crushed pistachio makes for a vibrant plate. Yet the indentations of the waffle have been filled with dulce de leche and date syrup that brings a seductive sweetness to the plate that is beautifully offset by the South American lucama fruit. A superfood heralded for the nutrients, antioxidants and dietary fiber it contains.
We also try the magic bean and coco cake (AED 40) which may not be for everyone, but is a dessert that we enjoyed. Boasting a gluten free red bean and chocolate cake generously filled with a raspberry centre and served with a generous scoop of lemon cream cheese ice cream. There are a lot of competing flavours but after a few mouthfuls things begin to harmonise and allow the palate to appreciate the chaotic mix.
With an al fresco terrace and a small playground available in the cooler months, Sanderson’s would be a recommended spot for a family-breakfast, late lunch or early dinner. The clientele is a mix of local and expats and the environment certainly encourages guests to stick around. Stick with the sweet dishes and you’ll do just fine.
Out & About UAE were guests of Sanderson’s and all views are our own.