What's On Awards 2016 Abu Dhabi: The 45 winners
The votes are in! And now the winners can be revealed. Here’s the city’s best spas, restaurants, bars and concerts, as chosen by you…
The Big Winners
This category is selected by the What’s On team – while the others are voted for by you…
1. Restaurant Of The Year
Zuma, The Galleria on Al Maryah Island
Where’s the one place in the capital you’d go if you wanted to impress mates or visiting family? For us, it’s still Japanese restaurant Zuma on Al Maryah Island, a restaurant that’s no stranger to a What’s On Award, having been crowned Newcomer Of The Year in 2014 and Restaurant Of The Year in 2015. It again takes our top gong in 2016, thanks to impeccable service, slick surroundings and a top quality menu.
2. Indie Restaurant Of The Year
A gluten free café in Al Muneera, owned by an Emirati lady with a menu that is extensive and varied, but most importantly, it’s tough to tell that the food is wheat free. It has a great alfresco area overlooking Al Muneera Beach Plaza and the décor is quirky and cool – think chairs made out of Coke cans.
3. Newcomer of the Year
Few restaurants are talked about as much as Bu! at the moment in Abu Dhabi. This pan-Latino outlet serves dishes from Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil and on the menu you’ll find ceviche, tacos, great steaks, barbecue, plus some awesome desserts, including the cheesecake alfajor, a nougat sandwich with Dulce de Leche cheesecake. It has a cracking brunch as well and two bars, one inside and one alfresco. The staff here are also excellent and know their menu making it a worthy winner.
4. Chef Of The Year
Aditya Kumar Jha, Tamba
Big kudos needs to be dished out to Jha for the fusion street food at Abu Dhabi’s newest, high-end Indian restaurant. The menu is bold and innovative, featuring clever dishes such as smoked chicken with tomato gravy and stuffed with black pepper burrata, and grilled Chilean sea bass with harra pesto. The desserts are also absolutely fantastic – some of the best on offer in the city. Make sure you try ‘The Bride’, a chilli meringue with Chantilly cream, mango and coconut sorbet. Tamba has shaken up the Indian food scene in the city by offering something truly different.
This category is voted for by you (after a shortlist is selected through nominations). It rounds up the city’s best events, nightlife spots and days out.
5. Favourite Day Out
This indoor play and arts and craft centre situated in Al Wahda Mall has quickly become a firm favourite for families in the city, and it walks away with our Day Out award for the second year in a row.
6. Favourite Bar
Asia de Cuba
Asia de Cuba has a bit of an unfair advantage over some bars in this category – it’s alfresco deck and bar is situated slap bang on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, meaning it’s quickly become one of the places to head in the capital for sun downers. Its cocktail list is huge and full of flair and many are unique creations that work perfectly with the restaurant’s Pan-Chino cuisine.
7. Favourite Concert
By a weird quirk of fate, Jon Bon Jovi and company’s gig in Abu Dhabi happened on October 1 last year – too late to get any votes for the 2015 What’s On Awards. It seems though, classic hits such as Bad Medicine and Wanted Dead or Alive left quite an impression on the emirate’s rockers, as they beat the likes of Andrea Bocelli to the award.
8. Favourite Ladies’ Night
Jazz N’ Fizz, Sofitel Abu Dhabi
Spectacular views of the Corniche, classy, chic décor and great deals on beverages every week mean this bar in the Sofitel has become the place that ladies in the know head to unwind on a regular basis. Live music on the night adds to the party vibe.
9. Favourite Festival
Blur, Florence And The Machine and Enrique Iglesias – three very different headliners, but stick them all together over three days, and according to you, the What’s On readers, you have the perfect F1 weekend – and the best Festival in the capital the past year.
10. Favourite Nightclub
Mad On Yas Island
This Lebanese nightclub is in the circular-shaped building at Yas Marina, and What’s On certainly believes the public made the right choice voting it your favourite. Celebs such as Fat Joe and Bow Wow perform there but it’s the friendly attitude that makes this place special – the atmosphere here is inclusive, not exclusive.
11. Favourite Sporting Event
Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The biggest sporting event on the capital’s calendar is a natural choice for Favourite Sporting Event. Nico Rosberg of Mercedes won the race last year as the sun set on Yas Marina Circuit.
This category is voted for by you (after a shortlist is selected through nominations). It rounds up the city’s best cafes and the finest regular offerings from its restaurants.
12. Favourite Brunch
Best Of Beach Brunch, Beach Rotana
What’s better than having brunch at one restaurant? How about eating food from seven outlets? The Beach Rotana’s mega-feast was massively popular with voters and features food from Prego’s, Brauhaus, Rodeo Grill and more.
13. Favourite Business Lunch
Circo, InterContinental Abu Dhabi
This snazzy outlet in Al Bateen has quickly become one of the most popular Italian restaurants in the capital and its two-or three course business lunch is incredible value at Dhs95 or Dhs120 and feature dishes such as Tuscan seafood stew, rack of lamb plus spaghetti with sardines.
14. Favourite Café
A café in a furniture shop? It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but this décor actually adds to the fanfare at THE One and the food here is of a good quality, from its huge omelettes and breakfasts to its hearty soups, salads and mains, such as the ever-popular grilled chicken with sweet potato gnocchi.
15. Favourite Healthy Restaurant
Zest, The Club
Abu Dhabi’s British Club has been open since 1962 and it’s clear that standards have not dropped – this is the second year in a row that Zest, its healthy eating outlet, has walked away with this award. Zest doesn’t just serve up a few lettuce leaves, it gets clever with its menu – November, for example, is Super Grains month, and on the menu you’ll find white quinoa and farra pilaf with grilled salmon, followed by flaxseed and millet pancakes.
16. Favourite Pub Grub
Jazz N’ Fizz, Sofitel Abu Dhabi
A second awards for this Sofitel outlet, not only did its ladies’ nights impress, its menu did as well. The Thai style stir-fried lobster and the trio of mini wagyu burgers are particular standout dishes.
RESTAURANTS ABOVE DHS400
This category is voted for by you (after a shortlist is selected through nominations). It rounds up the city’s best eateries where a meal for two would cost over Dhs400.
17. Favourite Chinese Restaurant
Hakkasan, Emirates Palace
One of the city’s older Chinese outlets, Hakkasan keep one step ahead of their competition by offer impeccable service, a slick setting and an ability to keep things fresh – they update their menu regularly (they launched a selection of new dishes in September) and win this award for the second year in a row.
18. Favourite French Restaurant
Brasserie Angelique, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
There was a time when Bord Eau was the king of the French in Abu Dhabi – not so now, for the second year running Angelique walks away with this award. This is the place to take a loved one for Valentine’s Day. Elegant, romantic with a menu that does French classics such as beef Bourguignon exceptionally well.
19. Favourite Indian Restaurant
This Indian is proof that it’s not just the new restaurants that are popular among the city’s foodies – one of Abu Dhabi’s most decorated outlets one the same award last year, and yet again it’s walked away with it in 2016. It’ll be tough to repeat in 2017, though, with the likes of Punjab Grill and Tamba now causing a stir in the city.
20. Favourite International Restaurant
Asia de Cuba
Another gong for one of Abu Dhabi’s most popular restaurants, the Pan-Chino food here splices together dishes from two continents with style. We’re big fans of the Rocoto Miso Glazed Black Cod and the chocolate Szechuan peppercorn ice cream.
21. Favourite Italian Restaurant
Chef Matteo Fontana is the man who won your votes in this category – and Circo is proof that there’s so much more to Italian food than spag bol and pizza. How about Gulf sole fillet in crusty focaccia with mixed sautéed veg and pesto butter sauce? What’s On appreciates why readers voted for this one – we’re big fans of the white chocolate and basil mousse with mandarin sorbet.
22. Favourite Japanese Restaurant
Our choice for Restaurant Of The Year was also named best Japanese by you, our readers. We’ve already talked about the views, the décor and the slick staff, so that just leaves the main reason to visit – the food. Adopting a ‘not broke, don’t fix it’ approach to the menu, they rarely change the dishes – and why would they? The miso black cod in hoba leaf is one of the best in the city.
23. Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant
Sambusek, Rosewood Abu Dhabi
The Rosewood’s Middle Eastern outlet is a real success story – it’s a place that What’s On wasn’t that impressed by when we first visited more than two years ago, but they’ve worked hard at their trade to improve. And the public has taken note. The quality of the food has risen dramatically and the views of the water off Al Maryah and of Al Zahiyah make this a great spot for food or a late-night shisha session.
24. Favourite Modern European Restaurant
Todd English’s Olives
The American celebrity chef’s outlet has quietly gone about gathering an army of fans, it seems, considering how many votes we received for it. The elegant menu (lobster frittata for breakfast, anyone?) has so many dishes you’ll need repeat visits to explore it all, and its alfresco area, overlooking the Maqta Creek, is one of the best in the city.
25. Favourite Pan-Asian Restaurant
Li Jiang, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal
Another restaurant offering fantastic alfresco views (this time of the Grand Mosque), it’s easy to see why this place bagged so many votes – the dim sum is among the best in the city and it executes classic Asian dishes such as crispy duck and sweet and sour chicken with style.
26. Favourite Seafood Restaurant
This neat seafood restaurant in Yas Marina feels a bit like a James Bond villain’s lair inside, thanks to several huge fish tanks. The food though is a little more straightforward – think sushi plus pasta and risotto dishes, served by friendly, jovial staff.
27. Favourite Steakhouse
Rodeo Grill, Beach Rotana
There are a lot of places in Abu Dhabi serving high quality steak, but this victory for the Beach Rotana proved one thing to team What’s On – Abu Dhabians have their old favourites and continue to visit them.
28. Favourite Thai Restaurant
Sontaya, St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Easily one of Abu Dhabi’s most romantic restaurants, in part to its idyllic setting by the hotel’s pools, Sontaya also serves a creative menu of Thai dishes that doesn’t just churn out the old favourites, there’s creative flare in there as well.
29. Favourite The Americas Restaurant
Chamas, InterContinental Abu Dhabi
The traffic light system at this churrascaria outlet at the InterCon (diners have red and green cards on their tables to let waiters know to stop serving barbecued meat) is even more proof that if you get the menu right, then people will keep coming back year after year.
RESTAURANTS BELOW DHS400
This category is voted for by you (after a shortlist is selected through nominations). It rounds up the city’s best eateries where a meal for two would cost under Dhs400.
30. Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant
It might be in a mall, but the setting is classy, the Middle Eastern classics such as the mixed grill and falafel are of an extremely high standard, and it’s family friendly. It’s not hard to see why What’s On readers were happy to give it an award.
31. Favourite Chinese Restaurant
Dai Pai Dong, Rosewood Abu Dhabi
Hong Kong-style street food is served at Dai Pai Dong, and very good food it is, too. The outlet’s dim sum brunch package on a Saturday is often fully-booked, and the prices are wallet friendly prices on the a la carte menu. What’s On certainly agrees with you, the voters – it’s quickly become our favourite Chinese restaurant in the city.
32. Favourite French Restaurant
Le Beaujolais, Mercure Centre Hotel Abu Dhabi
This stalwart of the Abu Dhabi dining scene won this category last year and continues to impress, thanks to its straightforward take on classic French dishes, friendly albeit quirky service and also its passion for special events. They often fly in Michelin star chefs for one-off festivals, such as November’s Provencal event with Mathieu Xavier.
33. Favourite Indian Restaurant
There are hundreds of places in the capital you can visit and get a good feed for Dhs20, but Biryani Pot bridges the cap between the dirt-cheap outlets and the high-end eateries. Put simply, it’s one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, is the go-to option for a Thursday night takeaway and serves the best quinoa biryani we’ve ever had. It’s another restaurant to have won the same award two years running.
34. Favourite International Restaurant
Horizon, Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana
It’s easy to overlook the Khalidiya Palace, thanks to its location right next to Emirates Palace and Etihad Towers, but if you’re after an all-you-can eat buffet for a few dirhams less, you’d be foolish to overlook the high quality dishes on offer here.
35. Favourite Italian Restaurant
Mamma Rossella, Ferrari World
For the second year running, this theme-parked based Italian restaurant walks away with this gong, thanks in part, we imagine, to its awesome wood-fired pizzas.
36. Favourite Japanese Restaurant
You can tell when a place is popular if it keeps opening branches – there are now four branches, including one on Yas Island, and the sashimi is some of the best we’ve tried in the city. You obviously agree, as it’s a winner for the third year in a row.
37. Favourite Modern European Restaurant
Stills Bar And Brasserie, Crowne Plaza Yas Island
Yes, Stills is a bar, and a great spot to visit before the F1, but it’s also got a cracking menu worth exploring. The pies in particular are a What’s On favourite, especially the wagyu one.
38. Favourite Pan-Asian Restaurant
Waves, The Club
Fusion is the name of the game at this Asian fusion restaurant, situated alfresco and just by the water at the British Club in Al Mina.
39. Favourite Seafood Restaurant
Turquoiz, St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
It was a surprise when Turquoiz won this award last year, but it’s managed to repeat the feat in 2016. It’s location on Saadiyat Beach is a bit of an unfair advantage over pretty much most of Abu Dhabi’s restaurants, but the menu, especially the bar bites section, is good value, especially the deep fried whitebait and the mini fish and chips.
40. Favourite The Americas Restaurant
Last year it was a bit of a shock when this burger bar claimed the Americas crown from Burger Bureau (a winner two years in a row previously), but victory two years in a row for Fatburger proves the 2015 result wasn’t a fluke.
41. Favourite Thai Restaurant
Just to confuse matters, Smoking Doll is a Thai restaurant that serves sushi. It’s very good sushi, but you must explore the rest of the menu, because the Thai curries are knockout, as are the wok dishes such as prawns and calamari fried with chilli paste and sweet basil.
Best health & beauty spots
This category is voted for by you (after a shortlist is selected through nominations). It rounds up the city’s best pampering and workout spots.
42. Favourite Fitness Club
Abu Dhabi Country Club
The facilities here are awesome (a massive gym, great pool facilities and even an indoor skydiving centre), but the real reason we think What’s On readers voted for it is the variety of fitness classes on offer – it offers eight Les Mills classes to help destroy calories, including CX Worx and Bodypump.
43. Favourite Spa
Tips And Toes
The awards keep on coming for Tips, winners in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Abu Dhabi and 2012 and 2015 at the What’s On Dubai Awards. Friendly staff plus a huge menu of services, from mani pedis to hammams, make this one of the most popular spas in the city.
44. Favourite Nail Bar
Bedashing Beauty Lounge
What’s On readers voted in their droves for this nail bar and spa, which offers tons of treatments, from mani-pedis to gellish and 3D nail art.
45. Favourite Hair Salon
Tips And Toes
Another trophy for the team at Tips And Toes, the spa offers everything from hair extensions to treatments (think Redken, Keratin and Hair Botox) plus highlights and even haircuts for girls aged under 12.