What’s On Awards Abu Dhabi 2022: Here are the winners…
The very best of Abu Dhabi, as voted by you…
Last night at the always-glamorous W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island, a collection of Abu Dhabi’s brightest luminaries joined us for a ceremony announcing the What’s On Awards Abu Dhabi winners for 2022. It’s a pretty big deal (even if we say so ourselves), widely recognised as one of the region’s most important leisure and entertainment awards.
After an online event last year (for the sake of public health) we felt duty-bound to return with something big, so we slipped the party-planning into top gear, maxed out the events budget, and threw one absolute adrenalin-hyped, home-straight-screaming extravaganza of an evening, worthy of its F1 track postcode. We dished out awards to 39 winners, and 29 outlets that were placed as highly commended, honouring the emirate’s most elite places to eat, and have fun.
And the winners in most of these categories were decided by you, the voting public, but there were also four Big Prize winners, selected by us here at the What’s On team, awarded for outstanding contribution to making Abu Dhabi an incredible place to live. Especially in what has unquestionably been, a challenging year.
Grand Prix Winners
Restaurant of the Year – Fouquet’s Abu Dhabi
Located within the shadow of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s ornate domed roof, this restaurant deals in its own abstract form if art. And it was for this creative excellence, we awarded it our Newcomer of the Year award in 2021. Since that moment, it has only grown in reputation and regard. Fouquet’s represents the very top-tier of fine dining in Abu Dhabi, with a masterful menu — celebrating the very best of traditional French cuisine, alongside subtle perfumed whispers of regional influence. It goes beyond the food though, the Fouquet’s experience draws theatre from its setting, from the broad brushstrokes of its design and decor, and from a paint pallette of faultless service and holistic intent. It is an experience that qualifies as a work of art in the purest sense. And it is for that reason, we congratulate our Restaurant of the Year: Fouquet’s Abu Dhabi.
Chef of the Year – Chef Sharbel Akiki
Like the restaurants themselves, there’s a lot of international-class rockstar talent in our city’s kitchens. But our Chef of the Year gong typically goes to an individual that’s a cut above, somebody that delivers a dining experience that goes beyond a simple tasty plate of food. And it is for that reason, we’ve selected Chef Sharbel Akiki of Stouff Beirut. Chef Akiki has created a masterful and impressively varied menu at this primarily Levantine (although the truth is, the range of cuisine goes well beyond the Middle East) restaurant, but in between dabbling with new fusion ideas and using his ‘very particular set of skills’ to prepare the day’s dizzying number of covers, has still found time to design and execute a range of delicatessen products including artisanal jams, pickles, oils and more. All of which is why, we offer congratulations to our Chef of the Year: Sharbel Akiki of Stouff Beirut.
Newcomer of the Year – Raclette Brasserie & Café
There is no established formula for ‘making it’ on the Abu Dhabi dining scene, trends come and go, the popularity of locations ebbs and flows. It’s a perfect storm of an incalculable number of variables. Achieving success here is therefore more of an art, than a science. And the cleanest example of that art that we have seen in the past year, is Raclette Brasserie & Café. Found, appropriately enough, on Jacques Chirac Street in the thriving new foodie hub of Mamsha Al Saadiyat, this impossibly handsome beachfront venue has been the talk of the town since opening. On the menu are a roll call of scintillating grills, Mediterranean flavour thills, and of course, lava lakes of that melted eponymous cheese. They had us at the name. Congratulations to our Newcomer of the Year: Raclette Brasserie & Café.
Indie Restaurant of the Year – Antonia
It’s been a tough year for indie restaurants, and even tougher for newly opened ones. Without the stacks of marketing cheddar that come with being part of a group, consortium, or global branding mega conglomerate you’re forced to rely on the kindness of strangers and word of (as well as ‘taste in’) mouth. Thankfully it looks like 2022 is going to be a lot brighter in 2022, which makes even more excited to see what happens to Antonia. This authentic Roman-style pizzeria trades in a red-hot selection of Pizza Al Taglio, or ‘pizza by the slice’, with a sourdough base built from organic Italian flour, and it has immediately established an entire legion of devoted fans. Us included. Congratulations to our Indie Restaurant of the Year: Antonia.
Restaurants above Dhs400
Favourite Steakhouse – Oak Room, The Abu Dhabi EDITION
A sleek steakhouse with a celebrity chef, Oak Room was our pick for restaurant of the year, twice in succession. And whilst the streak can’t last forever, the reasons for its selection then, have never dulled. Celebrity clientele, delicious dishes and sultry interiors are just some of the things that impress us most, but there is so much else to love about this restaurant, too: the hidden entrance, the heavy crystal glassware arranged by size behind the imposing bar, the leather chairs and velvet banquette seating, and the atmospheric lighting.
Highly Commended Steakhouse – Hunter & Barrel
Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant – Beirut Sur Mer
The first time people see this restaurant, there’s always a moment, an instant of jaw-dropping awe at the spectacularly crafted interiors and terrace. The quality of food has no business being able to match those decorative drapes. And yet somehow it does, a truly special Lebanese dining experience, for the eyes, palate and all the senses combined.
Highly Commended Middle Eastern Restaurant – Byblos Sur Mer, InterContinental Abu Dhabi
Favourite All-Day Dining Restaurant – Sofra bld, Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Dine around the world at this souk-style restaurant, with an impressive array of live cooking stations available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Highly Commended All-Day Dining Restaurant – Artisan Kitchen, Bab Al Qasr.
Favourite Brunch – Nahaam, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
We feel like we know you guys pretty well, which means we have a pretty good idea of your selection criteria deployed in the hunt for the perfect brunch. There needs to be a strong and varied food element, of course, a great vibe, live entertainment and gorgeous views. There was zero surprise then, that your choice for favourite brunch was Nahaam. A truly worthy winner.
Highly Commended Brunch – Garage, W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island
Favourite Japanese Restaurant – Tori No Su, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
Tori No Su is one of those restaurants that prove there’s far more to Japanese cuisine than just sushi and ramen. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things, but why limit your experience when there’s a world of diverse wonder to explore.
Highly Commended Japanese Restaurant – Café Sushi.
Favourite Seafood Restaurant – Turtle Bay Bar and Grill, Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas
This is the restaurant you were told not to worry about. Timeless good looks, outstanding fine dining dishes and it’s located right on the edge of Saadiyat’s spectacular coastline. We’re huge fans of both the surf and the turf element of their menu, and are confident it will remain one of the city’s top picks for a special occasion date night.
Highly Commended Seafood Restaurant – Fishmarket, InterContinental Abu Dhabi.
Favourite Indian Restaurant – Zeera by Buddha-Bar
It might only be a few months old, but Zeera has been deliberate about its intentions to conquer the capital’s South Asian cuisine scene from the jump. As part of Yas Bay’s Trilogy by Buddha-Bar, it guarantees you the razor’s edge of refined style, a soundtrack of exceptional taste and big Pier 71 views, but its menu is what’s had most of Abu Dhabi talking in excited whispers.
Highly Commended Indian Restaurant – Punjab Grill, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
Favourite Italian Restaurant – Marco’s New York Italian, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
This might not be a classic Italian restaurant, at least in a purist’s eyes, but it’s most certainly a crowd-pleaser. Serving up a blend of Americana and Adriatic gastronomy, from a menu conceived by one of the world’s most well-known cheffing legends (Marco Pierre White), we see your choice for Favourite Italian, and we support it.
Highly Commended Italian Restaurant – Sole at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
Favourite European Restaurant – Fouquet’s Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island
Fouquet’s was our selection for ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in 2021 and it seems like you agree with us. The deliberate brush strokes of a Michelin calibre French menu, exclusive real estate, and international reputation helped this restaurant quickly establish a devoted fan base. Already a popular choice for visiting celebrities, we’re excited to see what new dishes and directions they make us fall in Louvre with next.
Highly Commended European Restaurant – Raclette Brasserie & Café
Favourite Asian Restaurant – Sontaya, The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
In one of the most hotly contested categories of the night, Sontaya took home the crown. And it’s a worthy winner too. With one of the most attractive alfresco set-ups anywhere in the emirate, and an absolutely scintillating menu of Pan-Asian cuisine, beautifully presented. A worthy winner in our eyes.
Highly Commended Asian Restaurant – Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace
Favourite Latin American Restaurant – VaKaVa, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
Latin restaurant VaKaVa is the mischievous twin sister of long-standing UAE favourite, Toro Toro, and now stands in its place in Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers. VaKaVa is described as more well-travelled, with a passionate personality, and that’s exactly what it delivers through its inventive Latin American dishes and striking decor.
Highly Commended Latin American Restaurant – Chamas Churrascaria & Bar
Favourite Business Lunch – Mosaic Restaurant, Najda
The king of Abu Dhabi business lunches retains its throne for, we’ve actually lost count how many years in a row. There are now two branches of this restaurant brand, serving up traditional Levantine hospitality, great value and really very tasty plates.
Highly Commended Business Lunch – Alba Terrace, The Abu Dhabi EDITION
Favourite Pub Grub – Belgian Café, Radisson Blu Hotel Yas Island
Belgian Café has unlocked the secret of great pub grub, and it’s a simple formula. Great pub grub is just great food, reasonably priced, with the option of sharing plates. We come to this Yas Plaza outpost is one of the capital’s for afterwork shenanigans and sports spectating, but we stay for the grub.
Highly Commended Pub Grub – Appaloosa Sports Bar
Favourite Afternoon Tea – Lobby Lounge, Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Your selection for Favourite Afternoon Tea represents everything that a sophisticated affair should. The Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi is one of the emirate’s best-looking hotels, and their high tea reflects that right back. They’re not shy about shaking it up either, with special festive themes and limited-time deals.
Highly Commended Afternoon Tea – Observation Deck at 300
Favourite Café – Brunch and Cake, Al Bateen
Another relative newcomer picking up a big win, and we can’t say we’re surprised at all. This café trades in the most Insta-perfect dishes, that taste every bit as gorgeous as they look. We salute you Brunch and Cake, congratulations on your first What’s On Award, may it be the first of many.
Highly Commended Cafe – 90 Centigrade, at the Grand Millennium Al Wahda
Favourite Healthy Restaurant – Market at EDITION, The Abu Dhabi EDITION
We fully endorse your choice for this year’s top healthy restaurant, a shining example of how the healthiest food can also be the most delicious. Backed by Michelin chef talent Tom Aikens, catering for almost every dietary requirement out there, and using the freshest, most sustainably sourced ingredients, Market at EDITION is a little slice of what we all need.
Highly Commended Healthy Restaurant – Jones the Grocer, Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi Downtown
Favourite Bar – Siddharta Lounge by Buddha-Bar
The Buddha-Bar brand are no strangers to Abu Dhabi, but in December, they added a trio of new concepts to the capital’s drinking and dining scene. Among them is this year’s recipient of the Favourite Bar award, and those that have spent any time in Dubai will be familiar with the sophisticated spot. Siddharta Lounge by Buddha-Bar at Yas Bay benefits from that same lightning strike of laidback luxury with charismatic rooftop views and a menu filled with big contemporary flavours as its big sister in Dubai. Couple that with edge-surfing, cool-as-funk beats Buddha-Bar is renowned for and a mixology menu packed with artsy serves, and you’ve got yourself an award-winning venue.
Highly Commended Bar – Impressions, Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi
Favourite Ladies’ Night – Stills Restaurant & Bar – Crowne Plaza Yas Island
Abu Dhabi’s ladies’ night circuit is vast and varied, and picking one that stands out above the rest can be a tricky task. But for our readers, a night out with the girls doesn’t get better than Stills Restaurant & Bar, with their Ladies’ First Thursday ladies’ night. Whether you perch up at the longest bar in the capital under the twinkling chandelier, or make a beeline for one of the benches on the terrace, the ladies’ night deal here is a steal: Dhs99 and you’ll get four hours of unlimited house beverages and some light bites, served up against the backdrop of a DJ and sultry saxophone.
Highly Commended Ladies’ Night – Cove Beach Abu Dhabi
Favourite Evening Brunch – Buddha-Bar Beach Abu Dhabi – The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
The new Nikkei evening brunch at Buddha-Bar Beach features the flavours of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, with a curated menu of over 20 artistic dishes prepared by head chef Renzo Reyes. Kicking off just after sunset at 7pm, there’s something for everyone at this three-hour culinary affair, set right on the beach, it’s a breezy way to enjoy a Saturday night feast in a stunning setting.
Highly Commended Evening Brunch – Filini Garden, Radisson Blu Hotel Yas Island
Favourite Sundowner Spot – Impressions – Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi
Anantara Eastern Mangroves really feels like it sits on an ancient meridian line. Behind it, the frenetic electricity of a city that never sleeps, ahead of it, you’re amongst nature. Time slows, there is nothing but greens and blues on the horizon. It’s in this perfect in-between spot you’ll find Impressions, a seventh floor rooftop accoladed as this year’s Favourite Sundowner spot. While we like the interiors for their network of neon nights and attention-grabbing circular bar, this hotspot is all about the open terrace. Time your night around watching one of the finest sorbet sunsets you’ll ever see here, as dusk’s last embers linger above the green mangrove trees, rendering them golden.
Highly Commended Sundowner Spot – Mykonos, Le Meridien Abu Dhabi
Favourite Happy Hour – Escape Bar – Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort, Abu Dhabi Corniche
Having a cheeky tipple beside the pool always puts us in a good mood, especially when it comes with a wallet-friendly price tag. At Escape, a resort beach bar that offers an instant on-holiday feel thanks to a tiki-thatched roof bar and tables shaded by parasols where guests can bask in the blissful sunshine. Here, you can dive into select drinks for just Dhs23, daily from 6pm to 8pm, while soaking up views of the Arabian Gulf.
Highly Commended Happy Hour – Velocity, Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi
Favourite Grape and Cheese Night – Art Lounge – Louvre Abu Dhabi
Few settings are as wow-worthy as Abu Dhabi’s Art Lounge: nestled in the iconic rooftop of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, it’s one of Saadiyat Island’s sleekest open-air spots. The cheese and grape night here is so nice they do it twice, inviting fromage fans to acquaint themselves with French gastronomy and grape every Thursday and Friday. Expect aged French cheeses, full bodied glasses of grape and unobstructed views of the Abu Dhabi skyline.
Highly Commended Grape and Cheese Night – Rose Lounge Bar, Bab Al Qasr
Favourite Attraction – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Home to record-breaking rollercoasters, a connoisseur’s collection of classic cars, family-friendly thrill rides, a huge zip-line and roof-walk adventure attraction and a series of fun festivals throughout the year. There’s little wonder why you voted this house of the dancing horse your favourite attraction for 2022.
Highly Commended Attraction – Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
Favourite Luxury Staycation – Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara
You’d struggle to find a better and more luxurious example of ‘getting away from it all’ than at Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara. A true jewel of the desert, offering a comprehensive wellness programme, super-luxe accommodation, great dining options and the priceless gift of serenity.
Highly Commended Staycation – W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island
Favourite Daycation – Café del Mar Abu Dhabi, Yas Bay
We fully stand by your decision to crown this very recent addition to the Abu Dhabi entertainment circuit, ‘Favourite Daycation’. It may have been born in Ibiza, but it has grown up a lot in Abu Dhabi. Banging Balearic beats, stunning eats (trust us — try the pizza) and semi-submerged seats — this is where the party is.
Highly Commended Daycation – Marriott Hotel Al Forsan
Favourite Concert – Yasalam After Race Concerts 2021
Flash Entertainment never disappoints with its line-up of post-race talent. This year, we enjoyed sets from EDM wizards Martin Garrix and DJ Snake; UK rap legend Stormzy; and super slick vocals from the likes of Khalid and Lewis Capaldi. There was only ever going to be one result here.
Highly Commended Concert – Disney On Ice Find Your Hero
Favourite Sporting Event – Mubadala World Tennis Championship 2021
Back this year with packed stadiums and tournament debuts the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, as always, was a very special part of the professional tennis calendar. Every smash, ace, rally and lightning cross-court volley watched by an international-drawn audience. Off the court, the entertainment options at the Tennis Village reached new heights. On the courts, Ons Jabeur and Andrey Rublev took home the women’s and men’s titles respectively.
Highly Commended Sporting Event – Falcon Daman Series by Abu Dhabi Cycling Club
Favourite Spa – Namm Spa, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi
Your pick for Favourite Spa makes perfect sense. Using a blend of ancient Asian methods and modern beauty science, their treatments such as the Thai Heritage Therapy are hugely popular amongst the paid up members of Abu Dhabi’s serene scene.
Favourite Fitness/Wellness Club – InterContinental Health Club
Packed out with all the latest equipment and facilities, this massively popular holistic wellness hub is a clear choice for top-of-category, and further proof of InterContinental’s long running supremacy in the field of elite leisure experiences.
Restaurants Below Dhs400
Favourite Italian Restaurant – Antonia
Oh Antonia, how we dream of your perfect pizzas when the cravings kick in. With deliciously soft and crunchy crusts, flavourful toppings and that oozy stringy mozzarella that always keeps up coming back for more. A true Italian hideaway in the heart of Mamsha al Saadiyat.
Favourite European Restaurant – The Lighthouse
When we heard the news that popular Dubai eatery The Lighthouse was expanding to the capital, it was music to our ears. Since then The Lighthouse has gone on to win the hearts of many an Abu Dhabi resident, thanks to its fresh, varied menu options, cheerful service and handy location in Yas Bay Waterfront. Well-deserved winnings!
Favourite Asian Restaurant – Cho Gao, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi
Few Asian restaurant can compete with Cho Gao when it comes to value. This authentic gem serves up flavours from across Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, delivering a brilliant meal at a wallet-friendly price time and time again.
Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant – Mosaic Restaurant, Muroor
There are now two outposts of this purveyor of delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, but it’s the original in Muroor that has been recognised as your favourite for 2022. Mosaic offers traditional Lebanese hospitality, along with a strong variety of great tasting Levantine classics.
Favourite Brunch – Appaloosa, Marriott Hotel Al Forsan
This smart sports bar may have migrated its Crackling-ly Good Brunch from Friday to Saturday with the weekend change, but its free-flowing drinks, meaty menu and fun-filled vibe still remain. As does its wallet-friendly price: Dhs279 with house drinks and Dhs399 with bubbles.
Favourite Indian Restaurant – Namak, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi
The brainchild of celebrity Indian chef Kunal Kapur, don’t expect traditional cuisine here. Instead, you’ll find unique dishes such as chicken tikka stuffed into a Tibetan bun and a smoked chicken soup served in a smoke-filled globe. Take our advice: go hungry and take a food journey through its unique offerings. You’ll be glad you did.