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15 of the most exciting new restaurants, bars and cafes in Abu Dhabi

New and exciting places that are doing things a little differently…

Abu Dhabi has witnessed the arrival of some absolutely gargantuan new gastronomy projects in the first few months of 2022 – both in scale and in quality. And what we’ve featured here below is by no means a full list, these are just some of our favourite tried-out-and-tested locations (with reviews), venues that are doing exciting things with food (not playing with it, Saltbae, we’re looking at you), and brands that have just got a bit of that underground buzz around them. Bon appetite Abu Dhabi.

EmSherif

This one is super fresh, still in its soft opening phase and accepting reservations over iftar hours. You’ll find this outpost of the famous Lebanese cafe at the gorgeous beachfront leisure and entertainment complex, West Bay on the Corniche.

West Bay Abu Dhabi, Corniche Rd, Al Bateen, currently only operating over iftar hours. Tel: (02) 691 9999, @emsherifcafeabudhabi

Mazi

Forged in the fires of London’s fine dining foundry, Mazi which means ‘together’ in Greek, found wide and passionate appeal amongst the discerning diners of the UK’s culinary capital. And so begins a new odyssey, a new location for this article of Greek legend, at The, appropriately august, St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Abu Dhabi. The menu at Mazi Abu Dhabi is inspired by the nostalgia of co-founder Christina Mouratoglou’s childhood memories, and features a mix of established Greek classics, and thoroughly modern reimaginings. Fondly pondered items such as tzatziki, kavourosalata and grilled calamari, feta tempura, shredded lamb shoulder tacos, sea bass tartare, chicken thigh souvlaki skewers and artichoke risotto à la polita. Crafted with an eye for detail that would please even Aphrodite herself, Mazi looks every bit the postcard pantheon. Gorgeous thalasso-inspired interiors, botanical abundance on the olive garden terrace, and serving rituals worthy of an Athenian epic.

Mazi Abu Dhabi is open for lunch from Wednesday to Monday, between 12pm and 3pm, and for dinner from 7pm to 11pm. The venue is closed on Tuesdays. Tel: (02) 498 8888, @maziabudhabi

Emmy Squared

New York-based pizzeria Emmy Squared is now open and serving up epic slices of US-style ‘Za at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Bay. This purveyor of fine carbs, deals in Detroit-style pizza — a destinct, square-shaped pizza with “a crispy bottom, fluffy focaccia-like dough, caramelised cheesy “frico” crust, and signature sauce stripes.” When we visited, we were huge fans of the innovative topping range and the deep buttery flavours of the Detroit base.

Yas Bay, Yas Island, daily midday to midnight. Tel: (02) 235 8763@EmmySquaredPizzaUAE

Saddle

 

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Slap bang in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s hype cafe district, Marsa Al Bateen — Saddle Abu Dhabi is the brand’s first dine-in experience in the capital. Currently in a soft opening phase and accepting reservations for suhoor (6pm to 3am), diners can expect a stunning menu of delicate pastries, gourmet breakfasts, authentic pastas, speciality coffees and their famous pistachio cheesecake. The gorgeous equine sculpture work you can see in the video here, is called ‘Speed’ and comes courtesy of famous artist, Mattar Bin Lahej.

Marsa Al Bateen, currently open for iftar and suhoor bookings, 6pm to 3am. @saddle

Paradiso

Paradiso is the globally-acclaimed Mediterannean restaurant from the Michelin-endorsed culinary double act of Nicole Rubi (the woman behind Nice’s La Petite Maison) and Chef Pierre Gagnaire (Fouquet’s). Their ‘medium’ is light gourmet dishes using local, seasonal ingredients — reinterpreting Mediterranean classics and giving them a taste renaissance. The man behind the mixology, Emanuele Balestra — has also ensured that the restaurant’s botanical theme carries through into the crafting of the signature drinks. Expect exquisite understated luxury for the interiors, extensive terrace and dazzling decor from the design minds of Italian architects Vudafieri-Saverino Partners. For more information, check out our full review of the restaurant.

Pier 7, Yas Bay Waterfront, open daily midday to 11pm. @paradisoabudhabi

Hunter & Barrel

This Abu Dhabi location of the Aussie steakhouse caused a bit of a stir when it opened its doors on the stunning Yas Bay Pier 7 earlier this year. Combing great value eats, premium quality cuts of meat and some stunning views from its seats, it was an instant hit for us. Check out our full review for all the essential details.

Hunter and Barrel, Yas Bay Waterfront, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Open daily 11am to 1am. Tel: (0)50 452 5958.@hunterandbarreluae

Antonia

Winner of What’s On Abu Dhabi’s Indie Restaurant of the Year 2022, Antonia is bringing Pizza Al Taglio to the yard — a Roman variety of our favourite flatbread that literally means ‘pizza by the slice’, it traditionally comes in squares and makes for some epic street eats. The ‘by-the-slice’ concept also means you can mix and match your topping choices, allowing you to blend classic pizza experiences such as diavola, burrata, and tartufo e funghi (truffle and mushroom). This pizzeria will be using a base blend born of organic Italian flour and sourdough, this is the good stuff). Antonia also serves up poetic portions of authentic pasta, calamari, fresh salad options, suppli (a gorgeous species of gooey risotto croquette), sweet pizzas (with Nutella of course). We really, really loved this place, check out our review for the full low down.

Soul Beach, Building 9 Mamsha al Saadiyat, open daily from midday to 11pm. antoniarestaurant.com

The Central

The latest venue from hospitality heavyweights Solutions Leisure Group – who also brought Asia Asia and Lock, Stock & Barrel to Yas Island – Central is a first-of-its-kind venue for Yas Bay, described as a ‘family entertainment and dining concept.’ Across 1,700 square feet, there’s a state-of-the-art arcade, live music stage, plus a restaurant and bar, and most excitingly of all — a legit bowling alley. On the dining front, this fun-filled hangout offers seats across an outdoor terrace shaded with bright orange parasols, as well as an indoor bar and a separate restaurant space. There’s a bright colour theme – orange, turquoise and lime leather chairs surround dining tables, where guests can perch up and tuck into a menu of mind-blowing monster burgers and shakes to match, plus tacos, pizzas and quesadillas.

Central, Yas Bay, Yas Island, 4pm to 12am Mon to Thurs, 12pm to 3am Fri to Sun. @central_uae

Cafe Del Mar

Straight from the Baleric beat factory of Ibiza, Cafe Del Mar has landed on the waterfront next to Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island. There’s an infinity pool, a cheeky little manmade beach, a swim-up pool bar, and appropriately slamming soundtrack. Access is free for the adjacent Hilton guests, for everybody else day passes are available for Dhs250 between Monday to Friday (with Dhs150 back as F&B credit), weekends its Dhs350 (also with Dhs150 back as credit). There’s also now a Barbecue Pool Party, which takes place between 1pm and 5pm every Saturday, the price of Dhs499 includes free-flow select beverages, unlimited plates from the barbecue, pool access, towels and a lounger. And it is all vibe.

Cafe Del Mar, Yas Bay Waterfront, pool party barbecue every Sat, 1pm to 4pm, Dhs499. Tel: (050) 402 2283, @cafedelmarabudhabi

Akiba Dori

You don’t see too many restaurants serving fusion food built from the from culinary traditions of Italy and Japan. And that’s a shame, because at Akiba Dori, those gastronomic worlds collide in the most spectacular fashion. The result is a shockwave of outrageously tasty Japanese pizza and a collection of Tokyo street bites that have been given a lightly Roman remix. This is the second UAE location for the brand, which this time comes with its own bar, alfresco seating and the return of its soul-binding wagyu gyoza dish. Full review available here.

Yas Bay, Yas Island, open daily midday to midnight. Tel: (04) 770 7949, @akibadori

Otoro

The considerable culinary talent of Chef Akmal has finally landed in the capital. Modern Japanese dining experience, Otoro’s (named of course, after that prized cut of fatty tuna) menu features ‘quirky sushi’, Japanese wagyu steaks and a collection of sharing style dishes. As mentioned above, it’s the latest restaurant from locally based cheffing legend chef Akmal Anuar – who you may know from Dubai culinary sensations 3 Fils (named number one in the recent MENA 50 Best Restaurants list), Goldfish and Woodfire. Expect amazing.

Al Qana, open midday to 11pm daily. @otoro.ad

M1 Café & Lounge

M1 Cafe and Lounge, Abu Dhabi

This new social dining concept was converted from a luxury villa and comes with ‘ultra-modern’ interiors, and flexible dining experiences that range from casual to VIP. It’s staged across three levels, each with its own dedicated theme and menu. There’s an all day cafe on the ground floor, offering light bites and gourmet coffee; the second level is occupied by the main dining lounge which offers a more comprehensive selection of culinary flair; and finally, the top floor is dedicated to that super exclusive lifestyle, with a private members’ social club, comprised of a lounge, two private dining chambres, and a meeting room. The dining highlights at M1 Café & Lounge include braised short rib fettuccini, rosemary and garlic grilled prawns, a selection of maki rolls (including a classic California roll), burrata and pesto pizza, and whole roasted seabass.

Al Bateen, weekdays 8am to 11 pm, Sat to Sun 8am to 1 am. Tel: (02) 5833342, @m1cafelounge

Oii

 

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Now open and serving up tastes baked under the Tuscan sun, Oii is fresh gust of European culinary air. Describing the cuisine at this restaurant, Ayesha Al Mansoori, founder and CEO at Oii said: “Al Qana’s unique blend of modernity and tradition makes it the ideal fit to introduce our Mediterranean fine dining concept which adds a signature contemporary twist to traditional recipes passed down from generations”.

Al Qana, open 6pm to 2am daily. @oiiabudhabi

Talea

Based in the capital’s home of unabashed elegance, Emirates Palace, and dressed to impress with princely interior design, Talea — now open — looks intent on bringing a fresh and regal energy to the city’s Italian dining scene. The concept comes from the Michelin-honoured Chef Antonio Guido, and proposes a menu built around the theme of “Cucina di Famiglia” which, for those whose Italian is limited to hand gestures and football clubs, translates as ‘family-style cuisine’. Alongside a top-tier collection of artisanal pizzas and expert-curated handmade pasta options, you can expect a glittering assembly of more rare Italian gastronomic gems. The restaurant features a fairy tale terrace, hemmed by the grand columns of the Palace’s facade, and offering romantic views across the Corniche’s dreamy blue yonder.

Emirates Palace, W Corniche Road, Tue to Sun 12.30pm to 10.30pm, closed Monday. Tel: (02) 2 690 7999, mandarinoriental.com

Tazal

 

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Self-described as “a unique, brave and sophisticated twist on global cuisine with an Arabian touch”, we’re not entirely sure what that means (and the idea of ‘brave risotto’ is frankly terrifying), but we’re down to find out. The menu features breakfast options, pasta, burgers, musakhan, fresh salads, pastries, short ribs, katsu, skewers, shraak shawarmas and other fusiony fare.

Al Qana, Ramadan opening hours: midday to 2am daily. @tazaluae

Images: Provided/Instagram

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