Review: Central, Yas Bay

A slice of the big apple strikes gold at Abu Dhabi’s new dining hub…

What can a restaurant do to stand out in Yas Bay’s ever-growing collection of international names and Michelin star talents? That’s exactly what we’re wondering as we head to Central, a new concept from hospitality heavyweights Solutions Leisure created just for Abu Dhabi.

It’s bright, bold and bustling with people when we visit on a Friday night. Despite the warm temperatures, the water-facing terrace is more than half full with people making the most of the half price happy hour. Inside, there’s a similar high-energy, with families tucking into super-sized burgers in cosy booths, gaggles of teenagers crowding around neon-lit arcades, and groups of friends perched on rainbow-hued stools in the bar.

It’s got the feel of a cool craft burger bar that’s been plucked straight out of the big apple. Industrial wood and exposed brick are juxtaposed with neon signs and clashing pops of orange, yellow and turquoise.

The menu is an appealing read for anyone who’s not calorie counting: there’s deep fried starters aplenty, pizzas, tacos and an extensive selection of ‘monster’ burgers. But catering to the increasingly health-conscious crowd, you’ll also find a selection of salads and poke bowls on the agenda.

The halloumi (Dhs55) is a generous stack of halloumi sticks, battered and deep fried and easy to dunk in punchy sweet chili sauce. Tender chipotle chicken tacos (Dhs65) with plenty of zingy house slaw and sour cream are a hit, while the slightly dry jerk spiced veal tacos (Dhs65) are more of a miss.

A charred corn salad (Dhs65) is as flavourful as it is filling: a huge bowl of baby gem lettuce, avocado, sun-dried tomato, smoked almonds, parsley, balsamic dressing. We top ours with chicken (Dhs20) and don’t regret it. For mains, we keep it classic with a pepperoni pizza (Dhs75) and the classic burger (Dhs65), and happily devour every mouthful of both. A special mention should be given to the not-so-humble onion rings (Dhs35) – crisp, crunchy and absolutely ginormous, they arrive impressively served on a black pipe.

Dessert is a must, and we’re hard pushed to pick only two. The s’mores (Dhs55) are a little too rich, and the marshmallow not quite gooey enough for our personal preference, but the peanut butter jelly French toast (Dhs45) more than makes up for it. This fancy twist on the American peanut butter and jelly sandwich gets a big thumbs up from us, thanks to its perfect ratio of light, spongy toast to sweet peanut butter cream.

Central feels instantly inviting, and everything from the ‘Gram worthy decor to the endless gaming options and crowd-pleasing menu are here to ensure that kids – big and small – are having fun from start to finish.

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