Charming cafe serves up family recipes in Abu Dhabi 15 Reviews
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Café Arabia, and let’s make this plain, is an absolute pleasure from the moment you walk in through the front door.
The jumbled assortment of objects in this villa café charms our socks off. Creamy cakes pile besides the bust of a headless angel, Sheikh and falcon pop art hangs crooked, clusters of lanterns swing from the ceiling, books line the walls and shawls, tiles and trinkets wait to be bought after your meal.
We warn you, you are victim to a strange branch of FOMO in this place. Which Café Arabia experience do you want? To hole up with a good book, coffee and cake? But you will have fear of missing out on sitting at the communal dining room table for a Middle Eastern feast, or fear of missing out on ordering Sultan burgers with rounds of thick and delicious milkshakes.
There are many different experiences on offer here, and withstanding our perfect cappuccinos, we settle on something a little more Arabian from the dizzying menu, starting with the mezza. We mop up the raheb, otherwise known as ‘priest’ or baba ghanoush – a puree of grilled aubergines and red, yellow and green bell tomatoes with lemon garlic dressing – with hot, soft bread.
The traditional fatteh made with chickpeas and garlic mint, flavoured yoghurt, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate syrup, pine seeds and toasted Arabia brown croutons is so bright it looks like someone has gone over the ingredients with a Sharpie.
We are pleased we have taken the time for real local dishes that are so obviously made with love and care. Our waiter and waitress are both very knowledgeable, funny and sweet, laughing when we send them away again and again as we order more food or vex over the many delicious options.
We deliberate over the hot and cold sandwiches and burgers, the chunky chickpea burger particularly catches our eye, as does the grilled Dory fish and kofta promised as ‘the best from Istanbul to Abu Dhabi’.
Auntie Jamila’s rice chicken fatteh (a must-try) and the Café Arabia Country Club sandwich filled with feta, labneh and zaatar that was ‘created as a mistake in the original recipe, but turned out to be a great success’ will be on our list of things to have when we inevitably return to Café Arabia.
The grilled arayes (meat-stuffed pita, almost quesadilla-esque), seafood and garden ‘Ruz’ risottos, and signature saj (a paper thin, unleavened brown bread rolled and stuffed) are tempting. But today, in pursuit of a light yet filling main course, we order a delicious grilled salmon topped with rosemary on a bed of mashed potatoes, served with sautéed vegetables in a lemon garlic sauce.
The regal-looking Sultan of Arabia burger arrives as a jenga tower of fresh and herby kofta burger with grilled aubergine, tomato and fresh rocket. The mint yoghurt dressing, homemade French fries and green salad makes up the rest of the huge plate of food and we feel extremely happy as we tuck in.
Undaunted by the prospect of more food for our enormous appetites, we look to the dessert menu. We enjoy the personal touch given to the menu, such as, ‘my mum’s cake – please see what she baked today’ and the range of muffins, cinnamon French toast, waffles and pancakes that would do as a breakfast treat after the shakshuka or full Arabic breakfast perhaps.
We opt for the cream kunafeh, a Levantine pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup. It can also be baked with cheese but we opt for cream. We also snaffle a ruz bi haleeb, a sweet and floral Middle Eastern dessert.
Café Arabia can do no wrong. It caters for all whims and fancies, and its family recipes and welcoming staff complete a wonderful experience.
The bill (for two)
Raheb (priest) Dhs25
Grilled salmon with rosemary Dhs65
Sultan of Arabia burger Dhs49
Cream kunafeh Dhs27
Ruz bi haleeb Dhs20
Total (excl. service) Dhs215
Time Out Abu Dhabi,
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