Café Arabia

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
Fatteh Dhs29
Grilled salmon with rosemary Dhs65
Sultan of Arabia burger Dhs49
Cream kunafeh Dhs27
Ruz bi haleeb Dhs20
Total (excl. service) Dhs215

By Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi
  • Tel: 02 643 9699
  • Travel: Villa no.37, 15th street, Airport Road

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User reviews

ValueAmbienceService
DecorFoodOverall
  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Family friendly

User reviews:

Posted by: Shalreh Ali on 15 Sep ' 14 at 19:56

I can't understand why certain people have been so negative?! Cafe Arabia is one of its kind. Show me another like it in Abu Dhabi.
The ambiance unique, the staff n service OK n good value for money. I have been going since it opened and have introduced many friends who like me are regulars.

Posted by: Heidi on 08 Oct ' 13 at 15:35
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Brunch served
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

So so disappointing, tasteless and pretentious....

Posted by: mayita on 29 Sep ' 13 at 06:41
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue

I agree with what most of the people are saying: please, Cafe Arabia PLEASE treat your staff better, train them better, and reward them for doing a good job. I think the poor food quality comes from the poor training of the cooks. The service is truly abysmal, even when the staff means well. But I want to keep going to support the place, just give me a tiny tiny bit more reason to do so. Slightly better prepared food, and much better trained and supported staff.

Posted by: Erum on 13 Apr ' 13 at 10:21
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Brunch served
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Really nice place , great food, good service! In short great value for money.

Posted by: Rania on 21 Feb ' 13 at 07:44
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Edited by TimeOutAbuDhabi.com

With the little options we have in Abu Dhabi, this is a welcoming cafe for lunch. The decor and ambience are a great midday distraction from the busy work day. Having said that, the food in itself is mediocre at best. For the prices they charge you'd expect good quality ingredients, but no. Don't go for the Steak Sandwich and stick to simple arabic dishes (salads, kebbeh etc..) If anything just go for coffee.

Posted by: ReeRee on 04 May ' 12 at 19:23
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I ate at Café Arabia two times during the last several months and swore I would never go back due to the dreadful service. Colleagues and friends had similar experiences, regardless of time of day or number of people in the café. However, I continued to read ongoing glowing reviews from TOAD, most recently about the café’s delicious and reasonably priced Friday brunch, and decided to try one more time.

As during my earlier visits, I found the artistic décor and Middle Eastern theme attractive and welcoming. I was happy with the unique and light brunch offerings for AED65 (coffee not included). The staff, however, were not attentive, were slow, bumbling and unsure of themselves. The overall feeling was that they were disorganized, untrained and unhappy.

The owners obviously pay a lot of attention to detail as seen in the décor, food presentation and events calendar – if they would please listen to their customers and train their staff to a higher standard, Café Arabia could be a true gem. I wish them well.

Posted by: Virginie Lapendry on 19 Apr ' 12 at 09:27
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Very nice venue!
I really enjoyed the roof top area in winter! inside it is cosy and art-deco. Particularly enjoyed the photos and the overall decor of all the floors. The menu is design for all tastes, staff is friendly and price are reasonable!
A good spot for a nice cafe break/lunch/brunch time with friends and family

Posted by: Hunter Munter on 04 Jan ' 12 at 05:28
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Business lunch
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Verry bad place to eat verry disapointed

Posted by: Karim Diaa Eldin on 14 Dec ' 11 at 15:43
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

The place is very nice but the service is really bad the people un professional

Posted by: Eva El Mouallem on 20 Oct ' 11 at 03:50
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Posted by: Colin Howie on 31 Aug ' 11 at 11:27
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Brunch served
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

It is not difficult to start something that is 'different'. The challenge is to maintain that difference against those who would copy your ideas. Aida has succeeded in keeping this haven of traditional hospitality with great value completely within her original concept. Cafe Arabia remains deliciously different. Vive la difference! I'll be back.

Posted by: Maria on 24 Jul ' 11 at 01:14
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Amazing place with amazing food, specially the breakfast, but the service is HELL SLOW & not friendly staff at all.. but still i would go there again, but have a low expectations service wise

Posted by: stephanie miller on 01 Jul ' 11 at 05:44
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Really great place and what the article doesn't mention is that they provide wifi internet service for free. Great place to relax and get some work done on you laptop in a no stress environment.

Posted by: Jinky Nocon on 04 May ' 11 at 10:34
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

The best place to have coffee with friends and family in Abu Dhabi.

Posted by: rasha on 24 Apr ' 11 at 06:49
OverallDecorService
FoodAmbienceValue
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

lovely place , very nice and relaxing atmosphere , nice food and great value for money

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