Ahive of activity, there’s never a dull moment on the Corniche. Midnight strolls on the beach, sunning yourself on the pristine sands, cycling down the track... With that much going on, you’re going to need some sustenance. Our list of standalone joints have hunger pangs sorted.
Blue mosaic tiles welcome you into this cosy Turkish eatery, located in the strip of restaurants behind the Volkswagen showroom. It crams eight tables inside the tight space and another four outside. The latter being a great spot to people-watch as you tuck into the delicious, authentic grub. For mains, opt for the chicken or mutton grills, a generous plate of tender skewers that are full of flavour. Indecisive? Get the mixed grill – it comprises four varieties and works a trick if you’ve just come from an evening jog. Just as tasty is the accompanying cracked wheat side dish and the complimentary, hot-from-the-oven puffed bread.
Open daily noon-1.30am. Behind Corniche Tower, 3rd Street (02 681 8166).
While iconic celebrities past their prime have a lazy retirement spent on super yachts docked in the Bahamas to look forward to, some just can’t let go of their own superstar status, finding new ventures to carry their name and further their reach. File under this phenomenon, one Mr Diego Maradona, who boasts his own official, themed restaurant in Abu Dhabi. The controversial, yet much-loved and celebrated footballer opened Cafe Diego in Nation Galleria last year to great fanfare. The restaurant’s fit-out makes it clear who the star (still) is, with remnants of the decorated sportsman’s life in street art-inspired murals and hanging team jerseys from the sporting legend's former football clubs. As for the food, the menu reveals a Latin flair, with more than a few dishes named after the man himself and some of the football clubs he made famous. Take for example, La Bombonera Cake – a mint-chocolate treat named after the chocolate box-shaped Estadio Alberto J. Armando, his Boca Juniors homeground in Bueros Aires. The cake resembles a football pitch, with a green-coloured desiccated coconut covering, and a chocolate football. Fun.
Open daily 9.30am-midnight. Nation Galleria, Corniche Road (02 667 7990).
The Japanese restaurant sees its fair share of office worker traffic thanks to its location. There’s a flurry of activity around lunchtimes with people stepping in for a quick meal-on-the-go. If you do visit for another time of day, give yourself enough time to sift through its many options. The price points are on the higher side, but you do get your money’s worth – fresh, high quality and well-presented food. If you’re wondering where the ‘café’ fits in, the menu also boasts a range of Japanese bread, plus teas and fruit infusions.
Open Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 8am-midnight. Al Hana Tower, Corniche Street (02 667 7557).
Organic Foods and Café
Tucked away towards the back of the second floor of Nation Towers is this organic shop and café. It’s a popular spot for grabbing a healthy breakfast or late afternoon lunch on the weekend. While the menu is not extensive, everything is well-done and delivered fresh. Fans of cold-pressed juices will be impressed with the selection here. The pumpkin curry is another favourite, with a balance of savoury and sweet vegetables and served with a mound of brown rice. While you’re there, nip around the aisles for a quick food shop for dinner. It has a decent selection of groceries, fresh fruit and veggies, and it also stocks eco-friendly health and beauty essentials.
Open daily 9am-11pm. Nation Towers (02 665 4244).
Rock and Rolls
This newbie is one for the hipsters and young crowd. As forewarned by the restaurant's name, the menu consists of two main food options – “rocks”, otherwise known as burgers and sliders, and sandwich “rolls” (but not shawarmas, as we discovered). The venue has made an effort to go above and beyond your typical fast-food eats (with the prices to match). The team seems to share a fondness for Cheetos, with the crushed cheese puffs’ orange fingerprints to be found over a host of menu items, with the lurid dust sprinkled over the cauliflower basket, covering the patty of a chicken burger, and coating the chicken roll. Cheetos aside, the standout item for us is the lobster roll. It has generous chunks of meat and comes mixed with the house’s special “white munchies” sauce.
Open Sat-Wed 9am-11pm, Thu-Fri 9am-1am. Behind Volkswagen building (02 665 2100).
This humble Italian joint sits smack-bang on the beach and boasts indoor and outdoor seating. So, if you’re looking to enjoy a laid-back meal as you watch the waves roll into the shoreline, this is your spot. The menu is not elaborate, but it includes all the staples – fried calamari, minestrone, four-cheese pizza, spinach and ricotta ravioli, and so on. There is also a selection of meat and poultry. The outdoor deck is particularly lovely around this time of the year. Just make sure you carry a jumper to ward off any erratic winds.
Open daily 9am-11pm. Corniche Beach (02 639 0587).
Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor
Thanks to the vibrant Asian community, our diverse emirate has its fair share of Indian eateries, spanning all budgets and styles. It helps, of course, that the Indian community is one of the biggest here, with the majority familiar with the work of Sanjeev Kapoor. For the unacquainted, Kapoor is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and culinary TV show presenter in the subcontinent. So, when you walk into Signature, expectations are high. The flavours served are humble, yet memorable. The home-style pan curry, for example, tastes like something you would eat at a friend’s house in north India, but finished with flair. While this restaurant may not be the first to spring to mind when you think of the humble street eat panipuri, it is some of the best we’ve sampled in the city. Signature is a reasonable option for an evening’s dinner given the service and stylish setting,
Open daily noon-11.30pm. Nation Galleria, Corniche Road (02 666 4343).
The Third Place Café
This friendly little café takes up space in a villa right opposite Corniche Beach. It’s popular with residents looking to catch up on work in a chilled-out space, or curl up with a book on the weekend. The wi-fi is strong, and the same can be said about the coffee. The chilled juices are also delicious. Try the DETOX – beetroot, carrot and ginger --- for some feel-good energy. Despite being chalked onto a huge blackboard, the food menu doesn’t change, which is ideal for regulars who like to return for their favourite pastas, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts. The tiramisu is oh-so-good, but don’t just take our word for it – pass by for a bowl this weekend.
Open daily 8am-11pm. Villa T3, opposite Corniche Beach (02 681 1877).
Wafi Gourmet stretches across the second floor of Nation Galleria, housing a large restaurant and a market space stocked with spices, dried fruits, ready-to-eat food and sweets. You will find a vast selection of Lebanese and Moroccan eats on its menu. While there’s enough going on within the restaurant, including the live cooking stations, choose a table outside where the excellent views across the Arabian Gulf make it a good pick for sunset dining.
Open daily 9.30am-midnight. Nation Galleria, Corniche Road (02 665 6077).
Also in the area
Things to do around the Corniche
Asia de Cuba
Asia de Cuba danced away with the Best Outdoor Nightspot and Bar of the Year prizes at Time Out’s Music & Nightlife Awards last year, so you know you’re up for a good time when you samba in. The venue has brilliant Chinese and Cuban flavours, innovative drinks, groovy tunes, friendly service and a lovely outdoor deck with charming views of the sea, making it a great spot for chilled out weekend party. We’ll see you there then?
Open daily noon-3pm, 6pm-midnight. Nation Riviera (02 699 3333).
Emirates Palace Auditorium
Taking in a show at the auditorium at Emirates Palace is a showstopping experience. The ornate, 3,000-square metre, space is kitted out with state-of-the-art audio and lighting equipment and technology, and can have 1,110 people seated per show. In the past it has played host to legendary artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Malala, Steven Spielberg, Raphael Nadal and Boris Becker. And it plans to add more names to that illustrious roster next month, during the
Abu Dhabi Festival. Emirates Palace (02 690 7951).
Hiltonia Beach Club
If the public (free!) beaches on the Corniche are too busy for your liking, walk over to the Hiltonia Beach Club to avail of its private quarters. The cover charge entitles you to a day’s access of the beach and the club’s pool. Once in, you can rent racquets to work up a sweat on the courts, or take a dip. And when you’re hungry, pop over to the café to fuel up before hitting the waves again.
Dhs120 (daily pass, adults over 16), Dhs200 (couple), Dhs60 (kids aged five-15). Open daily 8am-8pm. Hilton Abu Dhabi (02 692 4205).
If you’re all worn out from a day at the beach, have your sore muscles attended to by the professional team of therapists at Remède Spa. An hour or two is all it will take to make you feel like brand new, with a menu of exclusive facials and body treatments available. The staff at the luxurious spa will indulge you and care for your every ache. Once you’re done, you could enjoy some nourishment at the spa’s café, to keep feeling good inside-out.
Open daily 9am-10pm. The St Regis Abu Dhabi (02 694 4444).
Observation Deck at 300
Make your way up to the 74th floor for an unmatched view of the city. The Observation Deck at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers offers guests a panoramic view of the capital’s magnificent skyline. The ticket price includes a voucher that can be redeemed on food. Perfect, given the pastries served at the top are delicious – no wonder Observation Deck at 300 won the Best Afternoon Tea at Time Out’s Restaurant Awards last year.
Dhs85 (includes redeemable Dhs50 F&B voucher). Open daily 10am-6pm. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers (02 811 5666).
Corniche Skate Park
Unleash your inner Tony Hawk and cruise the ramps installed at this little park. Visit at any time, and you will find thrill-seekers busting out kickflips, heelflips and other tricks of the trade. A mixed field of halfpipes, railings, rods and stairs makes this a playground like no other. The city’s skateboarders are known to share the space with BMX bikers and in-line skaters as well. If you don’t fancy your balance techniques, you could just stand by and watch. And don’t forget that helmet. Safety first. Always.
Opposite Family Park.