Abu Dhabi's foodie scene is going through an exciting time with lots of awesome new eateries opening all the time.
It can be hard to keep track of the venues popping up here and there.
So we thought we'd judge them for you, so you don't have to.
Here's the capital's top ten newcomers of the past twelve months, as voted for in Time Out Abu Dhabi's Restaurant Awards 2018.
An instant fan favourite, this Italian ristorante made the perfect first impression on us when it opened in the summer. Everything from the colourful plates and cups to the authentic Italian cuisine is vibrant and colourful. Muted tones and dim lighting really isn’t its thing.
The antipasti selection is extra special. The foccacia breads are lighter than air, the salads are filled with the reddest and juiciest Sicilian tomatoes and we could easily make a full meal out of the extensive cheese selection alone.
If you’re someone who never eats pasta when you’re dining out because you can ‘easily make it at home’, then you need to rethink things.
The steaming plates of fresh pasta at this trendy eatery range from simple yet beautiful combinations such as bucatini with cheese and black pepper, to tagliatelle with a rich lamb sauce.
The pizzas are freshly baked in the open kitchen, and it’s a challenge not to drool at the smell of the soft dough while it’s cooking.
We’re convinced that our new amore will never let us down.
Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl, Corniche Road West (02 510 1234).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: HAMILTON’S GASTROPUB
When the swanky Saadiyat Rotana arrived in 2018 we were excited to see what it had in store restaurant-wise. It offered up the excellent Turtle Bay and Si Ristorante, but we found ourselves (and many others) returning to Hamilton’s time and again, as it offers something totally new on Saadiyat Island, a pub serving affordable meals.
The menu features a variety of sections including The Staples (fish and chips, bangers and mash, et al), House Signature BBQ (smoked beef brisket, barbecue chicken etc.) and Between Bread and Buns (sandwiches and burgers), plus salads, cheese platters and more.
One of the highlights has to be the sausage by the metre, which comes in either lamb, spicy chicken or veal bratwurst (or 50cm of two if you just can’t decide on one).
Décor is paired-back and industrial, with filament lights and a large, central bar. Meanwhile, service is swift and efficient and the vibe is upbeat and buzzing.
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island (02 697 0000).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: STOCK BURGER CO.
Hipsters might be turning vegan, but the meat-eating among their number will massively appreciate everything Stock Burger Co. stands for.
Only sourcing their beef from 100 percent grass-fed cows, this joint can be rightly proud of its patties, plus the seafood options are top-drawer, too.
Some of the toppings are fairly standard for an American diner, while others, such as the All Day Breakfast Burger, which comes with veal bacon and potato hash, are a little more inventive.
You can also ‘build your own perfect burger’, plus there are steaks, pizzas and skewers if you feel like you’ve had too many burgers lately (we’re not convinced this is actually possible).
The interior is like a cross between an American diner and a hip and trendy bar. The American influence is obvious in the red ’80s-style diner chairs and booths.
However, with dim lighting and a well-stocked bar filled with many different brands of hops, it also looks like the kind of late-night hangout that draws in crowds of hipsters.
Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi, Dhafeer Street (02 555 1212).
It might only have been in existence for three years but the Black Tap bandwagon keeps rolling on, down tracks far-flung from its New York home. The queues for its CrazyShakes and craft burgers when they arrived on Yas Island were almost out of the mall but we can undoubtedly see why. Calorie-counters need not apply.
Yas Mall, Yas Island (02 446 5128).
It’s hard not to be bullish about having discovered Burro Blanco. Tucked away behind a carwash in Al Khalidiya, your sat-nav might struggle to locate it but once you’re there enjoy the marvellous Mexican fiesta that includes the avocado fritas, arancinos and some burritos you could happily devour until the cows come home.
Sheikh Zayed the First Street, Al Khalidiya (02 309 3911).
German restaurants had only one entry in our listings until this year, but those of us who are barmy for Bavarian cuisine were slapping our lederhosen-clad thighs with glee when Das Brauhaus entered our lives. Sausages, stews, schnitzels and pretzels are all on the money here
Al Ain Palace Hotel, Al Markaziyah (02 678 0522).
Cutting out those calories might be something most of us struggle with but when you don’t want to substitute taste for healthiness, Foodshed has the answer. You’ll find you can easily eat guilt-free here (the lamb burger is the perfect way to do so), plus it has an organic food shop should you wish to make your own.
Khalifa Park Area (02 671 1113).
As coffee-lovers at heart, we deliberately endeavour to eschew the multinational chains. Although this brilliant brand has five venues in London, we’ll still gladly subscribe to its ethos of bringing wholesome food to its legion of fans without skimping on the quality of its produce. We thank it for venturing to Abu Dhabi, raising a glass of lavender cream vanille latte while doing so.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 441 3318).
MURPHY’S SPORTS BAR
To us, opening a sports bar at a golf club will always be a fair way to drive up sales. But if you don’t get it right, you can look a little like a Major champion who’s suddenly got the yips. In Murphy’s, Al Ghazal has a brilliant new venue with a variety of seating areas and an array of big screens meaning you won’t have to face your putting partner if their play has gone out of bounds.
Al Ghazal Golf Club, Masdar City (02 505 5023).
SI RISTORANTE ITALIANO & BAR
We’re not short of great Italian eateries in the capital but we’re always glad to welcome a newcomer, especially if it shows as much promise as Si Ristorante does. The mushroom risotto, chicken sausage pizza and friendly staff are the happiest memories of our introduction to this Saadiyat Rotana venue.
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 697 0000).