Sometimes we like to don our finest clothes and head to a fancy restaurant for an elegant evening out.
Other times, we fancy a pub food feast with great company, awesome grub and a buzzing atmosphere.
Luckily, in Abu Dhabi there are plenty of places to enjoy just that.
Here's the top ten best pub food venues to check out in 2019, as voted for in the recent Time Out Abu Dhabi Restaurant Awards.
WINNER: PJ O’REILLY’S
When a pub makes it to 25 years old it can legitimately call itself an institution. Irish pub PJ O’Reilly’s reached that milestone in April 2018 but the popular venue shows no signs of slowing down yet, with a revamped outdoor area and a new menu just two of the changes that have been introduced in PJ’s 26th year.
It seems no matter when you rock up to the friendly bar you’ll be met with a cluster of regulars and holiday-makers, all enjoying the good-value drinks and homely food on offer.
We love a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but takes its service very seriously indeed. PJ O’Reilly’s gives you the type of casual night out and brilliant pub grub you’ll be hankering for after a long slog in the office.
The bangers and mash are bang on and the steak and chips is both well-cooked and well-priced. While it’s not the place you’ll order bubbly with sparklers, it’s not really trying to be either, and that is absolutely fine with us.
Well played, PJ, well played.
Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Street (02 695 0515).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: COOPER’S BAR & RESTAURANT
A favourite haunt of expats, Cooper’s promises a warm welcome, some great hops deals and a menu of pub grub that’s tasty and served in generous portions.
The burgers here are brilliant, while the metre-long sausages are a food challenge we’re determined to conquer. The fish and chips, famous Cooper’s brisket, chicken nubs and delicious sliders are also well worth a try as well.
Although it’s well known for its ladies’ nights and drinks deals, the Friday brunch is always impressive too. Essentially an array of all the best foods in the world, it features fresh salads (the kale and sweet potato varierty is particularly great), so many fantastic roast meats and a sensational red velvet cake, it’s the perfect way to spend a chilled out Friday afternoon with family and friends.
During the cooler months it’s possible to enjoy some al fresco dining on the terrace. Or if you’re just popping into Cooper’s to watch the football on one of the four giant screens, make sure you check out the bar bites menu; an order of buffalo chicken never goes amiss.
Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, Khalifa Park area (02 657 3325).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: MCGETTIGAN’S
McGettigan’s has long tickled the taste buds of expats across the UAE. With a jam-packed schedule of weekly entertainment and beverage offerings, it’s no wonder that McGettigan’s has been wildly popular with Abu Dhabi’s expat crowd since it burst onto the nightlife scene in 2014.
The food is great, there’s plenty of atmosphere and, while it can get packed, there’s enough space in there for it not to be over-crowded. Result.
Don’t expect gourmet food but do expect brilliant pub food in healthy portions made with love and devoured with gusto.
The breakfasts here are bang on, while the Irish stew is one of many dishes we’d return to again and again.
The fish and chips is served in a mammoth portion (something we’ve come to expect and embrace in the UAE’s pubs) and boasts perfectly battered dory.
On the outside it’s well seasoned, crispy and not overly oily, while the fish within is flaky, juicy and light.
The buffalo chicken wrap is another must-try. Finished off with a genius mixture of ranch dressing and buffalo sauce, it’s a seriously hearty dish.
Al Raha Beach Hotel & Resort, Channel Street (02 652 4333).
BELGIAN CAFÉ, INTERCONTINENTAL ABU DHABI
If you’ve never been to Belgium, this place is certainly the closest you’d get to an authentic take on the types of bars you’ll find in Brussels, Bruges and beyond. The Flemish food is as impressive as the ambiance, with moules frites featuring strongly alongside a hearty stew and some rather tasty Liege-style meatballs.
Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Street (800 423 463).
BELGIAN CAFÉ, RADISSON BLU ABU DHABI YAS ISLAND
Similarly as charming as the InterContinental original, the Radisson Blu’s BBC has all the hallmarks you’d expect of this much-loved chain. A vast array of Belgian brews are served in this deliberately dimly-lit venue, accompanied by fine Flemish fare that is both unfussy and flavoursome at the same time.
Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 2406).
Come the weekend, the Captain’s Arms is packed to the brim with patrons enjoying the mostly classic rock soundtrack and chowing down a solid menu of food that doesn’t bother with bells and whistles. That fact is epitomised by the huge heart-stopper breakfast and the juicy lamb shank, just two of several hearty offerings.
Le Méridien Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 644 6666).
FADÓ IRISH PUB
One of Abu Dhabi’s best-kept secrets no more, this Khalidiya Irish pub has plenty going for it, not least its array of great-value dishes with influences drawn from the Emerald Isle itself. The cheese dip and Boxty wedges is up there with our favourite bar bites in the capital.
Oryx Hotel, Al Khalidiya (02 692 2218).
This Hilton haunt was transformed in 2018, with a makeover, new hops garden and a revamped menu that has lifted its culinary offerings from solid grub to gastropub-style creations. The gourmet tacos are a fine addition, while the burgers are far more inventive than their predecessors, and even more tasty, too.
Hilton Abu Dhabi, Al Khubeira (02 692 4247).
A very popular place for post-work drinks and a chin-wag, this basement bar seems to have got better with age. Ignore the cries of ‘eating’s cheating’ and tuck into some plates of food that doesn’t unnecessarily come with bells and whistles. The pies are generously filled, while the fish and chips is suitably heroic.
Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Al Markaziyah (02 616 6132).
PORTERS ENGLISH PUB
Each time we visit this underground pub in Al Wahda, we always leave with a spring in our step and a tummy full of good, honest grub. The atmosphere, especially when there’ s a band on, is terrific. The casual crowd can be seen tucking into the sizeable menu, including the gorgeous lamb merguez and a surf and turf which will have you riding a wave of euphoria.
Grand Millennium Al Wahda, Hazza Bin Zayed Street (02 443 9999).