Unles you have an aversion to being outdoors, there really is no excuse not to be basking in the wonderful winter weather in Abu Dhabi right now.
And there are few finer ways to enjoy the day-long sunshine and mild evenings afforded to us here than by indulging in Abu Dhabi’s favourite pastime: eating. The capital is full of quality alfresco spots and here are some our favourites. Table for two on the terrace? Don’t mind if we do…
Of all the eateries at shiny new hotel The Abu Dhabi EDITION, Alba Terrace is easily the most laid-back (and airy). The sharing plates here are particularly lovely (the octopus carpaccio, especially) while mains such as the 30-hour lamb shoulder and prawns a la plancha are also worth writing home about (you should take a pic, too). And we defy anyone that leaves without a smile on their face after sampling one of the delightful desserts.
Open daily 11am-11pm. The Abu Dhabi EDITION, Al Bateen Marina (02 418 2506).
We’ve long admired this beachside venue, not just because of its idyllic setting but also because of the keenly priced and tasty dishes it knocks out with an unerring accuracy. Book a table in the outdoor area that spills out on to the sand and enjoy flavours from the Middle East, Mediterranean, Asia and beyond. Watch out for the many theme nights on offer when wearing the relevant national dress just adds to the fun.
Open daily 6am-10.30am (breakfast), 6.30pm-10.30pm (dinner), Sun-Thu 12.30pm-3pm (lunch), Fri noon-4pm (brunch). Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi (02 509 8555).
With a name like Aquarium you’d expect (nay, demand) a night here to be spent surrounded by water enjoying some delicacies from the deep blue. Luckily, this place lives up to its moniker, offering cracking vistas of Yas Marina and some superb seafood to accompany them. We’ll keep coming back for the seared salmon alone, while the service is another reason we’re hooked on this place.
Open Sat-Wed noon-1.30am, Thu-Fri noon-2am. Yas Yacht Club, Yas Island (050 696 9357).
Azura Panoramic Lounge
Alfresco lounges in Abu Dhabi rarely (if ever) come as swish as this St. Regis venue. Go for the sundowners and Corniche views and stay for the food. Azura is well known for its ability to serve up Mediterranean-inspired dishes with all the flavour and flair you’d expect from that region. And should there be a group of you heading for dinner here (or just two very hungry mouths), order one of the signature table grills for a taste of what Azura’s best at.
Open daily noon-midnight. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road (02 694 4553).
With so much competition on Saadiyat Island, you really have to stand out from the crowd and Beach House certainly does with its marvellous Mediterranean food and lovely sea views that make the experience all the more pleasurable. We seriously can’t get enough of the tuna steaks here, while the seafood cassolette is as good as you’d find in any resto on the French Riviera. Walk dinner off with a romantic stroll on the sand.
Open daily 12.30pm-11.30am. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1138).
BBQ Al Qasr
We don’t hand our Time Out Abu Dhabi awards lightly and so it was with our usual care and consideration that we crowned BBQ Al Qasr our reigning Best Outdoor Restaurant. ‘How so?’, we hear you ask. Well that question will be marvellously muffled once you tuck into some of the prime steaks while falling in love with one of the finest date-night venues in our great city. Even if you’re flying solo, you’ll appreciate your environs and the ambience.
Open daily 1pm-midnight. Emirates Palace, Corniche Road West (02 690 7999).
To fully enjoy the marvellous meat on offer at BOA you simply have to book a table on the terrace looking out upon those beautiful mangroves. Not doing so would be churlish, especially as the servers seem to enjoy the surroundings almost as much as you do. The business lunch deal here is a steal but save those dirhams and enjoy a steak soirée with the Australian Angus rib-eye as your VIP guest, the mash as your plus one.
Open Sat-Wed 12.30pm-1am, Thu 12.30pm-2am, Fri noon-5pm, 6pm-1am. Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Al Marzikaya (02 641 1500).
Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE
As an Ibiza import recreating that much-visited isle’s party vibe, Blue Marlin is second to none in the Middle East. But even if you’re not impressed by the revolving line-up of top DJs (more fool you) then you can’t fail to be impressed by the fine fare on offer during its Saturday brunch. The maki rolls are worth the mission to Ghantoot alone, yet you’ll forget how much crispy squid you’ve devoured once the beats kick in.
Open 1pm-11pm. Golden Tulip Al Jazira Hotels and Resort, Ghantoot (056 113 3400).
With a global reputation preceding it, Buddha-Bar Beach (also on this week’s cover) has more than lived up to expectations by giving us a simply stunning venue with a laid-back vibe and some top-notch food to match. Set over a huge, two-tiered terrace you can often find us here of a weekend afternoon, tucking heartily into a a sushi platter or the signature chicken salad. No autographs, please, we’re here to enjoy the views just like you.
Open daily noon-4pm, 7pm-midnight. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 498 8888).
As food writers, we clearly harp on far too much about ‘hidden gems’. We do so with a sense of utilitarianism, though, hoping you’ll follow our lead and beat us to the queue at such a delightful hole-in-the-wall Mexican as Burro Blanco. The avocado fritas, ‘arancinos’ and choose-your-own-heat burritos and tacos will make you want to bring your own barrel table and set up home here. Seriously, it’s that good.
Open Sat-Wed 11am-10pm, Thu 11am-midnight, Fri 4pm-midnight. First Zayed Road, next to ADNOC station, Al Khalidiya (02 309 3911).
Cho Gao Marina Walk
We sometimes pity those fools who can splash out on a fancy boat and employ an on-board chef. All we have to do is rock up at Cho Gao Marina Walk, take a picture of the impressive vessels and be treated to the best Asian cuisine in town safe in the knowledge we won’t be rocked by a tidal wave on the journey home. Even for the fiercest of carnivores the mapu tofu is a joy to behold. In fact every dish we’ve tried here fills us with an unmoored joy.
Open Sat-Wed noon-1am, Thu-Fri noon-2am. InterContinental Abu Dhabi, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Street (800 423 463).
As alfresco eating experiences go, the one you’ll find at Filini Garden is hard to beat. Arrive early enough for a sundowner to fully appreciate just how serene this setting is. The views of Yas Links and out towards Al Raha Creek will almost leave you breathless, while the pizzas, pastas and grills will fill your tummy with a warm feeling that’ll make you glad you’d made the effort.
Open Sun-Thu 4.30pm-1am, Fri 12.30pm-1am (closed Saturday). Radisson Blu Hotel, Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 2000).
This super seafood restaurant is truly at its best when you can take to the decking during less balmy weather and soak up the city views during a slap-up meal for two (or more, should you feel so generous). The sharing platters are perfect for your gathered gang of fish fans but it’s hard to top the pan-seared scallops for starters, followed by the catch of the day and an enormous sense of wellbeing.
Open daily 7pm-11.30pm, Thu-Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm, Sat 12.30pm-6pm. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, 10th Street, Al Zahiyah (02 697 9011).
Another of the myriad reasons to head to the Eastern Mangroves, a meal at Flooka tops off a day’s kayaking among Abu Dhabi’s most striking natural wonders in some style. The delightful staff here will gladly let you regale them with stories of your escapades, while the chefs serve up a selection of tasty seafood dishes. Try the fillet of the day, if you’re still feeling adventurous. The fish and chips is never a cop-out either.
Open daily noon-midnight. Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Dhafeer Street (02 441 8244).
Nurai Island is the type of destination you’d be quite glad to be deserted upon, especially given the fact you wouldn’t have to forage for sustenance à la Tom Hanks thanks to this most welcoming of seafood restaurants. Inspired by Levantine cuisine, the chefs at Hooked will take your choice of freshly caught fish and conjure up a dish so delightful you would forget which volleyball you’d befriended.
Open daily noon-4pm, 7pm-midnight. Zaya Nurai Island (02 506 6222).
In our eyes, Iris is one of the city’s greatest venues. Not only does it offer club nights the rest of the UAE finds hard to match but it also has chefs serving up a menu of super sushi for when you want to get your glad rags on and just roll with it. The warming glow of the soon to be rebranded again Yas Hotel will never fail to entice locals and visitors alike.
Open daily 6pm-3am. Yas Island (055 160 5636).
If you’re seeking an atmospheric alfresco restaurant serving high-end Asian food, but don’t want to break the bank, Li Jiang provides the perfect package. Delightful day or night and with almost unrivalled views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, this Ritz-Carlton eatery does a fine line in gyoza (the duck variety being particularly memorable) and the Thai green veg curry is perfect for your meat-avoiding friends.
Open daily 4pm-1am. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta›a (02 818 8282).
We can see (or should that be sea sea) what makes this place so good they named it twice. This recent newcomer at Jumeirah Saadiyat oozes coastal chic and takes traditional Italian dishes and gives them a twist while still sending your taste buds on a nostalgic trip to Nonna’s house. Try some of l’angolo della famiglia options and you’ll soon realise that sharing’s caring.
Open Sun-Wed noon-11pm, Thu-Fri noon-midnight. Jumeirah Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island (02 811 4444).
It’s always a pleasure to head to The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, especially when we’re hungry. Mijana is just one of a number of appetite-sating restaurants at this five-star hotel but stands out thanks to its cute terrace and variety of brilliant Lebanese flavours it rustles up. All of the mezze we’ve sampled here are on the mark but make sure you save room for the filling-yet-moreish kebab khashkhash (if nothing else, we just love saying the word khashkhash).
Open daily 4pm-1am. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta›a (02 818 8888).
We’ve brunched at the amazing Nahaam more times than we’d care to remember but like the loyal and not-easily-impressed friends we are, we’re always happy to return for research purposes, obviously. Always on the money when it comes to the international fare it serves up, the chance to enjoy the outdoor dining area (and free pool and beach access) is what adds to its draw. The theme nights are pretty special, too.
Open daily 11am-11pm. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche Road West (02 811 5666).
Throw your boring dinner plans out of the window and revel in the almost incomparable setting of Pacifico TIKI. The vistas are so great here you’d be tempted to set up an Instagram account purely in their honour. Such a spot deserves fine food befitting of it and we’d defy anyone who thinks the Cuban sandwich isn’t a worthy accompaniment to the splendour of this Polynesian-themed eatery’s over-water terrace.
Open Sun-Wed noon-2am, Thu noon-3am, Fri noon-2am, Sat noon-midnight. Al Bandar Marina (050 696 9298).
Puesta del Sol
With its seemingly endless stretches of sandy shoreline, Spain is a holiday destination that just keeps on giving. At Puesta del Sol you can relive your finest family getaways (without the bickering) and tuck into tremendous tapas that will send you to a happy place. The venue itself is gorgeous, jutting out into the sea and with waves lapping gently against the rocks as its soothing soundtrack.
Open daily 5am-1pm. Fairmont Bab Al Bahr (02 654 3238).
Life definitely isn’t always a picnic but when you can secure a table outdoors at Sacci, the tree-lined surroundings and constant, contented chirping of the local birdlife will always make you feel at ease. The Italian cuisine the chefs create here is also hugely heart warming. The scallops for starters and lasagne for mains are just two of many highlights on the menu.
Open Sun-Thu 6pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 1pm-11pm. The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa, Sas Al Nakhl (02 616 9999).
This veteran of the Abu Dhabi dining scene has long been one of our go-tos for a relaxing lunch or dinner on the banks of the Grand Canal, gazing over at the sheer splendour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Other venues come and go but Sho Cho consistently provides top Japanese food, best enjoyed out on the decking. Its Friday brunch is great if you’re on a budget, as are the lunchtime bento boxes.
Open Sat-Wed noon-1am, Thu-Fri noon-3am. Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Bain Al Jessrain (02 558 1117)
Settings don’t come more idyllic than the one at this popular Thai-inspired restaurant in the gorgeous St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort. Perched on the water, the floating, pavilion-style outdoor dining area is tastefully decorated and provides panoramic views of the beach and Gulf. The extensive menu here traverses cuisines from South-East Asia, all of which is pulled off with some aplomb.
Open noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 498 8088).
Stills Bar & Brasserie
It’s not surprising that those expats among us might long for a sunny afternoon with friends in our local hops garden, chewing the cud and chowing down. We’re always delighted then to make the trip to Stills and sit in its sun-trap alfresco area, tucking into flatbreads, salads and burgers from the menu that like the entire venue had a revamp last year and is just as enticing as ever.
Open Sun-Wed 3pm-1am, Thu 3pm-3am, Fri noon-3am, Sat noon-1am. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 3000).
Soon to be celebrating its second birthday, this South African import made an immediate good impression on the people of Al Bateen, who welcomed it into their hearts with open arms. And with good reason, too, as tashas serves up some wonderfully wholesome dishes (we love the breakfast menu especially), best enjoyed as you gaze out over the water from the terrace.
Open Sun-Fri 8am-midnight, Sat 8am-11.30pm. Marsa, Al Bateen (02 445 0890).
The Sportsman’s Arms
Great for families, this Irish-American gastropub in Zayed Sports City has not one but two outdoor terraces perfectly positioned so you can watch the guys and girls serving and volleying away on the tennis courts below. The menu here is loaded with all the home-style dishes you could wish for, with seasonal variations and a rather popular hops festival. This place is always on top of its game.
Open daily 8am-2am. International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City (02 447 1066).