We never get fed up of good food here in the capital. Whether it’s the latest high-end restaurant, the coolest new café or an old favourite lurking on a bustling street corner, our appetites show no sign of waning.
So the return of Abu Dhabi Food Festival – bigger, brighter and better than ever before – is plenty of reason to rejoice for foodie fans all over the emirate.
The massive culinary celebration will take place over 17 fun-packed days in both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, from December 7 until December 23, with a convoy of food trucks, innovative new dining concepts, rising star chefs, music icons, giant picnics, a top-secret dining experience, record-smashing challenges and a whole lot more on the menu.
It’s time to dive in and get a taste of things to come...
Clear your dining diary
2kg Burger Challenge
Do you think you are up to the task of devouring a 2kg burger, not forgetting steak fries and two large soft drinks? Even if you can’t polish the juicy burger off, you are sure to have plenty of fun trying at Yas Links’ sports bar Hickory’s, which is laying down the gastronomic gauntlet on both December 12 and 19.
Culinary challengers have 30 minutes to demolish the behemoth burger. You can put your money where your mouth is as the meal is free if you clear your plate or Dhs149 if you are beaten by the clock.
Dec 12 and 19, 7.30pm-10.30pm. Yas Links Abu Dhabi, Yas Island (02 810 7710).
40 Mule by FESTEMBER
Now this new kid on the chopping block looks like cooking up a storm. Festember, an annual arts and entertainment bonanza held at Umm Al Emarat Park, is bringing 40 Mule to the table – and it looks like it has all the ingredients for success.
The innovative new pop-up dining concept aims to revolutionise the Abu Dhabi culinary scene by introducing new chefs, new methods and fresh flavours to the capital. A brilliant blend of design, live entertainment and cutting-edge cuisine will be on display at the brightest new addition to the food festival.
Dhs50. Dec 13-17. Umm Al Emarat Park, Mushrif.
Cool Caribbean vibes are being transported to the capital for a wonderfully laid-back weekend. Enjoy a delicious menu filled with island classics such as jerk chicken from Jamaica, coucou and flying fish all the way from the pristine beaches of Barbados, and Guyana delicacy pepperpot before sampling a variety of other street food classics on the sun-baked sands of Yas Beach.
Some beach games and a top line-up of artists delivering reggae beats will keep the party atmosphere going strong.
Dhs30. Dec 8-9, noon-midnight. Yas Beach, Yas Island.
One of Abu Dhabi’s favourite parks is being taken over by giants – but never fear, they are putting on a lovely spread. The Big Piknik is a fun, new food concept that looks set to make a seriously big impression. Make your way through an area dotted with two metre-high ice cream cones and a one metre doughnut before settling down on red and white checkered blankets on the grass to enjoy food of a more manageable size.
The family-friendly picnic will also have its own organic farmers’ market, where local food producers will be encouraging visitors to eat well and eat healthily. This will be unmissable.
Free. Dec 22-23, noon-10pm. Umm Al Emarat Park, Mushrif.
If all the fast-paced foodie action gets a bit much, why not take a load off and enjoy a coffee break for free? Circle Café, Shabby Chic, Choco Churro Café and Café 302 (this last one is just for the mums out there) will be serving up complementary coffees between 10am in special festival cups.
Free. Dec 7-23, 10am-noon. Various locations.
How do you fancy tucking into a dish with ‘reel’ star quality? Delicious Cinema will be taking Hollywood quality bites from the screen straight to your plate. Film aficionados are invited to watch classic movies featuring great food scenes, while the very same dishes are served to them. Go on a cinematic and culinary journey spanning five films and five meals. Forget about the popcorn and nachos this time, this is a very special night out at the movies.
Dhs190. Dec 22-23, 6pm-11pm. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island.
Dukan Al Fanar
Explore the UAE’s roots at this heritage souq. Step back in time and savour an authentic market atmosphere. The souq will be filled with items and artefacts celebrating the rich history of the nation, as well as a wealth of classic Emirati dishes. Archive footage chronicling the story of the UAE will also be shown on a projector screen.
Free entry. Dec 7-23, 10am-midnight. Al Fanar Restaurant & Café, Al Ain (03 766 5200).
Enrico and Friends
One of the city’s best Italian restaurants, Roberto’s, will have plenty of Michelin star appeal on show. A pair of chefs with experience of kitchens with two Michelin stars, Enrico Bartolini and Alfio Ghezzi, will be taking diners on a unique culinary journey, with each crafting their own three-course menus for the occasion.
It is not every day you get your dinner served by such chefs, so don’t miss out on this chance – and regale your friends about it.
Dhs495. Dec 7, 7pm-11pm. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 627 9009).
Food and Fashion
This whole thing looks good enough to eat. Gastronomy meets glamour for one of the trendiest nights in town. Five-star food and fashion can be savoured at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. The hotel has teamed up with leading fashion designers to cook up a three-course meal at Li Beirut, where ladies will also be able to get a glimpse of the latest collections from top designers. Chefs whites aren’t likely to be on the catwalk, we’re told.
Dhs300. Dec 9. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche.
Longest Pizza in the UAE
The beautiful slices crafted by Itzza Pizza are anything but itsy-bitsy. In fact, the eatery is renowned for its belly-busting one metre-long pizzas. But they are planning on topping that (get it?) for festival season by cooking up the UAE’s biggest-ever pizza. You can even play a part in this tasty slice of history by taking a snap of the finished product before tucking in for a pizza-eating competition. This is the kind of record-breaking feat you can really get your teeth into.
Free entry. Dec 19, noon-3pm. Airport Road (02 641 8182).
Ripe Night Market
The hugely popular community market is coming to Abu Dhabi Food Festival – and it’s making a night of it. Pop along to Umm Al Emarat Park from 3pm until 10pm to peruse an array of stands selling organic fruits and vegetables, juices and superfoods before checking out live cooking stalls, arts, crafts, fashion, jewellery, fitness workshops, kids’ activities, yoga and plenty of live entertainment.
Dhs5 entry fee. Dec 9, 3pm-10pm. Umm Al Emarat Park, Mushrif.
Feast your eyes on a brilliant melting pot of street culture, combining funky food, eye-catching art and superb live musical entertainment. Street Fest, which is being held across both Al Ain and Abu Dhabi, looks set to be one of the biggest hits of the entire festival – and when you look at the mouth-watering line-up, you will understand why.
Not only will be there be more than 40 (yes, count them) food trucks dishing out international tastes from nations such as Lebanon, Japan, Brazil and Italy, but renowned chefs will also be showing off their culinary talents for live demonstrations in front of thousands. There will be sizzling barbeque workshops, breakdance sessions for fleet-footed youngsters, street art workshops for creative kids, dazzling displays from graffiti and street artists, plus performances from Emirati singer Hamdan Abri, Dubai-based hip-hop group The Recipe and former X Factor Middle East winner Hamza Hawsawi, as well as some high-energy rap battles.
The Street Fest will hit a high note on December 21 and 22 for a double date of live shows from the legendary JT Taylor, the frontman for chart-topping Kool & The Gang during the height of their success, lending his voice to iconic hits such as Ladies’ Night and Celebration. There’s so much to see and do that the event will be held across two venues – Al Ain Zoo and Lake Park on the Corniche.
Al Ain Zoo: Dhs40. Dec 8-9, 2pm-8pm, Nayhan The First Street, Al Ain; Lake Park: Dhs30. Dec 14-16, Dec 21-23, 2pm-11pm.
Top-Secret Long Table
We’re not sure we should even be discussing this one, actually, so keep this under your hat (we can trust you, right?). A select audience of 1,000 very special guests will be handpicked by a panel of 10 culinary experts to enjoy an unforgettable dining experience. The location and details of the event are being kept under wraps but this looks like being one of the highlights of the culinary bonanza. Lucky guests will be sent a message one hour before their dining date so stay alert and ready to dine in style.
Dec 8, time and location top secret.
Food lovers are in for a truck-load of fun on every single day of the festival. The hotly-anticipated Truckers Carnival will be held throughout the big bonanza, with a fleet of food trucks converging on the capital and serving up tasty cuisine from all corners of the globe. An enchanting world of wonder also awaits as the Luminarium completes its tour of the Middle East with a final stop off at the food festival. Visitors will be awe-struck by a flashes of light and colour as they plot their way through a mesmerising maze.
Festival fans can also take a trip back in time as the carnival is transformed into a travelling fair from the 1960s, featuring ten terrific skill games, which you can unlock for a free go every time you make a purchase from one of the food trucks.
Free entry, Dhs20 (Luminarium). Dec 7-23, 4pm-11pm. Marina Mall, The Corniche.
The food truck movement is full speed ahead at Abu Dhabi Food Festival. The shiniest and newest food trucks across the UAE will be parking up at Madinat Zayed Public Park, with the laid-back atmosphere fuelled by live musical performances and DJ sets. Festival-goers can also get a treasured memento of their experience by picking up a gift from the Funky Souk.
Dhs10. Dec 15-16, 2pm-11pm. Madinat Zayed Public Park, Madinat Zayed.
Abu Dhabi Restaurant Week
We are happy to say the week actually extends to a fortnight. From December 7 to 21, dining discounts will be on offer at a host of participating restaurants across the emirate, while for the first time in the UAE, the pocket-friendly concept will extend to deliveries. Who can say no to a good deal?
Dec 7-21. City wide.