Just like last year, and the year before, and the… Well, you get the picture. What we’re trying to say is that once again we’ve visited 300 restaurants in the city to find out which ones are the best. We do it all anonymously and we pay for our meals, meaning we get the same treatment and have the same experience as anyone else. Below you’ll find the winners and highly commended restaurants, bars, pubs, cafés, afternoon teas, breakfasts and brunches in the capital.
The Peruvian restaurant opened in early 2017 and didn’t take long to cement itself as one of the most happening venues in the city. Already a big hit (and award-winner) in Dubai, the Abu Dhabi version is fun and funky, with a super bar area, lovely terrace and vibrant dining room. The food, as you’d imagine having won the first award in this list, is absolutely excellent. From ceviches to seafood and from tacos to tomahawk steaks, there’s plenty for everyone, and we’re yet to find something that’s anything less than brilliant.
Open Sun-Thu and Sat 12.30pm-5.30pm; Sun-Mon, Wed, Sat 7pm-midnight; Tue, Thu-Fri 7pm-12.30am. Fri brunch 12.30pm-4pm. Lounge open daily 12.30pm-1.15am. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 306 7000).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: ASIA DE CUBA
We’ve talked about this venue a lot over the past couple of years, mostly because it’s absolutely excellent, consistently so. It’s a multiple Time Out Abu Dhabi award-winner, serving a quite-brilliant mix of Chinese and Cuban dishes. If that doesn’t sound immediately delicious to you, then know this: it really is. It’s just as good as ever, but has had to contend with a juggernaut such as COYA opening and stomping on its turf. Still very, very good.
Open Thu-Sat noon-3pm; Sun-Sat 6pm-midnight.Fri brunch 1pm-4pm. Bar open Thu-Fri noon-2am; Sat noon-midnight; Sun-Wed 3pm-midnight. Nation Riviera, Corniche Road West (02 699 3333).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: BU!
Another venue that made an instant impression on us upon opening. It won big last year, being named our Best Newcomer. The pan-Latin eatery, with some Japanese influence, is a really fun venue that always has a great vibe. We love the bar area and big terrace, but it’s the food that really keeps us coming back. We have a soft spot for the, erm, soft tacos and the black cod skewers are one of the best dishes in the capital, and don’t get us started on the piñata dessert…
Open daily 7pm-midnight. Fri brunch 12.30pm-4.30pm. Bar 5pm-3am. The Hub, The Mall at World Trade Center Abu Dhabi (02 666 8066).
WINNER: CHO GAO
This pan-Asian venue has long been a favourite of ours here at Time Out Abu Dhabi and it continues to stand the test of time. It’s really good value, has regular deals and themed events, and always has good service. Our picks from the menu include the garlic pepper prawns, the dim sum selection and the stir-fries, but really everything here is worth trying. Spice-lovers will find much to admire in the Thai dishes, which all pack a punch. This is a laid-back restaurant that does everything very well indeed.
Open daily noon-1am. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Street (02 616 6149).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: BARFLY BY BUDDHA-BAR
This stylish venue has a super-cool interior and a delightful terrace overlooking the canal, but wherever you sit, and whenever you’re there, you’ll love this venue, which has so much going for it. As well as a restaurant, it’s a nightlife venue and bar, with funky tunes being played by top DJs and creative mixed drinks prepared by skilled bar staff. But we’re here to talk about the food, and from the sushi to the stir-fries it is routinely excellent. The early evening platter deal (Dhs99) is well worth checking out, as is the Friday brunch.
Open Sun-Wed 6pm-2am; Thu 6pm-3am; Fri 4pm-3am; Sat 4pm-1am. Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 408 7201).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SONTAYA
A venue with real wow-factor, Sontaya is a simply stunning restaurant with views over the Arabian Gulf from Saadiyat Island. Another venue that does pan-Asian very well indeed, the service is genuinely charming and the setting is just lovely. Dishes mainly come from Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam and we love the vibrant, fresh salads in particular. Seafood is also very good here, so we recommend trying out the fishy mains as well. A brilliant place for a memorable meal.
Open daily noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 498 8443).
WINNER: DAI PAI DONG
This bustling, atmospheric restaurant brings a real flavour of Cantonese street food to the capital. The dining room is brilliantly decorated and most seats have views of the busy kitchen, filled with chefs cooking with woks, hand-pulling noodles and forming dainty dim sum. It’s a spectacle that really whets the appetite for what’s to come. We recommend ordering from the dim sum menu first, then perusing the main menu for the rest of your meal. Be warned, the portions are big, though this is one place where we don’t mind going overboard on the order, it’s just that good.
Open daily noon-3pm. Sat-Wed 6pm-11pm; Thu-Fri 6pm-midnight. Bar open 4pm-1am. Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 813 5552).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: HAKKASAN
A multiple award-winner, this year the only thing that stopped Hakkasan from getting top spot is the brilliance and value for money of Dai Pai Dong. Hakkasan is a globally-renowned chain for good reason – it delivers on quality, taste and experience every time. It’s a pricey night out, with the Peking duck with Royal Beluga caviar coming in at Dhs1,900, but if you can afford it, the dishes are superb. Of course, not everything reaches those dizzying heights of price and there are plenty of small plates and salads on the menu for under Dhs100. This place is quality.
Open daily 6pm-midnight. Fri brunch noon-4pm. Bar open 6pm-2am. Emirates Palace, Corniche Road West (02 690 7739).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SHANG PALACE
If there’s one thing this grand hotel does very well it’s Asian food. Shang Palace serves a fine-dining take on classic Chinese dishes and is another place where the Peking duck shines. The barbecue dishes are excellent here, too, especially the honey chicken rolls with duck egg yolk. There’s an in-depth menu here covering a wide range of ingredients and provinces that ensures there’s always something new to try. And it’s all done in an elegant dining room with super staff. Simply fantastic.
Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi (02 509 8555).
WINNER: TODD ENGLISH’S OLIVES
While Mr English might not be that familiar to those from, erm, England, in the US he’s a big TV star and, on the evidence of his Abu Dhabi venue, it’s easy to see why. This is a restaurant that does great, comforting, homely food very well. Portions are generous and the ingredients are top notch. Whenever you eat here it’s like going back for your favourite home-cooked food. The menu is mainly Mediterranean, with excellent flatbreads and hearty pastas.
Open Sun-Thu 12.30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 404 1941).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: BRASSERIE FLO
This smart French restaurant is another great venue at Venetian Village. The quality of food and service here is superb. We love the welcome and the cosy bar area but the food is where Brasserie Flo really shines. The steak tartar, prepared tableside, shows off the service and the quality of the produce, but we’re also big fans of the delicious fish dishes and the top steaks. The epitome of smart/casual, Brasserie Flo will do for us.
Open daily 12.30pm-11pm. Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 408 7201).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: LE BEAUJOLIAS
This quaint and cosy French restaurant has been a mainstay in the city for decades. Not much has changed in that time, but that’s all part of its charm. The quintessential French venue has checked tablecloths, a great sommelier and rich dishes packed with flavour. It just does all the important things very well.
Open daily noon-midnight. Mercure Abu Dhabi Centre Hotel, Hamdan Bin Mohamed Street (02 633 3555).
An Indian restaurant, sure, but actually much more than that. Tamba not only does the basics that you’d expect from an Indian eatery very well, it also adds a touch of glamour, creativity and style. We know people say that Indian food can’t be made fancy, but we’d urge them to come here. From start to finish everything impresses. Staff are super, the inventive, delicious and stunningly presented dishes are good value and the atmosphere is brilliant. We love it.
Open Sun-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Sat noon-2am. The Hub at The Mall, World Trade Center Abu Dhabi (02 672 8888).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: AVASA
A previous award-winner, this is another Indian restaurant that prides itself on lifting the cuisine to another level. While there are plenty of classic dishes on the menu, you’ll also find starters such as mushroom cappuccino and baby beetroot and orange with feta soup. There’s a delicious tandoori lobster dish and healthier options such as the organic quinoa seekh kebab. It’s always a lovely occasion.
Open daily noon-11pm. The Collection, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 674 2221).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: PUNJAB GRILL
The quality of food available at the Venetian Village is incredible, and Punjab Grill is another venue to make it onto our awards table. Like Tamba and Avasa, this is another eatery that takes Indian cuisine and gives it a bit of a twist, but without losing sight of its origins. We love the dining room here, but not as much as the food, which is delicious. You need to order the whole mutton leg, probably on every visit. Believe us, it’s that good.
Open daily 12.30pm-midnight. Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 449 9839).
WINNER: CAFÉ MILANO
This swish and stylish restaurant has a prime location on Al Maryah Island, overlooking the waters flowing back towards the city. If the terrace and dining room are lovely, then the food is twice as good. Here you’ll find a menu that changes regularly, with dishes being tweaked to include seasonal ingredients and flavours. Service is excellent, and carried out with all the panache you’d expect from an Italian joint that is popular with presidents and celebrities alike at Franco Nuschese’s flagship Washington DC branch. This place just gets better and better.
Open Sun-Thu noon-5.30pm; Sat-Wed 6pm-11.30pm; Thu-Fri 6pm-12.30pm. Fri-Sat brunch noon-4pm. Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2630).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: CIPRIANI
As swish an Italian restaurant as you are likely to find, complete with a stunning terrace overlooking the Yas Viceroy. Last year’s winner has only lost out on the top spot this time around due to Café Milano’s brilliance and ability to move with the seasons. What you get at Cipriani is slick service, a menu of all-time favourites and classic dishes, as well as a guarantee of quality. Well worth the trip out to Yas Island.
Open daily 6pm-midnight. Yas Marina, Yas Island (02 657 5400).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: CIRCO
A brilliantly fun night out, Circo is a restaurant themed like a circus, as you might have sussed out. The food is rooted in Tuscany, with dishes based on those handed down the generations from the founders’ families. We love the crostini and flatbread starters and the octopus and panzanella salad, and have more than a crush on the fresh pasta dishes.
Open Sun-Thu noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm; Fri noon-4pm, 7pm-11.30pm; Sat noon-11.30pm. InterContinental Abu Dhabi, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (800 423 463).
This restaurant has been at the top of its game for so long in Abu Dhabi that we’re running out of things to say about it. Almost. So we’ll say this: Zuma is one of the few places in the city that will never, ever let you down. On experience, food and service it is impeccable. When it comes to creative cooking with Japanese techniques and ingredients, nowhere does it better.
Open Sat-Thu noon-3.30pm; Sat-Wed 7pm-midnight; Thu-Fri 7pm-1am. Fri brunch 12.30pm-4pm. Bar open Sat-Wed 7pm-midnight; Thu-Fri 7pm-1am. Al Maryah Island (02 401 5900).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: INAKAYA
The only dedicated robatayaki restaurant in the city, Inakaya is a theatrical, enjoyable experience. Staff are brilliant and look superb, as does the dining room, which is awash with colour and Japanese motifs. When it comes to the robata food on offer, the chicken thigh teriyaki is absolutely delicious, and we heartily recommend the miso-marinated black Angus beef tenderloin. There’s a good seafood selection, too. Different, but brilliant.
Open daily 12.30pm-11pm. Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 408 7201).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: TORI NO SU
A charming restaurant, Tori No Su is a light, relaxed place to dine. Staff are super friendly and know their way around the menu, while the chefs are incredible, led by the ever-present, zen-like Ando. A specialist in omakase dining, we recommend letting the kitchen show off and pick your dishes for you. Be warned – they like to feed you well here. With seasonal specials and a good-value business lunch, there’s something for everyone here.
Open Sun-Thu noon-3.30pm; daily 7pm-11.30pm. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5666).
MIDDLE EASTERN AND NORTH AFRICAN
WINNER: BYBLOS SUR MER
A Lebanese venue with stunning views from stylish terraces, Byblos Sur Mer is one of the most impressive venues in the city. When it comes to the food it’s pretty adventurous, too. There are plenty of recognisable mezze dishes and grills, but you also have the chance to stretch your palate with pan-fried quails, chargrilled pigeon and red snapper kibbeh nayeh. Always an experience, and one you should definitely give a go.
Open Sat-Wed 12.30pm-1.30am; Thu-Fri 12.30pm-2.30am. InterContinental Abu Dhabi, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (800 423 463).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: ATAYEB
It’s not often you get to eat a mixed grill while watching cars speeding round an F1 track, but at Atayeb that’s 100 percent possible. This is a one-of-a-kind venue serving food from around the region. It doesn’t rest on its impressive location laurels, either, as the food and service here are both excellent. The kebabs and prawns are particular stand-outs on the Atayeb menu, while there are also some great sharing platters if you want to sample a bit of everything.
Open Sun-Fri 7pm-1am. Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Yas Island (02 656 0600).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: LI BEIRUT
This is another venue that does Lebanese food very well indeed and lifts it to a level rarely seen within the cuisine. The set menus are a good idea here, but if you choose to go à la carte then there are dishes such as the foie gras kibbeh, yellowfin tuna and sea bass fillet that we very much recommend. And you should absolutely choose from the barbecue section. Plus, the attentive staff add character to this fine-dining experience.
Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Jumeirah at Etihad towers, Corniche West (02 811 5666).
WINNER: LE CAFÉ
It doesn’t get much more grand than drinking gold-sprinkled coffee in the Emirates Palace, and there aren’t many venues serving afternoon tea that you have to book days in advance, such is the popularity. But this is one of them and, as you’d expect, the food (sandwiches, cakes, sweet treats) is exquisite and the service is impeccable.
Served daily 2pm-6pm. Emirates Palace, Corniche Road West (02 690 7999).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: AL MEYLAS
This bright and airy tea lounge in the lobby of the Four Seasons is a really pleasant place to spend the afternoon. You can choose from a traditional or Arabian version of the tea, but the food served for both is truly excellent. The tea selection is also top notch.
Served daily 3pm-6pm. Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2222).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: THE DRAWING ROOM
If the hotel that lays claim to creating the afternoon tea ritual can’t do it well, then who can? Mrs Astor, the founder of the original St. Regis in New York is said to have created the much-loved tradition and her legacy lives on in this superb offering. The standard option is stunning but the regular seasonal updates and themed events help keep it fresh.
Served daily 2pm-6pm. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 498 8443).
The stylish sports bar is a great spot to catch a match or enjoy a hangout with pals – and there’s plenty of top-flight quality food to enjoy while you do. Not only can you get your hands on a mouth-watering selection of juicy burgers and tasty sandwiches, but also a wide range of lighter snacks such as garlic prawns and Vietnamese lobster spring rolls, plus healthy salad options are on the menu, too.
Open Sun-Wed 4pm-2am; Thu-Fri noon-3am; Sat noon-2am. Marriott Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (02 304 7777).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: IRIS YAS ISLAND
Before dancing the night away at one of the capital’s trendiest night spots, you really should take time to check out Iris’s suitably sophisticated menu. These are far from your standard bar bites – with options including grilled octopus, pan-fried foie gras, wagyu mini burgers and more substantial feeds such as chargrilled Angus fillet and grilled Scottish salmon. It’s not just the lovely views of Yas Marina that are Instagram-worthy at Iris, the food is pretty picture-perfect as well.
Open daily 6pm-3am. Yas Marina, Yas Island (055 160 5636).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: STILLS BAR & BRASSERIE
The classy Yas Island bar is a top spot to chill out in while having a post-work drink and it is also well worth sticking around a while to try out the fine selection of European gastro-pub food on offer. Top dishes include pan-seared salmon, grilled tuna steak and ricotta ravioli, as well as classic dishes such as veal bangers and mash, a wagyu beef burger and hops-battered fish and chips.
Open Sun-Wed 3pm-1am; Thu 3pm-3am; Fri noon-3am; Sat noon-1am. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 3066).
Afghani and Californian cuisine might not seem like a natural pairing, but the culinary marriage at Nolu’s has worked seamlessly for more than six years. The team here believe in the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, with a range of organic eggs dishes supplemented by healthy choices such as oatmeal, fruits and cottage cheese and a parfait bowl, filled with organic vanilla yoghurt, fresh-cut fruits, granola and Yemeni honey. You can start the day the right way at Nolu’s.
Open daily 9am-11pm. Al Bandar, Al Raha Beach (800 66587).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Jim’s Kitchen Table
The modern yet down-to-earth venue is a great spot to grab some brekky in. There is a generous selection of breakfast dishes, many of which you can fill up on gluten- (and guilt-) free, such as Jim’s healthy benedict, a home-made English muffin topped with kale, fresh avocado and a basil pesto aioli, with the option of gluten-free bread and pancakes and even a breakfast burrito to add a Mexican flavour to the first meal of the day.
Open daily 8am-10pm. Ground Floor, Siemens Building, Masdar City (02 491 9401).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Sportsman’s Arms
The Boston-style eatery, based at the International Tennis Centre, serves up a fine breakfast to help launch yourself into the day. Tuck into American-inspired pancakes with maple syrup or fill up on a full Irish breakfast, make your selection from a variety of egg dishes or go on a health kick by plumping for a daily fruit salad or a Greek yoghurt and granola pot with mixed berries. Whatever you are in the mood for, the Sportsman’s Arms will match up with your tastes.
Open daily 8am-11.30pm. International Tennis Centre, Sports Zayed City (02 447 1066).
In a restaurant that sets such high standards and expectations, to fail at brunch would be unforgivable. Thankfully, Zuma excels in this regard as it does in every other. Again service is top and value-wise this offering is superb. Here you’ll find almost all of the restaurant’s big hitters available at sashimi, robata and teppanyaki counters and in mouth-watering main courses that are served to your table. Simply unbeatable.
Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Al Maryah Island (02 401 5900).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: COYA
A relative newcomer on the scene (and neighbour of Zuma), COYA has many similarities with the winner in this category. There is excellent service, a superb selection of the restaurant’s most impressive dishes and an emphasis on quality as much as quantity. There’s also a party atmosphere at this one, making it a fantastic choice for your Friday afternoon out.
Fri 12.30pm-4pm. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 306 7000).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: GIORNOTTE
A real buffet brunch with a simply astounding array of food and drinks on show. It’s last year’s winner and has improved, if anything, but came up against some seriously stiff competition this time round, proving how difficult this category is to win. Amazing sushi, roast meat, dim sum, seafood and more, all complemented by a brilliant variety of mixed drinks stations and entertainment. Awesome.
Fri 1pm-4pm. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 818 8282).
WINNER: PIZZA DI ROCCO
An unassuming streetside joint it might be, but Pizza Di Rocco turns out some of the very best pizzas in the capital. How they are such good value, we don’t know, especially when you consider the lengths the owners go to, to ensure only the very best ingredients are used. We love this place so much and would never begrudge them our dough.
Open Sat-Wed 11am-midnight; Thu-Fri 11am-2am. Salam Street, Al Dhafrah (800 76226). Other location: Etihad Plaza.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: BARBACOA
If it’s proper Mexican you want, on a budget, then this is your place. The word barbacoa refers to a slow-cooking method for meat, and the team here know exactly how to do it. The tacos are great value and while it has the appearance of a fast-food joint, it takes serious time, effort and know-how to make things taste this good.
Open daily noon-10pm. Masdar City (02 639 4226). Other location: Mushrif Mall (02 444 4722).
HIGHLY COMMEDED: SHAY MADHBOOT
A brilliant, small café serving excellent tea (for just Dhs4) and plenty of great breakfast, egg and bread dishes that are well worth you investigating. The shakshouka for Dhs35 is the most expensive item and is just super, while the breakfast tray comes with unlimited bread and tea. Bargain grub that continues to delight us.
Open Sun-Thu 7am-10pm; Fri-Sat 8am-10pm. Muroor (02 621 7323).
WINNER: CAFÉ 302
When you step inside this place you know you’re in for a relaxing time. Café 302 is the quintessential modern coffee shop, a place to chat with friends, sip on all manner of fancy brews, sit back and relax with a book, or fire up your laptop and do a bit of work. But, seeing as it’s won this award, it must also do some seriously good food, right? Well it does. Breakfast dishes are worth a look, salads are vibrant and filled with top ingredients and we seriously recommend the good-value steak.
Open daily 6am-10.30pm. Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, Hamdan Street (02 610 6666).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: CAFÉ ARABIA
A venue that feels like you’ve stepped into someone’s home, Café Arabia is such a warm and welcoming place that it’s easy to fall in love with it. The jumble of décor makes the place busy and bustling, even without the crowds that flock to it for special occasions and family meals.
Open Sun-Thu 7am-11pm; Fri-Sat 9am-11pm. 15th Street, Al Karamah (02 643 9699).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: TAWA BAKERY
Think gluten-free food has to be boring? Think again. Tawa is the city’s first 100 percent gluten-free eatery, but regardless of that, it just serves very good food. The menu doesn’t scrimp on anything – you can get plenty of breads, pastas and baked goods here and we really recommend you try them. We also rate the burgers and salads very highly. Though, to be honest, we’re yet to find something we don’t like at Tawa.
Open daily 8am-11pm. Al Muneera Beach Plaza (800 8292).
The charming Irish watering-hole is renowned for its warm welcome, lively atmosphere and great late-night vibes, but you can also enjoy a fine feed here, too. Hearty pub grub is the order of the day and you will never go hungry. Whether you are here at noon or night, you will be well catered for by top tastes such as a full Irish breakfast, signature chicken wings, the British staple of fish and chips and a wide variety of soups and salads.
Open Sun-Wed 3pm-3am, Thu-Sat noon-3am. Al Raha Beach Hotel and Resort, Channel Street, Al Raha (02 652 4333).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Cooper’s Bar & Restaurant
The buzzing British-style pub has one of the longest happy hours in town, and the menu won’t leave you feeling short-changed, either. Don’t expect delicate finger food here, but rather substantial dishes you can really sink your teeth into, including a hunger-busting beef burger topped with poached egg and veal bacon and laced with hollandaise sauce. There’s also cottage pie, fish and chips, plus more sophisticated flavours such as Cajun seared salmon and seafood linguine.
Open daily noon-2.30am. Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, Khalifa Park area (02 657 3333).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Heroes
You are pretty much guaranteed a great night out at this loud and proud Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi pub and there are plenty of refuelling options to keep you up on your feet until the early hours (the venue stays open until 4am). Whether you want to get your hands on a juicy burger or a club sandwich or fancy feasting on British favourites such as chicken tikka masala, steak and kidney pie or bangers and mash with tasty beef sausages, you’ll soon be making a dining detour during your stay.
Open daily noon-4pm. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Hamdan Street (02 616 6132).
If sunsets are your thing, then this is the place to head. Sitting out over the waters of The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, the Asian restaurant offers al fresco food and drinks, surrounded by palm trees and pools – what more do you want? Well there’s a special three-course sunset menu to make the experience even more enticing.
Open daily noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 498 8443).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: BBQ AL QASR
Take a seat in a gazebo on the beach and enjoy some barbecued food with your loved one. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the sand between your toes and the sound of the lapping waves while you tuck into wonderfully fresh seafood.
Open daily 1pm-midnight. Emirates Palace, West Corniche (02 690 7999).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SMOKIN’ PINEAPPLE
A beach club and bar with its own wood-fired pizza oven? Sounds good to us. What’s that? The pizza oven is pineapple shaped? Even better. Oh, there’s also a huge swing out in the ocean, too. This incredibly relaxed venue is like no other in the capital, and it takes just ten minutes to get there from Saadiyat Island. The menu may be limited, but those pizzas are really, really good.
Open daily 10am-10pm. Zaya Nurai Island (02 506 6222).
Wonderful waterfront views are complemented by fresh tastes taken from the sea to your plate at this stylish eatery. The eye-catching Nation Riviera spot serves up a wide selection of seafood, showcasing Asian, European and Middle Eastern cuisine, with a generous sprinkling of flair. Top tastes on the extensive menu include the delicious crab burger, pan-roasted sea bass, a big roll call of sushi selections, innovative dishes such as yellowtail pizza and seafood truffle pasta, plus a number of options for meat-lovers among the dining party, including braised wagyu beef cheek, lamb cutlets and barbecue corn-fed baby chicken. Superb food, chilled-out vibes and a beautiful setting make for a fantastic culinary experience.
Open daily noon-1am. Nation Riviera Beach Club, Corniche Road West (02 611 0909).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: FINZ
The light and airy venue blends cool, laid-back beachside vibes with a fantastic menu of fresh flavours. Diners have the option of choosing their own catch of the day on display in the restaurant. Great bites on the menu include a superb plate of pan-seared scallops, served with a lovely butter cream, while there are a wide variety of dishes hooked from the sea, such as a flavoursome salmon, enriched by a tasty lemon-butter sauce. Those with a sweet tooth will be well satisfied by the fine selection of desserts that will give you the perfect excuse to linger a little longer and soak up the picturesque beachfront views.
Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm; 7pm-11.30pm. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 697 9000).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SAYAD
The landmark Emirates Palace provides a suitably opulent setting for this impressive seafood venue. Diners are transported into an enchanting under-the-sea dining space, complete with clear blue aquariums and stylish lighting, with panoramic sea views afforded by the elegant outdoor terrace. The eatery matches style with substance on a menu packed with flavoursome international fare, from oysters and clams to main courses such as lobster thermidor and beautifully fresh catches of the day. This is a brilliant dining experience to dive into.
Open daily 6.30pm-11.30pm. Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road (02 690 7999).
WINNER: BUTCHER & STILL
Another venue that we’ve talked a lot about and that’s because we’ve been enamoured with it from the day it opened. There aren’t many places that pay such meticulous attention to detail when it comes to décor and a theme, but this 1930s, Chicago-style steakhouse does it with aplomb. The staff are cool (and know what they’re doing), the chef is a force of nature and the food is sublime. A worthy winner.
Open daily 6pm-midnight. Bar open 4pm-2am. Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2444).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 55&5th, THE GRILL
A super-sleek, Manhattan-style steakhouse that delivers on atmosphere, style, presentation and flavour. The chefs here really know what they’re doing and turn out plate after plate of incredible food. Dishes don’t come cheap here, but when everything is so good, that is by no means a problem. Got for a steak from the Josper, you won’t
Daily 7pm-11pm. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (02 498 8889).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: NUSR-ET
When the hype surrounding #saltbae dies down, what is left is an incredible restaurant serving unbelievable cuts of meat by some of the best (and smartest) waiting staff in town. Yes, it can be expensive, and, yes, the #saltbae celebrity stuff seems a little exclusive, but in reality you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well here, and it’s a lot more welcoming than it appears at first. For top meat and a great venue, this deserves its place on the podium.
Open daily noon-midnight. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 679 9949).
THE TOP GONGS
WINNER: 99 SUSHI BAR & RESTAURANT
A Japanese restaurant which originated in Spain, this super-stylish restaurant has added an extra touch of glamour to the already-glistening Al Maryah Island dining scene. From the atmospheric bar area as you enter, to the terrace with great views, and everything in between, this place oozes class (we’re even a little bit obsessed with the doors to the toilets). Watching the chefs work meticulously to prepare the stunning plates of food is a joy, and as those dishes come out – one-by-one, each with its own comprehensive explanation – you’ll instantly be wowed. We know we were on our first visit.
Open daily noon-3.30pm; Sun-Wed 7pm-11.30pm; Thu-Fri 7pm-12.30pm. bar open Sat-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Fri noon-2am. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 672 3333).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: CHO GAO MARINA WALK
We love Cho Gao so were happy to see a new branch opened in place of the now-closed Yacht Club at the InterContinental. The venue has a great bar area, a spacious, funky dining room and a cracking terrace overlooking the marina. The pan-Asian dishes impress and the vibe is great.
Open Sat-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Fri noon-2am. InterContinental Abu Dhabi, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (800 423 463).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: LA PETITE MAISON
A quite-brilliant restaurant serving niçoise cuisine (that means French melanged with a bit of Italian to you and us). The name alone is enough to draw in the crowds, having already proved incredibly popular, and successful, up the road in Dubai. But this is a chain with a big reputation that does not get complacent. Expect super ingredients, presented simply but effectively. A more than welcome addition to the city.
Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 692 9600).
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
A new winner, and a very deserving one. Since opening, COYA has impressed us time and time again. We’ve been for brunch (a handful of times), dinner (more times), lunch (well, the deal is brilliant) and for drinks in the lounge (too many times, probably). On every single visit (all anonymous, remember) the service has been impeccable, the food delicious, and the atmosphere superb. The Peruvian cuisine is vibrant; full of colour and flavours that ping off the palate. The red snapper and truffle ceviche is a favourite, as is the yellowtail tiradito. The guacamole, made at the table, is exactly how you would want it to be, and the anticuchos, which come on a smoking grill, are delicious. When it comes to main courses, we struggle to choose. Pick anything from the Chilean sea bass cazuela to the wagyu sirloin and the king crab (this week’s cover star) and you’ll not be let down. End the meal with the salted caramel ganache and you’ll leave very happy indeed. Consistently brilliant, it takes something special to knock Zuma off the top spot (and also see off more strong challenges from others). COYA is just that.
Open Su-Thu and Sat 12.30pm-5.30pm; Sun-Mon, Wed, Sat 7pm-midnight; Tue, Thu-Fri 7pm-12.30am. Fri brunch 12.30pm-4pm. Lounge open daily 12.30pm-1.15am. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 306 7000).