The UAE capital is often overlooked in favor of its glittering neighbor, Dubai. But, when visitors take the time to discover Abu Dhabi, they’re often pleasantly surprised by its traditional appeal and the modern marvels that give the emirate its charm.
Food plays an integral part in life in the Emirates. Read on to discover what must be tasted and experienced in the capital with our full Abu Dhabi Food Bucket List.
For a traditional feast, try Al Fanar Restaurant and Cafe
Food is a big part of the Emirati culture and to get your own taste of it, Al Fanar Restaurant and Cafe at Yas Island not only offers you a taste of traditional Emirati cuisine, but does so in a Bedouin-style environment that’s reflective of the region in days gone by. Try a selection of local dishes including raqaq and balalit ma khoboz wagafi to naghar nashef and jesheed.
The best street food can be found in Khalidiya
Whether it’s a shawarma (the Middle Eastern doner kebab), Indian chaat, Lebanese Manakeesh (savory pizza) or Sambousek (pastry), or you’re after a quick traditional Chai tea, the suburb of Khalidiya is where you’ll find the best selection. You can order by phone and pick up, or eat in and soak up the atmosphere.
If you want to splash out, Brunch in the Clouds is the pick
From the heights of the 48th and 49th floors, in what is the world’s highest hotel suite at the St Regis Abu Dhabi Corniche hotel, you’ll enjoy an elaborate spread in a private sitting in one of its palatial rooms. Feast on lobster, oysters, sushi and more, as well as dainty desserts and chocolates, all served to the table. While you’re enjoying the taste sensations, you can feast your eyes on some of the best views from the Corniche.
You can’t go past Le Beaujolais for a cozy meal
This French eatery is considered one of the city’s best kept secrets. Le Beaujolais is an Abu Dhabi institution and from its position within the Novel Hotel on the busiest street in the city. The friendly team serves up delicious food served with a smile.
Choose from a trio of celeb chef offerings at The Edition
Tom Aikens is considered one of the world’s most talented chefs and was the youngest chef to earn a Michelin star for the restaurant in which he worked (he was 26 at the time and working at Pied à Terre in London).
With plenty of restaurants bearing his name across the globe, Aikens oversees three eateries at The Abu Dhabi Edition hotel and all of them have a point of difference and offer exemplary fare at varying price points. Head to the hotel on the Al Bateen Marina and try Market at Edition, The Oak Room and Alba Terrace. You’ll be glad you did, and the location is fab!
Meat lovers can’t go past these three eateries
The Forge, Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse and Grill, and Boa Steakhouse are three of the city’s best options for a juicy steak meal. The latter can be found at the Eastern Mangroves waterfront promenade on the Dubai side of the city. The other two restaurants are housed within The Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal and Fairmont hotels, respectively.
Try the Brauhaus for traditional German fare
The closest thing to authentic German cuisine can be found at the Brauhaus. Popular with European expatriates and travelers, the eatery that’s located within the Beach Rotana hotel complex in the center of Abu Dhabi. They serve up rustic dishes including German sausages, sauerkraut and veal schnitzel. Its wide range of beers add to the appeal as does the traditional beer garden, and views from the terrace.
The ideal breakfast at Tasha’s
Al Bateen is renowned for its cafes and Tasha’s is one of the best. Tasha’s offers an all-day breakfast (9am-6pm). They are also home to some of the best coffee in town. Choose from menu items like the breakfast royale or hummus toastie, or simply enjoy a cappuccino by the water at your leisure. You’ll be glad you did.
The best Chinese food is at Emirates Palace
Global restaurant brand Hakkasan is renowned for serving up a blend of authentic Cantonese fare with international flavors and at its Emirates Palace outpost it’s no different. Not only is the food right up there with the best in the capital, but the outdoor terrace is also stunning and the bar is beautiful too!
The Al Mina Fish Market for fresh grilled fish
A visit to the local fish souk at Al Mina is an experience to behold. With plenty of fresh fish to choose from at the best prices, the mongers will also gut, scale and fillet your fish for you at a small cost. You can also get your fresh fish cooked and seasoned on the spot for less than Dh50 ($US14). The Dhow Harbour just outside is the ideal spot to eat and take in the traditional surroundings.
Dine in style at Cipriani at Yas Island
Whether it’s Formula One weekend or any other, Cipriani Yas Island guarantees a classy night out. Simple Italian food made to perfection is the name of the game here. If that’s not enough, the signature Bellini is as good as it gets and the views from the outdoor terrace brilliant. A visit here is not complete without trying the mouthwatering Treccia Di Buffalo Mozzarella with ‘Carnival’ Tomatoes and Basil.
Vineet Bhatia joins Abu Dhabi scene
One of India’s most celebrated chefs recently brought his Rasoi by Vineet concept to the capital and it’s flavoursome and fun. With more than a dozen restaurants to his name globally, Mumbai-born Vineet Bhatia is right at home at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers hotel. The decor is colorful and the food, well, it’s as good as you’d expect from a two-Michelin star chef. Top dishes are the coastal prawn stew with coconut, lemongrass kaffir lime and red chillies, butter chicken, and biryani.
Mosque views guaranteed
Li Jiang at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal hotel not only offers delicious classic and contemporary modern dishes, but it can also lay claim to having one of the best views of the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, especially at night. Dine on the outdoor terrace with the mosque as the backdrop. Or choose a table inside amid the vibrant interiors with a window to the open kitchen. A must for the dining bucket list if you’ve not been to Abu Dhabi before.
A Gluten Free eaters’ paradise in Abu Dhabi
Head to Tawa at Al Muneera Island for a 100 percent gluten free dining experience. Those who have restricted diets will be in their element here as the choices are endless. Whether you’re craving a burger and chips, a full breakfast, or a sweet treat, you’ll find it here. Choose from indoor or outdoor seating options. The staff are friendly and helpful, and the prices are not too expensive considering the offerings.
Beachside dining at its best
The Beach House at Saadiyat Island would have to be one of the best beachside dining establishments in the capital. This eatery is part of the dining collection at the Park Hyatt Saadiyat Hotel and Residences. They are located on the shores of the city’s most exclusive beach.
There’s even a dedicated ‘Little Ones’ menu for the kids. The restaurant is also licensed so you can have a vino with your meal, or a sunset drink before dinner. The Beach House in Abu Dhabi is one of the best spots to see an Arabian sunset.
Enjoy a sundowner and dinner at the Louvre
A visit to Abu Dhabi is not complete without a visit to the magnificent Louvre museum. The only cultural centre of its kind outside of Paris, the architecturally designed dome-shaped museum is full of incredible art with with works from Da Vinci, Matisse, Van Gogh and Monet.
A day in Abu Dhabi is best ended at the Art Lounge bar. Guests will appreciate the outdoor appeal and creative bar design. Sip on a cocktail as the sun dips and then head to the onsite Parisian brasserie Fouquet’s Restaurant and Marta Bar for dinner. Booking is a must.
Liven things up at COYA
This Peruvian eatery overlooking the water at Al Maryah Island is one of the most lively in town. The restaurant is decked out with beautiful interiors, and a beautifully stocked bar known as the Pisco Lounge. The team at COYA is particularly boisterous and creates a party atmosphere for its guests.
Brunch at COYA is a fun-filled affair, and during the winter months the best spot to eat is on the terrace. The ceviche selection must be on your list, and trust me, they have some of the best around.
Try Manna Land for a Korean feast
This gem is a little hidden but so worth the find. Manna Land is located within close proximity of the center of the city in the Al Nahyan area of the capital. The restaurant up great Korean (and Japanese) cuisine. It’s popular with locals and the business set and boasts private dining rooms and a main dining area. Plates here start from Dh55 and the restaurant is alcohol free. The bibimbap is one of the best in the city.
Cafe Arabia is an experience
For a great coffee and snack or a more substantial meal-time dish, Cafe Arabia is a good choice. Settle into a sofa and sip on a latte surrounded by a traditional Arabian interior. Or, enjoy the local and international meal choices and marvel at the colorful lanterns, and wall art.
Indulge in a Brazilian feast at Chammas
Considering that 80 per cent of the UAE population is expatriate, it’s little wonder there are so many international restaurants and Chammas is right up there with the best. Close out your Abu Dhabi Food Bucket List experience with the Brazilian Churrascaria (barbecue) eatery. This eatery is part of the Intercontinental Hotel and serves up mouth watering freshly barbecued meat and chicken skewers. The Chammas Bar is renowned for its Caipirinha creations. Plus, the South American music makes for a lively meal out.