Who says you have to go out to a five-star hotel for a good brunch on the weekends? There are plenty of independent options for a leisurely breakfast in Abu Dhabi, and new ones continue popping up every few weeks.
Tucked into a villa in a residential area not far from the waterfront of the United Arab Emirates’ capital is a café just over one month old. It’s called “Third Place,” and its name comes from the idea that most people have three locations where they spend time: 1) home, 2) work, and 3) a place to relax, read, study, or hang out with friends. Third Place sets out to be that third place.
You don’t normally walk into a shopping mall food court expecting to find delicious, healthy food.
Especially if that mall is the Madinat Zayed Shopping Center, one of the oldest enclosed shopping malls in the United Arab Emirates. Madinat Zayed feels very long-in-the-tooth for an ultra-modern capital like Abu Dhabi. Aside from its dozens of Indian-run gold shops, the mall offers little for most shoppers. There are a few perfume kiosks and plenty of stores peddling cheap, Chinese-made electronics.
The mall’s second floor food court is home to several American-style burger joints, as well as the uninspiring Biryani Hut and ChicKing, where most of the food is deep-fried.
But Madinat Zayed, perhaps surprisingly, is also home to what is quite possibly the finest Indian restaurant in the entire Middle East.
It’s easy to become disoriented in downtown Abu Dhabi’s Madinat Zayed neighborhood, a bustling area of mini-blocks and narrow streets crammed with cars, people, and every type of storefront imaginable, from mobile phone kiosks to one-room laundromats to curtain rod wholesalers.
It’s also easy for a new shop or restaurant to go unnoticed in the fray.
Unless you’re from Nepal and searching for authentic momos, that is. Recently, the capital’s sizable community of Nepalese cab drivers have been congregating in this neighborhood, chatting in the streets about a new restaurant that opened just a few weeks ago, filling a much-need gap when the nearby Nepalese Curry House closed earlier this year.
Most of the challenge of finding good food in Abu Dhabi is in knowing where to look – and then literally finding the restaurant.
Even though it’s located just off of a busy street in the Khalidiyah neighborhood, one of the capital’s outstanding Indian restaurants is easy to overlook. Anjappar has an illuminated sign that one can see only when standing directly underneath it (the facade and sign are partially obstructed by a shed that appears to house a utility box). And its door is nestled between several shops, including an Afghani bakery, a barber shop and a separate store that sells merchandise for barber shops – like combs, scissors and swiveling chairs.
If you can find it, though, Anjappar is worth the hunt. It serves some of the spiciest South Indian Tamil food in the entire United Arab Emirates.
There’s a new Saudi Arabian food restaurant in Abu Dhabi, and there’s only one thing on its menu: bukhari.
Introducing The Royal Bukhari, a Gulf-style fast-food restaurant that offers several variations of barbecued lamb, chicken and fried fish dishes all served with a Saudi specialty called bukhari.
You might assume that an Indian restaurant named “Peppermill” would serve fiery hot kebabs and spicy, sweat-inducing curries. Especially if the word “spice” is used no fewer than six times on the inside flap of the menu.
But the Indian colonial cuisine at Peppermill just isn’t all that spicy. One of the restaurant’s two Abu Dhabi outlets is located on the second floor of al Wahda Mall’s extension, near the capital’s bus depot on Hazza bin Zayed Street.
Peppermill is just a year old, and the furniture looks as if it could have been installed just yesterday. Velveteen purple, magenta, and turquoise chairs provide pops of color against the modern black tables and crisp white walls. During the lunchtime hour, the dining room is bright, with sunlight streaming through the tall bay windows accented with wrought iron spiral designs.
Like the space itself, Peppermill’s food is clean and rich in traditional spices and flavor. Perhaps that’s why some in Abu Dhabi have called this the best Indian food in the capital. Just don’t expect to be blown away by heat.