x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Khalidiya - Abu Dhabi's new food destination

New restaurants opening in fancy hotels is all well and good, but what's more exciting is when an area of town independently starts to develop a reputation for its eating spots.

The Shish Shawerma restaurant is extremely popular with evening diners. Ravindranath K / The National
The Shish Shawerma restaurant is extremely popular with evening diners. Ravindranath K / The National

New restaurants opening in fancy hotels is all well and good, but what's more exciting is when an area of town independently starts to develop a reputation for its eating spots.

We recently heard word that if you wander down to the Corniche end of Khalidiya, among the tall buildings and narrow streets, you'll find a clutch of restaurants and cafes - some new, some well established - that are helping to generate a real buzz about the place. So, we decided to explore further.

1. APi CAE Gourmet

Let's begin this eating tour at APi CAE Gourmet (www.apicae.com, 02 666 8909), the Italian restaurant that opened a couple of months back in Block A of Khalidiya Towers, because there is much to like here; the staff are friendly, the spacious room has a modern feel and it's full of light.

A counter at the front displays different types of freshly baked bread as well as tarts, pizzas, cakes and pastries and there are also salads and Mediterranean-style main courses on offer. Last week, we perched on a stool and really enjoyed a slice of turkey and smoked cheese pizza (Dh10) and we've since heard people raving about the insalata di zucca (pumpkin and feta salad) and the tiramisu.

Gergana Konova, the co-founder of APi CAE, describes the area as "very nice and up and coming" and says: "We chose the location due to its proximity to the Corniche. The area itself is very respectable and we were able to secure valet parking. There is also a lot of residential and company buildings here as well."

2. Cafe Lazzaro

If you leave APi CAE and turn left when you walk out the door (heading towards the Corniche), then a few strides down the street you'll come to Cafe Lazzaro (02 639 0929). Now, let's not get carried away; the interior does feel a bit dated and the blueberry muffin that we tried certainly wasn't the best in town. However, the chairs are comfy, there are plenty of newspapers and magazines lying around and it's a decent enough place to stop for a cup of coffee. Note that among the soup, salad, pasta and fish dishes on the menu there's also the rather more unusual option of a whole lamb stuffed with rice, yours for Dh950.

If that doesn't strike your fancy - and in truth there are more exciting places to eat along this strip - then meander onwards until you come to a mini junction. If you're facing towards the Corniche, Mama Care will be on your left and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi will be in front of you, on the right. Take a left on to Street 3.

3. Saudi Cuisine VIP

Head down the road and you'll soon chance upon Saudi Cuisine VIP (02 665 5355). If you've visited the original Saudi Kitchen on Defence Road, then you'll probably be pleased to hear that the food and prices are the same, it's just the decor that's had a bit of a makeover (hence the VIP in the title, we fancy). Note that while the menu is relatively short (heavy on the meat and rice), the portions are beyond generous.

4. Shish Shawerma

For something a little lighter, Shish Shawerma (02 650 5576) is well worth a visit. We're clearly not the only ones that think so; this trendy looking shawarma joint gets so busy in the evenings that residents of Corniche Towers often find themselves struggling to find a parking spot. The shiny black and orange decor, cranked-up music and quirky packaging mean that a visit here is fun; we advise leaving your diet at the door.

The bread here is particularly good and while you can have it stuffed with all manner of different fillings - from Kraft cheese to roast beef to labneh with zaatar - you can't go wrong with a traditional chicken shawarma sandwich (Dh10). Providing you've got a bit of an appetite, you might just be able to manage a caramel crepe to finish.

5. Camacho

If, however, you're hungry for something a bit more unusual, then do try the Italian restaurant/sushi bar Camacho (www.camachorestaurant.com, 02 650 5600). Granted, we're not entirely sure of the reasoning behind offering a full menu's worth of Mediterranean dishes alongside an equally sizeable list of Japanese inspired items. The restaurant and its website do promise a "flavourful adventure with every visit", so perhaps the intention is to keep customers on their toes. We haven't sampled any of the Italian dishes yet, but can report that the sushi, sashimi and miso soup are all worth trying.

6. Dukkan Falafel

Moving onwards, a couple of doors down you'll find Dukkan Falafel (02 666 2939). If time is short and you need to grab lunch on the run, you can pick up a decent enough falafel sandwich here for Dh6. In fact, why not pay the four dirhams extra to upgrade to the "special bread" version?

7. Yogoday

By now, it must be time for dessert. Follow the fluorescent green Yogoday sign and slip inside this futuristic-looking frozen yogurt bar for a fat-free, low-sugar treat. Mohamad Shanti, the managing director for Yogoday, says that the location of the company's latest store is a real bonus. "This area of Abu Dhabi is known to all as the most prestigious part of the Cornice. I think it already has a magical feel to it, especially in the evening, but with the attention of the authorities there can be improvements. It reminds me a lot of Manhattan."

eshardlow@thenational.ae