x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Let the sun shine while you dine

We pick the best places to eat indoors without missing out on natural daylight.

Fanr restaurant at Manarat al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, is bright and airy. The modern and simple interior is interspersed with colourful artworks and ornaments.
Fanr restaurant at Manarat al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, is bright and airy. The modern and simple interior is interspersed with colourful artworks and ornaments.

When was the last time you enjoyed feeling the sun on your face or lingering in the light of day? As temperatures continue to rise, most of us seek refuge indoors, away from the fearsome glare and ferocious heat.

As we scuttle (head down, sunglasses firmly in place) from one air-conditioned space to another, it's all too easy to go the entire day without being exposed to a single ray of natural light. This isn't good for the body or soul and can leave even the most energetic person feeling lethargic.

Of course, given the part of the world we live in, there's no immediate solution to the annual issue of summer. But steps can be taken to extract the most enjoyment possible out of the season, starting with where you spend your meal times. The UAE offers a wide array of bright, airy cafés and restaurants that enable diners to experience the daytime without, in most cases, actually having to go outside. To help you get into the swing of things, we've rounded up a few favourites that may have slipped your mind.

Fanr

This restaurant on Saadiyat Island might well have been designed with the sun-starved in mind - the full-length windows mean that during daylight hours the space is flooded with light.

The interior is simple and modern: artwork and various ornaments provide flashes of colour and the high ceilings and mezzanine level ensure that the restaurant feels spacious, which does wonders for the general air of serenity.

The stylish Arabic courtyard, with its tinkling water features and low-lying sofas, looks rather appealing but with the mercury continuing to rise, you'd be better off admiring the garden from inside. The menu is varied with an international feel and while the food isn't likely to win any gastronomic prizes, if you fancy a peaceful breakfast or lunch it is well worth making the trek.

Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, 02 657 5888.

Pascal Tepper French Bakery

For those who are based in or around Media City, a visit to this newly opened bakery will add a dash of sunshine and French café culture to your day. The decor is not going to transport you back to that bijoux little spot in St Germain, but with large windows and an airy feel, it's a pleasant place to breakfast. Enjoy a coffee and viennoiserie for a reasonable Dh16, or while away the time over a selection of macaroons or a custom-made salad. The atmosphere is relaxed, there's a nice gentle buzz about the place and the staff don't hurry you out of the building the moment your plate is cleared. For office workers in need of inspiration, the free Wi-Fi is an added bonus.

Dubai Media City, 04 454 2408

The Yacht Club

With its cool, clean decor and laid-back ambience, the Yacht Club has long been a favourite place for a bout of post-work socialising. The outdoor terrace has always been a major draw, but it's worth remembering that there's plenty of room to sip drinks and pick at edamame beans inside, too.

Before it gets dark (at which point the lights dim and the tempo of the music is upped a notch) sunlight streams through the windows, illuminating the shimmering glass and shiny surfaces within. So sink into a booth, order a sushi plate or two and lap up the natural light while admiring those pristine boats bobbing away in the marina.

InterContinental Abu Dhabi, 02 666 6888.

Glasshouse

Often unfairly dismissed as past its prime or overlooked in favour of the Gordon Ramsay restaurant across the corridor, this European-style brasserie has undergone some changes in the past six months.

The alterations to the interior are superficial: thankfully the dusty bottles that once lined the walls have been done away with and the foliage that dangled close to the windows has been pulled back. Now, as befits its name, the restaurant is nice and light.

On top of an existing à la carte selection, the restaurant has launched a reasonably priced set lunch menu (Dh75 for two courses, Dh95 for three) with a choice of starters, mains and desserts. The food is simple and flavourful: think confit chicken and honey-glazed vegetable terrine to start, roasted sea bream with olive crushed potatoes for the main course and pineapple carpaccio to finish. It's worth noting that the ingredients are sustainably sourced (fish included) and if time is an issue, the restaurant promises to have you in and out within the hour.

Hilton Dubai Creek, 04 212 7551

Ushna

When temperatures allow, a table out on the terrace at Ushna can be among the most coveted in town. There's a good reason for this: with the calm, turquoise waters of the creek twinkling away and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque looming in the background, it's a rather splendid place to be.

All is not lost when the heat forces you inside, though. The decor is plush, regal even, and during the day, light filters through pretty, latticed screens.

Provided you're prepared to be a little savvy when you make your reservation, you should be able to bag a table close to the French windows. Here you can soak up the view while treating yourself to a light but perfectly spiced lunch - tandoori-marinated salmon with kachumber (fresh vegetables tossed in a zingy lime-and-mustard dressing). Otherwise, arrive in the early evening and enjoy chutneys and chaat as the sun sets.

Souk Qaryat al Beri, Abu Dhabi, 02 558 1769.

Cafe Arabia

Judging by the constant stream of customers through Cafe Arabia's doors at lunchtime, it's fair to say that word has spread. If you're based in Abu Dhabi and have yet to pay a visit, then consider your summer dining options instantly extended.

The white walls in this stylish converted villa create a refreshing sense of calm, as colourful lanterns twinkle prettily and a sense of relaxed elegance prevails.

The menu offers plenty of variety and the food is, for the most part, vibrant, tasty and wonderfully fresh.

The combination of signature fattoush salad, ginger tea and all-important daylight is just the ticket for soothing computer-strained eyes and rejuvenating flagging spirits.

Cafe Arabia, 15th street, Abu Dhabi, 02 643 9699.

The Thai Kitchen

This is, quite simply, a gem of a place. The restaurant is busy and buzzy, the staff are attentive and well informed and the menu is filled with light, zingy dishes, bursting with flavour.

Again, The Thai Kitchen is one of those places that most people tend to visit during the cooler months. When eating al fresco, overlooking the picturesque creek is de rigueur. Because of this, the sleek, smart interior is often unfairly overlooked. My advice would be to book a window seat to feel the sun on your face and see the water shimmering away in the distance. From this vantage point you can also watch the chefs working at their different cooking stations.

The restaurant has recently relaunched its menu, so look out for dishes such as fried frogs' legs with green peppercorns and basil, marinated sea bass cooked in pandan leaves and wing bean salad.

Park Hyatt Dubai, 04 317 2222.