Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Sweet Greens: Abu Dhabi's eco-friendly and health conscious eatery

We meet the founders of a new restaurant in the capital where they are serving up food with a sustainable twist

“Nutrition meets sustainability.” These are the words entrepreneur Nikhil Hemnani uses to describe new Abu Dhabi eatery Sweet Greens, which he co-founded. If there was an official motto for the outlet, it would definitely fall along those lines. Located inside the clubhouse of Rihan Heights, the small restaurant spans only 45 square metres but it has much bigger plans.

Hemnani says they don’t simply want to be known for making a good restaurant.

“We want to be educational to the community, too, in terms of how to recycle and how to be environmentally friendly,” he says.

I visit Sweet Greens during its soft opening, sitting down with Hemnani and his business partner, Ahmad Ali Abdul Hamid, to learn more about their mission. The two friends met three years ago at Hemnani’s brother’s wedding, but soon found their common interests and diverse backgrounds made for a pretty good team.

Hamid worked previously in the engineering and construction industries, while Hemnani was more experienced with entrepreneurship, as he had already launched two start-ups in the UAE. And even though the pair had a stream of business ideas, starting a restaurant was the one that stuck. And so, Sweet Greens was born, an eatery in which they not only focus on championing sustainability but they also take a health-­conscious approach to food.

On the menu, the dishes are broken down by calories (ranging from a total of 300 to 600). It features salads, wraps, burgers, pasta and pizza, and each entry includes a full list of ingredients. Each section also has one vegan dish, as well as a create-your-own option. On top of that, there are nutritious smoothies and fresh juices, which are served with brightly coloured paper straws.

But there are options for those of us looking for a break from healthy food, too. For that, you can look to the “naughty” section, which doesn’t display the calories or any macros, and includes items such as a Cubano wrap or quattro formaggi (four cheese) pizza.

I decide to try two very different options: the vegan mojo wrap and the Cajun fiesta pasta. The former is a fresh, plant-based creation full of “sweet greens”, while the latter is listed under the “naughty” section. I’m impressed by how flavourful the slightly crunchy wrap is, and it also comes served with a hefty portion of salad. When I give the pasta a taste, I immediately understand why it is listed where it is on the menu. It isn’t the healthiest choice, but it’s delicious and certainly hits the spot when it comes to leaving you feeling satisfied.

Perhaps one reason why the food tastes as fresh and as good as it does is because of how they try to use only locally sourced ingredients. “We look to the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Service Centre – they work directly with farmers who produce all their produce in the country,” explains Hemnani. “So essentially we’re helping stimulate the agricultural sector of the UAE and focus on giving back to the country.”

This ethos also plays into Hamid’s personal interest in healthy eating, something he picked up after he started following fitness coach Joe Wicks on Instagram. Hamid was particularly fascinated by how easy the author made cooking wholesome meals appear. Wicks is famous for putting together many of his dishes in only 15 minutes.

As our generation grows, we want to create something for the future as well. We want our kids to do something better.

Nikhil Hemnani

“I was working in construction and I didn’t have much time to cook healthy meals,” Hamid explains. “So I started to follow him ... once I started to eat fresh and healthy food, I saw my productivity increase at work and so did my attention span.”

It didn’t take long for Hamid to realise the benefits of eating in a more nutritious manner. That’s why it made so much sense to him to open a restaurant that promoted the same goal. It took only seven months, from conception to execution, to get Sweet Greens ready, and it will officially open to the public on Friday, October 4. When that happens, the duo hope they can start passing on their message to the next generation.

In a nutshell (pun not intended), Hemnani says this message is all about achieving “environmental sustainability”. “We try to avoid plastics as much as we can in our takeaway packaging and the produce we buy,” he says. “As our generation grows, we want to create something for the future as well. We want our kids to do something better. We want these small elements to be part of our business, so we’re giving back to the community.”

Hamid agrees. “We want to inspire people to eat healthier and live a better life. This is something we can see ourselves doing for the rest of our lives and being really happy.”

Well, it certainly made me happy.

Updated: September 19, 2019 02:35 PM

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