A slew of hotels opening in Abu Dhabi is great news for gourmands as new restaurants keep every taste, whim and craving satisfied.
Room for more
We all know that the capital is undergoing a dramatic transformation - as the countless cranes dotting the skyline and cement lorries blocking the right-hand lane remind us daily - but finally we will be able to taste some of that progress when a slew of hotels opens next month (something to do with some car race, apparently). New hotels surely mean a smorgasbord of new restaurants, after all. From now until the end of October, more than 10 new properties, all bubbling over with restaurants, will fling open their doors. To say it will be a welcome boost for local epicureans is a gargantuan understatement. Foodies desperate for somewhere new to try will be forgiven for drooling, pupils dilated in anticipation.
From all-day dining restaurants to poolside snack bars, steakhouses and seafood restaurants to contemporary Japanese joints and posh curry houses, the city will be abuzz with a heady infusion of new flavours. For every taste, whim and craving, there will be a new restaurant to keep you satisfied. Whether it's sea views, golf course vistas or a bird's-eye peek at the new F1 circuit that tickles your fancy, you've got it. And if it's celebrity chefs and restaurateurs that you're after, you're also in luck. So tuck in your napkin and step up to the plate as we take a sneak preview of Abu Dhabi's sparkling new restaurant scene, hotel by new hotel.
Stunning, futuristic and groundbreaking, the flagship hotel on Yas Island will be one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the capital, for architecture buffs and foodies alike. While from the outside, the pulsing LED display will apparently mimic a flowing gown blowing in the wind above the Formula One track, inside the hotel a host of restaurants will compete for your attention. There will be a comprehensive representation of cuisines, with eight outlets able to serve more than 1,200 people, alongside the obligatory all-day-dining restaurant (replete with an international buffet, live cooking stations and an outdoor terrace). As well as a Japanese restaurant with sushi bars, teppan tables and a robatayaki grill, there will be a rustic Italian concept with a wood-fire oven, and an Indian restaurant with a speciality lassi menu and thalis served on banana leaves. Add to the list an Arabic restaurant, a French patisserie, a contemporary Asian noodle bar and a seafood restaurant with excellent views of the racetrack and you have a hotel to rival anything in the country. Good luck with trying to secure a reservation on Grand Prix weekend. Yas Island, 02 501 6799. Opening date to be confirmed.
Abu Dhabi's Beach Rotana hotel has rightfully won a reputation for its fine food at restaurants such as Rodeo Grill, Prego's and Finz, so there are high hopes from these two properties on Yas Island. At the Yas Island Rotana, Blue Grill will hope to follow in the footsteps of Rodeo Grill as a steakhouse to be reckoned with. It will feature cuts of Prime Angus beef from Australia and the US, but if it also offers authentic Japanese Kobe beef like its sister restaurant, it'll instantly rank among the best steakhouses in the UAE. Rangoli is the hotel's subcontinental restaurant, offering north and south Indian food in a contemporary setting of warm earthy tones and fashionable fixtures and fittings. The Yas Island Centro is a business hotel with fewer dining options than its neighbour, but its all-day diner, c.taste, will be accompanied by an innovative delicatessen concept called c.deli, where people can eat on site or take their food back to their rooms. Yas Island Rotana, 02 501 3880; Yas Island Centro, 02 656 4444. Both properties opening on October 15.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and guests at Radisson Blu Yas Island will be well catered for at its Asymmetri all-day dining restaurant. Its Super Breakfast Buffet features more than 120 dishes, which would set up even the fussiest of eaters. Elsewhere, there's Filini Restaurant, serving Italian cuisine, from antipasti to pizza, in stylish and contemporary surrounds, and Shams Pool Bar, which offers a range of healthy drinks. But the one to watch out for is Zeeba, a Persian restaurant promising fresh seasonal ingredients and traditional Iranian food, from grilled meats and flatbreads to rice dishes and stews. The Radisson's parent company, Rezidor, is opening a second property on the island, which will offer a further two dining options. The Park Inn Yas Island will be opening Mint, an all-day-dining concept overlooking a swimming pool, golf course and the sea, while Amerigo's Mexican Bar and Restaurant will spoil us with a range of quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas and ceviches. Radisson Blu Yas Island, 02 656 2000. Park Inn Yas Island, 02 656 2222. Both properties opening in October.
Within five minutes' walk of the Yas Marina Circuit, featuring a 25-metre outdoor swimming pool and set next to the Links Championship Golf Course, the Crowne Plaza Yas Island is certainly a hotel for the physically inclined. But it also has five restaurants to help you undo all the good work you might do while getting active. Jing Asian is an all-day-dining restaurant with live cooking stations and a distinctly eastern feel, while Stills is a European-style brasserie with a range of simple yet hearty bar food. Meanwhile there's Barouk, a Lebanese restaurant run by the executive chef Danny Kattar, who will be offering Lebanese favourites such as waraq enab, fried kibbeh, hummus and tabbouleh. Views is a lobby lounge with stunning vistas of the golf course and mangroves; it serves simple snacks and mocktails. Sundowner is an alternative spot for refreshments and light snacks near the pool. Yas Island, 02 501 3054. Opening date to be confirmed.
With its Grand Prix circuit, high-profile hotel openings, golf courses and more restaurants than you can wave a knife and fork at, Yas Island might be getting all the headlines, but of all the hotels opening in time for the big race, this will be the one that gets gourmands' mouths watering. The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr will occupy a prime location Between the Bridges, a flatbread's throw from the Shangri-La hotel, and with views of the stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Like most five-star hotels it has a lobby lounge restaurant - Al Naba'a Lounge has high ceilings, water features and a tea sommelier on standby to keep you refreshed throughout the day. For Friday brunch enthusiasts, Elements restaurant presents bountiful buffets with food from the Middle East, Europe and Asia, plus live cooking stations ready to knock up your every craving. There's every chocaholic's dream at The Chocolate Gallery, which has been likened to an atelier, where artists of confectionery offer pastries, fondues, truffles and pralines alongside hot and cold chocolate drinks. And there are gourmet burgers and blended fruit juices at Poolside, which is situated where it sounds.
But the real fuss is being reserved for two of the highest-profile restaurants to hit the capital. The first is a joint venture between the champion jockey Frankie Dettori and the British celebrity chef, Hell's Kitchen star, restaurateur and sometime fisherman and game hunter Marco Pierre White: Frankies. The family restaurant has earned a reputation for its reasonably priced Italian food and relaxed ambience (not to mention its pianist) in Dubai, and now the concept comes to Abu Dhabi with a chilled outdoor terrace to enjoy al fresco dining during the cooler months. Not content with one restaurant at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Dettori's business partner has decided to go it alone for his next project, the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill. We are promised dramatic interior flourishes, including a backlit flame wall and an eclectic mix of traditional grilled meats and contemporary English food. We can't wait. Between the Bridges, 800 848 000. Opening on October 1
We've watched the area around the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri take shape over the past 12 months, and now Traders, the Shangri-La's sister property, is open. It's not quite as plush or blessed with dining options as its sibling, but its rooms are more affordable. What this does is attract more people to the area, and while its solitary all-day dining restaurant may not be what inspires them to stay here, the other dining options nearby at the souq, the Shangri-La and the soon-to-open Fairmont will be a huge pull. So what about its restaurant, Afyä? Well, it's what you'd expect from any all-day diner, with solid international fare in comfortable surrounds. Unspectacular, but a welcome option for breakfast, perhaps. Between the bridges, 02 510 8888. Now open.
With 408 loft-inspired rooms, Aloft Abu Dhabi will become the capital's second-largest hotel. The American brand, which will be the first in the region to offer self-service check-in, is situated at Adnec, so it's in a handy location. And while the hotel dispenses with traditional and perhaps outdated hotel luxuries such as concierges and room service to cut down on costs, it does have free wireless internet and access to computers with printers. A silver-service tea lobby is another of the "old-fashioned" aspects to go, but what about the rest of the food options - even cool and hip people have to eat, right? The place for a healthy snack is re:fuel by aloft, which will occupy a bright and airy space of sweeping pine and low-hanging ceiling lamps. The 24/7 pantry will be another place to grab a late snack before retiring to some of the trendiest and most reasonably priced rooms in the capital. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, 02 654 5000. Opening on October 25.
This one is for automobile enthusiasts who prefer to be out of earshot of thundering Formula One cars. It is more than an hour and a half's drive from Abu Dhabi's race circuit to this Anantara hotel's desert location, so it's nice and secluded; but with 206 units, the hotel is sure to be a well-populated option for sleeping and dining during the big race. The all-day-dining option offers Arabic classics from Lebanon and tagines from Morocco, not to mention theme nights and performances showcasing the local culture. The poolside restaurant will invigorate and refresh with food from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, while the Lobby Lounge reveals its traditional hospitality with strong Arabic coffee or kahwa, and herbal teas infused with mint. But it's the Rooftop Bar and Grill that could be the main draw at this oasis resort, where you can feast on seafood and steaks as you take in the magical vistas of lush gardens and a shimmering swimming pool in the heart of the sweeping desert.
The Empty Quarter, 02 642 8412. Opening in late October.