With labels such as Enfold from Japan, Sofie D’Hoore from Belgium, and Lizzie Fortunato from New York on the list, Sheikha Alia Al Qassimi’s curation at Minbart, her fashion concept store in Abu Dhabi, is the first indicator that this entrepreneur has some seriously refined taste. Apart from her passion for design, Al Qassimi also has her pulse on the evolving dining scene in the capital, having grown up in Abu Dhabi. Here, she shares her insider picks for where to eat in the city, whether you’re looking for authentic Emirati cuisine or the best gelato in town.
For Traditional Emirati Food: Meylas
Whenever I have international guests who are visiting the UAE for the first time, I always invite them to Meylas to introduce them to our traditional Emirati food. The food reminds me of my grandparents’ lunches and dinners when we were young. Every dish at Meylas follows a unique recipe that has been prepared by Emirati mothers and grandmothers, which makes the dishes extremely special. The machbos diyay (spiced chicken with braised rice mixed with potatoes), fendal (fried sweet potato), and crunchy legeimat (fried sweet dough served with date syrup) with chai haleeb (our famous tea with milk) are my usual orders. I also love how the restaurant interior is so contemporary yet vintage at the same time; the restaurant has taken Emirati elements and modernized them. For example, the door of the restaurant and an interior column are original features of old houses.
Al Raha Beach
Tel: (+971) 2 444 8884
For the Best Gelato in Town: Vasa Vasa
I recommend sitting at Vasa Vasa during sunset and soaking up the views of Yas Island. The gelato here is the best Sicilian ice cream I have found outside of Sicily! Whenever I have guests in town and I’m showing them around Abu Dhabi, I always end up here for a refreshing pitstop. My favorite flavor is the hazelnut, which is nocciola in Italian. I also recommend the cassata and Sapori di Sicilia (“taste of Sicily” in English), which is made with candied mandarin, jasmine essence, lemon zest, and fruits. The cassata cake is very popular in the South of Italy and is on my list of must-eats. The main ingredients are ricotta, almonds, candied orange and lemon zest, and chocolate.
Al Raha Beach
Tel: (+971) 2 555 6484
For Gluten-Free Treats: Tawa Bakery
For those who enjoy eating light or have an allergy to gluten, Tawa Bakery is the place to go! The arancini (stuffed rice balls coated with breadcrumbs), gluten-free pizza, and Tawa’s famous Nutella brownie cheesecake are the dishes that keep me coming back! It is proudly the first gluten-free locally created concept of its kind in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates.
Al Raha Beach
For Something Gourmet: Hakkasan
If you’re looking to wear that outfit you’ve been saving for a special occasion, then Hakkasan is the place to do so. Set in the magnificent Emirates Palace, this is the most luxurious address in town. The atmosphere is very chic and the menu is delicious, including dishes such as the steamed red snapper with ginger sauce and the wagyu beef rib eye.
Tel: (+971) 2 690 9000
For Scones and Tea: Observation Deck at 300
For yummy scones with a selection of tea, my friends and I head to Etihad Towers’ 74th floor to enjoy the delicious food with views of Abu Dhabi’s beautiful skyline. Make sure to book a table just before sunset.
Tel: (+971) 2 811 5666
For Healthy Juice: Nectar
For healthy quick bites, I usually like to have my favorite antioxidant raw balls from Nectar, which is located in Bodytree Studio. I place my usual order, “Bounty Drink – cold, and not over blend,” every morning at 8 a.m. and pick it up before work. It contains raw coconut, dates, flax seeds, and almonds with some organic cacao powder, banana, and organic raw shredded coconut, which is a full breakfast meal for me. I also make sure to take some of my favorite antioxidant powerhouse raw bites with me to the office.
Tel: (+971) 2 443 4448