Please note that due to current restrictions some of the locations featured below may be closed for the foreseeable future, timings may be subject to change or they may offer a limited menu.
From traditional restaurants serving local Emirati dishes to Michelin-star dining, foodies will not be left hungry when dining out in Abu Dhabi. Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese cuisine tend to dominate the menus but there’s plenty of Asian and Western options, too. While in Abu Dhabi, take the opportunity to taste local Emirati and Gulf dishes – infused with flavour-filled spices from cinnamon to saffron and plenty of fruit and nuts.
Here, we take a look at some of the city’s best restaurants and the must-try dishes while in Abu Dhabi.
Must-try food and drink in Abu Dhabi
If you had to describe Abu Dhabi’s traditional cuisine in three words it would be rich, flavourful and aromatic. While you’ve likely sampled falafel, hummus and shawarma thanks to their worldwide popularity, there are several other dishes that you simply can’t go without trying when holidaying in the UAE.
Best to start with the UAE’s national dish of UAE: Khuzi. A portion of roasted lamb is served on a bed of spicy rice and topped with raisins, vegetables and nuts. The spices used – typically cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and nutmeg – create a rich flavour. And while it’s typically reserved for special occasions, you can often find it on the menu at many restaurants at all times of the year.
Craving something sweet? We recommend buying a portion of luqaimat, a popular treat during Ramadan. These delicious fried dough balls are similar to a doughnut but infused with cardamom and saffron before being covered with date syrup. They’ll satisfy any sweet tooth with their doughy yet crispy texture and sugary syrup.
A popular breakfast dish throughout the region, Balaleet is a mix of sweet and savoury flavours. Thin vermicelli noodles are seasoned with sugar, nuts, rose water, pistachios and cinnamon and then topped with an egg omelette for a salty contrast.
Simple yet succulent, Saloona is a hearty meat-based stew – chicken, beef, lamb or even fish are popular choices. The meat is cooked in a generously-seasoned broth with sauteed garlic, onions, coriander and vegetables. It’s typically accompanied by rice or bread.
A sweet and creamy dessert, Esh Asarya is one of the most popular desserts in Abu Dhabi. Very similar to a cheesecake, the toasted bread base is soaked in rosewater, orange blossom and lemon juice before being topped with cream. It’s often sprinkled with crunchy pistachios giving a contrasting crunch to the rest of the dessert.
The best restaurants in Abu Dhabi
There is an abundance of restaurants to choose from in Abu Dhabi, ensuring you don’t have to go far to satisfy your hunger. Whether you want to experience al fresco dining in the desert or an upmarket meal in a contemporary restaurant, there’s plenty of options to suit your preferences and price range.
Best for traditional Emirati cuisine
Inspired by 1960’s Dubai – when the city was a small town on the Arabian Gulf – and full of rustic charm, Al Fanar is a go-to spot for many Emirati families and local tourists.
On the menu you’ll find traditional savoury treats, including lamb koftas with freshly baked flatbread, shrimp stew served with white rice and pan-fried vegetable hamasa.
A popular chain with branches across the UAE and the UK, this particular restaurant is located at the entrance of Ferrari World at the Yas Mall, allowing you to mix shopping and entertainment with your dining experience.
Best for Arabian dining in the desert
In the desert dunes outside Abu Dhabi, Al Maqam –located in the Arabian Nights Village – offers a unique dining experience
Meaning ‘gathering place’ this restaurant draws on a traditional Arabic majlis style with floor-level and sunken seating and a palm-thatched terrace with fire pit during the cooler months.
Live cooking stations including one for bread making and spit roasts serve up Emirati and Arabic dishes as well as international options. And whether you’re dining as a couple or a family, you’ll enjoy the live entertainment from musician to belly dancers and henna artists.
COYA Abu Dhabi
Best for dinner with a date
A Peruvian restaurant on Al Maryah Island with views over the water, COYA Abu Dhabi is the place in Abu Dhabi for cocktails and ceviches.
Décor is cool and contemporary, the Incan-inspired menu draws influence from Spain, Japan and China and there’s even a pisco library! For dishes packed with flavour, try the fresh sea bream or the rich amberjack and truffle.
The best places for Friday brunch in Abu Dhabi
The best way to kick off the weekend in Abu Dhabi is with an extravagant Friday Brunch. Like neighbouring Dubai, the brunch scene in the UAE’s capital goes beyond your standard avocado on toast with everything from seafood platters and BBQ steaks to dessert stations on offer – accompanied by bubbles and cocktails if you so wish.
Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Typically, this bucket-list worthy brunch offering, at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi, puts on a standout buffet selection featuring everything from freshly caught oysters and decadent caviar to creamy cheeses and desserts. However, this has changed recently and you can now book a private dining experience in a truly luxurious setting from noon, with views over the Arabian Gulf. Tuck into freshly rolled sushi, steaming lobster and rich chocolate desserts, as well as glasses of bubbly to wash everything down.
Giornotte at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi
On Friday afternoons at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, guests can tuck into themed brunches boasting live cooking stations, a la carte desserts and bountiful selections of international cuisine to tuck into. Giornotte typically serves up Mediterranean dishes with a Middle East twist with a focus on fresh seafood caught locally and freshly baked breads that you'll think about long after your brunch experience is over.
Olea at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island
Enjoy a classy and tasty brunch at Olea where innovative cuisines are paired with wine and cocktails. Take a seat on the outdoor terrace and be serenaded by the jazz tones of Naz Holland. We love the rotisserie duck covered in pineapple, smoked salmon and the tiramisu martinis!
Frangipani at Zaya Nurai Island
Staying at the Maldivian-style Zaya Nurai Island just a short speedboat ride across Arabian Gulf from Saadiyat Island? Then your go-to brunch destination is the laidback and beachy Frangipani. The menu is influenced by the flavours of the Middle East, Asia and the West, with freshly prepped stations serving tandoori BBQ to fresh seafood – we love the tandoori cauliflower!
Discover your perfect Abu Dhabi getaway – with direct flights that take just 7 hours from the UK with our preferred airline partner, Etihad Airways.