Traditionally, Abu Dhabi always used to be in the shadow of neighboring Dubai, which seemed more glamorous, prosperous and sophisticated and generally attracted more international visitors. In the last decade, however, Abu Dhabi has grown significantly – when Sheikh Khalifa took over after his father Sheikh Zayed passed away, he invested extensively in tourism and infrastructure, loosening alcohol restrictions and allowing foreigners to invest in property.
Abu Dhabi has prospered ever since and is now one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in the world; its wealth notably visible in its many high-end shopping malls, modern skyscrapers, the Formula 1 track and luxury hotels. Home to the regional branches and even headquarters of many international organizations, plus a rapidly growing expat community has seen an influx in world-famous international high-end restaurants which have turned Abu Dhabi into a culinary paradise.
These days you can find over 1,500 restaurants in Abu Dhabi listed on Tripadvisor and you’ll have a hard time to choose only a few Abu Dhabi restaurants to eat at during your visit. From Michelin-starred restaurants like Frankie’s Italian, Hakkasan or Marco Pierre White Steakhouse to local gems, visitors can have truly unforgettable meals here.
If you are a foodie and on the hunt for the absolute best culinary experiences, the selection might be overwhelming, which is why I am sharing my recommendations for the top six restaurants you shouldn’t miss on a visit to Abu Dhabi with you:
Spice Mela has only been open for a few short months and already taken the #1 spot in TripAdvisor’s Abu Dhabi restaurant rankings. Situated on the second floor of the Rosewood Hotel, you’ll notice the floor-to-ceiling windows which make for fantastic views, and the simple but tasteful décor. The restaurant serves Pan-Indian cuisine, combining the varying culinary styles of Indian states like Punjab, Kerala or Rajasthan. If you are looking for a high-end Indian dining experience, this is the place to go.
Catalan is another superb restaurant at the Rosewood Hotel, and also opened in 2013. Similar to Spice Mela, it quickly became a favorite with locals and tourists alike, and the menu is filled with mouthwatering dishes from Spain’s Catalonia region. A Michelin-starred chef is heading the kitchen here, so you can expect the best quality and high-end versions of simple Catalan dishes like Paella. If you can’t decide what to order, go for the special seven-course tasting menu – you won’t regret it!
Another fine view to go along with your dinner can be had at Quest, which offers amazing views of the city and the Arabian Gulf thanks to its fabulous location on the 63rd floor of the Etihad Towers. The menu draws most of its inspiration from Asian cuisines, cooking up dishes with an eclectic fusion of Chinese, Malay, Singaporean and Japanese flavors.
If you were to try only one Italian restaurant in Abu Dhabi, it had to be Villa Toscana. The restaurant is located in the fabulous St Regis Hotel, and the food here is just as divine as you’d expect from a St Regis resident. The taste of Italy is nowhere as authentic as here, and the menu offers every Italian dish you could possibly crave from home-made pastas to crispy pizzas and sea food.
Li Beirut is another ethnic restaurant in Abu Dhabi that is well worth a visit. Specialising in Lebanese food, it is ranked among the city’s best restaurants and won the TimeOut Abu Dhabi Restaurant Award several times. You can enjoy dishes like crusted lack of lamb or foie gras kebbeh here, all while enjoying the fabulous vistas that the restaurant offers in addition to its exquisite food.
If you are a steak lover, you can’t miss Blue Grill. Located in the Rotana Hotel on Yas Island, it makes for a prime dining experience in a steak house that doesn’t do anything by the book. You can actually watch the star chefs preparing the steaks in the open kitchen, and choose from decadent Australian 1824 grain-fed beef steaks or classic American prime steaks. The restaurant itself is beautifully designed with wooden fixtures and giant rustic-chic chandeliers which create a wonderful atmosphere.