In Abu Dhabi, some of the best places are the ones you’d never come across on a daily basis. We’ve uncovered some of our favourite small spots that we think are worthy of sharing from cafes to speciality stores
You wouldn’t think that when you stop off at a petrol station, you’re going to get authentic, homemade Malaysian food. But Mamak is out to disprove that your fuel stop has to be coupled with a pit stop at a greasy fast food chain.
In Malaysia, mamak stalls are a cultural staple, acting not only as a place for people to grab food at any time of day, but also as a social spot to watch football matches and catch up with friends. Abu Dhabi’s own Mamak at the Adnoc petrol station on Yas Island is typically packed with Malays and Indonesians – a great sign of authenticity, we say. We love the fragrant rice dish, nasi lemak, a steal at around AED 15. The roti pisang, a Malaysian style paratha filled with banana, and roti kaya, paratha filled with a sweet coconut jam, are equally as delicious. Adnoc, Yas Island and Autoserv, Khalifa Park. Daily 7am-midnight. Contact: 02 563 1525 or follow @mamak.ae on Instagram
Even if you’ve heard of this place, you might struggle to find it. Set up by Abu Dhabi resident Vladimir Nabusevschi, the small café, situated at the furthest end of Mina Zayed, features handmade countertops, tables and artwork that give the place a homely and eclectic feel. You can order a coffee or one of the signature juice concoctions – which feature funky names like Lazy Panda and Lost Name Pinky – then grab a game off the shelf and enjoy a lazy afternoon with friends. The company also offers personalised juice detox programmes. Shop 28, Mina Zayed. Daily 6pm-midnight. Contact: 050 551 2911, famous-juices.com
Tucked upstairs above Raw by Nolu’s in Al Seef, it would be easy to miss the sign to this boutique fitness studio. But once you find it you’ll be rewarded with a gym that houses a workout studio, cycling room and, best of all, a rooftop space for calisthenics and yoga. With colourful graffiti adorning the walls and a slew of equipment including TRX systems, free weights and a bar rig, it’s a great place to enjoy a workout, whether you’re joining a kickboxing or hatha yoga class or freestyling it with a workout of your own. Prices vary. Al Seef Resort and Spa by Andalus, off Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Street, near Khalifa Park. Sat-Thu 6am-9pm, Fri 8am-1pm. Contact: 02 444 5543, sweatuae.com
The Yoga Studio
Nestled in the Royal Stables, itself a reasonably unknown location, this purpose-built studio is surrounded by lush greenery and the sound of chirping birds, setting the right mood as you step foot into the tranquil space. The small studio features just two yoga rooms, but when the weather’s nice, some classes will move outdoors into the courtyard.
Styles include vinyasa, hatha and yin yoga as well as Pilates, meditation, fitness fusion, laughing yoga, alignment sessions and yoga zoo, a class dedicated to kids. With no website or social media platforms, it’s difficult to keep track of class times so it’s best to call or pick up a schedule in person. From AED 70 for group sessions. Al Saada Street, near General Women’s Union, Al Mushrif. Sat-Thu 9am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm. Contact: 02 447 7735, email@example.com
Going once, going twice, sold! Did you know there was an auction house here in the city? If you’re looking to pick up a bargain or fancy seeing what an auction is all about then this is the place to go. You can inspect auction items throughout the week before the sale by checking the online schedule, and can even get experts to value your items. Plus with monthly auction themes you never know what might go under the hammer that could pique your interest, whether it’s antique jewellery or a piece of art. 2107 Addax Tower, Reem Island. Sun-Thu 9am-6pm. Contact: 02 626 4666, estuaryauctions.com
The Dock, Cultural District
Located a stone’s throw from Louvre Abu Dhabi, this hip little hangout boasts picturesque views of the aforementioned museum, dozens of Fatboy bean bags and walkways leading to play parks. Plus, with food and beverage options including Arabica coffee, Yellow Brick Road, Andiamo! and new pop-ups coming and going on a regular basis, you can grab a refreshing drink or a bite to eat and swap the busy city for a more relaxed space. Next to TDIC Headquarters, Cultural District, Saadiyat Island. Food truck opening times vary. Visit: facebook.com/thedockculturaldistrict
Al Andaleeb Recording
Record shops are a dying breed. So imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon this modest store. Inside is a genuine trip down memory lane, with stacks and rows of cassette tapes and CDs of Arabic artists on racks, shelves and even on the floor. But that’s not all, as this record store also carries Hindi titles and select collections of pre-loved foreign albums from bands including Soundgarden, Skid Row, Testament, and even Filipino acts such as the Eraserheads and Lea Salonga. Dihan Street and Muroor Road, next to Burgerista, Al Zafranah. Daily 8am-1.30pm and 4pm-midnight. Contact: 02 448 2100
Kingdom Saba Yemeni Honey and Herbals
Popular in this region, Yemeni honey is known for its great taste and natural and chemical-free quality. This small shop carries an assortment of Yemeni honey, ranging from pure to mixed varities. Not sure what type of honey to buy? Don’t worry, as the amiable shopkeeper is more than happy to oblige for a taste test.
Complementing the sweet treats is a selection of herbs, spices and nuts also for sale. Muroor Road, near AG Hotel. Daily 10am-2pm and 4pm-10pm. Contact: 056 616 6604
Get your caffeine fix
District 10 Café
If you’re serious about your coffee then this place is worth searching out. With preparation methods including the Aeropress, Chemex and cold brew, you’ll get your caffeine fix the way you like it.
The small(ish) venue, with its stripped-back and on-trend interior, is a possible lunch destination too, with a selection of pre-prepared salads and wraps on offer – just be warned, these sell out quickly.
If you’re a bibliophile there’s a small selection of Arabic language books at the back of the store. Amec Building, twofour54, near Brighton College. Sun-Thu 7.30am-11pm, Fri-Sat 9.30am-11pm. Visit: instagram.com/d10cafe
Coffee isn’t just a drink. The concept of gathering over a good cup brings with it the idea of laughing with friends and spending time together. That’s the spirit the team at
the newly opened Kopi Ketjil hope to embrace.
Bringing its beans and brewing techniques from Indonesia, the unique stall serves artisanal coffee from concentrated cold drips to avocado coffee – yes, really.
Everything is authentically Indonesian here, from the wood used to build the bar, to the beans used to prepare the coffee and the people actually making it.
You can also play a game of chess made from Indonesian hardwood, shop for handicrafts and enjoy a bite to eat like kaasstengels, a type of cheese cookie, or almond lapis legit, known as a thousand layer cake. Marina Mall, breakwater. Sat-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Contact: 02 304 8263, kopiketjil.com
Wake Up Café
This boutique store is new to the coffee scene in the city and specialises in a range of caffeine-fuelled beverages including the sea salt caramel iced coffee and karak latte as well as more conventional drinks like Americanos, cappuccinos and the flat white. For hungry visitors you can sample the all-day breakfast options including the scrambled muffin, freshly made cone breads filled with Mediterranean chicken or mac n cheese, plus some sweet treats, too. Al Muallah Building, Muroor Road, Al Nahyan. Sat-Thu 8am-11pm, Fri 8am-midnight. Contact: 02 553 3355, instagram.com/wake.up.cafe