When it comes to the hipster dining scene, Dubai certainly has the edge with its specialist coffee shops and trendy cafes.
Some even have tongues wagging in Abu Dhabi with people willing to make their way up the highway for a taste of something new.
Two such places – Tom and Serg and Common Grounds – certainly set the bar high, and the duo behind them – Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez – arguably became two of the most well known restaurateurs in the local food and beverage industry.
But now we don’t have to make a trip for a taste of hipster food, because Sergio has stepped out on his own to launch Sanderson’s in Abu Dhabi’s The Walk at Al Seef.
The décor is striking: An assortment of rattan, wood, brass and marble accents combine to give a distinctly fresh and contemporary vibe, complemented by indoor plants and creeping vines with the occasional punch of colour from the comfy sofas and cushions dotted around.
It’s a formula that’s carried through into the food, too. Concise but appealing, the menu features just one page each for breakfast, lunch/dinner, sweets and drinks.
Everything sounds fresh with a few unique items such as green shakshouka pide and strawberry cheesecake profiterole.
Even the drinks are hip: The caffeine-free rainbow lattes are made with homemade plant milk and various colourful, natural flavourings such as matcha and date for a warm and comforting concoction.
Then there’s the horchata on ice, a light and healthier version of a milkshake, made with cashew milk, brown rice, cinnamon, cacao nibs and honey.
The epitome of light and fresh, the burrito-sized veggie rice paper wraps comprise a generous filling of mixed greens, wild rice, silken tofu and fresh parsley encased in translucent and delicately thin sheets of rice paper.
Sitting in a spoonful of sweet, rich tamarind sauce, it’s a beautiful combination of mellow flavours with a punch from the dressing.
Equally as flavourful, the lamb and quinoa salad is a generous and colourful serving of shredded carrot and cucumber, sweet pomegranate seeds and juicy, tender lamb, well dressed in a tahini vinaigrette that gives it a perfectly tangy touch.
The great thing about a light meal is that there’s room for dessert.
The tarte tatin – made vegan by omitting the ice cream and apple wafer – is beautifully presented. A whole poached apple stands out on a large circular plate, garnished
with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios, rings of dried apple, pumpkin seeds, rose petals and a drizzle of date syrup. Again, it’s light but certainly not lacking flavour.
For something sweeter, the dense but moist matcha yoghurt skillet cake comes topped with banana ice cream, a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and rose petals, and a beautiful miso caramel sauce.
It’s a great end to a satisfying meal that’s been full of funky beverages, Instagram-worthy snaps and fresh food.
Need to know
Location: Sanderson’s, The Walk at Al Seef, off Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street, near Khalifa Park
We say: Bringing the hipster café trend to the capital
Opening times: Daily 8am-10pm
Cost: AED 199 for two
Contact: 02 222 1142, wearesandersons.com
WORDS Rachael Perrett