“Why did the hipster burn his tongue? Because he drank his coffee before it was cool.” Barista Life
Coffee culture is serious business here in the UAE and while Abu Dhabi may have more than its fair share of coffee shops and cafes, it has until recently been lacking in those cool, independent venues that are abundant in Dubai. We may still not have as much choice as our neighbouring emirate but the capital has seen a significant increase in the number of homegrown spots popping up around the city.
Here’s a roundup of the great places that are changing the way we caffeinate, in no particular order of preference, here in the capital.
Coffee – 4.5/5 Instagrammable factor – 4/5
Already established on the Dubai scene, % Arabica made its way done the E11 to Abu Dhabi earlier this year. This speciality Japanese coffee concept serves coffee from their own ‘coffee farm’ as well as a selection of single-origin beans sourced from across the globe.
Not only is the coffee good but the sleek minimalist design is a winner, sacks of coffee beans give it an authentic feel and the branding is on point. I particularly like the corridor of private booths that’s ideal as a private working space, to relax with a book or have a catch-up with friends. While the selection of food is very limited the coffee choices are plentiful with a selection of espresso and drip based options. Centrally located just off the Corniche it’s easy to find and there’s plenty of parking opposite, it’s certainly very popular for takeaways too.
% Arabica, Al Jazeera Tower, Near Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times : Daily – 7:00 am – 11:00 pm Telephone : 02 677 7335
Coffee – 2/5 Instagrammable factor – 3.5/5
The interior maybe looking a little shabby but Artea Cafe, located in Al Seef Village Mall, still draws the Insta crowd due to its unique 3D coffee art. Fancy a milky floating cat or bear atop your beverage? Then this is the place for you but don’t expect the best service as our disinterested server couldn’t even manage to tell us what was available but merely said check our Instagram page. Not the best first impression!
The coffee is overly strong and there were so many spelling mistakes on the menu that we were put off ordering any food as we debated what ‘meet’ it could possibly be or what the vegetable ‘rap’ was indeed a sandwich or a rhyme. The foamy characters were super cute though.
Artea Cafe, Al Seef Village, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times : Daily – 7:00 am – 10:00 pm Telephone : 02 555 3339
Coffee – 3.5/5 Instagrammable factor – 3.5/5
Tucked away on the New York University (NYU) campus on Saadiyat Island, Blacksmith Coffee is definitely a hidden gem. It serves nice coffee, although it maybe a little bitter for my liking, the large space has a great vibe and is always teeming with people. The food selection is quite limited but the chocolate brownie is worth a try and I have heard good things about their lavender cheesecake. The customer service has been a little ‘hit and miss’ in my experience. Alongside all the regular speciality coffee choices such as chemex, V60 and aeropress there’s a regional date and cardamom latte that’s popular with local clientele.
It’s a great place to sit and read a book or work with plenty of sockets available and a nice communal space. As a campus based venue it attracts a lot of the university’s students and staff as well as the city’s digital nomads, expect to see lots of people huddled behind laptops. On a not so positive note every time I have a takeaway the cup has leaked as the lids are ill-fitting, bear that in mind to save you getting coffee all over your clothes and car.
Blacksmith Coffee, New York University Campus, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times : Daily – 8:00 am – 10:00 pm Telephone : 02 650 1881
Coffee – 3/5 Instagrammable factor – 2/5
The newest addition to the Yas Marina dining options, Boroughs offers range of coffee and cold beverages and is open from 5am on weekdays for your early morning caffeine fix. The interior is quite dated for somewhere so new and reminded me of a certain high street coffee brand but fortunately the coffee was better.
Owned by Vogue Fitness, the cafe is located under the gym and caters for fitness types with it’s range of healthy and protein infused drinks as well as those regular coffee drinkers. Food was limited when I visited but I was informed by the staff that there will be more options in the future. On a positive note it’s good to have a coffee shop on Yas Island that isn’t in the mall and it also has some outdoor space for alfresco dining.
Boroughs, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times : Sunday – Thursday 5:00am – 10:30pm Friday – Saturday 7:00am – 10:30pm Telephone : 050 261 7672
Coffee – 3.5/5 Instagrammable factor – 4.5/5
Foodshed serves specialty coffee using Ratios Coffee from Sharjah alongside its extensive farm-to-table style food menu. We went on opening day for a late lunch and again for breakfast and while the food and coffee, which I found to be very strong, were notable the service was hit and miss but I put down to the ‘soft opening’ phase.
This is more of a restaurant with speciality coffee options rather than a coffee house. The large wholesome, vegan-friendly menu offers lots of healthy options and caters for most dietary requirements and food intolerances. The vegan cinnamon buns, banana bread and fries were especially tasty (all worth a visit alone), there’s a good range of fresh salads and a rather delicious chocolate mousse. The light and fluffy pancakes are also worth a mention as is the striking monochrome tiled floor which is the perfect backdrop for those popular coffee and food shots for the gram.
Foodshed Restaurant, Bloom Gardens (next to Brighton College), Khalifa Park Area, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily 8:00 am – 10:00 pm Telephone: 02 671 1113
Coffee – 4/5 Instagrammable factor – 4/5
Cheesecakes lighter than air and tasty speciality coffee make Keki Japanese bakery located in Al Bateen worth a visit. If you are a matcha fan then this may be just the place for you.
Adorned with Japanese accessories, this quirky little cafe is intimate and cute with a nice vibe, everything is well presented and the service is attentive. The fluffy little cheesecakes are a must try, I sampled the original but there are many flavours to tempt including nutella and matcha varieties, the pink rose milk cake looked very pretty too. There’s an excellent range of hot and cold coffees on offer, try a iced Keki latte to go and a grab a Japanese loaf to take home.
Keki Japanese Bakery, Al Bateen Park, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily 8:30 am – 11:00 pm Telephone: 02 309 3999
Little Malibu Cafe
Coffee – 4/5 Instagrammable factor – 3.5/5
Enticed by their cool instagram photos filled with palm leaves, rattan chairs and cute accessories, Little Malibu Cafe was in reality a bit of a surprise. The well angled photos lead you to believe it’s much more spacious than the six chairs, three small tables and coffee bar it actually is. It may be bijou but it is trendy and the coffee and smoothies were delicious.
I question whether its location in Muroor brings much passing trade but I’m sure if you live or work in the area it will become a favourite haunt to grab a coffee and homemade cookie. I was informed that they were are planning to start serving breakfast items too and may already be doing that.
Little Malibu Cafe, Guardian Tower, Muroor, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily 8:00 am – 11:00 pm Telephone: 02 674 0086
Coffee – 5/5 Instagrammable factor – 4.5/5
This is the latest speciality coffee shop to open and it’s definitely been worth the wait. Located in the Al Zeina community, LOCAL serves delicious coffee from homegrown Dubai roastery Seven Fortunes and a range organic food such as paninis, muffins and salads supplied by Wheatfields.
It’s industrial meets modern interior is as instagrammable as its latte art. With its combination of concrete effect walls and floor, exposed brick and pipework, bright white tiling and a pop of neon may have you thinking you been transported to London or New York. As an added bonus this is not just a great coffee shop but in a first for the capital has three concepts in one with a barbershop and a soon to be open sneaker and streetwear store at the rear. It’s definitely the place for the coffee aficionados and offers a first-class iced Spanish Latte alongside all its other speciality options.
LOCAL, Block C, Al Zeina, Al Raha Beach, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily – 7:00 am – 10:00 pm Telephone: 02 555 3339
Coffee – 4/5 Instagrammable factor – 4/5
A relative newbie on the scene, Notes Cafe came highly recommend so expectations were high. The contemporary light, bright interior punctuated by bold, colourful artwork is an ideal place for that break from the office as it’s located within walking distance of the Two Four 54 buildings.
Notes coffee is strong, the service is efficient and the avocado toast with eggs was huge, tasty and good value for money but in contrast my dining companion’s omelette sandwich was a tad rubbery. Pop by for an artisanal flat white and stay for some delicious french toast or a slice of Nutella cheesecake. If you fancy something a little different they serve Nitro cold brew and dairy free charcoal and matcha lattes. Parking is an issue so don’t be surprised if you have to do a couple of laps before finding a spot.
Notes Cafe, Khalifa Park, near TwoFour54, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily – 7:00 am – 10:00 pm Telephone: 02 644 4795
Coffee – 3.5/5 Instagrammable factor – 4/5
Another newcomer this year is Rain Cafe, a trendy, boldly coloured weather themed coffee shop with clouds hanging from the ceiling. The coffee is strong and the service was haphazard due to the staff concentrating on the frequent takeaway orders rather than the dine-in customers. It took three attempts to get my coffee and brownie order correct but while the coffee may have been too strong/bitter for my taste, the salt topped sweet treat was good.
I will give them another chance with a return visit as I liked the decor and concept but definitely when it’s cooler as the parking nearby was hit and miss due to all the cars erratically parked waiting for their takeaway orders.
Rain Cafe, Al Wahda area, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily 7:00 am – 10:00 pm Telephone: 02 555 3339
Coffee – 4/5 Instagrammable factor – 3.5/5
Firstly don’t be put off by the name, Steroid Cafe is so called due to its location adjacent/inside Improve Fitness. This dimly-lit, industrial space has an extensive coffee menu with so much choice it’s almost overwhelming.
This cafe offers everything from espresso to syphon and pretty much all other brews in between including bulletproof, the brewed coffee, favoured by fitness fantastics, that’s combined with grass-fed unsalted butter and MCT coconut oil. As expected in this gym inspired environment there’s lean cuisine and bulk up options with steak and eggs a popular choice as well as plenty of salads and healthy protein enriched snacks.
Steroid Cafe, Improve Fitness Center, Al Maqtaa, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily 7:00 am – midnight. Telephone: 02 555 7146
Wake Up Cafe
Coffee – 4/5 Instagrammable factor – 3/5
A cute neon sign and good coffee make Wake up Cafe worth the drive but don’t expect to relax and enjoy your preferred beverage as there is no seating. This is purely a takeaway only place and the food choices are limited so set your expectations accordingly. There’s a good choice of hot and iced coffees, iced teas and sweet bites.
The coffee is good and the staff are really friendly, perfect to grab and go on your way in or out of the city. You may also come across their coffee cart as they are always at events around the capital.
Wake Up Cafe, Al Muallah Building, Muroor Street, Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi. Opening Times: Daily 8:00 am – 11:00 pm Telephone: 02 553 3355
I visited all these venues and all the views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2018. All rights reserved. Additional photos of Blacksmith Coffee and Steroid Cafe used with courtesy of the respective cafes.