Abu Dhabi restaurants have tended to swing between casual Middle Eastern joints and swaggering, sky-high hotel restaurants serving every cuisine you can think of. The byword for hospitality: overindulgence. But that could be about to change, as these days it’s possible to swap your gold-leaf afternoon tea for a cashew protein ball and a green juice. Here are the best healthy restaurants and juiceries in town.
If you’re after a quick lunch on-the-go, try Soulfull, a chain of casual cafés, decorated in almost fluorescent pea green, dotted across Abu Dhabi. Expect a menu of generous salads, protein bowls and grilled meats with tasty sides – like a clean-living Nando’s. The juices and fresh shakes are delicious, too, but come pre-made. Rather sweetly, its local phone number is 800-SOUL.
Shams Boutik Mall, The Arc Tower, 2nd Floor; +971 800 7685
In the brand-new Abu Dhabi Edition hotel, Market’s wholesome credentials are checked off by the pure white lighting, the hundreds of plants stacked on clean pine shelves and the shiny marble counters overlooking a brisk open kitchen. The menu, spearheaded by British chef Tom Aikens, moves fluidly from health shots and signature juices to Buddha bowls, poké and mains from both land and sea (if you’ve only got time for one meal, make it a power breakfast). Just outside, in the Edition hotel lobby, is the Market to-go counter, which sells glass bottles of juices and tiny salads if you’re in a hurry.
Abu Dhabi Edition hotel; +971 2 208 0000
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What started off as an Instagram account full of Abu Dhabi healthy eating tips and places to go has now gained a cult following. So much so that they’ve just opened up their own cafe in Al Bandar. Expect them to be practising what they preach, with healthy “junk food” such as tacos loaded with vegetables, and guilt-free stacks of pancakes. There are also Arabic-inspired dishes like zaatar quinoa bread and scones baked with coconut flour.
Al Bandar Clubhouse; +971 2 444 6990
Afghan meets Californian cuisine at this innovative restaurant and café. There are three branches across the city, including one “Raw” iteration and one in the Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island. At Nolu’s – the name is a portmanteau of the founder’s two children, Noah and Lujayn – the emphasis is on fresh, farm-to-table cuisine. Yes, there are the standard sandwiches, pasta and burgers that you’d find on most Abu Dhabi restaurant menus, but with some key additions: kebabs with Afghani brown rice; bowls with build-your-own grains and proteins; and Afghani main dishes that include saffron chicken. It’s healthy food, done in an unpretentious way.
L2 Rosewood Hotel, Al Falah St; +971 2 444 8080
Cold-pressed juices are the order of the day at The Raw Place, a relaxed take-out joint that has three locations across town as well as one in Dubai. All the juices are cold-pressed daily, which means they’re as nutritious as possible – plus the plastic bottles they come in are chemical-free. Also on the menu are nut milks, superfoods and light bites including raw, vegan, nut-studded brownies (naturally sweetened with dates) and freshly shredded salad lunchboxes.
WTC-Souk, Khalifa Street, Al Markaziyah; +971 2 633 4677
Primarily a meal plan and delivery service, Muscle Fuel also has a small restaurant in the Al Muroor district, where diners can watch meals being freshly prepared in the open kitchen. Dishes cater for every meal of the day: from quinoa bowls topped with scrambled egg for breakfast, to healthy lentil soup and bean and apple salads for lunch, right through to daily specials (burger steak and peri-peri chicken are perennial favourites) and, oddly, zesty mojitos – just don’t expect any rum in them.
Alfalahi Tower First floor; +971 2 666 6240
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Occupying a laid-back space in the Boutik Mall on Al Reem Island, Healthy Juicery is a specialist juice and smoothie bar selling brightly coloured juices, shakes and shots alongside fruit and acai bowls. Some items on the menu aren’t for the uninitiated, such as protein shakes and the medically dubious “weight-loss smoothies”.
Boutik Mall, The Gate District; +971 2 622 7997