Malls! Everybody loves them (and we really like them and their air conditioned comfort in this part of the world). Even zombies love them.
Which is why it’s always a mystery to see one that hasn’t quite found its footing yet, like the World Trade Center mall in the heart of Abu Dhabi. Opened in 2014, it’s split into a souq and a more traditional mall.
A quick visit to the souq side shows why they need to try something new. Heavy wooden doors previously blocked views of the interior, so you didn’t even know the place was open, and denied access to anyone with bags, buggies or mobility problems.
Kicking off a much-needed facelift, sliding glass doors have been installed, to allow such novel concepts as light, and access. There’s already a different feel to the place since I moved here six months ago.
Now focus has switched to enhancing the mall half of the Mall, which is why your correspondent found himself as their guest last week at the opening of their new dining concept, The Hub.
I demand to have some Bu!’s
Picture the scene. There are delicious and tempting mocktails on offer, and an array of press cameras snapping away, but with four new restaurants allegedly being opened, there wasn’t a scrap of food to be seen.
I really was about to go, possibly over the road to everyone’s favourite formica-tabled local landmark, Student Biryani, when there was an announcement that the rest of the evening would be spent on a walking tour of the new establishments, like some sort of culinary safari.
The assembled throng followed our guide down to the Mall’s 4th floor, where we found ourselves outside somewhere called Bu! (yes, that really is its name; although there’s a nice verbal pun to be had in saying you’ll meet someone at Bu’s”).
Let’s just get this out of the way upfront: Bu!, even with its exclamation mark, is going to be a gigantic smash hit no matter what I tell you. It’s like me tipping you off to this little movie you should check out in a few weeks called Captain America. It’s going to be just fine without me.
Kitted out like Gaudi’s teenage bedroom, Bu! is a slinky maze of bars (I found at least two; there could be more), nooks, crannies, booths, alcoves, a terrace, and a restaurant. It feels intimate, despite its cavernous size. Finding anyone, once it’s open and busy, is going to be your new first world problem.
The food is a stunning – whatever the Spanish for mélange is – of Iberian and South American flavours. I had a drink made with a Peruvian spirit I later learned is called pisco which was extraordinary.
In short, I am coming back. You will probably already be there.
Moving on up
Sad as I was to leave Bu!’s tuna-based deliciousness behind, we were heading up to floor 5 for a brief stop at the already-opened-but-now-a-lot-less-lonely Jazz@PizzaExpress (yes, that really is its name, @ sign and all).
We had been before – to its preview opening at the end of last year, and again as punters to try the festive brunch when my in-laws were visiting. It’s Pizza Express – what’s not to like? The house band, Uptown, remain the best reason to visit the restaurant. (with the thin crust Calabrese pizza which was being showcased last week, running them a close second.)
We kept our Fitbit’s ticking over by returning to the sixth floor, where newbies Tamba and Original Fusion awaited us.
Tamba is an Indian Indonesian fusion concept with a wicked bar and a great sense of humour. The first thing you notice upon entering is the giant bell above the bar, which I predict will become an Abu Dhabi icon in less time than it will take for someone to bang their head on it.
You will, I confidently predict, meet your Tinder dates “by the bell at Tamba”. I say this not because I’m arranging any dates myself any time soon, but because this is going to be an amazing special occasion venue. It’ll be first choice for not just dates, but birthdays, anniversaries, and business dinners of the “you’ll never believe this place is in Abu Dhabi” variety.
You may have noticed I love puns, so a banana and toffee puddings called “A Sticky Situation” will always find favour, even if the banana bit means I won’t actually eat it (Mrs LC did and declared it to be divine).
Literary-themed cocktails scratch a particular itch of mine, so present me with a wicked strong creation called ‘Rudyard Kipling’ and even before my second sip it was apparent that it is appropriately named. After all, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you’ll be a man, my son.
Tamba’s signature cocktail is the equally pun-tastic Darjeeling Limited, in which tea-infused bitters are mixed with sugar, prosecco and possibly a secret ingredient or two to make a delicious boozy cuppa. My regular fix of Earl Grey now seems positively dull in comparison.
I’m hoping there is much more of this japery to be found on the full menu and I can’t wait to return to check it out in full.
Winner winner, chicken dinner
Our final destination, Original Fusion, is aptly named. It’s a one of a kind for this city at least: a fascinating mix of Mediterranean and Emirati dishes giving new twists on local classics such as lamb spare ribs with harees, and camel ravioli.
But rather than look at my pictures, or read the menu it really needs to be experienced first hand, which is why it is Little City’s pleasure to be able to offer one lucky Abu Dhabi reader a voucher for dinner for two at Original Fusion.
1 May update: Thanks to everyone who entered, and especially to Saba Suria, who wins dinner for 2 at Original Fusion. Congratulations Saba – and be sure to check your inbox!