Sequence, Risk and Catan are only a few of the popular titles that can be found lining the walls of DNA Board Game Cafe in Khalidiya.
Located in Abu Dhabi's Montazah Tower, the cafe's interiors offer a striking contrast of navy blue and red with big round windows that let natural light flood in. Elsewhere, there’s greenery on the walls as well as plants in the corner, adding an earthiness.
The cafe is the brainchild of Delilah Celik and Abdulaziz Alyassi, both of whom have a shared passion for playing board games. The decor is also a reflection of the couple, they tell The National.
Celik says she’s a big Lord of the Rings fan, which explains the window stylings, while red is her favourite colour and navy blue is Alyassi's. Celik also loves retro vintage, a theme that can be seen throughout.
“The reason we went with a board game cafe theme is because we just love board games. It’s so much fun. And we're both very competitive,” says Celik. “So, we were playing board games probably seven, eight years ago and then we just wanted to open our own cafe.”
“DNA” comes from their first names, as, when they would play games together, their friends would chant “D and A”.
Currently, the outlet has more than 200 games that range from family-friendly to multiplayer. Some of them are strategic, while others offer more opportunity for social interaction.
There’s also a limited food menu on offer that features breakfast items such as French toast and pancakes, as well as sourdough toast options. Mains include a truffle burger on a black brioche bun and grilled tiger prawns or salad for those who want to eat lighter.
There are also cakes and desserts, as baking is another hobby that Celik enjoys. While there’s plenty of space dedicated to the games, there’s also a whole separate area for the baked goods. Partitioned from the rest of the cafe by a glass pane wall, the room is painted light pink with intricately decorated cakes on one side.
“I love baking. I used to bake but I just don't have time now. So other people bake [for us]. But we call the space the ‘cake basement’ and, originally, I did want it to be in a basement but I didn’t get approvals,” says Celik.
So far since opening in December, she says the cafe has had a warm reception. However, there has been some feedback on aspects such as parking, which can be limited in the busy area, as well as pricing.
Limited parking is available in the basement of the building, which people don’t always realise, and Celik explains the price point: “It’s Dh19 per person for one hour, then Dh29 the second hour and then Dh39 for all-day rates,” she says. “If you're having food and drinks, that's off the menu but we wouldn't charge you while you're eating and drinking. Board games would usually go after or before.
"We usually don't mix up the games with the food because of Covid and the games would get spoiled. You can eat before but there's no table fees and it's just what you're eating from the menu.”
Even though the space is new, there are already plans to expand to Ras Al Khaimah, where Alyassi is from. Celik also hopes to make more use of the "cake basement" by soon hosting cake decorating classes.
Overall, Celik says she really wants people to feel comfortable in the space, and is trying to build a sense of familiarity.
"It's just a beautiful place to come with family. There's just a cosiness," she says. "What I miss back home is there are little cafes that you'd find and everybody knows you by name. Like we're quite friendly out here."