In the UAE, new restaurant openings seem to happen around the clock.
However, it already looks like 2021 is going to be busier than usual as many restaurants, previously slated to launch in 2020 but postponed because of the pandemic, are now turning up their ovens.
With the first quarter of the year over, here's a look at some of the coolest new openings that have caught our eye.
In Abu Dhabi
1. Brunch & Cake
This year, Brunch & Cake opened its third (and largest) UAE location in Marsa Al Bateen Marina, so residents of the capital can sample superfood smoothies, colourful pizzas, pastas and burgers with water views.
The Abu Dhabi outpost serves some exclusive items, such as New York cheesecake-style ricotta pancakes, pepperoni pizza with chilli honey jam, deep-fried pizza bites and burrata toast.
Sundays to Wednesdays, 8am-10pm, Thursdays to Saturdays, 8am-10.30pm; Marsa Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi; 800 472 6362, brunchandcake.com
2. Kingston 21
Fans of Jamaican food can now head to this new venue at Al Raha Beach for their fill of ackee and salt fish and jerk chicken. Kingston 21 opened doors mid-April, and prides itself on being the first authentic restaurant of its kind in the capital, as it is Jamaican-owned and run.
On the menu are plenty of hearty Jamaican dishes such as jerk barbecue wings and jerk chicken, curry goat, plantain chips, oxtail stew and traditional toto. Meanwhile, the interiors are laid-back and casual, with reggae posters and outside seating area with water views.
Mondays to Thursdays, noon-11pm, Fridays and Saturdays, 9am-11pm, closed on Sundays; Al Raha Beach, Abu Dhabi; 02 546 8500, kingston21.ae
3. Montauk Boutique Cafe and Restaurant
Serving up Long Island beach house vibes, this restaurant features a living room-style dining area on the first floor, and a bakery and terrace on the second.
The menu pays tribute to Arabian heritage and incorporates wholesome ingredients and minimal sugar. Think spicy grilled garlic prawns, harissa and sun-dried tomato chicken, double-stuffed baked sweet potato, grilled Canadian lobster, and spiced lamb chops. Dishes can be customised for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free and low-fat diners.
It looks like Montauk has all the makings of a breakfast hot spot, too, with the menu featuring everything from avocado and beetroot cheese toasties, to scrambled egg shakshuka.
Open daily, 3pm-3am; Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi; 02 546 6255, www.instagram.com/montaukabudhabi
4. Medi Terra
This new haunt serves up Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and serene waterfront views. The family-friendly restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves simple, wholesome food, with a focus on Italian cuisine.
Head there if you're craving dishes such as calamari with lemon aioli, basil arancini filled with cheddar and mozzarella, or hearty pizzas, pastas and even sliders.
Sundays to Wednesdays, noon-11pm, Thursdays to Saturdays, 10am-midnight; Marsa Al Bateen Marina, Abu Dhabi; 02 633 6366, www.instagram.com/mediterra_ad
5. Cipriani Dolci
This new concept by Cipriani is the perfect pit stop for hungry shoppers at The Dubai Mall. Other than an assortment of tramezzini, focaccia, bomboloni, cannoli and other traditional Italian baked goods, it also has takeaway services, gift baskets and a hearty breakfast menu.
This marks Cipriani’s third launch in the region, after successful restaurants on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai International Financial Centre.
Open daily, 10am-1am; The Dubai Mall Fashion Avenue, Dubai; 050 949 7371, ciprianidubai.com
Founders of Dubai fusion concept Moshi launched yet another restaurant this year called Dishtrict, and it's all about the most unlikely food combinations. Head to this quirky, travel-inspired restaurant at Wasl 51 for dishes such as tahini nachos chaat, red curry flatbread, zebra fries, chicken katsu biryani, Thai green curry risotto, and mango and edamame chaat.
It's perfect for those can’t quite settle on any one cuisine for their evening meal.
Sundays to Wednesdays, noon-midnight, Thursdays to Saturdays, noon-11pm; Wasl 51, Jumeirah 1, Dubai; 055 961 0966
7. Hunter & Barrel
Steak restaurant Hunter & Barrel opened its first international outpost in Dubai's Vida Emirates Hills this year – and it's the perfect spot for barbecue lovers. According to head chef Kamil Bouloot, its menu pays homage to the hunter-gatherer traditions of the past.
Expect dishes such as open-fire prawns, smoky chicken wings, chargrilled chicken and kale salad, and charcoal roasted skewers. In a nod to regional flavours, there is also a five-grains kebab with hummus tahini dip, while vegetarians have pumpkin and cauliflower croquettes, a vegan burger and more.
Open daily, 11am-1am; Vida Emirates Hills, Dubai; 04 589 0970, hunterandbarrel.ae
8. La Coco
If you’re looking for a way to travel without stepping on a plane, you can escape to La Coco, a new hangout at Andaz Dubai The Palm, where the coast of California meets a Mexican riviera sunset.
There’s plenty to choose from on the California-Mexican fusion menu, with signatures including chargrilled octopus, lamb tacos, lobster rolls, pizzas, a vegan menu and a number of grill options.
The restaurant features an Instagram-worthy setting, with pops of colour and water views, and a hanging egg chair in front of a wall of succulents.
Open daily, noon-midnight; Andaz Dubai The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai; 050 107 3766, hyattrestaurants.com
9. La Fabbrica Italiana
Another milestone for Dubai's culinary scene: La Fabbrica Italiana became the first focacceria to open in the Emirates, at Wasl 51.
The humble cafe is dedicated to the delicious Italian bread, with 15 freshly baked varieties on offer as well as bread infused with local flavours, such as zaatar. While you’re there, you’ll want to check out the restaurant’s original tiramisu, too.
Open daily, noon-11pm; Wasl 51, Jumeirah 1, Dubai; 050 827 9629, lafabbricaitaliana.com
10. Lucky Fish
For seafood lovers, new Mediterranean restaurant Lucky Fish is quite the catch. The restaurant works with local fishermen to present a daily display of fresh seafood on ice, along with a plethora of seafood specials.
Together with the beachfront setting and whimsical interiors (think linen curtains and 19th-century French chandeliers), this is well worth a visit.
Open daily, 11am-3am; West Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai; 04 569 3447, luckyfishdubai.com
Aussies craving a taste of home will be glad to know that this much-loved Australian franchise has arrived in the UAE.
Oporto, which set up shop in Dubai Festival City Mall, was started by the Portuguese Antonio Cerqueira and is known for its flame-grilled chicken, Portuguese-style burgers and flavourful sauces.
On the must-try list are its whole, half-chicken or quarter-chicken boxes and creamy Prego sauce and chips.
Sundays to Wednesdays, 8am-10pm, Thursdays to Saturdays, 8am-midnight; Level 1, Dubai Festival City Mall, Dubai; oportome.com
12. Phileas Fogg's
Based on the character from the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days, this quirky new restaurant in Address Montgomerie is all about travel vibes. And its interiors are proof of that, with an assortment of knick-knacks – from telescopes and leather-bound books to globes.
It's a fun place to kick back, relax and sample a global menu, with everything from kung pao chicken and American burgers to Thai green curry.
Open daily, 8am-2am; Address Montgomerie, Montgomerie Golf Academy, Al Thanayah, Dubai; 04 572 4477, www.addresshotels.com
13. Rumba Dubai
There's a lot to love about a Cuban restaurant trying to bring a glimpse of 1950s Havana to Club Vista Mare.
Guests can expect dance-inspired decor and classic Cuban dishes such as ceviche, tacos and traditional Cubano sandwiches from the beachfront joint.
Open daily, noon-2am; Club Vista Mare, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai; 04 570 8111, rumba.ae
14. The Orangery
This is another creative venue that takes inspiration from Around the World in Eighty Days. The interiors feature green and copper hues, while guests are sure to enjoy the display of vintage suitcases and the "passport" they receive with their bill at the end of the meal.
Guests can expect to find international dishes such as fish and chips, Madras barbecue tiger prawns, Egyptian-inspired lamb ribs and more – so they can travel the world without ever leaving their seats.
Open daily, 6pm-midnight; The Academy, Montgomerie Golf Club Dubai, Emirates Hills, Dubai; 04 572 4473, theorangery.xyz
Named after the whiskers of a feline, cat cafe Vibrissae opened in Dubai earlier this year, combining the cuteness of the furry animals with delicious beverages.
While it doesn't serve food, there are a range of signature iced and hot rose lattes, hot chocolate, Spanish latte and the internet sensation, dalgona coffee. But the real stars at this venue are its 15 fluffy residents, of course.
Sundays to Wednesdays, noon-9pm, Thursdays to Saturdays, noon-10pm; Al Safa Park Complex, Dubai; 056 966 6571, vibrissaecafe.com
16. Zeta Seventy Seven
This new restaurant sits next to Address Beach Resort's record-breaking infinity pool on the 77th floor, which means it offers some of the best views of the city.
Zeta Seventy Seven has two options – a poolside menu with light snacks, poke bowls and sandwiches, and an a la carte menu with Asian-inspired dishes such as sushi and sashimi.
While the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, the pool is for hotel guests only.
Open daily, 11am-1am; Address Beach Resort, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai; 04 879 8866, addresshotels.com