If you’re looking for an offbeat culinary experience, the UAE may well be one of the best places to find it.
From restaurants inspired by planes to those themed on books, movies, TV shows and even famous personalities, there’s a little something for every hardcore fan out there. Here are some top themed venues worth eating at.
Transit Terminal Food
Miss seeing the inside of an plane? This new restaurant in Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi has taken off with the concept. The interiors are exactly like what you’d find on a plane, from the seats to the table trays. There are even cabin announcements. Meanwhile, the menu, which is designed to look like a boarding pass, features food from around the world. Expect currywurst for Germany, Belgian waffles, quesadillas to represent Mexico and all manner of burgers on behalf of the US.
Open daily, Centre Ville hotel building, Hazaa Bin Zayed The First Street, Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi; 02 550 0443; Instagram: @transitterminalfood
A newcomer to Dubai’s dining scene, Phileas Fogg’s opened at the Address Montgomerie this year. The name is taken from the main character of Jules Verne's 1872 novel Around the World in Eighty Days, and it takes its travel theme pretty seriously. Expect telescopes, globes, leather-bound books and an outdoor hot air balloon. The menu also goes with the theme, and features food from around the world. There’s kung pao chicken, fish and chips, chicken kiev, Thai green curry and more.
Open daily, 8am-2am; Address Montgomerie, Dubai; 04 572 4477, www.addresshotels.com
The Friends Burger
From a foliage covered wall with the words "I'll be there for you" to a number of framed photos of its stars, it's clear that this cosy venue in Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Park is a tribute to the hit sitcom Friends. Fans of the show are sure to enjoy taking a picture or two against the Central Perk backdrop, while seated on an orange couch reminiscent of the one found on the show. Meanwhile, on the menu are a range of hot dogs, burgers, pastas and appetisers, many of which are also named after the show's main characters.
Open daily; noon-2am; Ministries Complex, Khalifa Park, Abu Dhabi; 024412381
Last Exit AUH Bound
Those who fancy a cuppa or a full meal in a dystopian paradise can head to the Mad Max-themed Last Exit AUH Bound. There’s a lot to love about the post-apocalyptic scenes, from the stripped down monster vehicles to the graffiti-covered interiors. A cool stopping point if you want to take a picture of two as you pick up a sandwich from Burger Pit or a coffee from Cupagahwa.
Open daily; Sheikh Zayed Road, Abu Dhabi-bound; lastexit.ae
This one may not be a restaurant per se, but the cloud kitchen in Dubai still gets points for its creativity. Named after, you guessed it, hit television show Stranger Things, the establishment is an American-inspired venue dishing out a range of chicken wings, fries and burgers. Some of its must-try wings include the Mind Flayer, Hopper’s BBQ and Dragon Slayer. As the kitchen staff say, "their wings aren’t a ten on ten – they’re an Eleven".
Available for delivery daily; Deliveroo; strangerwings.ae
Get ready to fall down the rabbit hole with this family-friendly venue in JBR. Inspired by the creative and crazy worlds of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Oompa Loompa features a indoor soft play area for the children. The interiors pay tribute to Carroll's creation with hand-drawn artworks imitating the journey Alice takes when she falls down the rabbit hole and a full-sized tree in the middle of the restaurant. It’s a mad world indeed.
Open daily; 9am-10pm; Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai; 04 578 6093
There are loads of top-notch Indian restaurants in the UAE. But hardcore fans of Indian cinema should check out Bol Gappa, a fun, casual Bollywood-themed outlet. There are lots of cool Indian fusion dishes on the menu, from a Manchurian hot dog to a Chips Oman wrap, while the interiors are plastered with caricatures of famous Indian actors.
Open daily; 11.30am to midnight; Karama, Dubai; 04 335 5144
This adorably nerdy restaurant is the perfect place for superhero fans. The interiors are cosy, with inviting booths and plenty of Funko pop figurines, while the walls feature scenes from comic books. And don’t discount the menu, which features a surprisingly varied selection of all-day breakfast items, burgers, sandwiches, pastas and ramen. Watch out for the dish names – from The Hulk-Avo Smashed to the Dr Strange Onion Rings – for an extra chuckle.
Open daily; 9am-11.30pm; Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi; 02 449 3330
If you’re looking to be transported to a simpler time, Sauce, a 1950s-themed American diner, has opened doors in Al Habtoor City. There are neon signs, black and white patterned floors and a screen showing Elvis Presley belting out tunes. Even the waitresses are dressed in retro uniforms. The menu also provides a little blast from the past, too, with a number of burgers, hot dogs, fries, salads, pizzas and sandwiches. The spaghetti and meatballs, loaded hot dog and signature Wagyu beef burger are on the must-try list.
Open daily; noon to midnight; Al Noora Tower, Al Habtoor City; instagram.com/saucedubai
South Indian actor Rajinikanth has something of a legendary following, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to know that there’s a restaurant in Dubai’s Royal Ascot Hotel in Al Mankhool that pays tribute to him. The interiors are plastered with posters of his movies and sketches of him while the menu specialises in South Indian fare.
Open daily; Al Mankhool, Dubai; 054 739 9908
Game of Toast in Abu Dhabi was removed from this listing on September 2021, after it announced that it would be closing down.