One of the best parts of travel is undoubtedly discovering new food while abroad. However, because of the pandemic, many of us haven’t been able to travel (or eat) as we used to.
A new restaurant in Abu Dhabi hopes to change this by focusing on international dishes while also providing a familiar setting for travellers, as it's designed to resemble an aircraft cabin.
From the seats to table trays and even the staff uniforms, those who miss the feeling of being on a plane will certainly have their interest piqued by Transit Terminal Food.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Mohamed Basha, who wanted to bring a taste of the world to the UAE during the pandemic.
"I am a traveller. I have visited more than 100 countries," Basha said, in a recent interview with The National. "I have tasted a lot of local foods and that's why I was thinking during Covid-19 how it's been difficult for people to travel and eat famous food in the streets of the world."
So for those who miss travelling or simply being on a plane, does the new aviation-themed restaurant live up to the hype?
A plane replica
Transit Terminal Food is tucked away behind shops, down the street from Al Wahda Mall in Al Nahyan neighbourhood. Upon arriving, it’s easy to find a parking spot.
It's worth noting that to enter, visitors must climb a five-step outdoor staircase, which may be an issue for anyone who uses a wheelchair or has a pram with them.
Although the restaurant is smaller than I expected, the decor inside is impressive and very authentic.
There are 16 plane seats (with some facing inwards instead of in rows) and a wall painted to resemble the inside of an aircraft, complete with a mock emergency exit door and windows showing clouds.
A screen on the wall echoes the arrivals and departures boards you see at the airport, only instead, it shows menu items and their prices.
I’m greeted by a waiter who wears a pilot's uniform and hands me a menu with a QR code to scan for the latest version (the list changes monthly as new items are added).
Around the world in 30 eats
The menu, which is designed like a boarding pass, is sizeable, with more than 30 items. It also includes the airport code based on where the food originates, as well as a paragraph about the food, which is a nice, informative, touch.
It features staples such as fish and chips (UK), quesadillas (Mexico) and currywurst (Germany), and lesser-known options such as khachapuri (Georgia), yemista (Greece) and kumpir potato (Turkey). The mains are fairly priced, ranging from Dh30 to Dh55.
There's even a special Etihad meal (Dh79) that includes a main dish, vegetable salad, fruit salad, bread, butter, drink and dessert – similar to what you'd find on an actual flight. This one represents Abu Dhabi.
I order a black burger (Dh45) and fish and chips (Dh40) to represent two countries I’ve enjoyed visiting in the past: Japan and England. The black burger comes in a black brioche bun with fries. The fish and chips, quite generous in size, with three fillets, arrives with a side of salad and fries.
Once my food arrives, I’m also presented with a replica luggage tag pass with my name and the airport code for the food I’ve ordered on it. It’s a nice little touch to the meal and something children would enjoy.
The fish is a bit soggy for my liking and it doesn't come with chunky chips, but rather fries. While I enjoy those, as well as the side salad, I'd have preferred it if the meal came with a more authentic side, such as mushy peas.
I find more luck with the burger, which is aesthetically pleasing with its black bun contrasting nicely against the orange-coloured mayo and green lettuce.
I also add a blueberry mojito (Dh20), which is listed as an item that represents Cuba. The mocktail is served in a glass jar with a lid and reusable straw.
Although the drink is a little sweeter than I’d like, I’m pleasantly surprised to find I can take the jar home to reuse. It’s a great eco-friendly option.
Is it worth a visit?
Basha told The National that new items will be added each month, so there's plenty of reason to keep going back.
However, while the menu has plenty of choice, at the moment there isn't enough to cater to vegetarians and vegans. There also isn’t an option specifically for children, although that didn’t stop families from visiting while I was there.
The atmosphere is certainly unique, a major selling point. While dining, the restaurant plays cabin announcements as well as sounds from aircraft taking off. There’s also light instrumental music that plays, similar to that on a plane, so things do not feel too repetitive.
While this might not be for everyone, it's worth a visit at least once. It doesn't actually replicate travel or being on a plane, but that also means no turbulence, fellow passengers or tight spaces – all of the annoyances of being on an actual aircraft before being able to enjoy food from a new destination.