It may be one of Sweden’s most famous exports, but spotting an Ikea cafe at the side of the Sweden Pavilion is enough to get a double take from most Expo 2020 Dubai visitors.
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Al-Futtaim Ikea has opened its first stand-alone cafe in the Middle East at Expo 2020 Dubai, and it’s been designed to blend right in to the woodlands-inspired pavilion. That means straight lines, Swedish wood and minimalist signage – a far cry from the bold blue and yellow lettering we’ve grown so accustomed to.
However, inside, fans will find many of the familiar elements that have made Ikea’s restaurant something of an institution (and, yes, that includes meatballs, but sadly not the famous breakfast).
The space inside is minimal – only three tables for dining, a drinks counter, the Food Market for those wanting to pick up their packaged products, a counter serving hot food, and another housing cold dishes such as wraps, salads and desserts. There's a separate station for cutlery, napkins and the like.
It’s all self-serve, too. Guests can simply pick up what they’d like, head to the counter, make the payment and get their dishes on the spot – little to no waiting required – making it a popular spot for those in a rush.
It might take a little more time to choose what you’re getting, though, as Cafe by Ikea Al-Futtaim has some exclusive dishes, not served anywhere else.
During a visit, we spotted some dishes such as a guacamole wrap, pulled salmon burger, Mexican taco salad and slow-cooked rib-eye sandwich.
There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available, easily accounting for about 70 per cent of the menu. Ikea’s chicken pie has been rehashed as a spiced vegetable pie and this branch has seen the return of the plant balls and vegetable hot dog.
We ordered the baked portobello mushrooms (Dh29), an Expo 2020 Dubai exclusive, and were served two large pieces covered in cheese, with a generous side of vegetables, and a vegetable medallion, another new entree featuring potato, cheese and broccoli.
Even the desserts seem slightly elevated. Instead of the usual almond cake or Daim cake we’ve come to expect, here you’ll find options such as the vegan carrot cake, apple crumble with blueberries and almond cake with Daim.
It's also good spot to pick up a cappuccino, cafe latte or hot chocolate, all priced at a very reasonable Dh12.
One of the main calling cards for Ikea's cafe at Expo 2020 is its central location. It's merely a five-minute walk from Al Wasl Plaza, close enough to the action to be lively, but far enough away that you don’t feel crowded or rushed.
The cafe also has an upstairs seating area, accessible by stairs or lift, that can accommodate 60 to 70 diners. A hidden gem of sorts, this relaxed space features a geometrical patterned ceiling, a variety of seating options, plush black leather couches and lovely views of the Expo site in the background to boot.
It’s almost hard to leave it's been made so comfortable, but once you’re ready to go, do remember this is self-serve, so be sure to clear up after yourself.
Open Saturday to Wednesday, 10am-11pm, Thursday and Friday, 10am to midnight