The Michelin Guide is officially coming to Abu Dhabi.
Less than three months after 11 restaurants in Dubai were awarded Michelin stars, the guide is expanding its UAE reach to include Abu Dhabi.
The list of restaurants will be announced in November, officially under the Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi 2023.
We don't yet know if the capital will have a selection of Bib Gourmand, one, two or three-starred establishments. One Michelin star is awarded to restaurants for “high-quality cooking that is worth a stop", two Michelin stars for “excellent cooking that is worth a detour", and three Michelin stars for “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey".
Scroll through the gallery below to see chefs' predictions on which Abu Dhabi restaurants deserve a place in the 'Michelin Guide'
Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list refers to restaurants that provide “value-for-money three-course meals”, that is, venues where diners can enjoy several courses under a certain amount (which varies depending on a city’s cost of living).
"Everywhere in the world, our inspectors are constantly on the field to monitor the evolution of the culinary scene and that is the case for Abu Dhabi as well; our inspectors have been working on the ground here for more than six years," Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, tells The National.
His focus on "local, casual eateries" could suggest that Abu Dhabi will have a number of Bib Gourmand entries and that regional cuisine will be in the spotlight.
"Our inspectors are monitoring the evolution of the quality of the restaurants. They have found very creative restaurants run or operated by renowned chefs, as well as more and more local, casual eateries offering a great food experience at an affordable price, especially offering Middle Eastern cuisine."
The Abu Dhabi list is not finalised, and won't be until just before the list is released. "It's a never-ending process," says Poullennec. In a message aimed at the capital's restaurateurs, he joked that they should "watch out" as the inspectors are still on the ground and will be "among their regular guests".
"Our inspectors are always open-minded, we do not have set numbers or a quota, so they are assessing the quality of restaurants, whether they are luxury or local and casual, to be able to put a spotlight on the most talented teams and restaurants," he says.
When asked what makes Abu Dhabi's food scene distinctive from Dubai's, Poullennec gave a guarded response, saying: "It is too early to say, but each destination is adding its own personality to the world food scene."
The Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi was announced at an event on Tuesday held at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort. When asked if hosting the event at a Jumeirah venue suggests we could see outlets run by the hotel chain on the list, Poullennec said: "It means absolutely nothing, our inspectors are fiercely independent."
Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, Director General for Tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said of the Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi launch: “Abu Dhabi offers an incredibly rich and diverse culinary scene, representing flavours from around the world.
"Therefore, we are proud and excited to discover the first edition of Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi this November, which will strengthen our growing reputation as an emerging centre of culinary excellence. By sharing Abu Dhabi with the world this way, we can also introduce an array of inspiring, exciting and restoring experiences that visitors can find at their own pace.”
The guide's selection will be made according to Michelin's methodology applied all over the world, based on its universally applied set of five criteria:
- Quality of the ingredients
- Mastery of cooking
- Harmony of flavours
- Personality of the chef through the cuisine
- Consistency both over time and across the entire menu
Like the Dubai guide, it will be digital, meaning the full selection of restaurants will be available to see for free on the Michelin website and app. When asked if a merged UAE guide was a possibility, Poullennec explains the app flags Michelin restaurants based on your location. So the lists will, for now, remain distinct, but the app will have a more holistic restaurant recommendation approach.