Tucked away in Zayed Sports City’s tennis stadium complex, the location of the Sportsman’s Arms will at least give you a little bit of exercise either end of a visit with a jog up and down the stairs to the first floor (unless you’re committed to avoiding physical exertion of any kind, and take the back way via the lift). Inside, the pub cherry-picks the best bits of bars from both sides of the Atlantic – there’s a mixture of comfy sofas and high tables, bar seating and dining layouts, with screens in every nook and cranny showing various sports broadcasts.
When we visit, it’s fair to say that the atmosphere is subdued – there’s probably not more than 25 people in the entire bar until towards the brunch’s finishing time of 10pm, when a large group of rugby players turn things into a bit more of a scrum at the bar. When all of the sports teams and associations that call ZSC home start their seasons in earnest in the coming weeks, however, the footfall will surely swell.
There are no buffets here: everything is served to your table (or, in our case, sat at the bar). Your hard-earned gets you a sharing platter that’s more than enough for two people, followed by a main each and a decently proportioned dessert spread, plus unlimited drinks from a decent beverages menu. The sharing platter is imaginative and filling, with our favourite picks including the dinky smoked haddock fishcakes, the caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tartlets and an excellent, generous helping of pastrami-cured salmon. For my main, I try the spring pea risotto, which is hearty without being too weighty, while my dining partner tucks in to the towering USDA black Angus cheeseburger. There’s little to fault about the desserts, but by this point we’re dangerously full – the bun-shaped apple pie and shot-glass-sized helpings of strawberry sorbet are the highlights.
Who’s it best for?
Sporty types after a good postgame/training feed and groups of more-nocturnal friends who aren’t interested in the Friday afternoon brunching trail. Massachusetts types hoping for a nostalgic swig of home might be a trifle disappointed. Despite the “Boston” tag, beyond one of the drinks options hailing from the city, there’s not an overabundance of particularly American items on the menu – as confirmed by my brunching partner, a Boston-educated Californian. The aforementioned cheeseburger and apple pie, plus three pizza choices, do their best to represent. Note: the venue hosts a family brunch on Friday afternoons, but there’s no children’s option at this evening alternative (there is a regular kids’ menu available, though, and children can eat free during the first two weeks of September).
The food is the star here, for those who value dining over drinks, with a brunch that makes perfect sense for its evening slot – even though the term “brunch”, by definition, never does at this time of day.
The National was a guest of the restaurant.
Fridays 7pm to 10pm. From Dh195 to Dh275. The Sportsman’s Arms, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi. Reservations 02 403 4235.