It’s surprisingly difficult to find Emirati food in the UAE, which I heard is because most Emiratis cook at home. But, I don’t believe you’ve ever really visited a place until you’ve tried its food, so it had to be done!
I was visiting Al Ain for the day so took the opportunity to seek out some local food. Having read good reviews about Al Fanar Restaurant (in fact, it was the only pure-Emirati restaurant in the city), we popped in for lunch.
I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed when we arrived to a very touristy-looking restaurant in the middle of a car park — not the hidden culinary discovery I thought I had made. There were plaster cast camels and other cliché decor outside the restaurant, perfectly placed for typical tourist selfie.
Nonetheless, we went in and took a seat. For the first 10 minutes or so it was only us in a large two-storey restaurant that could easily seat a couple of hundred patrons. But we weren’t alone for long as, much to our delight, several groups of people wearing Emirati dress came in. Perhaps locals eat here after all.
The MAIN AFFAIR
The menu at the restaurant was beautifully designed with pictures of every meal — something you appreciate when you have no idea what anything is, and have no internet to be able to quickly Google before the waiter returns.
Before putting in our order, the waiter brought us an appetiser, which tasted like chickpeas in a chicken flavoured broth. Light and tasty.
I ordered a fresh juice, which was filled with a sweet syrup… not quite what I had had in mind, but if that’s how they do it there then that’s how it is 🙂
For the mains, we ordered the tekat deyay emirati (chicken kebabs) and the machboos deyay (an Arabic spiced chicken dish). Both came with enough rice to feed a village and a selection of sides including a deeeeeelicious yoghurt sauce.
The food was great, very tasty. It was very similar to other Middle Eastern food we have eaten, which is not a bad thing.
Before arriving in the UAE we had watched a bunch of food-related YouTube videos and one particular Emirati dish had piqued our interest — the tiny donut-like dessert called leqaimat. Along with some Arabic (and later Turkish) coffee, we ordered a portion, despite not even being able to finish our mains.
After ordering we were asked if we wanted to move into a separate part of the restaurant, which was a more relaxed coffee-shop style room with couches. I liked this — it’s the sort of thing you would do at your parents house after a big family meal.
The two types of coffee were great (although the Arabic style coffee is much weaker than Turkish). The leqaimat were served with a traditional date sauce. You can add as little or as much of the sauce as you like… but be prepared for a very sticky experience.
After we literally couldn’t squeeze in any more food and were buzzing off the walls with coffee, we rolled out of the restaurant and took a selfie with one of those damn camels. Ahh.
Rating: I can’t really fault the restaurant at all, but it isn’t a particularly cheap place to eat.
If you are looking for good food on a budget while travelling through the UAE then don’t be afraid to check out the huge number of road-side restaurants where you can pay a smidgen of the cost for very high quality food with similar flavours. We had some incredible Lebanese, Indian and Pakistani meals for around €5 each while travelling around.
But, like I said at the start — you have to try the authentic local food at least once 🙂 And Al Fanar is a great place to try it.
There are a few Al Fanar restaurants around, including in Dubai. So no need to travel to Al Ain to enjoy 🙂