In the weeks leading up to our trip we spent some time pricing hotels before finally deciding on the Southern Sun (via agoda.com) as this hotel was offering the best value for money.
With the Hotel booked all that was left for us to do was to get ourselves to Abu Dhabi for our much needed weekend of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Day 1: Road Trip to Abu Dhabi & Dinner and Drinks at the Southern Sun
Keen to miss the rush-hour traffic, we'd planned to leave sharp from work on Thursday evening, but after a relatively quiet week I ended up getting held up - typical!
Once we were finally on our way (an hour behind schedule) the drive was pretty straightforward until we reached Abu Dhabi and tried to locate our Hotel (Southern Sun). Thanks to Google Maps, a journey that should have only taken us 1 hour and 30 mins took us over 2 hours. But after a slight detour around the entire city we eventually arrived at our Hotel.
Tired after our road trip we decided to stay in the Hotel for dinner and drinks. The Southern Sun had a choice of two restaurants - an Arabic restaurant (Kahraman) and steakhouse (The Foundry) which doubles as the breakfast and lunch restaurant during daylight hours. As none of us have really tried Arabic food (terrible I know) we decided to play it safe and go with the steakhouse.
The Foundry is an unusual restaurant featuring a unique interior design with salmon-pink velvet chairs, floor-to-ceiling copper paneling and 3 exclusive private dining islands that looked like they could be transformed into an impressive water feature if they had been set up for use. Unfortunately for us this was not the case so we were unable to experience the full effect which was disappointing.
On the night we visited the restaurant it was fairly quiet, which suited us as we were looking for a quiet weekend in general. By this point we were starving so thankfully we were seated quickly and given time to explore their menu.
Being a steakhouse I'd expected the menu to be dominated by steak and, whilst this was definitely the case, there was also a good choice of alternative dishes including chicken, seafood, lamb and vegetarian pasta dish which was a relief to me as I'm not a lover of red meat. For my main course I selected the Corn-fed chicken (no surprises there) while my friends all went for the tenderloin steak, when in Rome.......
As we waited for our main course to arrive, we were each given a complimentary bread platter with a selection of butters followed by some amuse-bouche (salmon and caviar bites with green herb sorbet). I'm a notoriously fussy eater, so I didn't try the salmon, but the sorbet wasn't very appetising. Having selected steak for their main meal, my friends were also presented with a variety of steak knives to choose from, all with their own unique handle - this was a really nice touch.
When our main meals arrived, we were all very happy with our choices. The only complaint we had was that the kitchen had forgotten to send out the roast vegetable side orders, but this was quickly resolved with very little fuss.
Overall, our experience at The Foundry was a pleasant one. The food was excellent, the wine was delicious and the service was good. It was definitely well worth what we paid.
After dinner we headed upstairs for a few drinks in the Hotel's Hytes bar which offered up panoramic views across the city. The bar was relatively empty with only one other table occupied but the and the atmosphere was chilled and relaxing so it was the perfect end the first day of our relaxing weekend.
Day 2: Mother nature puts paid our best laid plans
On Friday morning I woke up looking forward to relaxing by the pool and soaking up the sun but unfortunately mother nature had other plans. Thanks to an unexpected sand storm we had no option but to regroup and rethink our plans - no sunbathing for us.
With no idea of what to do in Abu Dhabi except visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace, which we had planned for Saturday, we had to come up with alternative ways to keep us entertained. After a bit of brainstorming (and Internet research) we jumped in a taxi and headed for Yas Marina for some breakfast and a look around.
When we reached Yas Marina it became clear that our bad luck was set to continue as we arrived to find the Marina completely deserted. Turns out everywhere was closed until 1pm. Thankfully, we managed to find one restaurant that was open (Café D’Alsace). Sitting down, we then discovered that they had literally just stop serving breakfast - the disappointments just kept rolling in. We needed to eat something so we had no choice but to order from their lunch menu - burgers and chicken quesadillas was so not what we had in mind for breakfast but they served their purpose.
By this point we were becoming increasingly unimpressed with Abu Dhabi but determined to make the best of things, we started looking for other things to do to pass the time. After considering a few options we decided to visit the Corniche to check out the beach and grab a coffee.
The Corniche in Abu Dhabi is located in the heart of city and features 8km of soft white sand, children’s play areas, pedestrian walkways, cycle paths, fountains, park areas and a selection of cafés and restaurants.
After grabbing some drinks and nibbles at Seattle Coffee we spend an hour or so watching the world go by. Due to the weather we didn't venture onto the beach, but from what we saw I'm sure it would be utter bliss on a sunnier day - no construction noise, endless white sand and crystal clear turquoise water - pure heaven!
Mid-afternoon we headed back to our Hotel for some pool time before we faced our next challenge - where to go for dinner?
Trying to find good recommendations on where to eat in Abu Dhabi is no easy feat. It certainly doesn't help that many of the Hotel websites are incompatible with mobile devices. We eventually decided on an Italian restaurant (Pappagallo) in the Le Meridien Hotel.
From the number of people in the Hotel's main courtyard, it was clear that the Le Meridien Hotel was a popular Abu Dhabi venue, but, whilst the courtyard was busy, Pappagallo was very quiet. We perhaps should have taken this as a sign as the food was average and the wine we ordered wasn't great but it was relatively cheap compared to the previous night so we couldn't really complain.
After dinner we decided to move on from the Le Meridien Hotel and try the rooftop bar (Level Lounge) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. This was an excellent decision as the Level Lounge turned out to be the perfect chill-out bar. It had everything we were looking for – table service, good tunes (R&B classics) and a relaxing atmosphere.
Later on my friends decided they wanted to go dancing so we stopped off at the Hotel's basement bar (Heroes) to watch their live band. From what we saw the band was good, but as they were finishing up their final set so we didn't get to see much. As usual, I was the first to leave (what can I say I'm a lightweight) so I left my friends behind dancing till the wee small hours.
Day 3: Weekend Cut Short
On Saturday morning I woke up excited for our visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace but it seemed that our bad luck was set to continue.
Once we checked out of the hotel our plan was to head to McGettigan's for breakfast then head to the Grand Mosque followed by Emirates Palace. This plan also gave us an opportunity to get a closer look at the world's first circular skyscraper (Aldar headquarters building) which is pretty cool.
During out breakfast at McGettigan's we started hearing reports about the poor driving conditions on the road back to Dubai as a result of the continuing sand storm. After some serious and somewhat reluctant consideration, we were decided it would be safer to head back to Dubai earlier than planned leaving the Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace for another day.
Despite nothing really going to plan, we still enjoyed our weekend away even if I did end up renaming it our 'our Abu Dhabi Disaster Weekend'! That said, if I wasn't so keen to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace I'm not sure I'd be in any rush to hurry back to Abu Dhabi in the future.
- Laid back compared to Dubai
- A change of scene
- Only 1hr 30mins drive from Dubai
- Quieter roads/less congestion
- Cheaper alcohol (although you were stung with added taxes and tourism fees)
- Higher men to women ratio
- Made me appreciate Dubai
- Under-developed compared to Dubai
- Additional charges added to your bill - service charges, tourist tax and non-alcohol tax
- Taxi drivers struggled to understand our accents (even more so than they do in Dubai)
Eat. Drink. Sleep.
- Breakfast at McGettigans – Al Raha Beach Resort
- Dinner at The Foundry – Southern Sun
- Brunch at Café D’Alsace - Yas Marina
- Drinks at Hytes - Southern Sun
- Drinks and dancing at Heroes – Crowne Plaza
- Drinks at Level Lounge – Crowne Plaza