You will find that restaurants tend to fill up later in the evening, with the hip Lebanese crowd often not eating before 10pm at the weekends. If you’re heading to a hotel restaurant or bar, it’s best to leave the flip-flops and swimming trunks on the beach and trade up to smart trousers and shiny shoes. Similarly, you may get some funny looks if you turn up to any of the independent restaurants around town looking like you’ve just rolled off your sun lounger.
Food and drink outlets are subject to regular checks, so basic hygiene requirements are usually met. A good barometer is to choose a busy establishment, that way you know the turnover of ingredients is high. If you suffer from food allergies, don’t assume that serving staff have understood your requirements, or that the menu will be suitably labelled. Vegetarians are generally well catered for, as Abu Dhabi is home to a large population from the subcontinent who are vegetarian by religion. It’s a good idea to confirm ingredients with staff, as meals which at first appear meat-free, may in fact have been cooked using animal fats. Arabic cuisine, although heavy on meat-based mains, offers a great range of mezze that are mostly vegetarian.
During Ramadan, opening hours for restaurants and cafes change considerably. Because eating and drinking in public is forbidden during daylight hours, many places only open after sunset and then keep going well into the early hours. Alcohol is only served after sunset and live entertainment is not allowed during the Holy Month, so many nightclubs remain closed. Ramadan is a great time to sample some Arabic cuisine – iftar buffets are served across the city every evening throughout the month, often accompanied by traditional entertainment and shisha.
Taxes and service charges
Look out for the small print at the bottom of the bill and you may spot the words ‘prices are subject to 10% service charge and 6% tourism fee’. The service charge is rather misleading as it isn’t passed onto the staff, and there’s no option to opt out if you’re not happy with the service. If you do want to tip the waiting staff though, 10% is the norm – and try to give them cash if you can. Tourism tax is only levied in hotels.
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