Choosing the right place for a casual Valentine’s Day lunch is one of the more challenging gastronomic decisions one has to make. You don’t want an imposing restaurant full of red velvet and suited waiters, and a sandwich wrapped in cellophane is a smidge underwhelming. What you need for a romantic lunch, then, is a cafe that is light and airy, well-decorated, reasonably priced and, above all else, has a decent menu.
Located on the ground floor of the Courtyard by Marriott, at the new World Trade Centre complex, Fifth Street Cafe is the latest addition to Abu Dhabi’s culinary scene.
On a sunny Saturday lunch time, my wife and I were greeted and seated under a cloud of red and white Valentine’s Day balloons — which was handy as I had completely forgotten.
Mercifully, I was saved by our waitress, Nina, who had my back and presented a rose to my — suspiciously impressed — wife. I took the credit, obviously.
To give us a taste of what the cafe offers, we tried a mixed salad featuring couscous, beef strips, and the signature chicken tikka. It was difficult to find fault with. The couscous was light and fluffy and the beef strip salad was sweetly soft. The chicken tikka salad though was the stand-out element. Served cold, it was sweet with just the right amount of mild spice.
On its own the mixed salad would have been enough if I was looking for a light lunch to just keep me going. Being a man, though, I frequently exhibit eyes bigger than my belly, and that being the case I went ahead and ordered the full-on Courtyard burger. Containing an Angus beef patty, cheddar cheese, turkey bacon, lettuce and tomato, and served with a large pickle and side of fries, the burger is a simple dish and yet the true test of an eatery’s skill. If you get the burger wrong, you’re going nowhere.
Pleasingly it was a success, and there was something deliciously simple about it. It didn’t come with any gratuitous pomp; it was unfussy as a burger should be. “Juicy” is the customary adjective for describing such a thing and true to form the burger was just that. It certainly proved that I had eyes bigger than my belly, as the last few fries proved too much, but the burger did its job of filling me up. The chair, as importantly, did an equally good job of keeping me up...
Executive Chef, Saurabh Saxena, says that Fifth Avenue use locally sourced produce, from meat to vegetables. It’s a nice touch, and my wife agreed. She had sampled local goods for herself with the corn-fed chicken with crushed potatoes and mushroom sauce.
The locally reared chicken was cooked to perfection and fell off the bone. The accompanying mushroom sauce was also delightful and played its part in softening up the chicken, as did the superb crushed potatoes.
Despite the need for additional holes in my belt, however, the team at Fifth Street wasn’t going to let me off without trying one of their signature desserts. The display cabinet was filled with surprises, but when faced with choosing I just couldn’t say no to the strawberry cheesecake.
Much like the burger it was a simple serving done well, with the added touch of being shaped like a love-heart. This, of course, was completely my idea designed to impress my wife (thanks again for saving the day, Nina).
Fifth Street Cafe really is a wonderful place to eat, or even enjoy a cheeky glass of grape or premium hops. Although I recommend it for lunch, their breakfast and dinner options also look appetising. It has a laid-back vibe, which is matched by the decor, and pleasingly doesn’t serve overpriced sandwiches wrapped in cellophane. It ticks all the boxes, and will even save your skin if you’ve forgotten an important occasion like Valentine’s Day.