TT Custom BBQ at Boxpark, Dubai Image Credit: Arshad Ali/XPRESS

Dubai: When TT Custom BBQ opened shop at Dubai’s colourful Boxpark two months ago, there was little need to announce the launch. Its eye-catching display of high-end customised cars and motorbikes, created by Dubai auto designer Tarhan Telli (TT), made an emphatic statement. TT, who has made cars for such Hollywood blockbusters as Mad Max: Fury Road and Expendables, became the talk of the town again, this time for a food drive that added to an already buzzing line-up of motor-themed eating places in the UAE.

But ask TT about it and he is quick to say that this new offering is distinct. “We are not a bikers’ café. We are a full-fledged restaurant for custom lifestyle lovers,” he tells XPRESS.

Although TT’s customised cars, by his own admission, are targeted at “those who can buy a Lambhorgini but won’t because they would rather get a customised car”, the restaurant is not just for discerning custom lifestyle lovers. It is open to everyone.

A steakhouse that serves authentic fare, TT Custom BBQ feels like an upscale garage with fuel tank arm chairs, gas pump door handles and themed cutlery. The chefs have been specially flown in from Turkey as the restaurant draws inspiration from TT Custom Choppers, the brand’s first restaurant concept in Turkey. It also boasts a retail wing where visitors can shop for choice products and accessories.

Yamaha Café

A few container blocks away in Boxpark itself, there are two other bike-related joints – Yamaha Café and Bikes&Bites.

“We are the only Yamaha Café in the world and are part of the Al Yousuf Group, which distributes Yamaha products in the UAE. We opened in March 2015 and as Yamaha comes from Japan, serve authentic Japanese food,” says restaurant manager Stevan Uzelac.

Pointing to a Raptor 700 parked outside, he says the bikes on display change every month. But inside, a Yamaha R6 and Yamaha Striker are a permanent feature where kids sit and play on PS4.

The list of bike-themed cafes also includes the world’s first Kawasaki Café on Shaikh Zayed Road. An offering by Kawasaki distributors Liberty Automobiles, it celebrates everything Kawasaki, including Ninja H2, the fastest supercharged bike in the world. Like other biker shops, it too sells accessories and merchandise.

But what is it about such places that is appealing?

Bikers Café

The penchant for motor cafes perhaps dates back to 2011 when the region’s first Bikers Café was launched on Jumeirah Beach Road. The happening beach-side café, which is frequented by ruling family members and others alike, is invariably packed to capacity, especially during the weekends. But it’s not the crowds that draw your attention, it’s the Harleys, Ducatis, BMWs, KTMs and the like parked outside that do.

Inside too, the bikes are everywhere – in the conversations, on the floor, the walls, and even the toilet doors.Restaurant manager Mohammad Hassan says, “We were the first Bikers Café to launch in the entire Middle East and we now have three branches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.” He says the pioneering café has become a meeting point for bikers and sports, classic and off-road car enthusiasts as they come together for rides, drives and movie and barbecue nights.

Old favourite

A European biker from who has been to most bikers’ cafes in town, says, “This is my old favourite. I reckon there would be at least 6,000 serious bikers in the UAE, although we don’t have an official figure. I look forward to meeting my friends at Bikers Café, we have so much to talk about.”

An Emirati woman, who is a breakfast regular at the café, says, “I like the mix of cuisines here. They serve everything from Emirati and Asian to Mediterranean and international.”

“I just love the smart ambience,” adds her friend.

Biker or not, those who visit such motor-themed eating places vouch for one thing: bikes, bites, brews and banter make for a heady, hard-to-resist combination.