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Where to get your fix of Portuguese delicacies in Abu Dhabi
Easy to find and with parking inside the block, we recently stumbled upon al Ulya, a new cafe in town. We immediately liked the atmosphere and rustic decor-black and white images of Portugal covering the wall at the back , wooden furniture filled with Portuguese fine foods such as colorful cans of sardines, honey, jams, the spot has a homely vibe. We also couldn’t help but notice that the majority of customers were speaking in Portuguese-that’s a good start!
After a quick glance at the menu that proposes different sandwiches, salads at lunchtime, we preferred checking the wide array of freshly baked savoury and sweet delicacies on display, in fact there were a lot of items we felt like tasting which are fairly priced between 8 to 12 AED each.
The owner spotted us with our camera and came over to tell us that the items were all baked using traditional Portuguese recipes that have remained unchanged for generations. We finally opted for a Rissois de Camarão (a Portuguese shrimp dumpling with handmade sauce inside) and an Empadas de Galinha (Chicken pastry).
Food is simple, fresh, tasty and feels homemade, like a family treat. We enjoy it warm with a strong café (delta Portuguese roasted grains for the connoisseurs) that is served half filled, the most common Portuguese way.
We obviously cannot resist having a pastel de nata that was to die for. The owner also had us try a Portuguese version of the almond croissant. Radically different from the French version but still interesting to keep in mind next time we visit at breakfast time. We also brought back some treats to enjoy at home such as Folhado Misto, a salted pastry filled with beef meat. And don’t forget to pick their water bread which is just fab and unbelievably priced at 2 AED only.
Having a nice unplanned chat with the owner, we learn he has had this idea of creating a traditional Portuguese café – where customers would either feel at home if they were Portuguese or have the urge to travel there if they weren’t – since he arrived in the country nine years ago.
He pointed out some details inside the cafe that made us realize it is not only about food but about history and cross culture.
Al Ulya / Loulé is actually the name of a city in the South of Portugal that was ruled by the Arabs from 711 until 1249 AD. It means ‘The Highest” in Arabic and refers to the location as the city is perched at the top of a mountain overlooking the sea.
The logo of the eatery represents the roof of the market of Al Ulya, a city landmark built a century ago in homage to the Arabic architecture. White with a red roof, it has half a moon on the peak of the roof reminding of Islamic architecture.
From hand braided baskets made in Portugal with Portuguese palm tree leaves ( a heritage of the Arabic savoir-faire), sweet delicacies made with marzipan, there are a lot of details that you will discover and make us realize the Arabic influences are still alive today and give a special welcome soul to this new eatery.
AL ULYA PORTUGUESE FLAVOURS CAFE | Abu Dhabi | +971 2 583 87 27
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