Many hotels in Abu Dhabi only recommend other hotel restaurants to their guests. This is partly because some of the stand-alone restaurants are maybe not very good, the staff do not speak English or, very often, because taxi-drivers will have trouble finding it. The latter certainly applies to Al Arish. The best way to get there is to ask the driver for the Mina Fish Market. The restaurant is immediately opposite the main entrance. I am not sure whether there is even a sign in English but you will recognise the building from a review which calls it "ramshackle but stately".
Once inside, you are in a different world. the staff welcome you and show you into a series of rooms decorated in what could best be called "Arabic shabby chic" but with less emphasis on the chic. There is a large central buffet and a display of fresh fish from the market. You can eat from the buffet, a la carte, or choose your fish to be cooked as you like and take a first course from the buffet. For a visitor, the fresh fish is the thing.
At the end of the meal a charming Bedouin gentleman will offer Arabic coffee and dates. You have to ask them to show you the VIP room. It takes kitsch to a whole new level.
They are very good at telling you the cost of the fish you choose so there is no danger of feeling cheated. Prices are actually very reasonable by local standards.
We enjoyed it so much we visited twice. The food is good, the staff are charming, the prices are reasonable and, for all the eccentricity of the decor, it feels more real than most other places in Abu Dhabi. Al Arish does not seem to market itself very aggressively. I think they are busy at lunchtime with local business people. In the evenings there were a handful of Arab guests and a few ex-pats.
I strongly recommend it - if only as a change to the standard luxury hotel restaurant.
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