‘Sustainable’ has shifted from a buzzword to a way of life for many people in the UAE, with many choices about where to travel, what to wear and where to shop made through an environmental lens — and increasingly that extends to restaurants, too.
While residents may have long sought to make sustainable food choices through grocery purchases, the options to dine out sustainably have noticeably widened in recent years. Check out these restaurants and cafes focused on making a difference with their approach to sustainability and delicious food.
The UAE’s first ever recipient of the Michelin Green Star, awarded by the prestigious global gastronomy guide in summer 2022, Lowe is now the undisputed jewel in the crown of environmental restaurant practices in the Emirates. Australian Kate Christou has cultivated a neighbourhood favourite in Al Barari, attracting diners from far and wide — notably for its Waste Not series of supper clubs. Menus include dishes like herb stem and prawn tortellini and meat-trim kofta and are designed to highlight leftover produce that might usually be destined for the garbage. Lowe has also banned single-use plastic since first opening in 2017 and uses only compostable and recyclable packaging.
Another trailblazer in the sustainability space, BOCA won Gold at the 2021 Gulf Sustainability Awards and continues to wow diners with its ability to showcase the best produce on offer in the UAE. The DIFC restaurant regularly audits its kitchen and bar operations and is currently undergoing an external Carbon Footprint audit by the Dubai-based sustainability and carbon management consultancy elementsix in a bid to further improve. BOCA’s oysters are from Fujairah operation Dibba Bay, their Burrata and tomato salad highlights six local tomato varieties and Yesterday’s Bread brings stale loaves to life with tomato skin powder and revived milk ricotta. The restaurant is dedicated to supporting local farmers and fishermen in the UAE, refuses single-use plastic from suppliers, and won’t provide it to customers, either.
A relaxed outdoor café at Al Khazzan Park, Hapi has won hearts and minds of Dubai residents with its excellent ice cream and emphasis on sustainable materials. Recycled paper, cups, tubs and boxes are used for warm food packaging, all sourced from Vegware, which offers biodegradable and compostable products. Hapi’s cutlery, cups and food tubs are made from cornstarch, while the cafe sources ingredients from local suppliers like Deena Organic Dairy and has previously created zero waste menus.
This fairtrade shop, recycling cafe and event space in Alserkal Avenue puts sustainability first, seeking out ethical suppliers for its produce. The Upcycled Cafe includes only materials, crockery and cutlery that can be recycled or upcycled after use in a bid to raise awareness of the levels of plastic in the sea. Payment is paperless and the café also hosts pay it forward days on which diners come together to provide food for those less fortunate.
Originally based solely in Al Seef Abu Dhabi, Sanderson’s Café now has locations in Al Khawaneej Walk and Sustainable City in Dubai too. Given the location of the latter, it is no surprise that Sanderson’s takes its green credentials very seriously. Drinking water is filtered in-house while wastewater is cleaned and re-used for gardening initiatives in the local community. All of Sanderson’s cooking oil is recycled after use and the restaurant is in the process of creating a kitchen garden to ensure more fresh, seasonal produce appears on its menu.
Owners Nikhil Hemnani and Ahmad Ali Abdul Hamid opened Sweet Greens with the intention of creating a cafe that focuses on the twin pillars of nutrition and sustainability. The small eatery is aiming to make a big impact on Abu Dhabi residents, starting conversations with customers about recycling and the environment. Sweet Greens works with the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Service Centre to source its produce and shuns plastic takeaway packaging.
One of the flagship restaurants of the Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaimah, Farmhouse aims to prove that farm-to-table cooking is possible anywhere — even in the Al Wadi Desert. The restaurant’s herb and vegetable garden provides basil, mint, garlic and assorted seasonal produce, grown with organic waste compost to ensure fertilizer-free ingredients. The restaurant specializes in wild meats and homegrown vegetables and is leading the way in RAK’s recent sustainability revolution, which is set to include new dining concepts such as the Al Hamra Scallop Ranch – designed to support and enhance understanding of the marine ecosystem.
Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.