Coffee @ Zyara Cafe, Abu Dhabi - attempt one: epic fail.

It seems that I may have found a flaw in the AD Week's "Best 5 coffees in Abu Dhabi".

Just a small one.

Trifling really.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I like to think that a review should have at least a couple of non-negotiable aspects in order to maintain credibility.
A template if you will. With these hard-set points ready to be filled out, before the hard work of the review begins.

A point I like to think is fundamental to a review is an accurate address.  Information the reader would need if they were going to go and sample the wares of the whatever was being reviewed.
More particularly for me - an address that, if I was looking for coffee, wouldn't lead me to a series of butcher shops.

Not only would such information offer direction, it also suggests that if the reviewer were stopped in the street and asked where something was, they' know - and kindly offer directions ... because they had been there...

...had actually set foot in the place - or at least had driven past it, stopped, found a carpark, walked to the front door and asked the first person they saw leave the establishment what they thought.

With that in mind, dear reader  let's skip hand in hand - err no.. let's not... that's illegal (or at least singularly frowned upon), lets walk with a respectable distance between ourselves through today's adventure..

Sub titled... "The mystery of the yet to be reviewed cafe"

I found myself standing in 45 degree heat on the corner of 2 back streets behind the gold souk near to the Madinat Zayed Market. Swaying gently in the afternoon haze and looking like someone had thrown a bucket of water over me, I was staring at animal carcasses hanging in a shop window on the other side of the intersection. While crossing the street I noticed one of the two hair-netted guys sitting out the front of the butcher turn and say something to his compadre.

"Did this guy fall in to a drain? I hope he's not coming over here to talk to...crap - I think he is... look disinterested, how can someone sweat so much and still be alive?"

At least, that's what I think transpired, my fluid depletion may have clouded reality somewhat...

But let's rewind.

Even though I had been bitten by the less than useful directions offered by AD Week in a previous review , I decided that in order to maintain the integrity of the Abu Dhabi coffee study, I had to at least try to utilise their directions to the cafe in their number 3 spot.

An entry that read:
3. Zyara Cafe.This place in the Madinat Zayed is basically an eatery, but does well as a genial near-Bohemian coffee bar.

In spite of my immediate thoughts about what constitutes "near-bohemian", I was excited (near -bohemian? Unless of course the clientele are NEARLY marginalised artists, NEARLY unorthodox, NEARLY anti-establishment or the place is located in or NEAR an area inhabited by gypsies I really don't know what that means).

I had also looked at another review that filled me with hope... THAT review suggested that Zyara could be the surprise package.

This second, and older review on another publication's site (pertinent point that: it was an OLDER review.. hold that in the back of your mind dear reader) also gave the address as Madinat Zayed, thus confirming from a reference point of view that Zyara was indeed to be found by driving to Muroor Rd, parking, and then strolling to the cafe where my near -bohemian beverage awaited me.

Adhering to the initial plan, and zapping through the midday streets found the mighty Volkswagen Polo parked safely in front of Madinat Zayed shopping centre - it's the one next to the gold souk for those taking notes.

Inside there were a couple of cafes but none called Zyara. To make sure though I walked the loops of both floors which in itself was fun. It's a very "Local" oriented shopping space, and I kinda like being the only westy around - gives me the opportunity to wave and smile, doing my bit for international relations and all that. It also offered up a couple of cafe names to add to the list of places to try once this limited focus study was complete.

When it became apparent that my search with respect to the mysterious Zyara had been for nought, I called my long suffering bride and asked her whether she knew where it was.

It would be fair to say that I don't think she is as invested in the project as my good self. Primarily because she really doesn't like coffee. Nonetheless she went to the all seeing oracle (Google) to see what she could see...

...and gave me directions to that were around the corner and into an area where I am reasonably familiar with - our favourite Chinese restaurant is there. While I was grateful for the directions given, a sinking feeling had begun in the depths of my coffee glands - I didn't remember seeing a cafe in that area that fit the description, nor anything even close.

The mission was still there to be done - so a quick car shuffle later I stepped out into the 1pm heat, and proceeded to:

Walk the length of 12 street.
Walk back.
Walk both sides of the buildings on 12th.
Walk around the Madinet Zayed food market.
Marvelled that the smell at the back of the fish market didn't strip the skin from my eyeballs.
Walked back to the corner of 9th and 12th.

Which brings us back to the beginning, where a large bald sweating man was lurching toward a couple of innocent butchers trying to enjoy their break.

The gods must have been on their side, as my coffee-hating wife phoned me just as I'd made the centre line of the road.
(a quick aside.. I am STUNNED that paint can stick to a road surface that hot.. I was stunned too by the 3 legged hula girls in grass skirts - although that may have been dehydration)

"I've had a better look - the other review you were talking about said that it was in a position where you could see the traffic on the corniche. There's no way it could be behind Madinet Zayed"

I headed back to the car - slowly -  and got in, put the air-con on and waited until my eyes were clear of floating white spots.

Far be it for me to suggest anything that even hinted on foul play, but ... could the Abu Dhabi Week reviewer who unknowingly sent me on this caffeine fuelled mission have got their information ... errr.. mixed up? Could they have relied on a secondary source rather than their own experience? Is it a coincidence that the misinformation put forward in the older review was repeated in the newer?

With these thoughts in my sweaty head I retreated, at pace, to the sanctuary of the ADNOC to grab my Coffee Planet machine coffee.

Yes-I realise that up until now I had been referring to it as "Planet Coffee", I noticed it for the first time today as I was staring at the machine, hoping there weren't any ex-St Kilda folk looking on sadly shaking their heads.

I think I prefer Planet Coffee... and might contact the company to suggest such. Although I think they have enough to concern themselves without listening to the rantings of some unstable Australian coffee hound who maybe in love - real love - real, honest, til death do us part love - with one of their Petrol Station machines in a Middle Eastern desert.

I might rename the ADNOC machine anyway.

I think I'll call it Charlene.

Tomorrow is another day.. and with any luck Zyara will be part of it..


  1. But at least you saw something interesting - 3 legged hula girls, animal carcasses, white spots...the list is endless. As seen as coffee would just dehydrate you more, have a wine! Love it - maybe need to send a really good coffee machine over?

  2. I'll tell you where it is if you let me come :-)

  3. J9 - err.. no.. wine probably wouldn't be appropriate while wandering the streets! Might have to deal with a whole diferent set of caffeine issues if I did, from behind bars :)

    Line - You're on.

  4. It was a bit of a struggle in London too (when I arrived from Melbourne 5 and a half years ago after a stint working for Lavazza)...but now I am happy to report that I am no longer reliant on the Costa/Starbucks/Caffe Nero triad for my (mediocre) fix!

    Happy hunting!!

  5. What is it with you and Charlene? Just dawned on me, you've replaced one Charlene with another!


Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to

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