The Venue: Sanderson’s café piqued our interest as it’s the first eatery in the UAE launched solo by Sergio Lopez – one half of the reputable F&B duo Tom and Serg. The Spaniard may be going it alone but the style that we know and love from Tom & Serg and The Sum of Us in Dubai, where beachy Melbournian-inspired details blend with industrial, is also evident at Sanderson’s. Serg says the location of Al Seef Resorts and Spa by Andalus, near Abu Dhabi’s Eastern Mangroves, was chosen due to its Mediterranean village aesthetic, which inspired him to look at Andalusian cafés and tropical Bali beach bars for boho, holiday style cues.

The Design: Once a temporary structure for Ramadan is now the permanent home of Sanderson’s. From the outside, it looks like a rustic beachside shack with a faux ivy and bamboo canopy, but inside it is surprisingly spacious. Blonde wood floors and natural light cascade in through wall-to-wall windows and create a bright, airy ambience. Inspired by a Spanish village courtyard, weathered concrete and brick archways with ivy trellises front the juice bar, creating an outdoor-indoor aesthetic complemented by an abundance of plants. The handcrafted tables are a design highlight, with each table topped with a mosaic of grey marble hexagons and edged with brass for a stunning artisanal-luxe look. Bamboo chairs from the Australian homeware boutique Tribe in Dubai offer casual beach-chic seating, accessorised with tribal-patterned cushions for comfort, while the store’s rattan Piatto trays hang from the ceiling amid a thatch of faux ivy, bringing in a touch of Balinese-inspired home fashion. Along one side, turquoise leather booths add a pop of bright Ibiza colour (matched by the staff uniforms), set against a wall fashioned into an exterior façade of concrete and jutting bricks. By the juice bar, teal resin floors, concrete walls and bamboo bar stools aid the sense of flow between the spaces.

The Experience: Sanderson’s is by far the gem of the Al Seef Resort and is somewhat out of place against its rather lacklustre surroundings – Al Bandar seems more fitting for this quality eatery. Its concept of "mood food" – freshly made dishes with balanced ingredients – are wonderfully presented to match the verdant, sunny, island-life setting: boho coconut-shell bowls, maioliche-patterned plates, glazed concrete mugs and pineapple-shaped glasses present a tactile experience while you dine. It’s easy to see why it’s fast become a go-to breakfast and lunch spot for locals and expats alike since it opened in November.

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