The Sportsman’s Arms is an American-Irish pub style restaurant located at Zayed Sports City. It’s really tucked away – a hidden gem – which makes it attractive but difficult to find. Nothing on the internet tells you exactly how to get there. In fact, Google Maps led us to the Judicial building just outside of Gate 1. I called and spoke to one of the managers who was pleasant and able to provide more details. The restaurant itself is actually inside the tennis center, on the side of the sports complex where the big bowling alley is.
We arrived just in time for lunch and had the place to ourselves. It looks just as you would expect for a sports bar with dim lighting and dark wood furniture. The surprise was a complete wall of windows, through which you could see picturesque views of Zayed Sports City. We sat at a table overlooking the tennis courts and enjoyed the view. There’s also limited outdoor seating on the recently opened terrace which features a play area for kids. It’s a nice touch for family diners with young children. My kids (ages 1 and 3) often become restless in restaurants and it was good to have a proper place for them to move around. My husband and I even took turns taking them out to play to give each other a bit of time to enjoy our meals peacefully. With the cooler weather we certainly could’ve eaten out on the terrace too but we chose a table inside to get the full experience.
As I mentioned above, I called the restaurant for directions when we were trying to find it and the manager I spoke with was pleasant and very helpful. Good service extended beyond the walls of the establishment and he cared enough to help us get there. Our server was also personable and attentive. He entertained our questions about the menu and answered honestly. For example, we asked about the fried fish entree and he explained that people have consistently noted that the fish is not fried crispy enough. We appreciated the feedback and selected other options.
I started with the Apple and Fennel Salad with toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese. It was a good mix of flavors but a bit heavy on fennel for my taste. For my main course, I had the USDA Black Angus Burger with cheese and a side of Hand Cut Chips. My husband started with the Wings on Fire and then the New York Strip served with grilled tomato and mushroom with hand cut chips. Now, with this restaurant boasting American cuisine, we made sure to order our hometown favorites to see how they measured up and The Sportsman’s Arm did not disappoint. The burger, which I had prepared well done, was tender and juicy. The beef wasn’t over seasoned and I can attest that it’s one of the best burgers I’ve had in Abu Dhabi. Initially I had ordered fries with my burger but when I saw the Hand Cut chips on my husband’s plate I asked to switch them out. Our server and the chef were very accommodating and within 7 minutes I had piping hot, freshly made chips. They were delicious.
My husband, whom I affectionately call, “a wing aficionado”, was also very pleased with the Wings on Fire. He asked that they be fried extra crispy (a request he always makes when ordering wings) and they came back just right. He noted that the sauce is what put these wings over-the-top. So, you know o had to try them, right? And I agree. The sauce is spicy but sweet and neither element overpowered the other. He also gave his entree two thumbs up.
For the kids, I ordered the chicken nuggets meal which came with fries and the Margherita Pizza. The chicken fingers were a bit gourmet-style with an herb encrusted breading so my toddler didn’t fancy them. He’s a picky eater with a very simple palette. The fries and pizza were a hit with both kids though. And, the pizza was huge! It was large enough for the boys to share. In fact, all of the portion sizes were ample.
It is a sports bar so what would a visit be without drinks? My husband opted for a beer. From their wide selection, he chose a London Ale. He attempted to order me two mixed drinks – a Mai Tai and a Tom Collins. After several conversations between our server and the bartender and us directly with the bartender it was clear that they weren’t familiar enough with those drinks to make them. Since they didn’t seem capable of mixed drinks, I sipped a glass of pink Moscsto with my meal.
We had a good experience at The Sportsman’s Arms and I would certainly recommend it. Even though it’s a sports bar I find it appropriate for family dining. The outdoor terrace with kids play area is a great touch and very ideal for “winter dining” in Abu Dhabi.