|19 February, 2020

New concept cafe in Dubai catches the fancy of Emirati youth

It isn't just an ordinary restaurant that was fortunate enough to captivate the neighbourhood's attention

People sit at a cafe in Boxpark, one of Dubai's newest retail districts along Dubai's Al Wasl Road, UAE April 2, 2016.

People sit at a cafe in Boxpark, one of Dubai's newest retail districts along Dubai's Al Wasl Road, UAE April 2, 2016.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
UAE - Nestled in the new dining and retail destination of Wasl 51 along Al Wasl road, a new concept cafè called Around the Block has been trending on social media.

Since it opened its doors in November 2019, the cafe has been popular with diners, particularly Emiratis living in Jumeirah 1, who have been flocking over to join the gastronomic buzz created by the restaurant.

It isn't just an ordinary restaurant that was fortunate enough to captivate the neighbourhood's attention. Aside from being the talk of the town, the eatery has also earned an impressive 14.5k followers on its Instagram profile.

Around the Block is divided into two sections, a casual café on one side and a restaurant for lunch and dinner on the other. It also has a unique offering in the form of a sneaker studio, where one can get their shoes cleaned or even customised, while indulging in its international fusion cuisine.

The café is the brainchild of 32-year-old Emirati Ismail Al Sharif, who wanted to personalise the restaurant's experience. "I am a big sneaker-head with a big collection of my own and I saw a gap in the market as there are no food joints that offer such a personal touch," said Ismail.

A government employee by day and an entrepreneur in the evenings, Ismail is no stranger to the food and beverage industry. In 2012, he inaugurated his first venture in the form of the burger joint Moylosm, which now has two branches.

Ismail also brings the family's five-decade long experience in the food and beverage industry to the new eatery, which he describes as an urban space and its creation inspired by his travels.

"I've travelled around the world and been to the urban hipster style restaurants. I always thought that Dubai needs a place like this. I have got good links with international roasteries, so I decided to start this restaurant which has a bit of retail, speciality coffee, bakery along with an urban dining experience."

Meal for two which includes a main course and one of the healthy smoothies can cost around Dh250 and its popularity is evident with the approximate waiting times during peak hours. Ismail added that breakfast has been the most popular among the loyal customers. "We sometimes face waiting time of up to an hour during the mornings. Though it can be less during the evenings, we still advice our customers to join us early as the footfall picks up around 6pm," said Ismail.

Success in the competitive F&B industry of Dubai lies in a customer-centric approach, according to Ismail.

"You always have to evolve with the customer expectations and make sure you add something new to your menu to keep them coming back for more. Over the last 10 years, people are more aware about speciality coffee as they travel a lot. So a good coffee surrounded by the urban experience of an all-stop-shop with friendly smiles, retail and great food is what makes Around the Block stand out," said Ismail.


Ismail Al Sharif

>Nationality: Emirati

>Age: 32

>Education: BA in Finance from University of San Diego (USA), MSc Public Policy and International Management, SOAS, University of London

>Profession: Project Manager at Dubai Future Foundation, Founder and COO - Moylos and Around the Block

Food and beverage experience:

>Family business of food products imports for the last 52 years.

>Opened his first restaurant, a burger joint Moylos, in 2012

>Inaugurated Around the Block in November 2019

Around the Block Café:

>Cuisine: International fusion with healthy treats

>Location: Wasl 51, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 1

>Timings: 7am - 11pm

>Meal for two: Dh250


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