Savory-aficionados, rejoice: No more chocolates and caramels for Valentine’s Day – The Gazelle has found the savory heaven of Abu Dhabi.
The Cheese & Pickles Centre, one of the oldest stores in the UAE, brings the best of cheeses, olives, pickled onions and lemons, hot peppers and salami from around the Middle East and Mediterranean.
“I have been coming here for 29 years,” said Samer Hanna, a loyal customer from Egypt, busy shopping with his daughter Nardeen in tow. “The owner … I knew his father and now he [the son] owns it.”
This secret store sure is hidden. The Cheese & Pickles Centre is tucked inside a Baqala convenience store in the Khalidiya neighborhood. Unless you know about it by word-of-mouth, there is little chance you would pass it by accident. However, word has certainly gotten out and streams of Arab customers — from Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon – pass through the shop to pick up their favorite delicacies from home.
Try their 40 different kinds of olives. The most popular amongst customers are the Kalamata olives from Greece and the garlic-and-pepper-stuffed olives. Bite into a bitter pickled lemon and squint with satisfaction. Try their pickled cabbage or maqdus, a delicious stuffed eggplant from Syria.
Their selection of cheeses from around the Middle East puts Lulu’s meager cheese selection to shame. Find your favorite halloumi or get some rumi, an ancient Egyptian hard cheese, with whole ground pepper in it. Travel from Lebanon to Sudan through your palate, tasting different cheeses.
Some cheeses are so unique that Hanna had a hard time tracing their origins.
“This cheese … you slice tomatoes, onions very thin and add olive oil,” said Hanna, demonstrating with his hands the precision and care that goes into one of his favorite recipes. “This cheese … it is called … old cheese, just old cheese. It is from a village in Egypt.”
Their beef and turkey salami selection is of particularly good quality. Try their cooked beef salami, straight from Italy. On the wall behind the meat selection are hooks with smoked beef from Egypt and the UAE, ready to be sliced and served to family and friends.
If you go, make sure to ask Reda Al Desouki, the attendant behind the counter, to help you pick out the best of their selections.
Both exquisitely delicious and very affordable, it is a must stop shop for all students and faculty planning on hosting friends.
“This is the best place in Abu Dhabi,” said Hanna, smiling from ear to ear, with a full basket for a family weekend.
Nicole Lopez del Carril is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com
The Cheese & Pickles Centre is within walking distance from Sama Tower. It is located behind the Shining Towers on Electra Street. Walk down Electra towards the BMW Khalidiya and Argo Tea
. At the Shining Towers, walk around the towers, pass the Urban Bites café and walk down the first row of shops immediately behind the towers. Mid-block, there is a Baqala store that says Cheese & Pickles Centre LLC in very small print underneath. If you cannot find it, call the store at 02-666-7282.