There’s somethig so distinctively American about Dubai’s Al Quoz neighborhood. A former industrial area transformed into the beating heart of the city’s creative scene, where former warehouses and factories today house contemporary art galleries, coworking spots for tech startups, designer studios, concept shops, pop-up’s, multifunctional spaces and the things entrepeneurs like: juice bars, indoor cycling and coffee shops that make their own cold brew and kombucha. The whole place reeks of innovation and healthy living in a way that is so reminiscent of LA or Wynwood in Miami. Or maybe its closer to Brooklyn, or Shoreditch in London? Or maybe now every major cosmopolitan capital in the world has an area like this? Maybe I’m just starved for this kind of place in provincial, picture-book Bordeaux?
As I waited for my friend to finish her cycle sesh at CRANK, I took a stroll down Arsekal Avenue, the main artery of Al Quoz, the aesthetic of which is like a massage for all senses. The sun beat down on a cool jungle of concrete and steel. Colorful works of art tumbled forth from somber gray edifices. A quirky, out-of-place vintage cinema with dusty red velvet seats and a forgotten Hollywood vibe, like something out of a Tarantino film, beckoned. My brain stimulated, I loved everything about it.
One of the hotspots of Arkesal Ave is Nightjar Coffee Roasters, which has become one of Dubai’s most beloved cafés since its opening in 2017. A spacious and comfy, industrial style space in one of the Al Quoz warehouses, Nightjar is run by an eclectic group of passionate coffee afficionads from around the world, who’ve come together to do things right. Close relationships with the farmers from whom they directly source their beans, with an eye towards sustainability and fairness. They roast the stuff themselves, they grind the stuff themselves, they brew the stuff themselves and they happen to specialize my favorite format, so painfully difficult to find in Bordeaux: cold brew.
In fact, their Original Nitro Cold Brew made from single-origin batch Rwanda Bumbogo beans is the house signature and is served from a tap! The Nightjar team brew the stuff in bulk off-site and nitro-infuse it in their bag-in-key system. The brew is then chilled and injected with more nitrogen bubbles at the tap, which produces an incredibly smooth, frothy texture almost like that of a shaken cocktail or a Guinness. The long, slow and cold extraction technique results in a much gentler, more fully-flavored coffee in much the same way that a long, cold maceration can lead to a more well-rounded wine. It was creamy, cascading, malty, iced and wonderful. I could almost feel the caffeine oozing smoothly into my veins and the icy coolness shaking up my system, while I delighted in the nutty, complex layers of flavor.
As my friend chattered happily on about the motivational messages published on the Instagrams of her favorite cycle instructors, I dove into my breakfast muffin, which came with a smashed beef patty, fried egg, American cheese, baby spinach and romesco sauce on a toasted English muffin. I was in heaven. I miss English muffins, their chewy texture, their airy pores, their perfect size. I also miss a well-made salty breakfast sandwich in general. Here the beef was crumbly, juicy and delicious with the American cheese melting perfectly on and the romesco adding a perky acidity while also hydrating each bite. Bracing herself for the 20-some-odd-course Michelin starred tasting menu dinner we had booked for that evening and the market snacks of the Old Town Dubai tour we had just signed up for over breakfast, my friend went with a more sensible choice of poached egg, avo and paratha. It all looked good. And the vibe was just right.
Nightjar Coffee Roasters is the kick-ass neighborhood coffee we all need in our lives… Or maybe just I really do.