Three young friends from Uzbekistan are hoping to join the ranks of Dubai’s many successful independent ventures with the launch of their dream café in the city’s JLT
“I think we might be the youngest restaurateurs in the UAE,” says Fazz Kosimov of the young and ambitious three-man team behind the newly launched Friends’ Avenue Café, a laidback coffee shop and restaurant in Dubai’s JLT neighbourhood. Having only opened the doors at the end of February, the young trio – Fazz (23), Dave Hamidov (24) and Zee Alikhonov (24) – has already built a loyal clientele of coffee connoisseurs and lovers of good, wholesome food.
“With our friendship and young age, we wanted to bring together our energy and passion to create a place where people can socialise, enjoy quality gourmet food and build a strong relationship with a likeminded business,” says Fazz. “Friends’ Avenue Café is not a fast food fuel stop, nor is it a fancy, special occasion restaurant. We are a casual, relaxed place, which forms part of your daily or weekly routine. We are aiming to create a warm, comforting space that serves the type of food that you want to have with your friends, family and people close to you.”
Having studied, worked and travelled across the world, the trio were inspired by the chilled-out back streets of New York, while working in various cafés in the city. The atmosphere of Manhattan’s long avenues, where people “can walk, chat, and enjoy their time, feeling stress-free”, helped to inspire the new café’s concept and name a world away in JLT.
“JLT is one of those areas that is not really saturated with all sorts of cafés and restaurants,” says Fazz. “It is especially lacking places that serve very good quality food and coffee at reasonable prices. On top of that, the JLT community is a mix of various nations, mostly expats from Europe and Asia. All these people with diverse backgrounds make the area even more attractive.”
The menu at Friends’ Avenue Café features a fresh blend of Australian, English and European favourites, all competitively priced. The carefully selected breakfast menu features a wide variety of dishes, ranging from brioche French toast to the Friends’ Breakfast Board, which incorporates sautéed mushrooms, smoked salmon, asparagus, tomato confit, two poached eggs, feta cheese, pesto and toasted rye, while the lunch menu consists of freshly made sandwiches, crunchy salads and carefully selected main courses.
As for the coffee, the café’s resident barista, Richard Madayag, brings a wealth of experience to Friends’ Avenue, having worked as a barista both abroad and at the Abu Dhabi branch of popular café chain Jones The Grocer. Richard, who says he left Jones because he was excited about being a key member of the opening team, serves only the freshest of coffee, brewed from beans roasted in Dubai by local roastery RAW Coffee Company, and enjoys experimenting with his own recipes.
Customers include workers from JLT’s many office towers, as well as local residents. With the recent launch of a five-star hotel next door the café is also visited by tourists and businesspeople, particularly from the US and Europe. Open six days a week, from 7.30am to 6pm (Friday is their day to “chill”), Friends’ Avenue plans to add dinner options to their menu and open seven days a week soon.
With a friendship dating back almost seven years, the trio say they knew early on that their dream was to open their own coffee shop together in Dubai. “Dubai is considered one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It is a young city, very passionate to grow and to create a place and experiences that you cannot find anywhere in the world. So this is a right place for us,” says Fazz.
”We are also young and ready to grow with Dubai. You know, Dubai 2020 Expo is on the way, so this could be the once in a lifetime opportunity for us to be part of the world.” “Honestly, the food business is not an easy business to be in,” he continues. “It has so many ups-downs but it’s so much fun. After deep market research, we felt that Dubai was lacking concept cafés; there are only a few here at the moment.”
With Friends’ Avenue Café the first of a handful of planned ventures, the three food and coffee lovers believe that now is an exciting time for Dubai’s food scene with the growing popularity of young, homegrown and independent food concepts. “There are so many opportunities for businesses in Dubai,” says Fazz.
“Having homegrown brands is very important for any city in the world. Big brands are everywhere and have full power to operate in any market. But, having such young homegrown businesses gives a different touch to the whole city. First of all, it’s a sign of economic prosperity, but having young brands also creates opportunities for a city to think out of the box, to create something new, innovate and develop.”
“Everything is changing very fast, including food and food concepts,” Fazz continues. “We need to cope with the changes and stay up-to-date. Usually, this kind of concept store is developed by young entrepreneurs, who have a strong passion and a whole bunch of new ideas. I believe young teams are more capable of keeping up with these changes.”
Words: Sandra Tinari / Images: Keiron Throssell