Meet Vanilla Sukkar Cafe Dubai. A homegrown Al Safa gem conceptualised by an Emirati mother and daughter duo, serving sourdough, breakfast and lunch dishes, speciality coffee, desserts and more…
Vanilla Sukkar’s story first started in 2010, when Fatma Saifan, then a Zayed University student, started a baking project for the seasonal carnival. Baking soon became a keen passion for Fatma and once she left uni (graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Visual Arts) she decided to focus on it and set about launching a home business called Vanilla Sukkar. Fatma started creating and selling macarons and sweets for her cousins and friends weddings and special occasions. Soon, the demand grew and so did the business and Fatma found herself delivering her baked goods to customers all over the UAE and her Instagram following flourished. Fast-forward 8 years and in 2018 Fatma decided that it was time to expand and open her first cafe. So, joining forces with her mother Dr Kaltham Kenaid (an Instagram sensation in her own right thanks to her sourdough creations), the duo set about launching Vanilla Sukkar Cafe – a concept offering sourdough, desserts, main dishes and speciality coffee.
Located close by to Waitrose in Al Safa (next to fellow homegrown gems Bagel Yard, Nostalgia and Neighbors) Vanilla Sukkar is modern and minimal yet cosy and welcoming. The perfect spot to get work done or study (provided you are fully charged because there are no power points), the colour palette features pops of green – the colour of calm – in the furnishings, the coffee machine, the plants and the plates, set against ‘blank canvas’ white walls and a concrete floor (look closely and see if you can spot the pressed flowers underfoot!) The beautiful wooden chairs were custom-made in Bali and there’s a cute chalkboard for customers to leave messages on. At the back of the room, there’s a window offering a glimpse at the live sourdough bread-making action and the front counter features a tempting array of baked goods and desserts – available either to eat in or take away.
Every night at 11pm the team feeds the mother starter to get the required level of acidity for the bread. The starter is fed again at 4am to get the exact weight of the levain, which is used for kneading the dough after four hours. It’s a flexible process that gets adjusted depending on how happy and active the starter is – but one mistake in the process can ruin everything, so it truly is a labour of love, precision and passion. In fact, all of Vanilla Sukkar Cafe’s creations feature 100% commercial-yeast-free bakes made with sourdough – including the focaccia breads and the sweet rolls.
The menu at Vanilla Sukkar Cafe offers a variety of dishes for breakfast and lunch including egg dishes, sourdough pancakes, gluten-free oats porridge, salads, sandwiches and other light bites. Plus, of course: bakes and sweet treats. There are ample vegetarian options and the dishes were inspired by Fatma and Kaltham’s nostalgic favourites plus their discoveries whilst travelling.
The Huntr visited Vanilla Sukkar around 2pm on a Saturday. We ordered the Vanilla Sukkar Breakfast (60AED), which encompasses a mixed bread basket, strawberry lavender jam, butter, tahini and date molasses, plus olives, your choice of eggs or chickpeas, a tomato dip, cucumber and tomato, halloumi cheese, feta cheese, labneh and zaatar. It’s a delightful spread – healthy and filling, and the ideal way to start your day or end it (breakfast is served until close here). Plus the Eggplant Dangaw Fatteh (35AED), which is made with roasted eggplant, chickpeas, sourdough croutons, yoghurt tahini sauce, Aleppo pepper and micro greens. Creamy with a sweet and sour kick, we loved the combination of textures.
Naturally, we had to end our Vanilla Sukkar (which means ‘vanilla sugar’) experience on a sweet note, so we opted for the Pistachio Roll (15AED) (also crafted from sourdough), two macarons (8AED each) – the lavender and the pistachio and the Pistachio Rose Cake (25AED for a slice and 200AED for the whole cake) – a.k.a. the best-seller, and we can see why. Don’t miss it.
Drinks-wise Vanilla Sukkar is alcohol-free and offers a wide range of speciality coffees (using beans sourced from the Dubai-based Cypher roastery), teas, soft drinks and Ceremonial-grade organic Matcha. We enjoyed two perfect coffees – the V60 (25AED) and a Flat White (22AED), which went perfectly with the sweet desserts.
Insider tip: Vanilla Sukkar Cafe is open Sunday-Wednesday 8am until 7pm and Thursday-Saturday 8am until 9pm. Some of Vanilla Sukkar’s produce is available at a 50% discount at closing hour (6-7pm Sun-Weds and 8-9pm Thurs-Sat). Plus whole sourdough loaves are available to purchase and take home.