Sunday, October 14, 2007
Shangri la Hotel
Qaryat al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Bookings: 02 509 8888
Shangri La’s newest addition in the Gulf to its legion of hotels sits between the two bridges that link Abu Dhabi to the mainland. It is currently (October 2007) offering its ‘soft opening’ as the hotel industry terms it, which means that half the hotel is still under construction. The hotel boasts a number of fine dining options and one of them, Bord Eau, is described as Left Bank Parisian streets brought to life with modern French cooking, which just goes to show that you should never believe everything you read. As an aside can I also just say that the person who thought up the name should be taken outside and shot.
The restaurant itself is long and narrow, with windows down one side and at the end with views over the water to Abu Dhabi. The ceiling is very high and there is an excellent sense of space and opulence. They have some rather dubious chandeliers (I suppose we are in the Middle East so just about excusable) and some rather cool art deco style lights on the wall. It is all about mirrors and patterns I am told but the overall impression is one of sophistication, very classic; crisp white linen tablecloths, low lighting, efficient service, gleaming crystal and lovely cutlery and crockery. This is a nice place to dine.
The menu is quite short (which I actually prefer) and leans more towards seafood; with turbot, john dory and sea bream and featuring. Not a hammour in sight.
The waiter was extremely knowledgeable, telling us where the fish were from and explaining the little oddities that they have on the menu. I opted for the blind tasting menu which is a five course extravaganza at Dhs 220. It was a bargain I can tell you.
The waiter asked me if there was anything I couldn’t eat or if I preferred more fish or meat. I said that I eat everything, had absolutely no preferences either way and that I was in the hands of the chef. He looked delighted!
It was soon my turn to be delighted when I looked at the wine list. It has a very good selection of wines from all over the world and whilst the French wines got a good listing so did the Italians, Australians and Americans. However, by far and away the most pleasant surprise were the prices. I am so used to eating in five star hotels in Dubai and seeing the decent wines starting at Dhs 300 and heading up quickly that I almost fell off my seat seeing wines starting at Dhs 100 and heading up slowly. I ordered an excellent Chablis 1er Cru for Dhs 270. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen anything that good value in the UAE.
The first thing to arrive were two baked thin triangles of crisp bread standing upright in a bowl of mixed white and black sesame seeds and accompanied by a little bowl of tomato relish with truffle oil. I thought that the sesame seeds were a really clever idea, they looked great, but that was until I tried to snap off a piece of the bread and fired about a tablespoon of seeds all over the table! The truffle oil was the beginning of a bit of a theme for the evening. I do like truffle oil, it has an incredibly distinctive taste, but it also has a taste that stays in the mouth for quite a while. It needs to be used incredibly judiciously but I think that the chef must have just got a new batch in for it appeared in a number in incarnations throughout the meal.
The amuse bouche was a tiny little bowl of lobster bisque. It was superb, incredibly rich and deeply satisfying. I could have eaten a large bowl of it very happily.
My blind tasting started off with a foie gras terrine accompanied by a mushroom puree (with truffle oil in it). The terrine was very good, delightfully creamy but the toasted bread that came with it was so crunchy and so hard that I was sure everyone in the restaurant could hear me eating!
Next up was a plate of grilled seafood; a large prawn, scallop, one large clam and some calamari. They were all cooked very well, still lovely and moist and served on a pureed salsa verde dressing. Now I am a HUGE fan of salsa verde but this dressing was rather mild, I didn’t really get any flavours of the herbs, capers or anything. I also think salsa verde needs to be hand chopped, and quite roughly at that, and so the puree wasn’t really to my liking but that is just me being picky. It was all cooked beautifully, very fresh tasting and well presented.
The seafood was followed by a small piece of beef short rib with roasted shallots, carrot puree and a divinely rich red wine jus. The beef was cooked rare and was very flavoursome. I know short rib is not to everyone tastes as it can be quite chewy and a little greasy, but I thought it was very good.
A short while later I was presented with a tray of five cheeses, all French. Roquefort (natch) one goat’s cheese and the rest cow’s milk cheeses.
The last dish was described by the waiter as chocolate extravaganza, and he wasn’t wrong. It looked a little like a smallish Easter egg until warm chocolate sauce was poured over it and it melted to reveal a chocolate mousse affair in the middle. Around the side of the plate was a raspberry coulis which I thought really worked well as it cut through the richness of the chocolate but which my lovely wife didn’t think was a good idea at all. Ah well. I have to say that this was probably one of the richest desserts I have ever eaten in my life and I could only manage a couple of teaspoons. Luckily my wife was on hand to help out.
I was very impressed with this restaurant, the food is great, it really is. The service was excellent, friendly, knowledgeable and not overpowering. The room is lovely; comfortable, very classic and lends a wonderful sense of calm. The bill was not daft at all, with the wine being so reasonably priced it probably worked out to about two-thirds of what you would expect to pay in Dubai for food nowhere near this good.
I heartily recommend Bord Eau, now if only they would change the name…..