By Julia Wheeler
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
Winter sunshine and Arabian hospitality await you in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. More self-assured and less frenetic than neighboring Dubai, largely due to oil wealth, it has taken a more leisurely and measured approach to tourism. The result is a considered, confident city that melds traditional with state-of-theart, luxury with tranquillity and full-on excitement with an evolving restaurant scene. The city is made up of dozens of islands (not man-made like Dubai’s) and this geography is being used cleverly to focus on the different aspects the city has to offer. Whichever you choose, you are assured of a warm welcome – as the locals say bayti baytak (my house is your house).
Pearls and Caviar by Sergi Arola
Based within the Shangri-La Hotel, the two-Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola has been helping reincarnate Shangri-La’s Pearls and Caviar brand, introducing Spanish heat to Abu Dhabi chic. Expect twists on paella, tapas and seafood served amid sparkling black and silver decor and the perfect mood. Arola is respected by many as the high priest of Spanish haute cuisine. Born in Barcelona, he cooked at home for his grandfather as a boy before becoming one of the first to study at the city’s Hospitality and Restaurant School in the mid-80s. A composer and guitarist for the alternative Los Canguros group, he joined Ferran Adrià’s teams at Talaia Mar and later elBulli before moving to Paris for Pierre Gagnaire. It was in Madrid where Arola’s name began to glint when his La Broche restaurants were awarded first one, then two Michelin stars. Another pair followed for Sergi Arola Gastro.
Arola has restaurants in São Paolo, Istanbul, Verbier, Mombasa, Barcelona and Ibiza, as well as Abu Dhabi. Here, his hand-crafted dishes and signature tipples are overseen by chef Antonio Giuseppe Borrelli. He graduated from the Hospitality and Culinary Institute in Fiuggi, Italy and worked across Europe before honing his skills alongside Arola in his Barcelona kitchen. Whichever dining venue you choose, be sure to stop by the elegant, open-air p&c Bar, which also bears Arola’s stamp of approval. There you’ll be tempted by gin infusions – spicy, sweet or dry – as you take in the stunning nighttime views across the Khor Maqta canal to the minarets of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
FOOD TREND: Brunch
Gulf weekends fall on Friday and Saturday, so if you are in town, skip breakfast and lunch and opt for a Friday brunch instead. This all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat option is almost tradition among expats and the hotels vie with each other to create evermore innovative versions.
Enjoy Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis (Corniche RoadWest) where a butler takes you via private elevator to the world’s highest suspended suite on the 48th and 49th floors. There in the 12,056 sq ft Abu Dhabi Suite, which can be yours for $48,000 per night, you will find a caviar ice bar, cheese and dessert room, roaming chef stations and a candy-filled cinema. Mixologists perform on demand in the private bar. For a break between courses, retire to the suite’s private spa for a shoulder massage or manicure. Only 50 people are allowed on this exclusive tour of the suite on the final Friday of the month.
The champagne option is $250 per person. email@example.com, +971 2 694 4553, stregisabudhabi.com/brunch-in-the-clouds
Alternatively, sit inside or out and watch the chef-driven brunch trolleys roll by at the Four Seasons’ Crust Restaurant. Among the delicacies, there is a dedicated fois gras station, oysters and top-rate sushi. The special children’s brunch also features access to a play area with huge screens and entertaining staff to keep little people happy.
The champagne package is $195 per person. fourseasons.com/abudhabi/dining/restaurants/crust/
TAKE THREE: Top Restaurants
Hakkasan Abu Dhabi chef Lee Kok Hua was awarded his colors at the original, Michelin-starred Hakkasan in Hanway Place, London. Here he recreates signature dishes, such as Peking Duck with caviar, alongside others designed for the Emirates crowd. Try the charcoal-grilled silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey. In addition to the main restaurant, there are four private dining rooms, and mashrabiya (latticework) screens add further seclusion. Decor is modern ethnic with embroidered furniture and a backlit blue glass bar.
Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace Hotel, Corniche Road, firstname.lastname@example.org, +971 2 690 7739, hakkasan.com/abudhabi
Choose from ristorante or salotto (lounge) and indoor or outdoor dining at Roberto’s, a homegrown Italian newcomer to the Abu Dhabi scene. The second flagship restaurant (the original is in Dubai’s financial district) is under the direction of the two-Michelin-starred chef, Enrico Bartolini and kept fresh daily by executive chef Francesco Guarracino. Think slick design meets food theater with an open kitchen. A marble crudo bar sets the stage for seafood creations and there is a DJ in the salotto. Tuck into the signature octopus with cheese, pepper and artichokes, and leave room for a dollop of “prepared on request” pistachio gelato.
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi, Rosewood Hotel, Al Maryah Island, email@example.com, +971 2 627 9009, robertos.ae/abudhabi
If you seek something elegant with just a pinch of oh là là, Brasserie Angelique is the destination. It is unmistakeably French from the Art Decoinspired interior to the final sip of Cognac, but there is nothing stuffy about this gem set amid the iconic Etihad Towers. The chef de cuisine is
Belgian Niels Van Oers, who joined from Jumeirah’s Burj Al Arab flagship hotel in Dubai. He has maintained the authenticity of dishes such as Burgundy snails and boeuf bourguignon. Meanwhile the sole à la Normande is paired with Dover sole mousse, an almond and caper crust
and lemon butter sauce.
Brasserie Angelique, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche Road West, firstname.lastname@example.org, +971 2 811 5666, jumeirah.com