Truly wonderful meals are memorable, they soothe, incite conversation and just taste so very good. And, because of all of the above, Bord Eau in Abu Dhabi has trumped – with finesse – almost every meal we’ve ever had. That’s right, folks – we think this may be the best restaurant in the UAE. Dear Chef Alexandre Pernetta (who was once voted France’s best young culinary talent back in 2002), you are a genius.
From the moment you walk into the classically decorated eatery, you’ll be lavished with attention – but not too much – and as the ballerinas in the portraits on the wall loom over you, and you look out over the water towards the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque, you’ll probably intuit that you’re in for something special (and you are).
Feeling adventurous, we ordered the Epicurean five-course blind tasting menu, and no, you’re not blindfolded while eating, but the trick is that you won’t know what’s coming. You can guess what type of protein will be in each course from the table setting, but beyond that, you go in unawares. And while we don’t want to divulge every detail of our meal – to make sure you’re just as surprised when you visit – the dishes change almost daily, so have no fear, your experience is likely to be very different from, but just as good as, ours. Plus, you can let the team know of any dislikes, allergies or general thoughts before you start so you’re at least confident you’ll enjoy every course.
Sipping on a sweet but not sickly glass of grape – the optional accompanying wine journey is as interesting for the palate as the food – our meal began with a delectable Carrot and lobster volute (which is sort of a cross between a stock and a sauce), which was a remarkably well-textured and richly flavoured amuse bouche. We never would have thought the naturally sweet but somewhat run-of-the-mill carrot could be such an interesting base. Next up was a disc of Duck foie gras – we’re not normally a fan of the French delicacy – but this version, made in-house by the Bord Eau team and accompanied by a homemade walnut bread and hints of vanilla and mango, was exceptional.
Two more courses came and went, and we were still blown away (we’ll keep the details secret, but we will tell you that one of them featured the most delicately textured ravioli that’s ever passed our lips) and then our final savoury dish was Venison – a meat that, because it’s so lean, is so often badly done. But, as we’d come to learn, Bord Eau does everything well – and the thin slivers of meat were cooked to a rare perfection, while the juniper berry-infused sauce was rich in all the right ways, its aromas reminding us of Christmas.
We finished our meal off with the Chocolate extravaganza, a ball of gooey chocolate goodness that was part-dessert, part-performance art, and we left with our palate nourished and our stomachs pleasantly full. Too often degustation menus have a few star dishes, while the rest fall flat – but not at Bord Eau – every single sliver of food was excellent, and the experience was memorable for all the right reasons.
Location Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, Between The Bridges, Abu Dhabi
Tel 02 509 8888
Timing 7pm-11.30pm, daily
Tasty trio: French in the capital
This quaint little spot serves a range of sustainable dishes using as much locally sourced produce as possible. The eco-friendly options include Al Ain quail ballotine, Pan roasted yanam fillet and Date tarte tatin with camel’s milk ice cream.
Location Le Méridien, Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area
Timing 12.30pm-3.30pm and 7pm-11.30pm, daily
Tel 02 644 6666
For classic French food in an admittedly rather old-school setting, look no further than this hidden gem. The steaks – and the many accompanying sauces – are always on point, as are the behemoth crème brûlées. Don’t visit if you fancy food that will reinvent the culinary wheel, this is comfort food central.
Location Mercure Centre Hotel, Al Markaziyah
Timing 12pm-12am, daily
Tel 02 633 3555
This new, stylish bistro – we love the black and white mosaic floors and oh-so Abu Dhabi chandeliers – serves up classic French food in an elegant but casual setting. Don’t know what to order? The classic Beef bourguignon comes highly recommended.Location Jumeirah Etihad Towers, Ras Al Akhdar
Timing 12pm-3.30pm and 7pm-11.30pm, daily
Tel 02 811 5666