Cuiscene weekday lunch - Fairmont, Abu Dhabi

The buffet. I used to enjoy a hate relationship with it. My thinking was always, "Why should I queue for food when I can sit down and have it brought to me?" It made sense to my 25 year old mind then. After all, I was paying for it. Queuing for free food is one thing. Abu Dhabi, it must be said, has altered this feeling. I think when you have a child you realise that the idea of a hundred dishes spread out in front of her is a lot more attractive than pictures or words in a menu.

In terms of design, The Fairmont Abu Dhabi is a bit odd for me. It is located next to Shangri-La - yes, the one with the glass facade. It is so dissonant in terms of its architecture. You have Traders, The Souq and Shangri-La on one side and the new Ritz Carlton the other side. Could have been one architect. But the Fairmont stands out as a misplaced building. Or it is a beacon of the contemporary. You make your pick.

Be that as it may, we had a 2 for 1 offer on the buffet, and having heard some good things about Cuiscene, we went for their lunch buffet. On entering the restaurant, you are struck by the ceiling to floor glass that gives the place an airy and spacious feel. If light is not your thing, though, there are a few enclosed areas that lend themselves to larger dining groups. We were quite happy to sit by the window.

Live Cooking stations
Like many high end hotel restaurants serving buffets, there are several live cooking stations featuring India, Asian and Seafood. The seafood station is quite impressive with sushi, shrimp  and calamari prepared to perfection. The Indian selection of about 6 dishes was complemented by freshly made Naan. For those with kids, the noodles at at the Asian station were gulped down with gusto by my daughter. On the roast side, they had grilled chicken and lamb.

During our trips to the buffet, the waiters and waitresses were very faithful in topping up our drinks. The service, while always visible, was somewhat lacking in soul though; it felt mechanical despite an overzealousness to please. I don't know, maybe I am just too in love with the service at Shangri-La which I have always described it as 'From the heart'. Now that I think about about it, was that not Thai Airways' slogan a few years ago? Either way, apt.

Getting back on track though, having finished my meal, I headed over to the Dessert station. It is a small station with a lot of cheesecake variations immaculately presented, fresh fruit, some Arabic favourites like Um Ali and an Indian section. One of the frustrating aspects about buffets is that the thinking seems to be 'Let us load the tables with food. The quantity will be so overwhelming that people will not notice the poor quality'. The way I judge a buffet is by the fruit. I cannot tell you how many times I have bitten into half ripe melon in restaurants.Here, however, the melon and watermelon were just right with a lovely balance between being sweet and chewy.  Cuiscene certainly is at the quality end of the scale when it comes to the food.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience although I felt a bit underwhelmed. I would like to try their full on Seafood night on a Thursday. I knew this buffet would be a scaled down version, but I still expected more.

Please make sure you visit the bathrooms. I felt like I had stepped in to the change rooms of a 1980s public swimming pool in South Africa. I am a fan of 5 star hotel bathrooms, with Shangri-La and The Westin among my favourites, but The Fairmont bathrooms adjacent to Frankies are interesting! My daughter asked why the 'sofa' in the waiting area in the bathroom does not connect with the turquoise-like colour of the mosaic style tiles. That word again DISSONANT.

On a side note, for those of you with Entertainer vouchers offering 2 for 1 deals, note though that even though the deal is 2 for 1, you can take quite a beating on the drinks. Fortunately, I was not in the mood for wine. If you stick to the Fairmont brand of water, you will be fine - specify this or else you will be paying Dhs 28  for a bottle of water. Still, the coffee was very reasonable at Dhs18.

Buffets do not have to be as bad a they are made to be. I think it is possible to dine at restaurants where there is a wonderful balance between quality, value for money and presentation. Don't forget that a 7 year old will get bored if you simply go to a la carte restaurants all the time. A buffet means less time with the ipad for a child!

The low down

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr,
Abu Dhabi
02 654 3333
Bill for 2 after using voucher 320 Dhs (incl drink)