Bord Eau - Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

There is arguably no restaurant in Abu Dhabi that has received the amount of accolades in such a short existence as Shangri-la Abu Dhabi's flagship restaurant, Bord Eau. It serves French Nouvelle cuisine. Rather than spend time listing them here (you can google this), let us explore the questions: Is it worthy of the hype? Is it over-rated? Did it meet expectations?

When one visits such a restaurant where its reputation precedes itself to the extent that Bord Eau's does, there is a risk that one is either too tough to prove the many who rave about it wrong or to mythologise it too because of what one has heard. It was with this in mind that I went for dinner.

I was greeted at the door by a hostess that personified grace and elegance. The first thing that hits you as you walk in is the tranquility and peace. This has nothing to with the number of diners at the restaurant. It runs deeper than that. The colours are earthy and the bit of colour that is provided by two beautiful Degas- inspired ballerina paintings, is offset by the low key lighting. I could understand why, notwithstanding that I dined alone, this is regarded as one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. Moreover, Bord Eau has only 11/12  tables inside and 5 outside, adding to that air of intimacy and romance.

Out of respect for the Prophet's birthday (PBUH) there was no alcohol served, so I  went with sparkling water for the night, but told myself that I would have to try the well regarded wine list on another day.

Salmon tartar as you've never seen it.
Bord Eau offers a 3- Course Seasonal Signature menu as well as 4 and 5-course Blind tasting menus. However, I opted for  4 courses consisting of two starters, the main and dessert. This was because there are really such intriguing options throughout the menu, but in particular the starter options. How many fine restaurants have you been to where beetroot is on the menu? Exactly. I ordered The Beetroot: salad, comte, walnut cream and pumpernickel. My second starter was more predictable but no less exciting: Burgundy snails and frogs legs in parsley butter, sunchoke and Bord Eau sauce. For my entree, the beef seemed an obvious choice, but I was curious about the duck, so I opted for the Duck Breast with orange, caramelised quince, Brussels sprouts, candied chestnut and five spices sauce. Finally, for dessert I ordered the Dark Chocolate Extravaganza.

Pumpkin amuse bouche.
Just after my waitress had taken my order I marvelled at the way the staff worked in tandem. No words. Silence. An unspoken understanding stemming from excellent training. I smiled. My smile was interrupted by the first amuse bouche which was art. It was salmon tartar in a tiny cone about the size of a large thimble. Absolutely delightful. I was arrested more by the presentation. This was followed by the second which was  a pumpkin soup to die for. I forgot what my waitress said about it as I could not resist but try. 'Why is this only an amuse bouche.' I cried out inside. 'This should be a more substantial portion and be a starter', I continued my voiceless cry. It was unbelievably smooth and flavourful. What a fantastic start that was.

After that, my first starter, the beetroot was brought. I did not want to eat it.I thought it would have been more at home in the Pompidou section on  Food if it existed. Large plates with the starter perfectly placed. The Japanese and the French, more than anyone, have perfected the art of presenting food in a way that really assaults the sight senses in a most exquisite manner. That was evident here. The taste - the walnut cream was fantastic as was everything else. Meanwhile,  I was offered some bread. Oh, so warm. The chef could have been baking it right at my table. The butter, amazing by the way, was a gorgeous accompaniment. After this, my snails and frog legs continued to assault my senses. The contrast of colours and taste left me saying, 'It is great to be alive'.

Snails and frog legs.
The stillness of the experience was broken by a large group of about 8 guests. Why is it that some people cannot change their speaking volume when they visit a restaurant like this? I saw two couples in a corner who were obviously enjoying a romantic dinner. Then, this fairly boisterous group came in. We are living in a  society,  people. Etiquette and manners are the glue of society.

Succulent duck.
After accepting that I did not live in a perfect world, I anticipated my entree. When it came, I could barely wait to try a piece. Duck is not easy to cook and can be very dry. This was the exact opposite. And the use of oranges, not overpowering but definitely there, was perfect. The candied chestnut  was a pleasant surprise, especially in juxtaposition to the sauce. When I took my last bite, I did so with a tinge of sadness.

On a side note, I was really impressed by the timing between courses. It was a testament to precision!

Finally, the Chocolate Extravaganza. I waited for this with an eagerness shown by early travellers as they waited for the moon to guide them across the desert. I had read about this chocolate feast, but even that did not prepare me for what lay ahead. A chocolate ball on a plate was placed in front of me. I was underwhelmed, but then the waitress poured hot chocolate sauce over it. It started to melt to reveal chocolate ice cream on the inside. What a surprise! One spoonful and I regretted feeling 'underwhelmed'. Dark chocolate, so no issues with calories. The hot and cold combined to dull my senses as I entered a world of pure pleasure and indulgence. I am glad no one was watching me as I put the spoon in my mouth. When I finished, I told my waitress that next time I would order the 4-course Chocolate Extravaganza!

Chocolate heaven.
The service throughout was professional but soulful, slick and unpretentious.

The verdict? Seriously? Is there a need to ask? I can see why so many online travel sites and dining sites praise Bord Eau. In a world where everything is about adding water and stirring... In a world where we choose the easiest, quickest and not scenic route to get to our destination, it is heartwarming to know that such a thing as Time does exist; time to care about the presentation of a starter. Time to meticulously place your cutlery while you wait the arrival of a your next course. Time to enjoy a meal and not worry about tomorrow. Time. Time is Bord Eau, Shangri-la.

The low down

Bord Eau,
Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

Meal for two
700 Dhs++