Bord Eau and Chagall, Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

In a previous post on Bord Eau, Shangri-la's award-winning restaurant, I waxed lyrically about various aspects of the restaurant. Outstanding was one of my superlatives:

Of course with Chef Cyril's departure to The Peninsula, Bangkok, it will be interesting to see the direction that the restaurant takes. The departure of Chef de cuisine and equally multi-award winning Cyril Calmet will present Bord Eau with some interesting challenges. Chef Cyril has certainly left his mark at this fine restaurant and his mantra that " I always bring sunshine to my plates" will hopefully live on. After all, is food not one of life's greatest pleasures, like sunshine? His dishes are like a Chagall painting for me: Imbued with a colour that resonates hope and envisions a time beyond the present where pressures of work, daily life and  society all try to exact their toll on the spirit. In his creations furthermore, there is a creativity that inspires a sense of appreciation for being alive. Bord Eau was certainly a leading light before he took over as Chef de cuisine, but his impact since has been immense. To continue the Chagall metaphor, imagine 'I and the Village' without the colour red in it...Still a magnificent work, but the red is magical. That is what I believe Chef Cyril has brought to Bord Eau.

While Bord Eau awaits its new Chef de cuisine, other restaurants may seize upon this opportunity to exploit the gap left by  Cyril's departure. If that is their intention, then they are in for a rude surprise. On my visit  a few nights ago, the dishes sent out by Executive chef Paul Dyson sent a strong signal that sunshine was very much still visible at Bord Eau, and it was magnificent. The "Loch fyne" wild salmon and scallop carpaccio, cured and marinated with citrus and chili pepper, my friend's starter, was overwhelming as it was subtle.  The latter in taste and the former in presentation. But even in that subtleness was a contrast as noticeable as there is between Chagall's 'The Viloinist' and Popova's 'Lady with guitar'.  This is largely due to the citrus and pepper tastes. Dare I say truly glorious?

The splendid salmon starter.

My entree, the milk-fed lamb - roasted and parmentier with eggplant caviar, caramelized pearl onion and lamb jus milk-fed lamb was absolutely superb. People often use words like tender and succulent to describe the taste of a particular cut of meat - well, I'm afraid I will do the same here, because these two words quite simply capture the lamb best. Furthermore, the thoughtful presentation where there are two cuts instead of the usual one allows the chef to dazzle the eyes as he presents the vegetables in the middle as the centre piece. His genius lies in the fact that the lamb, on the outside, is really the centre piece, but as you bite into the sun dried peppers and mashed potato, you feel that is the main part. The lam jus, which completes this piece of art, complements the dish beautifully in delicate taste and also bold colour.

What is better than a piece of tender lamb? Two pieces of course.

A piece of red meat only as good as its centre. 

Moving on to the service, I am pleased that it was not flawless. Slick it certainly was. Familiar but professional it definitely was. The timing of the dishes Swiss-like. However, I prefer to finish my water before it is refilled. On this occasion I found the service a bit too eager. I think waiters should also be more observant of guests' body language before topping up drinks. My friend and I were in the middle of something quite deep and intense and that moment was lost because my water was topped up. A minor thing, but evidence that there is room for improvement in service. These are difficult issues because it is about balance, isn't it? If I reached for my glass and it was empty, what would I be writing now? Nonetheless, I think being more aware of a guest's body language can go a long way to ensuring service, good as it is, is impeccable.

Secondly, I appreciate the fact that waiters talk me through my dish. I love knowing what I am eating. Now these waiters know exactly what is in the dish. They have learned the menu and  they have tried the meals too, so there is no shortcoming here. They know what they are talking about. But slow down. For me this is poetry and as the waiter mentions what is on my plate, I want to visualise the chef preparing it. Slow down.  So, why pleased with the the minor areas where improvement is needed? Flawless service can lead to complacency, a dangerous thing in this competitive market.

Continuing along lines of service, I love it when, for example,  a waiter,  has the confidence and presence of mind to throw out the training manual and surprise me. I was not looking to have any red wine that night, but when the lamb was place in front of me, I was torn. My waiter understood that and offered me just a bit of wine to, in his words, allow me to appreciate the lamb even more. This is brilliant. He is a waiter who obviously has the support of his manager to have a long term view of every guest and not just the immediate profit and loss. In the end, the Louis Jadot "Couvent des Jacobins"
Pinot Noir did just that: medium and not too full and delightfully fruity, it was a wonderful recommendation. So, while I see room for improvement, this aspect of the service was absolutely wonderfully human!

Finally, when I arrived earlier and the menu was offered to me, there was no doubt in my mind what I was going to have for dessert: the chocolate extravaganza. While the creme brûlée was very tempting, memories of my last chocolate extravaganza with its 80% cocoa content were too overpowering that I helplessly indicated my preference. The second time around was just as sumptuous. Except this time I immersed myself in the moment as my waiter poured the melted chocolate over the chocolate ball containing chocolate  mousse and ice cream. I followed, mesmerised,  the sauce as it melted the chocolate on my plate. Beautiful.

Leaving nothing for the fairies - another memorable extravaganza of chocolate. 
I would like to visit Bord Eau three months later to see the brush strokes of the new artist who will lead this fine restaurant. In the same way that Chagall continued to be influenced by Bella after she had moved on, I would like to see too what extent Cyril's influence will remain here. There is of course the old adage that if something is not broken, don't fix it, but I have no doubt that we are in for an exciting time when the new Chef de cuisine arrives, respecting the past but boldly moving Bord Eau forward.

The essential

Bord Eau,
Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi.
02 509 8511

Starters 72-180 Dhs
Entrees 170-295 Dhs
Desserts 32-65 Dhs