Rhodes 44 Brunch - St Regis, Abu Dhabi

In the week that Britain celebrated the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, it seemed rather appropriate that I should experience another thing that implicitly celebrates Britain, Rhodes 44. The latter is unashamedly British, from Oasis playing loudly as we walked in, to the Wedgewood china and the Arthur Price cutlery to the menu. In the buildup to my second visit to Rhodes 44 ( I enjoyed my Christmas with them, see http://bit.ly/1j0Bl8E ), I was genuinely captivated by the 'brunch at your table' concept. From those of you who have bee following my culinary exploration of Abu Dhabi you will know that I was looking for  a brunch that allowed me to spend more time at my table than moving from station to station to get food. So, the question then is, if Rhodes 44 provides this experience, can we still call it a brunch, in the Abu Dhabi sense of the word?

As we are guided to our table, we are welcomed by one of the staff, Tim,  who immediately recognizes me from my last visit, and is able to recall moments from that day, leaving me stupefied. What a memory he has, I think to myself. But it is not mechanical at all. Tim is all passion and soul as he offers us complimentary Laurent Perrier Champagne. Tim is the kind of staff member you want stationed right at this point of the brunch, and it is something that numerous restaurants seem to over look - the power of a first impression. He immediately sets the tone for us: warm, sincere and engaging.

The concept at Rhodes 44.

As we are seated, Milos, our dedicated waiter for the day, greets us and talks us through the afternoon that lies us ahead. I love the idea of a dedicated waiter or waitress. It personalizes the whole brunch and gives you a  chance to develop a rapport. He explains that the brunch will comprise what is on the menu (simply but stylishly presented by the way), hence  the 'brunch at your table' tag, but goes on to explain that there is a seafood station, Eton mess station (more about that later), cheese station and if you prefer not to have the dessert on the menu as well as a selection of desserts as part of a dessert station. There is also an ice cream trolley that will move around later. Finally, depending on your choice of package, you have  access to Pimm's bar stationed outside or a mimosa trolley. Reading this, you may feel it was  a lot to absorb, but on the contrary, Milos' conversational and confident tone, was such that it was easy to keep with all the information.

Fantastic  seafood station 
A daughter's pleasure - helping her dad with the oysters of course.
Of the best oysters I have had in the capital.
Before the starters are brought, I decide to visit the seafood station and look no further than the oysters, but still able to appreciate the iconic '44' ice sculpture. I help myself to some oysters, but start with the larger French oysters, leaving the Scottish Loch Fyne for my return trip. Oscar Wilde once remarked, "The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork". Fortunately that will not happen here as you for you can use the lovely oyster forks to complete a memorable oyster experience. Little things  do matter. As for taste, only twice before have I had oysters of such high quality and taste.

How about that for presentation?
Supremely delicious tomato soup. 
Of the three starters,  the corned beef, potato and onion has cakes with fried egg was delicious- I found the endearing homestyle presentation fresh. The slightly runny yolk held it all together rather nicely. The white tomato soup too is outstanding. Made from the essence of the tomato, the white colour masks an intensity that is somewhat surprising! Finally, the grilled mushrooms stick (portobello, oyster and chestnut on a skewer) was a celebration of the mushroom. You could really taste the subtle variations in taste of the three mushrooms. Loved it.

The crowd here was really dressed slickly, without being ostentatious, As English as the brunch was, no one was dressed for Ascott, but you still feel that some effort is required for this stylish restaurant. So, seeing an in-house guest arrive in flip flops and shorts, left me thinking it is time for another blog on brunch etiquette, with the previous one on the subject here: http://bit.ly/1imqUvN )Why do certain in-house guests at these occasions think they are above the acceptable norms that the rest of the vistors have to abide by? After all, this is not a  resort!

The salt base haddock was beautifully offset by the tomato
The beef - new meaning to the word 'tender'. 
However, I did not allow our fashionably challenged diner distract me from enjoying the main courses. In the interest of brevity, I will mention briefly the smoked haddock rarebit  and tomato and chive salad and the braised short rib of beef, The haddock reminded me of the way my mother made it. I lapped up every last bit of it. Finally, as for the beef, it was a dish I described in a  tweet  in the following terms: 'If there was a bone, the meat would just have dropped off'. Tender, without the meat being mushy. Gorgeous!

Finally, dessert was truly something. The so-called Eton mess is simple: fresh cream to which you added toppings like fruit of the berry family and meringue pieces, for example. Oh yum! No, make that double yum. And decadent. Also, the at-your-table dessert just screamed 'eat me' - a plate with cappuccino pannacotta, vanilla cheesecake and the rhubarb and apple crumble were a slice of heaven. The latter in particular, was crunchy while the rhubarb added a tartness to it, neutralizing the anticipated sweetness. One of the consequences of all of his was that I did not try of the impressive 50-cheese-selection on offer. I had already had my share of dessert for the week!

No picture can do the Eton mess any semblance of justice.  
Apple crumble 
The ice cream trolley - a hit with young and old. 
I am not sure what impressed me most. Was it the kids' club that allowed kids to be entertained while having quality and wholesome 'fun food'? Maybe it was having brunch to the music of U2, Coldplay, the Rolling Stones and other British gems. Could it be the sit down approach to brunch? Wait, I think it was the cut-above-the-rest waiting done by Tim and Milos. Surely it was the menu created by Mr Rhodes himself. I don't know now. What I do know is that this was an exceptional brunch in both concept and execution.  And yes, if brunch means having a good time on a Friday afternoon and feasting on sumptuous food in a lively atmosphere, then yes, the dine at your table is very much brunch.

As I walked out, I reflected on the Bard's words from Twelfth Night: 'Do not think because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale.Long may the cake and ale be brought forth at this spectacular brunch!

The low down

Rhodes 44
St Regis, Abu Dhabi (on the corniche)
Brunch with soft drinks 270 Dhs ++
Wine and Pimm's brunch 350 Dhs ++
Champagne and spirits brunch 450 Dhs ++