Suhoor - St. Regis Isand Resort, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

From a previous post on a suhoor you will know that the human element is what makes an evening special for me. Iftars and suhoors have an unspoken formula that most hotels follow. Attending one becomes a mission to find that Wow factor, the exclamation point to my expression or to move away from metaphors, that something that makes it stand out from the others. The moment I stepped into the Al Fanous Ramadan tent at St. Regis on Saadiyat Island, I got that feeling that there would be an exclamation point of note.

Tasteful, classy and stylish. 
The old cliche that if you are going to do something, you need to do it properly or not at all, has found a home at this property's Ramadan tent. Everything about it is exceptional. While most tents go for the usual huge layout of tables which go on for miles and miles, St Regis Saadiyat has created a level of intimacy you will be hard pressed to find in any Ramadan tent. Kudos to the Banqueting division for designing an interior that creates the impression that you are at your little table in a restaurant . Unwittingly, they have created  a setting that really allows for the art of conversation to thrive. In my mind, the centrepiece, is a glorious fountain that sets the tone for peace and tranquility amidst the smoking of shisha and live music. What is it about the sound of running water that heals and soothes the soul?
Yes, this is a tent. 
A wonderful distant presence all night. 
Immaculate attention to creating a warm atmosphere.
I am feeling peckish, so we order the usual cold mezze and of course the ubiquitous mixed grill. While their extensive selection of hot and cold mezze would more than  satisfy any hunger pains, I feel a need for something a bit more substantial. Well, it is a suhoor. The dishes are what you would expect from St Regis Saadiyat. The shanklish, a dish consisting mainly of cheese specially dried,  with a bit of pepper, tomato, parsley and olive oil. The cheese has an unusual crumby texture which I enjoy. The hummus, smooth and creamy, balances out the shanklish. Finally, we have the baba ghanouj topped with fresh and crunchy walnuts. Also, the mixed grill we share does not disappoint. I also enjoy the  portion of grilled onions that come with the grill. Deliciously sweet, in contrast to the live onion also on the platter.  Unexpected little pleasures.  On a side note, eating at 11pm is something unusual for me, but the chef's portions are just right.

Baba ghanouj with walnuts
Mixed grill
Cheese sambusek
Meanwhile, the conversation is flowing naturally. I look around me and notice the same thing elsewhere. I soon realise that the venue genuinely lends itself to this. I alluded  earlier to the intimate zones created by the layout in the tent. Also, the live musicians providing traditional music that could not be more appropriate for a suhoor, have a selection of music that is enjoyable but unobtrusive, allowing our words to flow.

TS Eliot,  service, Seinfeld, Shakespeare, Asian culture, floor to ceiling windows, family, social media, hopes and dreams, going to the gym, airline travel, perfume - conversation is celebrated. It is the depth of sharing  I usually associate with  an intimate restaurant. After our savoury delights, I look at the dessert menu. It has to be um ali and the kunafa Beiruty. When they are served, made to order,  and I try them, I sing the virtues of both. The um ali has a firmness about it that makes it  a bit heavy, but I like it. I have had a few too many soggy um alis of late. As for the kunafa, there is a crispness that ensures it is more than just about melting cheese that stretches. Good choices.

Kunafa Beiruty
Um ali
It is said that a house becomes a home when there is love. But it is also true that the physical space makes  a big contribution to creating an environment where love can be expressed and felt. That is what was achieved at this suhoor. I believe the art of conversation, as I have called it, would not have reached those levels were it for the clever and well planned layout of the tent. Flexibility with regards to spacing of tables, the creation of intimate nooks and of course the music and soothing water, made this a suhoor that I am unlikely to forget in a long time. Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady singing  "I could have danced all night" came to mind as I made for my car. While it was 2am, the spirit of Eliza was brimming inside me; one of those nights you wish would go on and on. I reflected on the power that people in hospitality have to create these moments, these feelings, these highs. St Regis Saadiyat Banqueting Team, take  bow.

The essentials

St Regis Isand Resort, Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi
Iftar and Souhour in the Al Fanous Tent
02 4988888

Iftar 185 Dhs
Suhoor Minimum spend
            Thur-Sat 100Dhs ++
            Sun-Wed 75Dhs ++

Brandon Stoltenkamp