The Park Bar & Grill - Park Hyatt Hotel & Villas, Abu Dhabi

There is something distinctive about The Park Hyatt Hotel &Villas on Saadiyat Island. As I get out of my taxi and see the small branding of the name, I get it. Small, not obvious, a sense of knowing. Brands around the world have something consistent in them, and for me the Park Hyatt brand, more than most brands, cares that consistency to the nth degree. On my way to dinner at The Park Bar & Grill, I stand in the lobby and feel the atmosphere. I stand in the lobby and listen. Serene. Peaceful. Calm. It is one hotel that is totally transformed when night time comes. Rather, it is a  different experience. An oasis of tranquility.

This is what you see as you walk into the restaurant.
I make my way to the restaurant and pass by the bar. The layout means I pass through a  real bar with ample seating. The bar looks like a destination in itself because it is removed from the dining area which is downstairs. I take the stairs and the first thing I see is  a display of seafood. Immediately my preconceived notions are challenged. This is not just a  steakhouse. 'Grill' here really encompasses land and sea. In the restaurant I see little nooks which create a sense of intimacy, as opposed to one big floor space. The open kitchen is big and its central location on the floor brings that element of theatre to my evening, but I choose to sit in a distant corner, still affording me a view of the drama unfolding.

In keeping with the rest of the hotel, I find the restaurant understated and elegant. Earthy tones dominate, broken by a splash of red. The red brings that added warmth, and I sit basking in the glow of soft red light. Gorgeous.

The waiter offers me a drink and I choose a Cava, Freixenet Carta Nevada. It is a semi dry peachy Cava that is uncomplicated. A nice way to get the evening going. I peruse the menu - it has great variety but it is quite succinct - a single A3 size menu. My guest and I decide on three starters which we will share: Organic tomato and buffalo mozzarella, Prime beef tartar and Pan-fried duck foie gras. The mozzarella salad has al the elements to make me want to have more. Freshness, beautiful texture of the mozzarella and the light saltines of the herb crumbs and olives.
Foie gras

Next I try the foie gras and am surprised. The sweetness on the plate is very subtle, and rather than have a caramelized piece of fruit on the side, Chef has gone with a parsnip puree. The gentle sweetness actually complements the foie gras quite nicely and does not push it into the background. Finally, despite being initially intimidated by the size of it, I end up finishing the beef tartar. The small mixed herb salad and the toasted brioche all contribute to making it my favourite starter for the night.

Our waiter, Vishal, is efficient and knows when not make his exit timeously. As I prepare for my main course, I ask him to recommend a wine. He chooses a Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. While he readies it, we are given a basil based palate cleanser . I find it too sweet though, and have a couple of spoonfuls only.

While I wait for my main course, I try to figure out what kind of music has been playing. I find it disconcerting because it just seems to be random music, without a connection to the restaurant; no theme that connects  the music. My thoughts, though, are interrupted as our main courses are served- a platter with Omani lobsterGrilled local tuna and fried rice. We are also served Australian Wagyu Rib eye grade 5 beef. 

Lobster, tuna and fried rice.
The lobster is beautifully grilled and has retained some moisture. The tuna, though, is the clear winner. The caveat with tuna is that there is a fine line between a perfect piece of fish and an over grilled piece that is dry. On this occasion, the tuna is done medium and as I cut into it, I can see how succulent it is.

Australian Wagyu
Next I try my beef. Just looking at it I can see generous marbling and am excited about the fat. I cut into it and my expectations are met. Cooked around 50-55 degrees per my request, I love it. It is well paired with my Cabernet Sauvignon. I try the side dishes. The fries are amazing. All potato. Really good.
Dessert tasting platter

Finally, dessert is served, and Chef has prepared a tasting platter of 5 treats. Vanilla bean creme brûlée with passion fruit, Warm chocolate pudding, Steamed banana cake, Fresh fruit and Alawamah, an Arabic dessert. The chocolate pudding and banana cake stand out. The former is nice and warm and as I break it with my spoon, chocolate just oozes out. Not at all sweet! As for the banana cake, it is something different. Simply presented on banana leaf, I like the  natural sweetness and banananess, so to speak. Thus ended dinner.

The Park Bar & Grill is more than a steakhouse. I am not sure why this assumption has crept into people's minds, including mine. In the end I experienced  a restaurant that is so harmonious with the rest of the hotel; an effortless extension of the Park Hyatt brand (except for the music!) That in itself makes it worth visiting. But it runs deeper. The menu, which has really well priced and not overly expensive options,  offers something unique in that it genuinely seeks to provide grills from the land and sea of high quality. But make sure you arrive early. Sit in the lobby lounge for  a few minutes and just absorb. Sense. Feel.  It is such a big part of the dining experience that comes later.

The Essentials

The Park Bar & Grill, 
Park Hyatt Hotel & Villas
Abu Dhabi
02 407 1234

Starters 45-95 Dhs
Mains 110-490 Dhs
Desserts 45-85 Dhs

                                                                                          Pictures thanks to Nokia Creative Studio on my Nokia 1520
Brandon Stoltenkamp