Champagne in the sky at Ray's Bar - Jumeirah Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi

The elevator takes me up to the 62nd floor of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, the iconic city hotel of Abu Dhabi.  The elevator door opens to reveal a chic and stylish lounge area bathing in the remaining sunlight. It is 18h30 and I can see a splattering of after-work people. The music is appropriate - enough to add to the very laid back atmosphere. It is perfect. I imagine as the evening progresses, the music will change and will reflect the change in the crowd. Wait and see.
Sumptuous sofa seating
With romance in mind 

Ray's is luxurious. Gorgeous cream colored leather sofas and seats define 'lounging'. Animal skin cushions  symbolise luxury, and you will not be out of place here wearing that Marc Jacobs one piece and one piece and Ferragamo heels. But the post work crowd is a lot more casual. Ray's is what you want it to be.

It is spacious and open. There seems to be an emphasis on mingling, with a few big tables able to accommodate 8 or so around the bar. It is likely that you will leave Ray's having met a few people. However, within this spaciousness though there are intimacy possibilities with some sofas designed for two people to sit together and maybe share an intimate moment, look into each other's eyes - the start of romance or the celebration of love. There is also the more traditional bar seating area which is also impressive. Behind the fine collection of spirits is...the sky.

This night is all about Champagne for me. Rays' boasts a very modern Champagne fridge with place for keeping glasses chilled. By the time my first glass is poured, I notice that the sun has gone down. There seems to be  a cool blue light effect visible through the windows. Not completely dark yet. What a view. There are times when I forget that I am in Abu Dhabi. I forget that I am anywhere. Just a moment of delight. That is how mesmerizing it is. The lights, meanwhile, have been lowered. The music changes ever so slightly. More upbeat. I chill out.

Simply Gorgeous
I start off with Veuve Cliquot Brut. The classic yellow label reflects the golden color of the Champagne. I have it with some canapés courtesy of Quest, the hotel's, how shall I describe it, Post modernist Asian Fusion restaurant. Chicken and anchovies in edible rice paper. I also have Crispy potato leaf with chocolate dust and garlic sauce. It is the latter, moreover,  that brings out the mousse of the Veuve Cliquot. Beautifully paired.

My next Champagne stirs excitement in me. When was the last time you did something significant for the first time? Well, this is my first sip of Ruinhart Blanc de Blanc...This Chardonnay Champagne is crisp, light and I enjoy the peachy notes. It goes sublimely with the  salmon roll with coriander and chili paste - a canapé which confounds my expectations - the outside is hard  and super crunchy.

The service is what you would expect at this hotel. Having tried some of their other outlets like Rosewater, Li Beirut and Brasserie Angelique, I knew what to expect in service. I am not surprised. It is quick, efficient and knowledgable. Extremely knowledgeable. I love it when service is slick so  it allows you to focus on what matters - in this case, the Champagne.

Wasabi prawn on the left and Alaskan crab with mandarin and orange on the right. 
Next up I have the Veuve Ciquot Rose´ -  Beautiful beads, lively bubbles and just a hint of sweetness. One of the canapés it is paired with is wasabi prawn which has sweet spicy element, but it is especially the sweet element that enhances this glass of Champagne. The wasabi which gives a bit of kick is balanced just right and does not overwhelm that Rose´

The music, meanwhile,  and indeed the character of Ray's, has taken on a new persona. I notice the crowd has become more fashionable, with Coach and Gucci bags making their appearance. Certainly a place to be seen. I pick up a whif of  a mix of Bvlgari and Calvin Klein fragrances as I see two twenty somethings pass me by. By this time, the bar scene is very active. Couples mingle and chat to each other - I could be any where in the world.
The king of the night, the big Dom. 

For my final Champagne, I have a highly regarded vintage Champagne, the Dom Perignon 2004. It is the most structured of my drinks this evening, with complexity to match. The manner of the bubbles rising from the base of the glass tells me I am having something special. The Dom Perignon glass it is served in allows more breathing, enhancing the taste even more. Graceful and elegant. This is one Champagne that must not be over run with heavy accompanying dishes. One of the canapés, again, just perfect - Rice and chicken cracker, but very delicately flavored.

Dom Perignon 2004.
When I left at around 9pm things were really starting to get going at Ray's. The music was picking up and it was filling out quickly, in anticipation no doubt of the DJ who was to arrive a a bit later.  Ray's strikes the perfect balance between being a place to be seen and a venue that remains very welcoming and relaxing. As Abu Dhabi picks up in terms of attracting more and more international visitors, I could see them visiting Ray's. The 62nd floor - nothing beats this. The cool factor is undeniable. Style. Luxury. Creative canapés. Creative cocktails. Enviable single malts. And of course, fine Champagnes

The low down

Ray's Bar
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
02 811 5666

The full article with a focus more on the champagne can be read in Glass of Bubbly here: on page 24.

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