Fanr Mediteranean Restaurant at Manarat - Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Manarat Saadiyat is part of the Saadiyat Cultural District, which will soon include The Zayed National Museum, The Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. It has positioned itself to be the cultural heartbeat not just of the UAE, but the Middle East. The cultural district will be one of the finest in the world, with no city able to compete with Abu Dhabi in terms of such a concentration of world class museums and galleries. So, Fanr Restaurant, part of Manarat Saadiyat, is a destination that is and will be part of this Cultural revolution.

Fanr is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that is ideally situated in the 15 400 SqM arts complex. Basically, after a visit to one of the exhibitions, you need time to reflect  and discuss. You certainly don't want to rush back to the city. Having had lunch here several times in the past, I decided to try them for dinner. Although I was driving this time and did not have anything from their wine list, it is great to know that they are licensed.

Due to the construction around Manarat Saadiyat, getting there was a bit of a challenge, but this is temporary. Despite a couple of wrong turns, I ended up where I needed to be. Even though there is no exhibition on at the the moment, I made sure I took a bit of time to enjoy the magnificent Chair sculpture close to the entrance of the Gallery created by Japanese artist, Tadashi Kawamata. If you have not seen it, make sure you do.
A picture that depicts the spaciousness and light in Fanr. 
Art throughout the restaurant reminds you where you are.

I then make my way to Fanr. It is airy and open. Huge windows allow for natural light to bathe the restaurant. High ceilings accentuate the spaciousness. There are art pieces tastefully placed around the restaurant, keeping the arty connection to the main gallery. In the cooler months, al fresco dining is a must, with a garden and fountain providing a perfect backdrop for a relaxed and cultured lunch or dinner.

My guest and I decide on three starters to share. From the menu, I can see that Fanr does some seriously tempting starters. I order the Tuscan tomato and basil bisque, Fanr salad and Ciliegine cheese and cherry tomato salad and the Watermelon and feta salad
Tuscan tomato and basil bisque
Signature Fanr salad.
Watermelon and feta salad
The portions are hearty. The bisque is well made. Chunky croutons make it quite a substantial starter and will be the perfect starter if you have a big appetite. The Fanr salad is just a perfect salad - fennel slices, avocado, parmesan crisp all held together by balsamic reduction. I also try the watermelon and feta salad, and this is all about Summer. It is bright, full of contrasts in colour and taste. Rather than state the obvious, look at the picture and imagine the tastes working in your mouth. The feta....roasted vegetables...olives...onions....watermelon and raspberry vinaigrette. Finally, the Ciliegine mozzarella salad is rich in different textures. Pine seeds,  Mediterranean crumble, parmesan  and a generous sprinkling of pesto make this another appetizing salad. 

The veal
Sangara fish
We then try two dishes to share for the main: Braised veal osso buco and one of the Chef's specials, Grilled fresh water sangara fish are brought to the table. The veal is marvelous. The bed of creamy pea risosotto also hits the right note. Again, colorful and rich. Finally, the sangara, an African fish found around the Congo, Egypt and Tanzania, is firm and full. An easy-to-enjoy fish. 

Date pudding
Dessert is a decadent affair. I order the Home-made umm ali and the Date pudding. The latter is probably too sweet for me, but I enjoy the date pudding on its own as I sip on my coffee. Finally, the umm ali is over the top yummy. I find it abundant in pistachios, raisins and the vanilla ice cream on top makes an indulgent dessert even more so. Chef's use of a mint leaf is more than just decorative. I love the non sweetness it brings to the dessert. I must add that it is wonderful seeing a chef in a stand-alone restaurant who puts as much effort into his presentation as he does in his preparing the dishes. 
Home made Umm ali
Fanr, I feel, is an underrated restaurant, but mainly because it does not get the buzz it deserves. It really is the perfect way to end a visit to the gallery, or even just to escape from the city, without you having to go to a hotel cafe and pay an exorbitant amount of money. The prices are very good, with no main course in excess of 80 Dhs - tremendous value for money in a cultured environment. The service is eager in a positive way, another one of the reasons to try it out. With the cooler months approaching, it is definitely a place to have a bowl of pasta on the terrace with a glass of Chardonnay. 

The low down

Fanr Restaurant,
Manarat Saadiyat,
Abu Dhabi
971 2 657 5888

Starters 38-65 Dhs
Mains 55-80 Dhs
Desserts 15-55 Dhs

On a side note, Fanr has just launched Wine and Cheese Nights with a cheese platter and choice of 6 free flowing reds and whites. Imagine a visit to the gallery followed by this! 

Wine and Cheese Nights Tuesday to Thursday 18h00-21h00.

Pictures thanks to Nokia Creative Studio on my Nokia 1520

Brandon Stoltenkamp