Vasco's - The Hilton Corniche, Abu Dhabi.

Vasco da Gama is the European explorer who connected Europe to the Orient when he sailed that way, or simply, the East and the West. It is his name that is lent to the international restaurant at The Hilton - Vasco's. A restaurant that labels itself international has a challenge. Firstly, the menu needs to reflect that, and secondly, the dishes need to be cooked well. There should be no real weaknesses. How would Vasco's fair as an international restaurant on the night?

The entrance to Vasco's
Vasco's is quite an old restaurant in the Abu Dhabi context (around 14 years old). The dated interior shows that, but we are sitting outside tonight, so that will not be an issue. The outside is really breathtaking. A wooden deck, palm trees, fountains and gorgeous lights really set the scene for a lovely night out. Finally, with tables relatively closely together, you feel very cosy, notwithstanding the outside seating.  The romantic possibilities at Vasco's are obvious.

The menu is varied. On the menu I see a selection of starters, soups, pastas, pizza, fish, surf and turf  specialities and some Indian dishes - the latter not surprising considering Vasco da Gama's travels. For my starter,  I order the Buffalo mozzarella. and also the Lobster bisque. I decide against the salad bar - why order from there when you can have salads that are freshly made? By the time my order is taken, I already know what I like best about the restaurant - the view and ambience of course, but also the service. I am not sure how long our waiter has been working at Vasco's, but it feels like forever. Satheesh effortlessly goes through everything from offering drinks, recommendations and making chit chat. He is so at home here. Excellent. Moreover, in that opening 15 minutes, I have already interacted with three other staff, and my judgement of the service seems to be spot on.

I was immensely pleased with the Lanson

For my drink I order a bottle of Lanson Black Label Brut champagne. There are not many restaurants in Abu Dhabi that serve this champagne, which is a pity because it is a fine entry level champagne. Elegant, fine beading with a fresh, very dry taste. I could have it again, and again.

When my starter is served I am pleasantly surprised. The mozzarella, beautifully presented, finds itself on a bed of grilled vegetables and of course a generous amount of reduced balsamic. A welcome departure from the mozzarella and rucola that is so ubiquitous. Colourful. Tasty. As for my soup, the generous sized lobster pieces bring a defined bite to the bisque. The rest, smooth and creamy. A good soup.

Lobster bisque 
Irish salmon
My main course continues the theme of the sea. The location, the origin of the restaurant's name makes it an obvious choice. Has to be from the sea. I opt for the salmon, the Irish organic salmon. The salmon is alright, but fails to excite me. It is probably a little overcooked for my liking, robbing it of that moisture I am expecting. But the saving grace comes from an unexpected quarter - the broccoli. The perfect texture with a wonderful natural flavour. Love it.
This guest was quite happy with her evening. 
With Vasco's it is a case of the sum of the parts coming together to create a wonderful evening. I could see why it is immensely popular as an international restaurant. The menu spans a wide variety of dishes, and based on what I had, the food is quite good (notwithstanding my feeling about the salmon - this is so relative in fairness). The cooler months is the perfect time to try Vasco's. The setting and location make it a must do in the city. Finally, the dishes are very well priced, unlike newer restaurants where you never quite feel you are getting outstanding value for money. And while it is not marketed as  a romantic restaurant, there are enough elements for a couple to have a special evening here.

The lowdown
Hilton Corniche Abu Dhabi
02 6811900

My meal
Mozzarella salad 70 AED
Lobster Bisque 55 AED
Irish salmon 125 AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp