From Market to Kitchen: a concept at Market Kitchen - Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Since its relaunch a year ago, Le Royal Meridien has established itself as  a hotel that puts a lot into its Food & Beverage offerings. I can think of a handful of other hotels that can offer the diversity and quality that is available here. However, it is more than diversity. Any hotel with money can open a multitude of outlets. But only a few can ensure that there is a philosophy that underpins their leading restaurants - sustainability, respect for local produce and the education of guests while offering delicious dishes. A philosophy of food, after all, alone cannot satisfy the stomach and soul. 

It was this context, that I approached Market Kitchen's very exciting Saturday morning concept. More than just a  clever play on words, Market to Kitchen is an experience that allows participants to join Chef de Cuisine, Jordan Annabi, on a  trip to Mena fish and vegetable market before returning to Market Kitchen to prepare their produce for lunch. 

We join Chef at 11am and leave for Mena. It is a 10 minute drive from the hotel. The fish market is remarkably clean considering, and is a  hive of marketeers trying to sell you their catch of the day. Chef shows us around the fish market and shared some valuable trade secrets like knowing which fish to choose and so on. Watching him interact with the sellers is something else. There is a calm confidence and respect that comes through. After about 30 minutes we have our protein sorted: yellow fin tuna, squid, sherri fish, clams and prawns. Then, it is off to the vegetable market, about 5 minutes away. Chef allows participants to choose what they want, and offers guidance where he deems it necessary. But it is an experience pretty much tailored to your liking. We end up with some broccoli, my daughter's favourite, radish and a few other essentials. 

On returning to Market Kitchen, we take up seats around the open kitchen -  bar style seating makes this perfect. While it is not practical to have every guest behind the counter, Chef is flexible enough to allow guests to come around and try their hand at filleting or or mixing ingredients. My daughter is keen and enthusiastic. I ask Chef if he gets children who join the experience and he says yes. I like this. Something dear to the Executive Chef turned F&B Director at the hotel, Justin Galea, is the education of children when it comes to food. Getting them in there cooking is a philosophy dear to him. 

 Seeing my daughter, Mitsuki, behind the counter, being guided by Chef as she cleans squid is priceless, and not just from a memory point of view. She avoided dishes like squid and prawns because of 'ew' factor - but here she is holding it, up close and is playing her role in preparing it for cooking. The process is more important than the end which is eating, and now she can appreciate the journey of that squid to the plate, for example, with greater depth. 

Having just sung the praises of the process, the end dishes are wow! However, they are real, and this is the success of this concept. Looking at the dishes I see dishes that people can easily replicate at home. This is a credit to Chef Jordan. Some chefs would be tempted to highlight their skills in the kitchen as it is a chance to break free from the shackles of hotel rules of menu and budget, but Chef sticks to his mantra of creating dishes that are high on flavour but easy to make at home.

Seeing the signature Market Kitchen Fried sushi excites me. I am equally taken in when I try the yellow fin pizza. Chef has created dishes that still have a Market Kitchen touch about them. Then there is the Sherri fish cooked in foil with the most basic of ingredients - garlic, soy sauce, asparagus and pak choi. The clams are also simply cooked as evidenced in the picture. At the risk of labouring the point, but I feel it necessary, these are dishes that can definitely be made at home!

By the time we finished our Market to Kitchen experience, my daughter kept saying, 'This is so cool!' That in itself made the morning a success. Getting children excited about being in the kitchen making real food as opposed to Nutella-based treats is something worth expressing happiness over. Of course the concept really targets adults and they too will love the experience. They will sit down with a Chef who will create marvellously accessible dishes and they will love every moment. They'll, like me, leave, hoping to be back soon. 

The lowdown

Market Kitchen
Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street,
Abu Dhabi
02 674 2552
Contact Market Kitchen for details of this exciting initiative that runs Saturdays from 11am to around 2pm. 
Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I consult at restaurants and hotels in an attempt to look at the entire product to take service levels to where they should be. I visited  Market Kitchen as  a guest of the hotel.