Relaxed Mexican at El Sombrero - Sheraton Hotel, Abu Dhabi

While it is only 7pm, there is already a distinctive energy at El Sombrero, the Mexican restaurant at the Sheraton in Abu Dhabi. It is strange considering there is a mere splattering of guests at this stage, but that says a lot about the restaurant already. 

It is a happy restaurant, with red and orange washed walls. Vibrant, lively. El Sombrero is also intimate, catering for around 70 people I estimate. In addition to the general seating area catering for smoking and non smoking diners, there are also semi-private rooms. 

Dinner kicks of one of the specialities at El Sombrero with a Blue Curacao Margarita. Looking around as the table start filling up, I see a couple of beer drinkers, but generally margaritas are all round. The restaurant starts filling up nicely, and this is a Tuesday night! I start off with a  selection of starters. Of course it has to be the Guacamole which smacks of freshness. Super crispy tortilla chips make this a classic dish. 

I also have the Empanadas, stuffed with a corn fungus type mushroom known in Mexico as huitlacoche. It gives the empanada a smooth, smoky  taste. Quite nice. Finally, the highlight of my starters is undoubtedly the Tostada de Atun Fresco, a tortilla with fresh tuna, red cabbage and chipotle mayonnaise. I love the  contrast between the crispy tortilla and fresh, tender tuna. 

Just before I have my main course, the atmosphere gets even better when the band starts playing. Los Hidalgos, the resident band at El Sombrero for two years, play some entertaining Mexican tunes, while people keep sipping away on their margaritas. I understand they will be finishing their contract soon, so I feel privileged to be part of this evening. 

My daughter, meanwhile, is having a great time. She loves the relaxed atmosphere and is scribbling away on the flip side of her kids menu. For her main she has the Tacos. It is quite a substantial portion consisting of three tacos with mildly spicy rice on the side. 

For my main, I have  a small portion of Camarones a la Diablo. The prawns are covered in a sauce made from Arbol and Guajillo chilies. They are  hot and spicy as per my request, and are simply perfect. As for the prawns, they are cooked just right, and consequently  are not too chewy. Finally, the green salad balances the spicy sauce rather nicely and provides a bit of relief. A good dish!

The service is alert never ending, with staff moving around making sure guests needs' are met. Argentinian restaurant manager Luciano Bartolomei, fairly recently joined, is right at home and leads by example, clearing plates and pouring margaritas. My waitress Christine, makes sure that water is periodically topped up, is attentive to the needs of my daughter and is generally engaging even when she was busy. A real pleasure!

I cannot believe that I have never tried El Sombrero. It is a place that offers something more than just a night out of eating. The selection of margaritas and the tasty casual dishes wonderfully served up by Mexican Chef Rafael Cerdan make it an evening with all sorts of possibilities. I have often heard from friends what a great vibe El Sombrero has on weekends. I got that same feeling on a Tuesday, so I can only imagine what an atmosphere it has on Thursday and Fridays. 

The Essentials

El Sombrero,
The Sheraton Abu Dhabi
971 2 677 3333

Starters 25-65 AED
Mains 65-175 AED
Margritas starting from 35 AED

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 Sombrero courtesy of the hotel.