Showing posts from November, 2015

Cave Wine Bar - Conrad, Dubai

There is still something very sophisticated about a wine bar, especially in the UAE where they are pretty much a niche product, eschewing the masses who over-run bars for their hops and  cocktails. Even the growing dining scene that is Dubai does not have that many wine bars, but it is growing. On a recent visit to Conrad Dubai, I discovered Cave, a dedicated wine bar that, like a cave, is almost hidden. 

Walking in, it resembles a cave with lighting perfectly set to capture your imagination. Seating options abound. As I continue, I spot a cosy and romantic corner spot with even more low key lighting. I spot some high tables, large enough to accommodate up to 8. Then, I see some more standard table and chair options. However, I keep walking, pass the bar, and spot the much read-about day beds. Maybe for an after dinner dessert wine, I think to myself.

There are so many off beat elements  that will endear Cave to you. It is full of surprise after surprise. Champagne bottles, wine bottles…

Friday Brunch at Ballaro - Conrad, Dubai

If we are spoilt for choice when it comes to brunches in Abu Dhabi, that choice reaches stratospheric levels in Dubai with its more mature dining scene. Competition is immensely fierce. It was with this in mind that I visited Ballaro's Friday brunch to look for its wow factors. At the end of brunch, three key facets stood out for me.

1. The Terrace

What a party atmosphere of beautiful people! Definitely a fashionable crowd at this brunch. However, young and old seemed equally at home. It was lively, with a big part of the atmosphere created by a double entertainment concept. The brunch featured a quartet highlighted by a saxophonist who periodically moved among the crowd. Everyone seemed to warm to this! When they took a break, it was down to the resident DJ who kept the vibe going. It would have been so easy for Ballaro to play a pre-programed playlist while the band took a break, but in opting for a DJ, it was clear that they wished to keep guests engaged and entertained. Mission …

Loy Kra Thong Festival at the picturesque Sontaya - The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

Sontaya has arguably one of the most exquisite locations for a restaurant in Abu Dhabi. Having dined here during the the day and at night, I have a perspective that I am sure others who have done the same will share. The natural elements really spring to mind - fire, earth, air and water.

On this night, we are all gathered to launch the Loy Kra Thong Festival, a festival famous in the south of Thailand. To ensure we experience a cultural journey, some performers from the south of Thailand capture guests with their energy and verve. 

 The significance of this evening's celebration is immense. The festival is rich with symbolism. Briefly, 'kra thong' relates to 'floating'. Just before dinner, we are all given floating flower baskets with a  candle. The latter is lit, and as we get ready to place them on the water, the latter that plays such an integral role in the restaurant's aesthetic appeal - we are encouraged to let go of all hate, resentments and anything that…

Fine Beef at Ray's Grill on Level 63 - Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

What a difference a year makes. As I walk into Ray's Grill, I reflect on my previous visit about  a year earlier. A year is able to offer a great deal of perspective, especially in my context for I recalled clearly that my visit then, soon after Ray's had opened, was less than flattering. Needless to mention, but this visit is about seeing the progress made since that evening in 2014. 

A few talking points.

An interactive dining experience

This is by far the most interactive steakhouse experience around in Abu Dhabi right now. I say 'right now' because it is sure to be copied and imitated. Its innovative approach to offering a value added experience to the guest really sets it apart from its competitors. Staff are a restaurant's greatest resource, and their concept allows for staff to engage guests in a natural and essential manner. 

The Gin Trolley allows guests to have an aperitif prepared table side. While not unique to Ray's (there is one other steakhouse offer…

Todd English's Olives - Venetian Village at the Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi

The Venetian Village at Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi offers  a growing selection of stand-alone licensed restaurants, as diners seek alternatives to hotel restaurants where they can feel a  greater sense of being relaxed. Todd English's Olives, according to Todd English himself, is about a casual dining experience in an elegant setting.  It is certainly not new, especially nowadays in a city disenchanted with fine dining. This is not Dubai after all. It is a different market altogether.

The restaurant, despite a healthy size, is actually quite cosy, allowing no more than  100 guests inside. Of course, when the terrace area is fully completed, there will be seating for another 100, but the 'twain never meet', ensuring the intimacy factor remains. The cosiness is brought home by a lot of wood in the decor, plush seating and overall, clever use of space. Two distinct dining areas greet you, and I as I walk in, there is no better advertisement for each section - an Emirati couple …