The first thing that strikes me as I stand with my back to the entrance of Brasserie Flo is the view of the canal. Far too often I have been on the other side looking this way. Tonight the view is reversed. It is quite a scenic view, choosing to understate here. Tonight, with winter pretty much over, I want to enjoy the dregs of a couple of cool months we have had and sit on the terrace. Brasserie Flo, on the banks of the canal and part of the Venetian Village complex adjacent to the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi, will be the backdrop of this night, but I am hoping the food and brasserie experience push it to the forefront this night, eclipsing the fine weather.
The evening starts off with a glass of Prosecco. Yes, it is a French restaurant and I should have champagne as the cliché dictates, but one thing I have learned about bubbles is that, like red and white wine, one should follow one's mood.
Brasserie Flo has been around for about a year give and take and has already gained a loyal following as it serves up traditional brasserie dishes. I had often heard that the French ambassador enjoys dining here, and as I sip on my Prosecco, who should I see? It is not about name dropping. I think it says a lot about a restaurant when one of its country folk patronises it fairly often.
An eclectic mix of staff kitted out in black and white with a bistro apron creates a wonderful impression. Ella Fitzgerald plays in the background as we place our orders. Relaxed. Very relaxed. Restaurant manager Franck Mottais briefly explains the concept at Brasserie Flo. He is at pains to point out that it was never his intention for this to be a fine dining restaurant. He wants guests to feel they are having homely French food, albeit in a smart setting, but not fine. This philosophy behind Brasserie Flo is echoed by Executive chef Sebastien Pinson, who fits effortlessly into the restaurant's vision. You need to meet him - down to earth and approachable.
For our starters my guest and are torn between three, so as a compromise we order all three. My guest has the Crispy goat cheese pastilla while I get the Beef tartare which I am told is served table side. Finally, we decide to try the Burrata because I am particularly curious to see how Chef takes this classic Italian treat and puts a french twist to it.
I start with the Beef Tartare. Our waitress, Maria, talks us through it as she does it at our table. It is a classically interpreted dish and the most eventful moment is when she asks whether I want it spicy or not, to which I reply 'yes'. She absolutely nails it! It is not easy because she still ahs to ensure that the Tabasco does not overwhelm the mustard or Worcestershire sauce. This is a dish I would order again and again and with Maria's deftness at creating it, I am sure she will get that balance right every time. Over and above the taste, it is the joy with which she makes it. I am reminded that a dish is not just about the food - it is so much about the hands and heart that prepared it.
Next up, I try the Burrata. The French twist? It is served on ratatouille! This is a dish that truly excites me. Eggplant and zucchini are unmistakable in the ratatouille and it is laid out in the old French tradition, on which is perched the burrata. Two types of peppercorns - I am not saying which - add real zip to the burrata; overall they bring not only flavour but also texture. It is a dish that really succeeds - the provencal meets decadent.
For our main course, we firstly share the Sole Meunière. My choice of wine, the Cuvée Sabourin Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is refreshing but not tropical as typical Sauvignon Blancs. It leans heavily towards citrus tones, making it a good choice with my fish. The wine list is what you would expect at a brasserie. It is succinct and compact and easy to navigate, and overall, complements the equally concise food menu.
I am a big proponent of having dishes which add to an experience, where theatre is an integral part of it, and if the Beef tartare provided drama, then the Dover sole is a theatre to the nth degree. For a good 6 minutes I watch as the sole is filleted. It is methodical, intricate, thorough and quite a pleasure to behold. You would not have seen sole on many menus in Abu Dhabi and I do recommend it. The flavours are subtle and sophisticated. At 500gr it is quite a fish, so I do suggest that you share it with your dining partner.
Continuing the fish theme, we also try the Seared cod fillet, and after a bite, I realise again why I love this fish. Cod is not a 'fishy' fish if you will, and flavours will come from what else is on the plate. The clams and clam froth are what really ground the dish and give it that sea flavour. Coriander provides a fabulous twist in the taste of the cod. It is a perfect foil to the Sole because it offers more intense flavours by cod standards and offers a much creamier texture. You simply have to try it. The only thing lacking for me is a crispy skin which would have taken this dish to another level.
Finally, dessert. I have had the pleasure of having some special desserts over the last few years here in Abu Dhabi. The Mystere Des Bois is a dessert that makes it into my top 3 dessert experiences in the UAE. I am not going to say anything else. Take my word for it. Remember the dessert name, Mystere Des Bois.
Brasserie Flo is superb restaurant that lives up to its concept. There is nothing half measured and neither are there major compromises considering we live in a restaurant culture where people want flashy and over the top. It is a brasserie. It is true that the feel inside is quite different to the terrace where there are, for example, table cloths as opposed to place mats on tables. Nonetheless, your brasserie experience will remain undiminished. A key element for me is the manager and executive chef. They are so in sync in terms of what they want from the restaurant, something important in ensuring they deliver on their promises.
I predict good things for brasserie Flo. This stand-alone restaurant is a wonderful alternative to restaurants in hotels, while giving you trappings of elegance, good service and a reasonably priced menu.
The Venetian Village
(next to Ritz carlton)
971 2 404 1931
Starters 40-75 AED
Mains 120-280 AED