Monday Tappas Nights at Aqua - Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi

A complimentary cava on arrival sets the tone. This is not your usual buffet or theme night as it is called in most quarters. Rosewood Hotel on Maryah Island has always been different since it opened its doors about 3 years ago. Despite having been here several times, this is my first experience of their revamped week-night dining concepts. Monday tapas nights is not your run of the mill evening, though. Those of you who remember the halcyon days of Catalan and its exquisite 'everything', will be pleased to know that Chef Francisco is given the reins here, so for me, there is a personal reconnection to  a special restaurant. But this is something else, with its own concept. This is Aqua. 

I never tire of walking into Aqua. You would seriously be hard pressed to find a more beautiful all-day dining restaurant in Abu Dhabi. It takes on a different aesthetic quality at night, with views of the water and lights through glass to ceiling windows. All-day dining is the bread and butter of F&B in a hotel. It is a more pragmatic than it is soulful. Instead, hotels devote their time to their specialty restaurants, accepting the functionality of all-day dining. Nevertheless, there are occasions when it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into a concept, and Aqua is the manifestation of that thought process. Functional beauty!

In a climate where hotels are moving more and more towards sustainability and less wasting, Aqua is perfectly placed, and no more so than its tapas concept. On so many levels it eschews the predominant culture at buffets in the city. Refreshing.

For those too embarrassed to ask or lazy to look it up, tapas are Spanish small bites or appetisers, served hot or cold. It is a sophisticated concept and before you bemoan the fact that you will leave hungry, there are 8 main dishes which are very substantial indeed. In many ways, Aqua is about cleansing the senses which have been deadened by oversized buffets in Abu Dhabi, which offer only a splattering of a la carte worthy dishes.

Spanish omelette

To complement the evening, there is an a la carte drinks menu with a very nice selection of well priced by-the-glass options. I return to my comfort wine, the Torres Aaltos Iberico crianza doca Rioja, a wonderfully fruity, spicy and full wine that is a very good all-rounder. It goes really well with my dish of the night, the Oxtail, cabbage and Parmentier! Mini wagyu beef sliders with aged cheddar, Grilled beef tenderloin & ju are also highly recommended for those with a larger appetite. 

Ox tail, cabbage and Parmentier.
However, it is the Torres ViƱa Esmeralda 2014 that will stay with me for a while with its aromatic and fresh, fruity palate of apricot. Absolutely gorgeous, and again, available by- the-glass from the wine list. 

A tapas evening really lends itself to small desserts, which allow you to try a few desserts without that horrible thing called 'guilt'. The cheesecake, pictured below, is highly recommended. Apart from the balanced flavours and texture, the size is just right. 

Finally, the music, ah the music; an all day dining restaurant that actually plays fun and enjoyable music instead of the ubiquitous and oftentimes pretentious jazz. Maroon 5, Sting, Fun and Steve Winwood to name a few, make the evening super laid back. I find it frustrating when restaurants play music that is so out of touch with their concept or guests. This I loved!

Overall, Aqua, as it has done with its Friday brunch, continues to not only feed people but educate them too and reinvent their perspectives of what should happen in an all-day dining restaurant. The fact that the restaurant has  a stream of regular guests means the concept works. Not everyone is wowed by huge amounts of food on display that will be thrown away. The tapas created by Chef Francisco went a long way to placating people like myself who miss really good Spanish fare in the city, and that alone is worth trying Tapas nights.

The Essentials 

Rosewood Hotel, 
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 813 5550

Every Monday evening 7pm-11pm
197 AED net per person excl drinks
Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Aqua's Tapas Nights courtesy of the hotel.