Traditional French in this wonderful little Bistro - Le Beaujolais, Mercure Centre Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Because Abu Dhabi is so young, relatively speaking, there are very few restaurants that have that old feel to them while still producing food that people love. It is complicated by the fact that mainly 5- and 4-star hotel restaurants are licenced, with a sprinkling of stand-alone outlets also licenced. So, your little hole in the wall or side street restaurant where you can have great food and  glass of wine does not exist in Abu Dhabi. Or does it?

I visited Le Beaujolais for a third time this past week. But it had been almost a year since my last visit. There is no pomp and ceremony as I walk in. Simple. The restaurant is 80% full. Laughter. Chatter. Low ceilings. Laughter. Clinking of glasses. Laughter. Tables are fairly close to each other; intimate and cosy. Paper napkins. A juke box in one corner of the restaurant. 

Interestingly, I notice that the menu has not changed in over three years. That is quite unique in a city known for the fickleness of diners following the newest new trends soon as they land. 

I start with a glass of Moet Chandon NV, part of  a very succinct wine list. In fact, there are 6 by-the-glass options. The Moet is a reliable and comfortable, in keeping with my early impressions on the night. 

While the menu has not changed in a while, I am thrilled that pork is served, and a special menu is offered to me. I save the pork for my main and have instead the Escargot a la Bourguignonne or the Burgundy style snails, basically snails served in herb and garlic. Served without the shell, it serves as a metaphor for the simplicity of Le Beaujolais. No need for snail tongs here! There is something homely and hearty about the presentation too. Such an unpretentious start to the evening!

A Laroche Petit Chablis 2014 accompanies my dish. Fresh and crisp, a good foil for the saltiness of my snails. 

For my main course (not pictured) I have the Cote de Porc or Pork chop with Mustard sauce and mashed potatoes. It is, like the other dishes, a large portion, and while my chop is a little overcooked for my liking, the dish overall does not disappoint. Mashed potatoes that are smooth and creamy and a grilled tomato complete this dish. At 99AED, it also represents outstanding value!

I have it with a medium bodied, very well priced wine, a Barton & Guestier Cuvée Spéciale. This ruby red wine is easy to drink and very easy on the pocket considering its quality. 

My guest and I also share the Carnard farci aux herbes or Stuffed duck with herbs. If you like your duck with moisture, this is a must-have dish. I generally find the duck of confit too dry for my liking and another French classic, the Duck a l'orange, too predictable and clichéd -  so on the night, I am thrilled with my choice. A glorious red wine sauce adds great flavour and also drama - it is intense visually and in terms of taste. Steamed vegetables, not unlike the way my mum does it, also grace the plate. 

Finally, dessert. I opt for the Apple tatin. Again, it is a big, wholesome portion. The base is decadently soft, almost phyllo pastry-like. A first bite reveals a lot of sweetness. I have it with a bit of vanilla ice cream, resulting in a bit more balance. Still too sweet for me, though. I then add the homemade sour cream - Voila! Balance. After that, I try all three together. Fabulous!

Finally, a restaurant that has been around for about 25-30 years has many stories to tell, and who better to be the voice of those stories than the restaurant manager, Buddy. He is the heart and soul of this restaurant - a real, down-to-earth man who embodies the concept of this restaurant. 

Le Beaujolais is indeed as close as you will get to a small restaurant, licenced, that has a history in Abu Dhabi. There is an undeniable charm about it and offers you that almost hole in the wall experience that is so missing in a city of sleek high-rises. And we are getting even more 5-star hotels, meaning restaurants like Le Beaujolais will become even more important. As far as price goes, they cannot be beaten. For example, three years ago they had the cheapest VSOP Cognac in the city. They still do. They are also routinely regarded as the best French restaurant with a meal for two under 400AED. Overall, a tremendous balance between good service, price and authentic French experience means you have to try this restaurant. Finally, it is not an occasion restaurant because of its value. It is your home-away-from-home restaurant that you want to visit frequently. 

From my posts, you will know that because I enjoy a bit of wine or bubbly with my meal, I write mainly about licenced restaurants in high-end venues. However, I was overwhelmed by the charm of Le Beaujolais and will be going back soon, again and again. 

Abu Dhabi may have an imbalance when it comes to offering restaurants in the mid-range bracket that offer something real and  special at the same time, but Le Beaujolais at least ensures that all is not lost!

The Essentials

Le Beaujolais, 
Mercure Centre Hotel, 
Hamdan Street,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 6333555


Meal for 2 excluding drinks: 360AED
Brandon Stoltenkamp