An evening with Henri Fabre- A wine dinner at Bord Eau, Shangri-la Abu Dhabi

There is something rather special about a family run winery. It is even more special when one of those family members visits us in Abu Dhabi and spends an evening with us, sharing his wines and indeed stories. Henri Fabre, the CEO of Fabre-en-Provence, is the guest of honour as he talks about his family's wines. The setting could not be more appropriate - Bord Eau at Shangri-La at Qaryat al Beri remains one of the finest restaurants in the city. 

A cool Winter's evening, well Winter by Abu Dhabi standards, sits perfectly with guests as we gather on the terrace, taking in sumptuous views of the canal. Around 40 guests - the restaurant seats around 45-55 - are huddled on the terrace. If you have been to Shangri-la in Abu Dhabi and tried this French restaurant, I am sure you can appreciate the view from this vantage point. 

We start off with the delightful Chateau de l'Aumerade Cotes de Provence Cru Classé Rosé Cuvée Marie-Christine 2015. This wine is from a very limited number of Cru Classe chateaux in the heart of Provence. Incidentally, Fabre-en-Provence is the most prolific producer of Cru Classé Rosé in the world. The wine is named father Henri and Charlotte Fabre's first daughter - so symbolic of the family nature of this winery. The wine itself is as exquisite as the bottle. Pale almost salmon pink colour, it commands my attention. As for my palate, it creates much pleasure, recalling orange blossoms and grapefruit. 

After an hour or so of mingling and making new contacts - this is why this is a great venue for a wine dinner, we move inside.  It is intimate, allowing for this, and secondly, there is no need to close off part of the restaurant which is often the case in larger venues.  The restaurant is really quite beautiful. Bord Eau's signature Degas-inspired artworks have not aged at all, and are very much at home in the restaurant. In a time when fine dining is fighting for its soul in a city that shies away from fine restaurants, I hope that Bord Eau will continue to be that beacon of elegance and style in an ever increasing 'shake and stir' dining culture. 

Once seated, we have the pleasure of listening to Henri Fabre, who talks lovingly about how the family has kept this almost 100-year-old winery going. He also introduces the wine to be paired with the Homemade Mushroom Pie, the Chateau de L' Aumerade, Cuvée Elégance Blanc. I like the mushroom pie. It has to be one of the homeliest dishes I had at Bord Eau. Furthermore, the pastry has just the right density, making for a good first bite, and second and third...

As for the wine, the Chateau de L' Aumerade, Cuvée Elégance Blanc is fresh with an overwhelming floweriness about it. An easy drinking experience! 

I am excited about the main course, the Milk-fed Veal rack which is paired with the Pure Dedicace, Cotes du Rhone 2010. The veal is sublime. Baby carrot and turnip continue the homely theme created by this evening's starter. But the real star is that veal. The Pure Dedicace, a  blend from the Rhone Valley and Bandol, is medium bodied and a fitting pairing for the veal. Anything fuller would just dominate the veal.  

The final course features a Bord Eau classic dessert - The Extravaganza. The name may have changed over the years, but the essence is the same. It is chocolate ball made from 60+% Valrhona chocolate. As hot chocolate sauce is poured over it, it melts and inside seasonal fruits are revealed. Nice, but I still think this dessert should be chocolate all the way. The fruit makes it safe, but on the other hand, I imagine most guests would prefer it in its current incarnation. The Chateau de L' Aumerade, Cuvée Elégance Rouge is the chosen wine. This 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Carignan wine, with its hint of strawberries and smooth finish, could easily have paired with the veal. In the end, I have the white again - an inspired choice. 

It is at this moment that I feel Bord Eau has really got it right - finally. With dinner priced around 300AED, they have moved away from the high priced wine dinners it has hosted in the past. This is also in line with the growing trend to have affordable dinners - fewer courses and lower prices. Also, there was a lot of wine on the floor, meaning I could have more of my favourites and less of my least favourites. I find it frustrating when I attend a wine dinner and there is a very strict limit of wine pourings. So, a credit to both the restaurant and supplier, African & Eastern. 

In summary, value for money, homely dishes, wine to match and more inclusive than exclusive - I believe Bord Eau might just be back on track. 

The Essentials

Bord Eau,
Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi.
02 509 8511

Brandon Stoltenkamp