An evening of relaxed French dining - Brasserie Flo, Abu Dhabi

Brasserie Flo is a casual but elegant French brasserie situated on the banks of the Al Maqta canal next to Ritz Carlton - it is part of the Venetian Village. I tried it about a year ago and really liked it. I felt it was time to visit it again, and with my daughter, arm in arm, we visited it recently. 

A restaurant with a view. That is what we have tonight as my daughter and I choose to sit on the terrace. There is something poetic about the lights shimmering on the water, while the gently moving water of the canal add to the tranquil feel of this location. Outside is very casual, with place mats replacing the white table cloths that you find inside. However, staff in traditional uniforms of waistcoats, tie and apron ensure that you still feel the elegance of the restaurant. But always relaxed. 

My evening starts off with a glass of Henri Abele Brut Rosé, one of two by the glass champagne options. my daughter, meanwhile, peruses the menu and engages me in a discussion as to whether to have the snails or onion soup, two of many very traditional items on the menu at Brasserie Flo. 

The menu is not overwhelming at all, and after a brief discussion, my daughter and I are able to settle on our dishes very quickly. She orders the Escargots à la Bourguignonne or Snails Cooked in Garlic Butter while I start with a Seared foie gras. To share, we have the Pastilla de Chèvre au Miel et Noix or Crispy Goat Cheese Pastilla.

Firstly, the foie gras is all about simple elements. Dahl for texture and caramelised onion for a hint of sweetness and complexity complete the dish. There is no sickening sweetness. Secondly, the snails are as traditional as they come, with just the right balance of garlic. Finally, the Crispy Goat Cheese Pastilla is as good as I remember it from a year ago. It packs a lot of variety of flavour and texture. The saltiness of the goat's cheese is foiled by dribbled honey. While cranberries and balsamic bring both sweet and sour to the dish and do not forget the contrast in texture brought about by the lettuce, with its crispness vs the chewiness of the cranberries. Oh, and of course nuts!

Pastilla de Chèvre au Miel et Noix 

Inside offers a finer feel, but service keeps the tone homely. 

For our main course, we decide to share three dishes. For old time sake, I order the Tartare de Boeuf or Beef Tartare and the Boeuf Bourguignon or Braised Beef, while Mitsuki orders the Confit de Canard Soulard or Soulard Duck Confit. 
Beef Tartare, Pickled Vegetables, French Fries, Mixed Green Salad
The Beef tartare is prepared tableside in an ultra relaxed manner. Theatre. This alone makes it a must-order dish. But the live preparation serves more than just a theatrical purpose - I am able to taste as Chef goes along and really create a dish perfectly suited to my taste. At 65AED it is a generous portion. I really like the fact that, just before it is served, Chef asks me one last time how it is before he serves it. 

Mitsuki, next to me, is thrilled with her dish. I warned her beforehand that the duck confit can be a bit dry, so she should not expect the moist type of duck she has often had. How wrong I turn out to be when she tries a bit and her face lights up! I try it too and we both share a look that says, 'Oh, this is good!' It is flavourful and surprisingly moist and tender. Finally, the skin is beautifully crispy, making it the best duck confit I have had in the UAE. Thanks to this experience, I may be bold again in future and order it again elsewhere after so any disappointments. 

I think we often underestimate our children by offering them what we think they would like. 

Confit de Canard Soulard
Finally, the Boeuf Bourguignon. This is one of those dishes that you simply should try when you visit a brasserie and I am glad we ordered it after my first taste. It is a classic dish - beautifully braised beef with hearty and homely vegetables. Through this dish, one can really experience the heart and soul of Brasserie Flo. Glorious.  

Meanwhile, our waiter for the night, Zlutko, strikes the perfect chord. He is knowledgeable, personable and able to relate to both young and old - this is especially vital when dining with a child. 
Boeuf Bourguignon

To end our evening, dessert is a must. My daughter has no doubt that she wants the Crêpes Suzette - Crêpes Flambéed with Grand Marnier. The last time she had it she was about 7 but the memory of flames tableside has endured. For anyone visiting Brasserie for the first time, this should be your dessert. Over and above everything, it highlights the simplicity of the restaurant's approach to food - prepare classic dishes well. 

Crêpes Suzette prepared at our table
For good measure though, we also try Paris-Abu Dhabi - their  Our Own Version of Paris-Brest with Light Date Cream. If you like this traditional pastry usually made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream. Chef Sebastien puts a local twist on it, however, by adding date cream. Traditionalists will not be disappointed. 

A glass of port, served by-the-glass, completes the evening.  You will find that the by-the- glass wine options are in fact very good for the price, so if like me you cannot finish a bottle of wine by yourself,  you will have the chance of having two or three different glasses of different wines without spending too much money. 

I reflected on Brasserie Flo as my daughter made our way to the taxi, and I could see exactly why more people were moving away from finer French dining options in the city to places like this. I watched Chef Sebastien and he went around to every table and chatted with guests and even served some of the dishes. Make no mistake, the restaurant is elegant and stylish, but Chef sets people at ease through his honest and sincere form of engagement. This is the value added experience people want at restaurants nowadays. They also want value for money and the menu here ensures you can have a three-course dinner plus a glass of wine for AED300 net!

The Essentials
Brasserie Flo,
The Venetian Village
(next to Ritz Carlton)
Abu Dhabi,
971 2 404 1931

Starters 40-115 AED
Mains 125-240 AED
Desserts 15-55AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp
inst: bmstoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I was invited to dinner as a guest of Brasserie Flo