A fine evening at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse - The Fairmont Bab al Bahr, Abu Dhabi

It is a challenging time right now for the hospitality sector in Abu Dhabi. Restaurants are offering two for ones and menus are being revised with a drop in prices. On my recent visit to Maro Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill at The Fairmont in Abu Dhabi, I was curious to see how one of two and possibly three finer steakhouses were adapting to the climate. 

My evening starts next door, at Frankie's, where MPW guests are invited for a pre-dinner drink. I love the idea. Because they are right next to each other, it makes alot of sense and gives the guest a pre-dinner drink experience that no one can match - Frankie's has a really nice vibe. I have a peach bellini while resident musician, Nathan Hill, treats guests to his blend of smooth sounds. His take on Lauren Wood's Fallen has me beaming. He really creates a perfect atmosphere and backed up by superb acoustics, I am tempted to stay longer. But the steakhouse beckons. 

My guest and I make our way to Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill. It is a very intimate restaurant. Accommodating around 50 guests, it has the hallmark of a fine experience in the city. The restaurant is warm, with a  definite romantic tone. A fireplace feature points to romance, but don't worry, the restaurant is perfectly air conditioned!

There is a homely simplicity about the bread as it is served. Walnut rye and raisin bread are complemented by two types of butter - the chilli butter on the raisin bread turns out to be a great juxtaposition. 

For our amuse bouche, we have what looks like an impressive and chat-worthy dish. Served on exquisite Wedgwood fine bone china,  a Kelly oyster is flanked by three blini topped by locally farmed Yasa caviar. Green leaves round off the dish. The dish, though, goes beyond plating and aesthetics. It is actually clever as it celebrates the sea by showing contrasting intense flavours. Could this be the best amuse bouche I have had at a steakhouse?

If you are looking for the most extensive and respected wine list in the city, look no further than this restaurant. It has consistently appeared on The Wine Spectator's List of Two Wine Glass winners - meaning it has a list of over 350 wines which have reached its standard. It is the only such restaurant in Abu Dhabi and indeed in the UAE. The fact that MPW has retained this status since 2014 is quite an achievement. So, when restaurant manager Sheldon Braganza recommends a 2015 Shelter Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, I am quite happy to follow. It is quite a nice departure from the palate friendly Oyster Bay in that it is not as fresh and fruity and offers a bit more complexity. Accompanying my oyster, it works really well -  a manager au fait with wines - priceless. 

Now, my starter, the Soft shell crab, is a dish you are not going to find on many steakhouse menus. For the uninitiated, imagine eating a crab, with its all its flavours but without the hassle of worrying about a shell. It is served with a citrus salad and gherkin aioli, but you could squeeze lemon on this and it would still be pretty amazing. Highly recommended. 

With my main course about twenty minutes away, my wine choice for the evening, the 2010  Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon, is decanted tableside by Sheldon and he talks about it poetically. As he pours a taster, we both marvel at how well it ahs aged, as evidenced by the moist cork and deep ruby colour in the glass. 

While the cheapest by the glass wine is 55AED, you will appreciate the quality in every glass. Finally, 15 by the glass options is adequate for the size of the venue. 

As far as main events go, MPW offers 22 steaks to choose from which can be daunting for the novice. I would like to see some culling of the choices though and I would also like to see some smaller cuts available. For my main course, I have the Master Kobe Grade 9 Striploin. I like that there are two pricing options, so I go with the cheaper option at 325AED for 150g, the only small option on the menu. It has a robust surface and thanks to the medium rare temperature, my Laguiole steak knife slides effortlessly through it, revealing a gorgeous, sensuous pink colour. It is all about the texture. Delicious. 

The wine, meanwhile, having been decanted for about 20 minutes, is superb. This 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec wine is full and offers very good balance and structure - a very nice finish. One of the things I really like about the wine is the price. It comes in under the cost of my traditional favourites like the Meerlust Rubicon and well below the cost of the excellent De Toren V. Good value for money. 

In life, there are those cliches we just cannot avoid. The MPW Sticky toffee pudding at Marco Pierre White is one of them - I have had it before and had to have it again. For me, it is synonymous with the restaurant. Again, it does not let me down. Sweetness is somewhat balanced by the vanilla ice cream and sesame flavoured crisp, while hot and cold also mix to entertain the mouth. Simple, but so good. 

My verdict? Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill has continued to offer a  fine dining experience. While it has indeed adjusted prices, for example, the Master Kobe 150g cut was about 45AED cheaper than before, it has not lost its soul. In fact, in many ways, it has retained its refinement with the addition of some beautiful china. Pricewise, they offer an entry level steak of 175AED it is not for the budget conscious, so while it is expensive compared to other restaurants starting a steak at 145AED, the luxurious feeling is evident the moment you walk in. I suggest you start off with a drink at Frankie's and its cosy bar while the music of Nathan Hill sets the tone for you. Then, allow Sheldon and his team to create a very special evening for you- A fine evening with romantic possibilities. 

The lowdown

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill
Fairmont Bab Al Bahr,
Abu Dhabi
+ 971 2 654 3333 

Selected menu items

Master Kobe 150g 325AED
Side orders 25AED
MPW Sticky Toffee Pudding 65 AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I was invited to MPW courtesy of the hotel. All views are my own.