A journal, inspired by my love for my daughter, that embraces quality food, service and experiences which make life worth living. In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, " I cannot rest from travel. I will drink life to the lees." Seeking that incredible dining or hotel experience and writing about it. Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Gin & Tea at Lemon & Lime - The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Abu Dhabi
Two years ago Abu Dhabi had what I thought to be one of the best brunch concepts in the Martini Brunch. It was sophisticated, unique and held on a Saturday at Lemon & Lime Lounge at The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa. There was simply nothing like it. Sadly it was stopped a few months ago - I think there were just not enough people who understood what this brunch was about. We have too many people stuck in the more is more mind set, who think every brunch is about feeding at the triugh. A few months on, it was no hesitation that I tried the next concept at Lemon & Lime Lounge, The Gin & Tea experience.
It is a 7 course Gin and Tapas pairing menu every Saturday from 5-8pm. Again, nothing like it in the city, so when I saw this, I was really intrigued. The Westin and two other hotels are known for their willingness to take risks and innovate - this is certainly one of those concepts. I am optimistic this time about it because the pricing is perhaps more pocket-friendly. At 250AED net, it is hard to argue with. Also, the Lemon & Lime Lounge is such a perfect venue for a lazy Saturday late afternoon out. The old adage that one ends the weekend with a bang and not a whimper is again on display here.
2. Food and drink
When I saw that there were 7 courses of tapas and gin, the challenge for me was if one would be satisfied or if there would be a need to order something on the way back home. It is not about food, granted, but no one wants to spend money like this feel hungry. However, I saw that there was also a small buffet area with other treats and carbs for those who felt they needed something else. I liked the size of it. There is simply too much wasting of food in buffets. I think this little buffet finds a nice balance.
The drinks are all about gin. I think they've been very smart not to offer a bubbly option as that just adds cost to a brunch. This is simple. Gin! As far as the tapas g and drinks go, there were some memorable ones. The welcome drink, in a test tube-like glass is cool and cutting edge and reminds the guest that this is a unique experience.
We started off with the Early Gin paired with an Indonesian salad, Gado Gado. I really liked the obvious Asian touches with a peanut sauce, star fruit and bean sprouts in the dish. It is nicely plated too!
Next up, we had Green tea gin paired with Steamed barbeque chicken pau. The latter is a Chinese bun. I tell you, this is as authentic a pau as I have had here in Abu Dhabi. I lived in China for three years, and when I bit into this, I felt China. Excellent stuff. The drink could probably have had a stronger green tea infusion if you ask me, but it was nonetheless a good pairing option thematically.
Another highlight on the menu was the Black & Gin paired with a Black slider of calamari and wasabi mayo. A common thread with the plating is how much care has been put into it, something I have often missed at their Friday brunch when Chefs plate dishes. This is the creativity I have missed at Westin Abu Dhabi restaurants. Kudos to the chefs! It is a tasty slider with fresh crunchy vegetables on a nicely cooked calamari. The mayo plated so playfully, allowed me to use my squid ink bun to lap it up. The blackberry and black tea gin are, appropriately, much heavier and darker than what we had before - Nicely thought out.
I am told that special tea pots will be used in coming Gin & Tea experiences, making for an even more aesthetically pleasing experience. I love the sound of this. This, coupled with some iconic Gin & Tea presentation to evoke a connection to the concept, will go a long way to ensuring this exciting idea stays a long time.
The plating artistry continued with the Cucumber and Crab course, served with a hibiscus infused gin. Interestingly, this dish is served after the slider - it is light and refreshing and an ideal foil for the heavier slider.
Now, I am not a surf and turf person, but the second to last course is one I want to try again and again. This Dutch-inspired dish had the most beautifully cooked piece of beef I have had at The Westin. All cliches checked! Incidentally, it was paired with my favourite Gin & Tea of the 7 - Chamogin, infused with chamomile tea. I think this was the best balanced of all the drinks, and that says a lot because most of the drinks, except for the Green Tea Gin, were actually right on the money.
One of the best DJs in town, DJ Koast, played a killer set. I am so thrilled that he is doing this. I think the 1-4pm slot when he did the Martini Brunch attracted the wrong sort of demographic musically, but this later time slot going into the evening is spot on for him. This guy is all about the music, and well done to management who gave him a bit of freedom with the sound level - if it is too loud, you are too old!
This is easily the most exciting concept I have seen all year. It will be called a brunch, I have no doubt. There are just so many unique elements to this experience that it deserves being checked out. The timing of 5-8pm is very bold and I wonder if they considered 4-7pm. It is still a working day the next day, well for most of us. I did not try food from the small buffet because in the end, I feel the tapas were more than enough. I would be tempted not to have a buffet are if I were them. It is more sustainable. I am happier with guests asking for more tapas. The Gin & Tea is still a work in progress but I believe this will really get people talking once they try it. What more do I want? A funky name because I think people will not get the 'tea' part in the name and I also want to see staff in cool, trendy uniforms that will reflect the concept. But for now, I can say that this is a concept that should do very well. Now, people just need to understand and appreciate it!
The Essentials Lemon & Lime Gin & Tea The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, +971 2 616 9999