The inaugural Sipping Abu Dhabi with Brandon - Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi

Sipping Abu Dhabi. The concept is simple. 12 people move to high end bars and have an evening of canapes and drinks. Movement is important. It is about meeting people and connecting, like in the old days when people looked at one another. The inaugural event, at Beach Rotana, took in three restaurants/bars - Finz, Indigo and Rodeo Grill. 

We start at one of the sexiest restaurants in the city, Finz and gravitate towards the bar, with sumptuous views of the water through floor to ceiling windows. We start with a glass of Perrier Jouet NV paired with a series of canap├ęs: Oyster tartare in cucumber, Hamachi yellowtail cevicheHome Smoked salmon on avocado and Crispy crab cornet. The bar at Finz is a bar that is a destination in itself. With one of the best DJs in the city, Miki Love, spinning tunes from her fantastic selection, it is really a great way to get the evening started. A champagne sabering by Gray Mackenzie and Partners' Sandeep completes the first part of the evening!

For our second sip, we move to Indigo, Beach Rotana's Indian restaurant. Its bar is a cosy one, but because we are 13, we are accommodated on the terrace. But the concept will be the same - finger food paired with wine. However, we start out at the entrance of Indigo where have an amuse bouche similar to pani puri. Chef welcomes everyone and talks us through the evening. 

The terrace is gorgeous at this time of year. Our group is seated for this course. We start with a glass of wine that will be paired with the dishes - A Jacob's Creek Moscato, a sweet wine that is chosen because it balances the Indian spices. Sharing-style dishes are presented - Lamb seekh kebab,  Dahi kebab,  Dahl makhni and Chicken tikka and a selection on naan bread. But by this time , it is about the conversation that is flowing around the table. I jokingly tease the group of smokers among us that they kept us waiting and that we almost finished the wine - this is why I am excited about Sipping Abu Dhabi with Brandon. Because it is such an intimate group, friendship bonds have already been sown. 

We are treated to a  very generous menu that includes 2 courses. The wine for this leg of the evening, a Pask Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2014, which surprised us pleasantly with its medium full- bodied nature, while retaining classic full bodied notes like blackberries, currants and plums. Served with a decent sized steak, I can safely guests are more than happy. On a  side note, it is great to see sweetbreads on the menu. This often- time steakhouse staple should make its way onto the regular menu here! 

Pictured here with Sandeep from Gray Mackenzie & Partners

Amongst other things, the evening  has given guests a chance to meet the new additions to the kitchen at Beach Rotana . All three outlets introduced us to their new chefs who will lead their respective kitchens. I for one am excited to go back to these venues and see how their respective chefs infuse their menus with their own touches. 

Sipping Abu Dhabi with Brandon marked the beginning of something special in the city. Wine dinners are becoming commonplace. Don't get me wrong - I love a wine dinner featuring several courses paired with selected wines. I just want to give people more choices. A common thread among the guests this evening was how happy they were with the size of the group. I once attended a wine dinner at Marco Pierre White  a few years ago when there were 12 of us plus the wine maker. It was beautiful because at the end of the night I knew  a few people by name. It was not about tasting notes of the wine and the marbling of the beef. It was about people. But those intimate dinners are gone now because the price cannot be sustained. This is why this concept excites me. At 195 AED net on the night (prices will vary but will be in the range 195-250 AED net), it does not challenge the wallet too much and the added value elements is what guests will be surprised by.

We live as expats in a city where we are disconnected from one another. People will not invest emotionally because they know they will be leaving soon. I want to change this. A dinner,  a get together, however short, can be the place where friendship are made or romances are sprung. And there is a greater chance of this happening when there is a small group of people brought together by a shared passion for wine, food and stories. Sipping Abu Dhabi with Brandon wants to create that space where all of this can happen. Tonight at Beach Rotana, it did. 

The next event to be held jointly at Koi and Caramel Restaurant Bar & Lounge is already sold out. 

Brandon Stoltenkamp