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.
Brittany week returns at Le Beaujolais - Mercure Centre Hotel, Abu Dhabi
I can't believe it has been a year since the last Brittany Week Promotion at Le Beaujolais in Abu Dhabi. My visit to Le Beaujolais this time though, comes amidst a time of change for the restaurant and indeed the hotel where it is housed, The Mercure Centre Hotel. But what is not different as I walk in, is the presence of Buddy and Leda, two stalwarts of this establishment. Between the two of them, they have been connected to the restaurant for about 38 years! One other thing that is not part of the changes is Chef de Cuisine Omar, who greets me with the same warm and engaging smile that he is known for.
What is more French than champagne, so my guest and I start the evening with a glass of NV Moet Chandon. Looking at the ever succinct and simple wine list, I am happy to see that more champagnes have been added to the list. You can never have too much champagne around. Tonight we are seated in what used to be the smoking section, a part of the restaurant I always wanted to try but avoided because of the smoking. With the impending hotel upgrade to a 4* property, smoking in the restaurant was a casualty - something I am doubly pleased about. It is now a non-smoking restaurant. But dinner awaits, so I focus.
After an amuse bouche of Goats cheese, saffron and tomato, we are served the out starters. My warm starter, the Gratinated sea scallops with parsley is a winner. Make sure to dip your bread in the garlic sauce afterwards. My guest meanwhile, has the Fancy salad, a cold starter I have had before, and my guest indulges me to have a taste again - it works so well because the foie gras is there or there about, not overweheming the scallops with its distinctive taste.
My go to white wine is the Domaine LaRoche Petit Chablis, a very well priced by the glass wine. Always reliable. I have a word with Buddy about the changes coming. I thought him of all people would be resistant to the changes. Bear in mind in the 25 years he has been at the restaurant, he has seen it all, but even for him these are big changes. However, he is so incredibly positive about where the restaurant is going. As he talks I notice some of our dishes are served on new chinaware. Change.
For our respective mains, we have the Seabass fillet in oyster sauce and the Veal medallions. The seabass is flavoursome. But more than that, I am thrilled to see they have used sea bass for this dsh. Again, this is a change that by design or not, symbolises what is happening at Le Beaujolais. The seabass is beautifully seasoned with saffron prominent!
The veal dish encapsulates the restaurant so well the essence of the restaurant. It is homeliness of the dishes that charm. I feel it is a dish I could make, without the skill of Chef of course, at home. The plating too conveys exactly that sense. Good food served in an unpretentious way while hearty portions contribute to the value for money quality of Le Beaujolais.
The evening could not end better. There is a choice of 4 desserts, all priced at 38AED. Yes, that is 38AED. While crepes is one of the must haves when you have food from Brittany, I opt for Stuffed plum cake while my guest decides to have the Crepes flambees. If you have not had the latter, do so, complete with flames. Theatre.
While, as always, I enjoyed my evening at le Beaujolais and was able again to embrace a Brittany Week menu that has a balance between the highlights from the region, price and variety of dishes, it was the bigger picture on the night that really caught my eye. Change is something that no one really likes but it has to come. I am encouraged by what I see on the horizon , especially if it means even more people will visit this hole-in-the-wall slice of heaven on Hamdan Street, in the heart of the city. As long as the changes do not take away the heart and soul of le Beaujolais and turn it into a fancy restaurant, I am excited. It is a unique bistro on so many levels and this quality needs to be kept at all costs.
Brittany Week runs from 24 January to February 2.
The Essentials Le Beaujolais, Mercure Centre Hotel, Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi +971 2 6333555 Average price for 2 people - 400AED