@Distrcit by Amalfi, an exciting relaunch - Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Amalfi, the Italian restaurant at Le Royal Meridien, closed its doors about 14 months ago. I was sad to see it go but during its closure, I felt the ghost of the old Amalfi intensely, with many find memories evoked whenever I walked by. Chef Pascal's Tiramisu, still my favourite dessert ever,  and his Red Sicilian prawns are still strong reminders for me of a restaurant that  was more an artistic than commercial success. 

The new Amalfi, re-worked and renamed as @District by Amalfi launched last week. I attended the launch and while I will return to a proper review - I never judge a restaurant by its opening or re-opening - I am able to make some early observations. 

1. A microcosm of the direction the hotel is heading

By far the most exciting part of the evening for me was seeing how symbolic this restaurant is. The F&B offering at the hotel is taking on a younger look, with key staff coming in with fresher ideas and ways of doing things. This restaurant, with its use of graffiti in its decor, is younger than the old Amalfi. At the same time though, there is respect for the old restaurant, hence the retention of the name, to a large extent. But the separate entrance with its graffiti, the entrance through the hotel with its wall adorned with colour and graphic art indicate a clear vision of what they want this restaurant to be. You will see around the outlets too, that there is youth and vibrancy, spearheaded by a new F&B Director and Executive Chef who understand what millennials want. This is a restaurant that is cool and hip, and is dare I say, sexy. 

2. @Districy by Amalfi will polarise guests

This will be the bottom line. Fans of the old restaurant will have a tougher time here than those who open their minds. The dining landscape has changed. No one wants to pay 180AED for 4 prawns. People want to share dishes and experience a myriad of flavours and eschew the traditional starter-main-dessert course. The very thought of seeing a sweet pizza section on the menu may leave some scurrying for the door. But in going the route of bringing together some delicate flavours of the Amalfi coast and turning in it on its head by throwing  in a bit of New York, management has realised that the market is awash with Italian restaurants with maybe two or three standing out in a sea of predictability; they have tried to create something memorable, something unique. 

3. Value for money the big buzz phrase

Rightly or wrongly, the old Amalfi was pricey when it launched. But that needs to be seen in the context of the multi-million Dirham refurbishment of the hotel. Since then, pole have become conscious of their spending and have turned to 2 for 1 offers to get their luxury dining experiences. With the new restaurant, the most expensive item on the menu is the Pea and lobster risotto, at 110AED while the cheapest starter is 38AED for the Panzanella. Desserts start at the mouth watering 18AED for the Panna Cotta. The restaurant is positioning itself as a venue that would like to welcome guests 2-3 times a week because of its progressive pricing. 


Too early to say, but I am encouraged by the vision of the culinary team. I loved the old Amalfi but I can see the flaws, looking back. But I liked it so much that I wanted to see it continue at the hotel, in some form or another. They have done that. 

How do you come up with an Italian restaurant that is not just another Italian restaurant? How do you, at the same time, use the existing space and bring in a new concept without spending a fortune on refurbishing? How do you birth a restaurant that will cut through all price points in the city and offer an Italian experience that will make you say, 'Now that was different'? @District by Amalfi might just be the answer to all these questions. 

The Essentials

Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 674 2020

Menu: @District by Amalfi

Meal for 2 - 300AED incl 2 glasses of wine.

Brandon Stoltenkamp