Stratos revolving restaurant, bar and lounge - the new menu - Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Whether Stratos reminding you of a cloud, stratus, or the layer around the earth, Stratosphere, one thing is clear - it is in the sky, on the 31st floor of Le Royal Meridien Hotel, to be exact.  More than just being in the sky, if you will, it is actually a revolving restaurant. I have had the pleasure of dining here several times, with a connection that goes back to the old restaurant that pre-dates Stratos. There have been many changes and the latest changes which brought to the hotel a new Executive Chef and Food & Beverage Director, in that order, have filled me with anticipation. Not only is it about a new menu, it is also about a new direction that the restaurant might be taking. The latter is too early to call, but the new menu is certainly something worth exploring now, with Executive Chef Jay Williams, at the helm of the hotel's kitchens. A few months ago I did a soft tasting of some dishes but it was more recently that I was invited back to officially try the new menu.

My journey begins at the bar, which catches one's eye the moment one steps out of the private elevator that whisks one directly to the 31st floor. The lighting is low but reassuring. I arrive just after sunset, a pity, but the twinkling Abu Dhabi skyline lights has a beauty of its own, I muse to myself. My guest and I are offered a glass of the restaurant's new house champagne, Jacquart Mosaique Brut NV, a champagne I tried a year ago at a tasting in the city.  It may lack the  depth of its predecessor, Taittinger Brut NV, but nor is it as pricey - I like it. Maybe it is partly because we have become accustomed to a staple of three of four champagnes which serve as house bubblies. I find this Chardonnay-dominant option refreshing on many levels. Soft, sensuous bubbles that are politely energetic meet the eye and on tasting, apple, lemon and pear come to the fore. Crisp! Fresh. I will be looking out for this in future. 

It is easy to sit at the bar and watch Abu Dhabi go by - it takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes for one complete revolution - but a desire for things greater beckon my guest and me and we are soon seated at our table. The restaurant's lounge and bar concept is easily illustrated as I look around at the various eating options. 

We start with a selection of starters. Last time I was here, Chef Jay told me about the Burrata, in so far as it was locally made using imported Italian milk. Needless to say, I was keen to try it. Having been underwhelmed in the past by locally farmed oysters that I tried elsewhere, I was nonetheless a bit ambivalent. But knowing the burrata is made by Italian Dairy Products, I feel a bit reassured. 

When it is served, I am impressed by the plating. It is bold and adventurous, indicative of the youth of the chef in Stratos tonight, part of the new wave that is sweeping through the kitchens at Le Royal Meridien,  who plated it. Hailing from Nepal, Chef Abhinaya is the Senior Chef de Partie and is a breath of fresh air - tattoos and  a growing attitude, but oh so humble! 

My guest has the pleasure cutting through the burrata. Oh it is exquisite. Decadently creamy and when I try it, I am not met by an outer shell that while solid, is not unpleasant in the mouth. A good sheel should never be too hard  to the point that it is chewy. You will love this burrata. 

Next, we have the Beetroot carpaccio, another of the wholly-new dishes on the menu. Oh this is a top dish. Beetroot is prepared three ways - raw, cooked and pickled. Goats' cheese, pistachio and orange complete what is a very exciting dish. As for the heirloom tomatoes - expect a very generous serving. In the end, the main ingredient, beetroot, may be very simple and humble, but this dish is anything but. 

Continuing our sharing of the starters, my guest and I have the Foie Gras Terrine. Stratos has never gone teh seared foie gras route, opting always for the terrine. The success of this foie gras lies in the combinations on the plate. Green apple jam is not as sweet as most jams but just in case, grapefruit, oddly called pearls on the menu, provides whatever balance this dish warrants. So, while I am disappointed that there are not actual pearls, the flavours are there nonetheless. 

Finally, we have the Seared Scallops. Large king scallops adorn the plate. The smoky romesco sauce, is a delight and is an unusual but nice foil to the mildly sweet scallops. It is very much a  dish of textures with the crispy bresaola really crispy actually. There is also tellegio, with a  different crispiness, more subtle. Very clever. The only issue is that the scallops do not rise up to the occasion and are a bit stringy and chewy. I understand though that they are in the process of changing their scallops. Nonetheless, the concept of textures is something I like about this dish. 

While we continue enjoying the Jacquart, we try the latest Tea cocktails. We have the Tippling Tea which is a pot of Hendricks gin with cucumber, raspberry and elderflower. It is light and refreshing and perfect for someone who wants a light buzz without feeling tipsy.It is a steal at 65AED, with several pourings and good for two people. It is part of an impressive drinks list that offers three champagnes by the glass and a whopping 40+ by the glass wine options. Personally, I don't think this is sustainable, but for the guest, it is fantastic. Without using Coravin, Stratos offers some fine wines by the glass, including a Margaux, Closerie des Eyrins. Honestly, it is an excellent list that does not just include cheap wines for the sake of having them; there are some good labels by the glass. 

In anticipation of our mains, I take a walk around the restaurant. Resident DJ, Lola Nova, is spinning her signature thursday R&B tunes, from present day to my faves, old school. She is such a great dj, approachable and seems to read the crowd very well. At the least, it is worth going to Stratos just for a drink, sitting at the bar and watching her create happiness. 

Finally, the main event. And here I find myself foaming at the reins. The 14 hour Slow cooked Spanish lamb shoulder is served, but not before my olfactory senses are ggently assaulted by rosemary. Oh rosemary! It is a big piece of meat for 420AED. In fact, the restaurant generously allows it to be shared by up to 3 people, but that is not where the spirit of generosity ends. There are 3 sides and two sauces served with this dish;  remarkable value. In theory, dinner for three incl a starter each  and excl drinks and dessert could cost 250 AED net per person. Now, back to that lamb. When slow cooking meat, it is so crucial that it is not simply mush! This lamb shoulder has kept its form quite well, and the meat breaks apart with little effort on my part. 

To end the evening, my guest and I share the Chocolate fondant. I find there is a lot of sweetness on the plate which would be ok if the dark chocolate was not sweetened as well. I am surprised because there are enough sweet options on the dessert menu. Try and it and see what you think, though. 

When dinner ends at around 1 am, I take another brief walk around the restaurant and reflect on a most satisfying evening. The thing about Stratos is that it is pretty much undiscovered by many. That will change. 

The new menu shows again how accessible tis restaurant is. The starters have been reduced, making it easier for the guest to navigate that part of the menu. On the mains side, 11 grill options is a decent number - too many and it becomes unsustainable.  It is also good to see more than just one sharing option on the menu. Finally, it is affordable. Let me write that again. Affordable. This not the Stratos that launched a few years ago. The price point is different and cognisant of the spending climate in Abu Dhabi. New personnel, from a restaurant manager and her assistant to  a more eclectic staff waiting on the floor is another reason I am excited about Stratos. It is the one thing I feel they never quite got right, but they seem to been on the right track now.This is a versatile venue, full of possibilities for romantic couples to escape the lights of the city and for friends to get together for drinks. Bucket list tiis one. 

Le Royal Meridien Hotel,
Khalifa Street,
Abu Dhabi
Stratos Abu Dhabi

Selected Menu items


Brandon Stoltenkamp