7 Courses to conclude a birth week - Bord Eau, Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

“You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,' [Chef Bugnard] said. 'Even after you eat it, it stays with you - always.” ― Julia ChildMy Life in France

It is very hard to write about something you have just fallen in love with. Even more so when you have already written fairly extensively about your most recent experiences there. Eventually too, your readers start grumbling, going, 'But he has already said that'. So when I visited Bord Eau at Shangri-la a few days ago, the plan was not to write, but to enjoy. Nothing cerebral for the night. However, when I walked in, sat down and looked at the excitement on my daughter's face across from me, I reached for the pen. It was the conclusion to her birth week celebration and she at least deserved a mention. Furthermore, how often do you have a 7 Course Degustation menu? No, it had to be written.

The greeting at the door really sets the tone. We are met by the restaurant manager Peter-Paul who engaged us in a  bit of meaningful conversation before leading us to our table. My daughter's eyes are immediately captured by the beautiful chandeliers that provide the perfect light for the evening. Soft, just like the rest of the colours, just like the music. Romantic. It is no surprise that it is currently regarded as one of the top 5 romantic restaurants in the city by Timeout Abu Dhabi. 

A welcome glass of Duval-Leroy Champagne gets the evening started. It is medium full, rich on the nose and flavourful. A lovely way to start the evening. PJ will be our waiter for the night, and I quietly wonder how he will deal with a child. 'How many kids have you encountered in here, ' I ask. 'Oh, about 3', he answers. I for one agree with the restaurant's policy regarding children. There needs to be some place for couples and singles free of children running around and just being, children. PJ, meanwhile, is immediately in action, sensing that my daughter may want a cushion to make the seat more comfortable. Anticipating needs. Nice.

The evening that lies ahead is explained and my daughter declares that she will have small portions but will also attempt the 7 course menu, like a father. A tender moment hearing that, I must say. PJ says he will make it fun. We will have to guess some of the dishes. My wife, who decides on the 4 course menu, is on board. My daughter is thrilled. PJ believes that it is his duty as  a waiter to educate guests too, and he loves the blind tasting approach.

We start off as usual with the tomato consomme soon followed by the now familiar amuse bouche of salmon carpaccio and crème fraiche. The asparagus soup follows and leaves you wanting more; silky smooth and rich in taste. 

As I prepare for my first course, I notice that my daughter has dropped her napkin. However, relying on that incredible instinct of his, PJ moves in to replace it. Anticipating diners' need  again. For my first course, I have the foie gras with a beautifully paired Riesling, Robert Weil Trocken Tradition, Rheingau 2012. Despite hailing from South Africa where the Riesling is quite popular thanks to the large German population, I have never really warmed to it. However, the benefit of an open mind is shown again - it works so well with the foie gras. 

The foie gras
Next up I had the Loch fyne salmon and scallops, again one of my favorites. The only thing better than the lightly cured salmon are the scallops were exceptional. The citrus presence is ever so delicate yet profound. Peter-Paul's recommended pairing Masia Perelada, Macabeo, Penedes, a Spanish 2010 vintage, again hit the spot. The lighter salmon dish needed something that would match it in body, and that was the case here.

By the time the third course, the veal cheek is brought, PJ senses that our little guest needs something to pep her up, and brings a glass of sparkling date juice. What I appreciate is that he asked me if it would be ok, just to give her that 'special' feeling - another mark of a fine waiter: waiters often try and curry favour with guests by bringing kids treats which interfere with their meal. Ask first. PJ, who is soon to be father, has powerful instincts. He seems ready!

Veal cheek - tenderness redefined.
While the first 3 courses were familiar to me, something new dawns on me in a big way: I am now able to see just how skilled Peter-Paul is when it comes to wine. The passionate and effortless way he talks about wines makes you want to go online and just read up as much as you can. What a prized asset he is to this restaurant in the absence of a sommelier!

My own excitement is on the rise because the next three dishes would be dishes not tried before. First, the line-caught seabass is brought. My wine is a glass of Louis Jadot, Pinot Noir Bourgogne, Cuvee Jacobins, Bourgogne, a 2010 French wine.  Another interesting choice for me. Accustomed to full bodied and robust Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons and of course red Bordeauxs, this Pinot Noir has a medium intensity and is smooth, but not so full. However, as an accompaniment to the seabass, it works out beautifully. It does not overpower the seabass at all. The seabass is perfectly light, but my focus shifts to my glass as  I sip some more. It is growing on me. Thank you Peter, I think. I request a top up. 

Sea bass with matelote sauce.
Now, if my excitement was obvious when I had the seabass, you can imagine my anticipation of the wagyu beef striploin. The colour sends an obvious signal to me - immaculately cooked. The verdict - the beef is outstanding. What I like most about the dish is that the reduction sauce does not detract from the naturally richly flavored striploin. It is all about the wagyu. Moreover, the caramelized shallots have just the right degree of sweetness to enhance and again, not to detract from the beef.

The Wagyu striploin
It is around this time that the birthday girl is losing her battle to stay awake. She has of the beef though, loves it, but clearly she is not going to make it. I decide to fast track her dessert. She has to experience the choc extravaganza. 

While she sleeps, I am surprised by my next course, the truffle brie with fig and walnuts. Totally unexpected, but so welcome. This proves to be a wonderful marriage as the delicate taste of the  contrast with the heavier flavor of the brie. 

The truffle brie - pleased to see figs so prominent. 
My daughter's dessert arrives. She wakes up, and with one eye open she watches the drama unfold as the chocolate sauce  is poured over her, well, chocolate. 

Managed to sit through 5 courses.

 My foray into the unknown continues as I am given the lemon tarte 2014 with pianeapple and strawberry coulis, probably the only false note for me, but might be more a reflection of me -  I found it too sweet, despite the lemon character of it. However, for me it is saved by the dessert wine, the Muscat Beaumes de Venise, a vivacious sweet wine from the Rhone region. I enjoy it, but I feel unsatisfied. When that happens people I back to the tried and trodden paths, so I request the dark chocolate Extravaganza.
The lemon tarte 2014
I have had this quite a few times, but it still does not prepare me adequately for it. I still love it. My final wine pairing for the evening, the Don P-X 1985, Gran Reserva Toro Albala, Montille-Morilles from Spain, is aromatically complex with notes of figs and and nuts with a strong chocolate finish.  A perfect match. I am not disappointed. 

Thus ended my 7 course degustation journey.  It was an evening that left Bord Eau entrenched in my mind as a restaurant you simply have to visit. From my first two posts you could see that service was never quite where I expected it to be. However, this visit and the last have shown me how a waiter or waitress can make or break an evening. The common denominator in these two visits was PJ, and at the top of all of this, or in the background rather (because he is so genuinely modest) is Peter-Paul. 

As we walk, out, my daughter is asleep on my shoulder. A thought comes into my mind - am I one of those parents who cruelly takes a child to an 'adult' restaurant? But then a counter thought - her fascination with Bord Eau, which arose out of passing there often and becoming curious about it, can now be put to rest because she has tried it and she can continue her childhood, one year wiser. I recall Julia Childs, and think that yes, the beautiful things she ate this night, will stay with her. A thing of beauty does not fade. Bord Eau will stay in her childhood memory.

The essential

Bord Eau,
Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi.
+971 2 509 8888
7 course degustation 625 Dhs excl wine