Seriously beefy - Meat Co, Abu Dhabi

It is quite amazing what a difference a few hours can make to a  restaurant in terms of ambience. I once dropped in at the Meat Co. at the Souk at Qaryat Al Beri around lunch time, just to peruse their wine list. I fell in like with the place because it had an impressive selection of South African wines. However, when I visited it last night, it hit me what a  difference a few hours in the day make - this time it was not the wine list that gripped my attention - it was the night time setting that transforms this this two-level restaurant from a business afternoon setting into a cool, vibey steak house at night.

Warm ambience despite the many nature of the restaurant.
The furnishings are simple. Wooden tables and cushioned chairs on wooden floors  along with chic light fittings creating dim lighting set the tone as you walk in. The wood finishing,  brown and black colours make it very male. Heavy chairs reinforce this. The view of the canal hits you as you stare at the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Mosque through  the large windows. I can only imagine how nice it will be to dine on the terrace here in the cooler months. I walk around the restaurant, seeing two incredible racks of wine, spanning two floors. Very impressive indeed.

Two story wine rack.

After  I eventually sit down, my waitress introduces the menu and talks about the specials for the night. She immediately launches into a monologue about the beef options. Not strange, because this is after all, a steak house; everything else come second.  She has sound knowledge of the menu, something that thrills me. I look at the menu and see a who's who of beef on the list - there is beef from Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and the USA. A detailed look at the menu reveals prices that are not cheap. The most expensive item on the menu is the 300g Australian premium Wagyu beef marble score 7+ at over 500 Dhs. However, I also see other beef options starting around 140AEd for the 300g New Zealand rump.

Beetroot salad

However, I first look at the starters and my eye catches the beetroot, which I promptly order. For my main I decide on the 300g American rib eye, 150 day grain fed beef. As I wait for my starter, a thought pops into my head; one started when I saw the prices - why would one visit the Meat Co when there are other specialist steak houses like 55 & 5th the Grill at the St Regis,  Marco Pierre White at The Fairmont or Capital Grill at Dust Thani - the latter offering very affordable quality beef dining. It is not a  question that can be answered immediately, so I let the question marinate - oh a terrible pun!

My salad arrives and I am excited. The beetroot, ricotta and walnut  salad looks, simply, lovely. The ricotta is sandwiched between two slices of beetroot, and as I try it, my eyes close and I shut off to what is around me. The beetroot puree has  a hint of sweetness and my eyes stay closed, while I eat deliberately, deeply tasting.

The main event - 300g American ribeye

I also try the braised rib meat in plum sauce and I resist having too much, aware that my rib eye awaits me. But it is tasty with a rich, melting tenderness.

The main event arrives soon after with a side of lightly sautéed vegetables. The ribeye is juicy and the chef has got the temperature just right because as I cut into it, I see a beautiful pinkish colour. A really gorgeous cut of meat, with the unique Meat Co. sauce. I would have preferred it without the sauce because I feel a good cut of beef needs nothing other than a steak knife and a fork. However, I am glad to have tried the signature Meat Co. sauce.

As I sip on my recommended wine pairing, a Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, I think about the question I raised earlier, and these thoughts are abruptly interrupted by the shutting of doors, the clapping of hands and then the rhythmic beating of drums, as the staff break out into song, giving their rendition of  a classic South African wineworkers' song, 'Shosholoza'. At that moment I understand why someone would have a chateaubriand here as opposed to at a 5* hotel restaurant - atmosphere. It is lively. There is chatter. There is nothing sterile about the venue. It all makes sense.
Double creme caramel - would TGI Fridays have this presentation? 
Classic Tiramisu with churros
Dessert is then served, and my friend has the  double caramel, while I choose the  classic tiramisu. It checks all the boxes: It is creamy, not too sweet with the savoiardi not too overwhelmed by the espresso. I find the side churros, though,  an unwelcome intrusion, and leave them untouched. The tiramisu can stand alone. Kudos to Meat Co. who have a suggested dessert wine pairing on their menu. I think people don't know much about how beautiful a dessert wine can accompany a dessert, and I really enjoyed their Tiramisu and Remy Martin VSOP Cognac pairing.

Finally, I have heard a friend say that The Meat Co. feels like an upmarket Chili's or TGI Fridays. I thought that a bit harsh. There is a healthy gap in the quality of meat you will find between these establishments and The Meat Co. The fact that it boasts such a good wine list too makes the comparison an injustice. Marco Pierre White or 55 &5th it is not, but neither is it aspiring to be. It provides a viable alternative to a hotel restaurant, especially if you are in a group and would like a vibrant evening, while still enjoying prime beef. If what you are looking for is some choice cut beef in a relaxed environment, The Meat Co is a perfect choice.

The lowdown
The Meat Co.
The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri between the bridges,
Abu Dhabi
02 558 1713
Starters 35-85 Dhs
Mains 140-555 Dhs
Dessert 45-50