Meat Co - Souk at Qaryat al Beri, Abu Dhabi.

Meat Co. The name says it all. Meat Company. It is clear what their speciality is, but on my recent visit I realised it is much more than meat you get when you visit. 

African music greets you as you walk in. You feel you are in a different steakhouse. Casual and relaxed.The restaurant spans two levels, but you would not say it is so big. In addition, there is also terrace seating that takes in sumptuous views of the canal. On this occasion, it is much too cold for me, so I sit inside in a little pocket of space that seats about 30 diners. 

The drums are an important element of your enjoyment - an xfactor. 
However, a study of the menu shows a fine selection of beef that can hold its own against any of its competitors in the city. The finest cuts of beef in a super relaxed environment? Already sounds so appealing. The starters on the menu offer something unique and the restaurant's South African roots are evident from one very intriguing starter, the Boerewors, which is a type of sausage served with a staple known as pap, with its origins in South Africa. Having had it at home in Johannesburg three weeks ago, I forego this, and order Mozambique style chicken livers. My guest though, fascinated by the novelty of the former, orders the boerewors. 

My waiter for the night, meanwhile, hits the right note from the moment he introduces himself. Tony has a self assuredness about him as he goes through the different beef choices, and is not shy to make his recommendations. Chatty and intelligent, he has that perfect balance between engaging and allowing guests to enjoy their night out. An x-factor.

I start off with a glass of Zonin Prosecco. Easy drinking, uncomplicated and well priced. A good all-round prosecco. My starter is served. The peri peri sauce is not too hot, meaning I can really enjoy the chicken livers without it being overwhelmed. The bread which comes standard to every table, is perfect for the peri peri sauce and I cannot resist dipping it. Delicious. I also have foie gras, usually served with one's steak, as a dish on its own. No surprises here. Pan seared with reduced balsamic. Reliable. 

Mozambique style chicken livers
Pan seared foie gras

Not long after, my waiter takes our main course orders. The types of beef and cuts are extensive, with a menu featuring some less obvious choices such as Spanish dry aged rib eye, Venison cutlets and your more predictable choices. The price range is also wide, from a New Zealand rump at 155 AED all the way to an Australian Blackmore 9+ at 700 AED. However, I choose the new Zealand grass fed sirloin. My guest, equally drawn to grass fed beef, chooses the Argentinian Pampa Humeda bred rib eye

With Meat Co's African roots, you expect a very good selection of South African wine. While I expect to see many more South African wines, the modest list does have some outstanding wines from South Africa. I choose the Meerlust Rubicon 2009. This wine which is  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. I am not disappointed as I have a sip. It has the sort of intensity and deep colour that makes it one of the best South African wines I have ever had. 

Staff enthusiastically celebrate the birthday of a guest
Just before the main arrives, I hear the beating of a drum and the sound of a South African traditional song, Shosholoza. My memories of home are powerfully evoked. The staff, in song, move towards a table where a guest is celebrating a birthday. A dinner that the celebrant is likely to remember  a long time. A very warm and cultured celebration of a birthday. I understand that this is standard among staff of Meat Co whenever there is a birthday in the house. Nice. 

MyNew Zealand Sirloin

On my last visit I had the signature Meat Co sauce for my beef while it was on the grill. This time, after being informed by Tony of my options, I choose just the plain option. I always feel that with premium cuts of beef, whatever sauce you add to it, hides the natural beefy taste. When mine is served, I get that beefy smell and when I taste it, I get the same. I love the firmer texture of the sirloin as opposed to the rib eye. A winner.

Malva pudding with Remy Martin VSOP Cognac

For dessert I have another South African speciality, Malva pudding. I am a bit wary though, having heard that it was quite sweet. Malva pudding is like a sponge cake with apricot jam. My fear is not realised as I find it to be not overly sweet. Ice cream on the plate contrasts with the steaming hot pudding, as does the sweetness of the apricots with a tangy sauce that is also on the plate. 

Meat Co, on the surface may seem expensive. What people do not realise is that it is a restaurant that stands alone and does not have the resources of a 5 star hotel. The beef it serves is among the best in the city, and added to that is a truly unique experience as you are transported to Africa. The warmth of Africa permeates the restaurant. Charles and Patrick, the two restaurant managers have infused all their staff with  those trademark African qualities of hospitality. And this is why you will not mind spending a little extra. Yes, it is more than meat that you get here!

The low down

Meat Co
The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri between the bridges,
Abu Dhabi
02 558 1713
Starters 35-85 Dhs
Mains 70-700Dhs
Dessert 45-50

Brandon Stoltenkamp