There is a lovely atmosphere at Fanr, the restaurant located in the Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island. The room itself is bright, modern and stylish and thanks to the vast windows and high ceilings, it has a nice, airy feel. The general vibe seems to be one of serenity and the attentive staff only add to this feeling; we were well looked after during our visit, but never felt stifled.
The menu is long and incorporates a number of different cuisines, which in my experience is rarely a good thing. There are salads and sandwiches on offer, an entire page dedicated to pasta and main course dishes span the globe, with fish and chips, Moroccan-inspired lamb tagine, Greek-style lamb cutlets and veal schnitzel all on offer.
We began by sharing a "cold platter", which, bar a few pickles salty enough to be deemed inedible, was rather nice. Not spectacular by any means, but there is good mezze and bad mezze and this was definitely the former. The hummus was thick and creamy; pomegranate-strewn babaganoush was rich and musky with a pleasant sour tang; zesty tabbouleh was heavy on the parsley, rather than the bulgar wheat, which is just as it should be; the fatoush was fresh and perky and the accompanying flatbreads were warm and soft.
To follow this, I chose the spinach and feta quiche, which was served with a sorry looking side salad - just a few lettuce leaves, all limp and brown around the edges - and a sweet, spiced tomato chutney. The shortcrust pastry looked homemade, but I think it had been reheated in a microwave as opposed to a piping hot oven, meaning that it was soggy, particularly on the base. The spinach and feta filling was better; the creamy richness of the cheese was tempered nicely by the vaguely bitter, wilted green leaves and it was properly seasoned.
My friend's grilled salmon was presented rather messily. A large piece of salmon fillet was perched on a mound of garlicky roasted baby potatoes (which he liked very much ), with thin ribbons of carrot and courgette dressed in vinaigrette on the side, a couple of spoonfuls of thick lemon butter sauce and a few sprigs of basil. There wasn't anything wrong with the dish, I'm just not convinced that the different elements worked well together. Lemon butter sauce speaks of classic French cooking, which seemed at odds with the Mediterranean-style preparation of the vegetables; rather than complementing each other, the different flavours competed for attention.
We finished the meal by sharing a slice of moist carrot cake and mused over the fact that despite the variety of food on offer here, it is all rather generic. There is nothing new or interesting on the menu, just a regurgitation of popular dishes, designed to satisfy exhibition-goers, rather than lure in food lovers from Abu Dhabi or Dubai. If you happen to be nearby and hungry, then Fanr is a great solution, particularly given the reasonable prices. I just can't imagine that people will flock to Saadiyat Island with the sole intention of dining there.
A meal for two at Fanr, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh187, not including service. For reservations, call 02 657 5888. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.