For her final review as The National's restaurant critic, Emily Shardlow taste tests the capital's branch of the British institution Scott's.
Great seafood at Scott's in Abu Dhabi
Scott’s in Abu Dhabi has been on my radar since it opened at the end of last year, so it seemed fitting that it would be the destination for my final review as The National’s restaurant critic.
Rather then being part of the main Jumeirah at Etihad Towers building, Scott’s is located in a stand-alone pod that seems to hover impressively in the sky. Once inside, the restaurant has something of an opulent old-fashioned ocean liner feel: it’s gleaming and glossy, with pale-green banquettes running around the edges of the oval room, besuited waiters in black-and-white jackets and a serious chandelier in the centre. It’s elegant and grown-up, without being oppressive or intimidating.
Since its inception in 1851, Scott’s in London has always been about fish – and the Abu Dhabi incarnation is no different. Yes, there are a few meat options, but it would seem almost foolish to order them when we all know that the seafood is the major draw.
What I really like about this menu is the flexibility that it affords. If you’ve got money to burn, you could do some damage here: start by ordering a dozen oysters, graze on some Beluga caviar, finish off by sharing the roasted shellfish for two (Dh450 per person) and you’ll be well on your way.
On the other hand, if you want to eat more conservatively, there’s ample opportunity to do so. Many of the starters come in at around Dh55 to Dh60 – and there are a number of reasonably priced main courses – the smoked haddock with colcannon costs Dh95, as does the shrimp burger, and the fish and chips is Dh120.
In keeping with the refined ambience, perfectly warm bread and soft butter (a rarity; so often in restaurants the butter is rock solid and the bread cold) were presented in silver bowls. Soon after that, our starters arrived.
Hot smoked salmon with beetroot and horseradish was a vibrantly coloured little dish. The small chunks of fish had crisp skin and a pleasing, not-quite-cooked-through pinkness in the centre. The horseradish sauce had just the right amount of bite, while the beetroot element was sparse – four tiny slivers of the baby stuff. By contrast, wedges of potato, which weren’t mentioned on the menu, were the most abundant ingredient on the plate.
Potted Morecambe Bay shrimps also came daintily presented, but were less successful and suffered from a common restaurant mistake – the ratio of shrimps to Melba toast was way off. Not only was there not enough toast, it was also so thin and delicate that it crumbled upon contact with the very rich, potted mixture. After just a mouthful or two, my friend and I both struggled with the intense butteriness. The addition of a squeeze of lemon or proper sprinkling of spice – nutmeg, paprika, white pepper, mace – would have done much to rectify the problem.
When we ordered our main courses, we asked our waiter if we needed to order sides. He assured us that we didn’t and his lack of desire to upsell impressed me. So we chose the creamed spinach on a whim and decided to dismiss all thoughts of mashed potato, endive salad and cauliflower cheese.
However, when the food arrived, it was clear that side dishes were absolutely necessary. My friend’s whole sea bass came with a butter sauce, but absolutely no other garnish – not even a wedge of lemon or sprig of greenery – which does not, to my mind at least, constitute a full meal.
My shrimp burger could have also done with a potato partner. The menu states that it is served with dill pickle and lemon mayonnaise. Call me greedy, but I expected more than an eighth of a gherkin (and a slim one at that) and the merest, barely perceptible smear of mayonnaise on the bun. A little dish of raw onions mixed with tomato ketchup was served on the side.
The patty element of the burger was impressively tasty. A combination of small shrimps and large king prawns gave it a pleasingly dense, chewy texture, while the herbs and chopped onion added flavour. Sandwiched between bread, though, the patty’s taste was lost and the soft textures melded into one. We couldn’t help thinking that it would have fared better as a stand-alone shrimp cake.
Meanwhile, the sea bass was perfectly cooked, with the tender flesh coming away from the bone with the greatest of ease. While the lemon and herb sauce was delicious, it did rather overwhelm the delicate flavour of the fish. We wished, in hindsight, that our waiter had left the jug on the table for us to add ourselves, rather than dousing the bass with it.
For dessert, the honeycomb crackle bomb brought theatre to the table. Hot chocolate sauce was poured over a chocolate shell, which yielded under the heat and melted into a pool, revealing a honeycomb ice cream centre spiked with popping candy. It was a light-hearted, fun dessert but pretty one-dimensional – once that sauce has done its thing, you’re basically eating ice cream and melted chocolate. (I realise not many people would complain about this.) Speaking of ice cream, at Scott’s the sorbets and ice creams are very keenly priced at Dh10 per scoop. Pomegranate sorbet was refreshing, but not quite as tart as I would have liked. The pistachio ice cream, however, was properly delicious – lovely and creamy, with an almost savoury flavour that was balanced by pieces of chopped, caramelised pistachio nuts.
My last mouthful, then, was a good one – and overall I enjoyed my dinner at Scott’s. Not an out-and-out winner of a meal, but by no means somewhere to avoid.
A meal for two at Scott’s, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, costs Dh531, including service. For reservations, call 02 811 5666. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito
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