x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

In pictures: How four of our old favourite Abu Dhabi restaurants fare against four of the new

Gourmet Abu Dhabi, a culinary celebration from February 4 to 19, has us thinking about how some of the old favourites stack up against some of our new ones.
THE OLD
LE BEAUJOLAIS
Location: In the Mercure on Hamdan Street (formerly the Novotel), the scruffy heart of Old Abu Dhabi.
Atmosphere: Feels like a proper old French bistro, from its red-and-white chequered tablecloths to its plats du jour on a chalkboard.
Patrons: Primarily expats who look like they've been comfortably settled in Abu Dhabi for some time; it's not unusual to see someone dining alone.
Menu: French onion soup, escargot, fondue, beef bourguignon, steak frites.
Verdict: It was the first place we ate; it will likely be the last. The sentimental favourite of many, especially as prices don't seem to have risen for years.
JONES THE GROCER
Location: (several locations) but we prefer the one in Al Mamoura for ease of parking.
Atmosphere: The large space holds a dining area with long communal tables, delicatessen, bakery and an excellent fromagerie.
Patrons: An mix of yummy mummies with babies in tow and suited business folk.
Menu: Rather expensive but tasty artisanal sandwiches are served on rustic chopping boards. Favourites include the Wagyu beef pie.
Verdict: This was the first of its kind when it opened, so we allowed for any errors in service. Now that there is competition, they need to up their game.
FRANKIE'S
Location: In the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, situated in it-still-feels-new Abu Dhabi.
Atmosphere: Comfortable enough for a first date, but formal enough for a business dinner, with an easy-going atmosphere, quality food and consistent service.
Patrons: The United Nations of dinner clientele.
Menu: Pizza and pastas are the staples, but a wide ranging menu includes all the dishes you would expect from an Italian joint.
Verdict: For a night out with a big group, Frankie's familiarity, crowd-pleasing menu and ease on the wallet makes it a top choice.
ROYAL ORCHID
Location: In the Hilton Hotel on the Corniche, one of the oldest hotels in Abu Dhabi.
Atmosphere: Low key and intimate - a little like being in your own dining room.
Patrons: Hotel guests, primarily business travellers and a smattering of romantic dinner dates.
Menu: If you can cope with multi-cuisine concepts (they serve both Thai and Chinese fare) the food is consistently good with strong, punchy flavours.
Verdict: An old favourite no-frills affair that delivers in taste, without burning a hole in your pocket.
THE NEW
BENTLEY BISTRO & BAR
Location: In the Galleria on Al Maryah Island, the glistening heart of New Abu Dhabi.
Atmosphere: Feels like a modern French bistro, a little more sleek than Beaujolais.
Patrons: It's barely a month old so hard to tell, but a mix of well-heeled expats and Emiratis.
Menu: Some of the same standard French fare as Beaujolais but with modern twists like "no rice" risotto.
Verdict: Bentley is a bit more of a "night out" than Beaujolais, but our comfy old standard has more character. Both are solid choices if you're craving French bistro fare.
BENJARONG
Location: In the Dusit Thani on Muroor, an area now filling out with business and government buildings.
Atmosphere: Much bigger than the Royal Orchid, it still remains quiet, warm and low-lit, with pleasant, well informed and knowledgeable staff.
Patrons: Couples and the odd single business diner.
Menu: Classics are perfectly executed as are more unusual dishes such as kra tong thong, made from fried crêpes with corn, peas and tofu in a light spice.
Verdict: The food is definitely more polished and authentic, as are the surroundings - somewhere to make an evening of rather than dropping in.
LEOPOLD'S OF LONDON
Location: in Boutik Mall, Al Reem, with a huge outdoor area overlooking a children's playground.
Atmosphere: A bustling café during the day, and a Brasserie by night, the design is both elegant and hip.
Patrons: A mix of young families, due to the easy access to the playground, and the well-heeled residents of Sun and Sky towers.
Menu: Quality produce is where Leopold's makes it mark. They also take their coffee very seriously with their own coffee laboratory experience.
Verdict: Excellent service and good quality fare in a beautifully designed environment.
VILLA TOSCANA
Location: St. Regis Abu Dhabi in Nation Towers, newest neighbour to the Hilton.
Atmosphere: Sophisticated coziness makes it ideal for an anniversary or slightly more upscale night out. The chef's surprises between courses adds a special touch.
Patrons: Food aficionados and well-dressed folks looking to impress and be impressed.
Menu: Transports us to Tuscany with a discerning selection of authentic dishes ranging from stuffed pastas to baked snapper.
Verdict: This dining destination introduced high-end Italian to Abu Dhabi, for a price.