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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.