A review of Le Deck, the Monte Carlo Beach Club's signature dining spot.
Le Deck is a restaurant with style and substance
Wander through the lobby of the new Monte Carlo Beach Club and you'll soon find yourself stepping out on to a large terrace with views of a swimming pool shrouded by private cabanas and the Arabian Gulf in the background. After sunset, music throbs away in the background, lamps cast dappled shadows of light across the water and the setting feels a world away from the centre of Abu Dhabi.
Thanks to some fairly gusty wind, we chose to sit inside rather than out when dining at the beach club's signature dining spot, Le Deck, a few nights ago.
If the interior designers were given a brief that stated relaxed sophistication, then they've excelled here. Lamps ensconced in metal fishing traps dangle from the high ceilings, picture frames made from distressed wood display sea side scenes and striking fish sculptures and oversized candles are dotted about the large room. This is stylish beach chic done well.
The all-day dining tag that the restaurant has been given - with its connotations of mass-produced food and lack of focus - does Le Deck something of a disservice. The menu is more considered than that moniker suggests and has a clear Mediterranean slant, with French and Italian cuisines featuring prominently.
The burrata salad that I had to start was simple but very nice. The cheese, with its stretched mozzarella shell and soft, gooey centre (made from cream and more shredded mozzarella), tasted clean and fresh, as well as indulgently rich. Roasted cherry tomatoes provided little bursts of fresh, fruity flavour and countered the creaminess of the burrata well, as did a verdant green basil purée (presented in a little pot for me to spoon over myself).
My friend's smoked salmon was served with crunchy pieces of apple and pickled cucumber, a spoonful of dill mousse and a refreshing cucumber granita, all of which she enjoyed. However, we both thought that the salmon fillet had a strong, slightly unpleasant fishy flavour, which hinted that it wasn't spanking fresh.
Her main course of dover sole meunière was presented off the bone, with a small green salad. We were a little surprised at the lack of other accompaniment and felt that our waitress should have highlighted this by suggesting my friend order a side dish.
The golden fillets of sole were topped with fried capers, parsley and lemon and served with beurre noisette. All the components of what is a classic dish were certainly present and the dish was pleasant, but it just fell short somewhere along the way - the fish was a little dry and the lemon and capers weren't quite assertive enough.
The lemon veloute (cream sauce) that coated my order of Wagyu beef ravioli was delicate; the fresh morels and chanterelles strewn over the top were nicely roasted and properly seasoned and the pasta was nice and thin. The filling was really disappointing, though. Wagyu beef is famed for its melting texture and juicy flavour and because of this, I'd expected the ravioli to be stuffed with tender, braised meat. Instead, it was chewy, bland and more akin to burger mince than prized steak - this was the low point of the dish, when it should have been the star.
Intrigued by the name, my friend ordered the chocolate cigar filled with nougatine mousse and served with edible ash (popping candy) for dessert. This proved to be a bit of victory of aesthetics over ergonomics: the small size of the dish (intended to look like an ashtray) made the dessert very difficult to eat, as did the hardness of the chocolate shell. My affogato - vanilla ice cream topped with hot espresso - was made from good-quality ingredients and proved to be a nice, light end to the meal.
The food at Le Deck is considered and elegantly presented, but it is also a little staid; it rather feels as if the personality of the chef is being suppressed. If he or she were allowed to express themselves a little more and if a few inconsistencies in the menu were rectified, then the experience of dining here would be a more memorable one.
A meal for two at Le Deck in the Monte Carlo Beach Club at Saadiyat Island costs Dh635, not including service. For reservations, call 02 656 3500. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.