x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Style matches substance at Abu Dhabi’s Bentley Bistro & Bar

The French-inspired bistro may well be the city's best new dining destination.

Bentley Bistro & Bar at the Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island. Delores Johnson / The National
Bentley Bistro & Bar at the Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island. Delores Johnson / The National

The concept of a hidden gem at Abu Dhabi’s most glamorous new mall, The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, appears laughably ridiculous. But, tucked away somewhat beyond the glittering facades of Cartier and Louis Vuitton, is Bentley. A French-inspired bistro that appears to have established itself with relatively little fanfare beyond word-of-mouth buzz, it may well be, we soon discovered, the city’s best new dining destination.

The initial impressions mainly involved an all-enveloping quiet wonder at the subtle sophistication on display, not least at the impressively stocked separate bar (which, apparently, boasts its own food menu).

Even leaving aside the connotations of Bentley’s ever-so-British name, we detected a slight Anglo-Gallic slant, with menu items such as posh pies strongly reminiscent of a typical England gastropub.

The arrival of one of our two starters – roasted capsicum, Spanish onion and goat’s cheese quiche – did little to lessen that sensation. Sitting between the well-measured slice and a miniature saucepan of hand-cut truffle-flavoured chips either side, was a generous helping of mixed greens. (And, yes, the menu does indeed state “chips”, not “fries”, further nodding to the northern side of the Channel.)

The most immediately eye-catching entry on the menu was the “no rice” risotto. It was, however, arguably the least arresting dish of the evening – the dominance of potatoes and mushrooms pushed it toward, although not quite over, the threshold of blandness.

It’s possible to put a decent dent in your monthly pay cheque here and no mistake – the garlic-and-rosemary-roasted quails will set you back Dh180 (and it’s possible to blitz almost twice that amount in a single selection from the steak section). It was hard to feel ripped off, though, by the triumvirate of small game perched on a plentiful bed of soft, sweet peppers and tomato.

One notable oversight was spied by my dining partner, who, as a vegetarian, was almost entirely short of non-carnivorous options when it came to ordering her main course. No matter, though: upgraded from starter status at our request, the lentil salad, with a Santa’s sack-shaped mound of burrata cheese, plus tomato and chilli jam, was sufficient to sate most appetites. It was exquisitely presented, too, a facet that was dazzlingly apparent throughout our three courses.

The white chocolate pistachio dessert listed passion fruit scallops as something of an afterthought, but the latter were the genuine standout of our puddings. While first thoughts turned to seashell-shaped embellishments, when the dish arrived, we were actually staring at a trio of juicy discs in the mould of cooked scallops. There was plenty of edible enjoyment to be had from the walnut chocolate marquise, too, kissed as it was with white- chocolate mousse and sour- berries compote.

What really helped to set Bentley apart was its staff. Our waiter, Boris, was unfailingly and charmingly polite and was even insightful enough to delay clearing our dessert plates until a break in the dinner conversation.

Flying in the face of a number of style-over-substance efforts in the capital, this corner of Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a go-to for atmospheric dining and enjoyably personable service – the excellent Caramel at The St Regis on Saadiyat Island being another prime example. And Bentley is leading that charge, with all the confident poise and classy prestige of the grandiose car brand with which it shares a name.

• A meal for two at Bentley Bistro & Bar, The Galleria, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh450. For reservations, call 02 626 2131. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito