We find ourselves returning to 18 Degrees at the Hyatt Capital Gate, time and again. Not only for the panoramic vistas offered from a vantage point 80 meters above the ground. Nor for the fact that we are leaning 18 degrees Westwards on the 18th floor of the world’s further leaning man-made structure.
All of this is pleasing enough but this is the UAE, which means more than just extravagant surroundings and a picturesque locale. The reason that we find the dining experience at 18 Degrees such a distinct pleasure, is in large part due to the quality of service and the consistency of food that seems to improve with each returning visit.
We believe that the responsibility for driving the hotels signature restaurant to success, sits firmly with executive sous chef Michéle Müller – one of only a handful of female head chefs in the UAE. Michéle’s passion for food is evident and her ability to work spontaneously and with creative flair is the main draw for returning customers looking to seek out culinary treasures.
18 Degrees has recently re-launched with a brand new menu that takes the best of Mediterranean cuisine and inspired by the coastal regions of Italy, Spain and France. Food arrives sharing style from a varied selection of seafood, salads, hot plates and signature dishes. Infused with a sun-kissed Mediterranean charm, the concept allows for family-style dining, allowing a number of dishes to be shared at the table (it’s recommended that you order three or more dishes per person), where diners can dig in and sample a little bit of everything.
A new menu generally requires a new look but with the impressive view unchanged the decor also remains the same. This is certainly not a bad thing, as 18 Degrees has always been a particularly chic and contemporary space with its mixture of high and low seating, booths and a shiny open kitchen. Sporting elongated light fittings and neutral colours, each element has been meticulously placed to draw attention towards that view.
More impressive is the impeccable service and we genuinely believe it to be some of the best in the city. Conversation flows easily with the energetic team as if you’re picking up on a topic started many months ago. We couldn’t fault their comprehensive knowledge surrounding the new menu, offering recommendations and even a few little surprises to our table and really wanting to show off the culinary creations the restaurant has to offer.
The evening begins withe sangria. A pleasant mix of Spanish Rioja and muddled fruits perfectly in keeping with the tapas style concept. Our tour of Spain continued with Gambas Al Ajillo, featuring juicy prawns prepared in a garlic, chilli and parsley butter that were so good, that once the prawns were gone, we finished off the remainder of the garlicky sauce with freshly baked bread.
Another impressive seafood dish arrived in the form of Pulpo A La Gallega. Thick slices of octopus, placed upon potatoes (like a hors d’oeuvre) and finished with plenty of smoky paprika. A large tendril of tentacle was provided for good measure and despite Mrs. Out & About not being the biggest fan of octopus, the dish was spectacular. With the octopus cooked just right with no hint of the chewy elasticated texture that comes from even the slightest hint of over-cooking.
The use of freshly sourced ingredients is a reward for those ordering the Buratta. A dish of sheer simplicity utilizing just three key ingredients – fresh basil, sweet Datterino tomatoes and creamy Italia Buratta cheese. A take on the classic Italian Caprese salad that’s not the easy to come by in the UAE, reminding us of our time in Capri and along the Amalfi Coast.
Against a background of easy listening jazz, it’s so easy to succumb to the charms of the improved 18 Degrees. Especially with the team of chefs arriving to check on proceedings.
Like the hungry caterpillar we ate through Esparragos Con Queso (asparagus with Manchego shavings), Manchego with quince pasta (combining the flavor of one of our all time favorite cheeses with the tang of the obscure quince fruit) and Vieiras (delicate scallops topped with pan fried chorizo and corn puree), before moving onto the heavier dishes.
Short rib is fast becoming one of our favourite items to order and seeing it on the menu at 18 Degrees, we needed to see how it stacked up. Retaining the hight standards of previous dishes, this Costine Di Manzo glazed the beef in quince and was laid upon a bed of parsnip puree. A fantastic dish ‘from the land’, it’s easy to see how the short rib has become one of 18 Degrees best selling items.
Moving into classical Italian territory we appreciated the Linguine All Genovese which – like the buratta – kept things simple and fresh with basil, pine nuts and olive oil. The only mis-fire for us was the Calamari Fritti (fried calamari with spring onion mayonnaise) that was slightly lacking in flavor and with little to break up the monotony of the heavily battered crustacean.
With such strong savory dishes we did find the desserts fell a little short. Affectionately referred to as ‘sweet lovers’ on the menu, the Tiramisu strayed a little far from classical territory for our liking, resembling more of a torte than a creamy masterpiece. Which may be in part due to it’s placement in the chiller for a little too long. Despite this, the intense coffee flavor was of particular positive note.
As we waited in anticipation for our chocolate fondant, things veered off course slightly. With a good flavour of rich chocolate the inevitable goo was missing! The fondant was slightly overdone meaning that the chocolate interior had dried out leaving little in the way of wow factor.
Dinner at 18 Degrees was actually the third time we’ve dined at the establishment and it never fails to impress. The quality of the fresh ingredients supports the new sharing concept and despite the disappointment with desserts we wouldn’t hesitate to return again. The passionate team is what makes it special and with fantastic views, we challenge you not add 18 Degrees to the top of your ‘must dine’ list in the capital.
Location: Hyatt Capital Gate, Embassies District, Abu Dhabi
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Hours: 6:30am – 10:30am / 12pm – 3pm / 7pm – 11:30pm
Phone: 02 418 2583
We were invited to dine at 18 Degrees. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.