Expectations can be a funny thing, as we found out during a recent visit to BarFly at Abu Dhabi’s Venetian Village. Our pre-conceived notions regarding this supper club concept, were of an ultra-trendy, pretentious and possibly inaccessible venue for the general populous. Imagining strict dress codes, door policies and guests lists, truth be told is that we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Situated against the the back drop of the Ritz Carlton and Abu Dhabi’s impressive grand canal, we meander up the wooden boardwalk early on a Monday evening. Reaching the reception desk of intricate mosaic tiles and the pretty hostess, we expect the usual stand-offish greeting that comes from an upmarket venue like this. To our surprise, the greeting we receive is one of smiles and warmth, a genuine interest and an unobtrusive style of service that continues throughout the entirety of the evening.
Developed by George V. Entertainment, founders of world-renowned properties Buddha Bar, Bushido and Dubai’s Karma Kafé. Abu Dhabi’s BarFly, is a mixture of bar, lounge, restaurant and trendy nightlife destination. The interiors are modeled on the original Buddha Bar in Paris that opened in 1996 (and has since closed) and despite being modernized for the Middle Eastern market of 2016, many elements remain intact. A Greek statue of a headless angel takes prominence agsdmst the palette of black and red interiors, while a metal staircase embedded with LED illuminations, leads the way upstairs to the private dining area. A sleek bar takes on a distinct Parisian flair and bold artworks adorn the walls. The space feels somewhat Bohemian, seemingly ripped from the screens of Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge, though the insightful team will inform you it’s a multi-dimensional Neo-Baroque mystic-lounge.
On an evening with the super moon out in full force, we opt to dine outside on the expansive terrace. A place that may lack much of the pizzaz and character of the interiors but one with a great view nonetheless. A formal dining set up gives way to a number of cabanas, as the fruity smell of shisha fills the night sky and embraces diners with a sweet aroma.
Judging by the crowd on a Monday evening, BarFly is a popular night spot. A trendy location for the afterwork crowd and a place to see and be seen. Scanning the restaurant floor it appears that the signature cocktails are the main draw here and we excitedly await our concoctions from the team of busy mixologists.
The signature beverage menu is home to fifteen distinct creations, representing a cross-section of different strengths and blends for every taste. Pleasingly, as much care and attention is given to the mocktails as their alcohol fueled counterparts and this being BarFly, everything is achieved with an effortless flair. Recommended by charismatic restaurant manger Maged Hussein, we began with two drinks from the ‘Smoke In The Woods’ section of the menu. Drinks appear in a glass bell jar full of smoke and as the jar lifts, the smoke dissipates to reveal the Soft Thai. A cool blend of apple juice, ginger, honey and kaffir leaves. The Rock & Sweet, presents a concoction of rum, grapefruit, elderflower and rose and the glass itself is adorned with a number of rose petals, while the taste provides just a hint of the smoking process.
Offering an Asian influenced menu for its supper club concept, the selection of dishes is clear and concise. There is no filler here and instead, the focus is on a small number of dishes delivered to the highest of standards. The food at BarFly represents the social aspect of dining, as small plates of food are delivered to the table sharing style, a common trend in upmarket restaurants of late and a style that we appreciate. Meaning that dining companions get to sample a greater number of dishes, while enjoying them together. We begin with a pre-appetizer of steamed edamame, sprinkled with a touch of rock salt.
Rock Shrimp is one of those dishes that every Asian restaurant seems to be pushing at the moment and though we’ve yet to have a bad iteration of the dish, we really enjoyed the unique spin placed upon the version at BarFly. The plump shrimp are wrapped in Arabic Kanufa instead of the usual tempura batter, adding an additional textural element to proceedings. Finished with a spiced aioli and a slice of red chili, the fiery heat complements the delicate flesh of the shrimp and creates a powerful impression on the palette.
Even more impressive was the presentation of the sushi platter. A tower of rolls placed upon bamboo matting and topped with a flaming candle. An elemental match of fire and ice that, as a piece of dinner theatre, certainly promotes a wow factor. Enhancing the sushi itself through the sheer audacity of the artistic plating, the twelve piece sushi platter is home to some old favorites like the California Roll, alongside some more innovative creations. A Surf & Turf inspired sushi is certainly new to us, featuring a unique combination of prawn tempura, seared beef ribeye and rocket. Also of note was the green caterpillar, rolling together prawns, eel and cucumber and thankfully no actual caterpillars!
It should be noted that the price point at BarFly is a reflection of its audience. The pricing structure is very high and may not necessarily offer value for money. On the flip side, you’re paying for high quality ingredients, location (we’re sure the rents are pretty steep out here in the Venetian Village) and the association of a brand like BarFly. Fear not though as the quality is very good.
Our main course of a 180g Grilled Australian Grade 7 Wagyu Beef Ribeye may come at an eye-watering 285 AED but is a must for lovers of steak and quality cuts of meat. Refreshingly, there’s not a potato or carb in sight and in keeping with the Asian theme of the menu, diners instead receive a trio of sauces and some beautifully seared asparagus and zucchini to complement the beautifully tender meat.
Miso Cod is another dish that is extremely popular on the capitals dining scene of late. Here the sweet marination provides a more powerful potency than we are accustomed to, though the soft and flaky texture is faultless! Plated with steamed buttered broccoli, this 200g piece of tropical black cod is the epitome of the BarFly brand and having been marinated for three days is a complete taste sensation.
Similar to the savory menu, the dessert assortment is succinct and to the point. With only a handful of non ice cream/sorbet offerings, our pick of the bunch was the Chocolate Fondant. Using high quality dark chocolate, this is a fondant that really oozes and has the desired affect on diners. Though slightly bitter, the flavour of the chocolate is offset with a sweet caramel croquette that when pierced, secretes and caramel sauce into the mix. Plated with edible flowers, dehydrated pears and a chocolate crumb, this dessert is a possible contender for our favorite fondant in the capital.
We have an inbuilt desire towards the Japanese ice cream known as mochi. A rice based skin surrounding a light ice cream interior, that arrive on little sticks that can be popped into the mouth. A good way to conclude a meal if you’re feeling a little stuffed but in search of refreshment and small sweet hit. In terms of flavour selection, we always order the matcha for its earthiness, though the surprising find at BarFly was the strawberry cheesecake macha, for it’s smooth and creamy texture.
Summarizing our evening at BarFly we would advise diners to expect the unexpected. Yes it’s trendy, yes it’s expensive and yes, it does have a feeling of exclusivity but it’s still accessible and not at all pretentious. Having heard issues regarding the service and the food, we experienced nothing but a first rate experience (aside from a wait for the desserts) and found our preconceived notions regarding this notoriously chic night spot blown to smithereens.
So impressed in fact, that we lingered after the meal. Admiring the waterfront location and partaking in another round of exceptional drinks from the bar. A Rainbow Iced Tea elevated via the addition of jam and a Fly Illusion of citrusy vodka. With a distinctly laid back atmosphere and a soundtrack of chilled drum beats BarFly and the Venetian Village itself, really are becoming quite the dining destination.
Wednesdays: Aphrodite ladies night. Free-flow of house beverages and 50% off food between 6pm – 11pm.
Fridays: The Society Beach Brunch. BarFly launch a new brunch concept of endless eats and limitless drinks. Every Friday from 12:30pm – 4pm at 225 AED (soft drinks) and 325 AED (house beverages).
Sundays: Sushi Social. Free-flow house beverages complemented by sushi, sashimi and maki rolls. 8pm – midnight at 165 AED.
Saturday – Tuesday: Soleil Vista. Enjoy tapas and house beverages for just 99 AED from 6pm – 8pm
We were invited to dine at BarFly. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Cover image used courtesy of BarFly and Venetian Village