Marasi Al Bateen is now open for business and the new waterfront promenade has seemingly appeared from out of nowhere. Located in one of Abu Dhabi’s oldest neighbourhoods, this new marina is set against a backdrop of the iconic Etihad Towers, while in the foreground gleaming white yachts bob between wooden boardwalks.
In this rather picturesque locality is where you’ll find Waterlemon (not to be confused with Watermelon) a new dining concept that looks to bridge the gap between coffee culture and casual dining, by offering a distinctive mixture of the two. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Waterlemon’s menu is relatively thorough and ranges from truffle breakfast omelettes, to sandwiches and pastas. There’s also a ‘create your own’ salad buffet for the health conscious amongst us.
The space itself is bright and makes full use of its quayside location, offering a shaded terrace awash with coloured cushions. It may have already reached that point in the year where it’s a little too warm to dine al fresco, but the natural feel continues inside. A colour scheme of charcoal grey and olive green are pleasing to the eye, as are the copper light fittings that bring in an element of modernity. The phrase “we belong to the earth” is engraved into the seating booths, while a wall of grasses and an open kitchen help to accentuate a clean living concept. One inspired by nature and an Eco-friendly philosophy.
The glossy menu suprises us. Usually we’re completely turned off by menus with photographs of the food (reminding us of package holidays to Spain where the menu photos always look less than desirable) but in this context the imagery works favourably and we select all our dishes based upon the appealing pictures.
An Avocado and Mango Smoothie is natural and un-sweeted with plenty of pulpy goodness, as if purposely under-blended to assert its authenticity. It works, and we thoroughly enjoy a fruity drink that’s not been made with concentrate of overly sugary syrups. The ice teas and blueberry lemonade also go down a treat on our table.
Our experience at Waterlemon felt a bit like a rollercoaster, with some exciting highs and spectacular lows. Things start particularly well with the appetisers, consisting of speciality Garlic and Parmesan Wings (plump, juicy and coated in plenty of marinade), Dynamite Shrimp (packing a fiery punch and served with a fantastic peanut butter dip), Nachos (black tortilla chips served with fresh guacamole and sour cream which Shabana from FACT magazine described as “Life changing”) and the Waterlemon Salad (a literal garden in a bowl, packed full of complementing textures provided by a mix rocca, mozzarella, pumpkin seeds, artichoke, asparagus and orange segments). As far as the appetisers go, we were only let down with the Burrata which looked the part but transpired to be a stringy watery mess. Not quite offering the delicate and creamy textures we’d expected.
One thing we couldn’t fault was the plating and it’s evident that each dish has been carefully constructed but things seemed to unravel with the main courses. The Shrimp Lemongrass comprises of grilled shrimps on a base of fennel risotto, but the risotto element was overly stodgy and lacking in flavour, and despite having lemongrass in the name, there’s no trace of the flavours of this Asian favourite. The Beef Tenderloin fares little better and is dry and tough, despite its medium-rare nature. The fries are good though.
The Cuban Burger provides a juicy beef patty slathered in avocado that manages to redeem things somewhat, as does the Vegetable Goats Cheese Pizza. Waterlemon’s pizzas are available upon a visually striking black dough (made from roasted vegetables apparently) but despite the unique selling point being likely to drive Instagrammers wild, they’re not listed in the menu. A missed oppurtunity.
Things get back on track with the dessert course. Simplicity is key when it comes to the strawberry and raspberry Pavlova, a tower of crisp meringue sandwiched between layers of fresh cream. The Banana Tart looks like the ‘sticky situation’ from Tamba but transpires to be an altogether different beast, taking sweet banana and layering it on top of a thick biscuit base. Banana appears again in the Crispy Chocolate Chunks, wrapping Nutella and banana in filo parcels with a vanilla ice cream for dipping. The Brownies Kit Kat was the winner, layering moist brownies and crunchy Kit Kat bars into a slab that resembles a chocolate jenga.
Despite the confusing name, we’re actually thankful. As a menu revolving around watermelon would in fact be out worst nightmare (watermelons are literally the only thing we don’t eat, it’s a textural thing)! WaterLEMON offers much to like and is certainly promising but it feels newly opened. Service is chirpy but painfully slow and the main courses are in need of some refinement. In Abu Dhabi’s competitive dining scene most restaurants don’t get a second chance, so would we recommend it? We would say to give Waterlemon a few weeks to settle before taking the plunge, allowing some time for the team to iron out the initial teething problems. The outside area would also be perfect for a shisha terrace (#JustSaying).
Marasi Al Bateen has already become quite the hit with the local population and with the arrival of Switch (a Dubai Mall institution from the team behind Salt) and Camel Station on the same promenade, we think it’s about time you discovered Abu Dhabi’s newest dining enclave. We do leave with one question though… “What exactly is a waterlemon?”
We were invited to dine at Waterlemon. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.