Ten years in the making and The Louvre Abu Dhabi finally threw open it’s doors to the world on the 11th November 2017. Taking a different museographic approach (and a world’s first) to other collections worldwide, The Louvre Abu Dhabi displays its artworks and pieces chronologically beneath the majestic dome envisioned by architect Jean Nouvel.
Our second visit to The Louvre and we’re again awe-struck by the architecture of the first of three museums set to open on Saadiyat Island. With the initial influx of guests slowly beginning to subside (it’s still busy though), a repeat visit really allows you to appreciate everything The Louvre has to offer, but on this occasion, we’re not visiting for the art, but for the food!
As we traverse the courtyard bathed in a ‘rain of light’ from the latticework on the dome above, the patterns of refracting light seemingly trace a path towards the museum cafe — a modernist cube looking out over the waters of the Arabian Gulf. It’s a large restaurant but one that offers little in the way of atmosphere. Sure the views from the terrace are nice and money has clearly been spent on the fit-out made up of sleek lines and grey upholstery, but like the service, it feels as though you’re not being encouraged to linger.
It’s soon evident as to why, with this particular cafe/bistro making for the busiest restaurant in Abu Dhabi! Averaging between 700 and 1200 covers per day, the staff barely have time to breath! Plus The Louvre Abu Dhabi has a captive audience, with no other restaurants on site (at the moment) and little competition for miles around.
The menu comes to us from Mauritian Chef Roudy Peterson (the same talent behind seafood favourite Catch) who describes his food at The Louvre as more simplistic and bistro-style than that of Catch, but we beg to differ! For the plating is exquisite and the flavours are complex even in something as expected as a burger.
The Camel Mini Burger (AED 81) may be a little on the pricey side but makes for an excellent showcase of Petersen’s food, with two small sliders impeccably presented upon a section of tree trunk and complemented by a small basket of fries. The small patties of rich camel meat are adorned with pomegranate seeds, a spicy harissa sauce and sprinkled with Zaatar to bring a sense of Arabia to the dish.
The mark of a talented chef is the ability to alter the perceptions of diners and the camel sliders do just that. While we all think we know a good burger, these sliders offer a wonderful (albeit messy) mix of spice and sweetness to complement the unique characteristics of the meat. Similarly, the Watermelon Salad (AED 51) defies expectations in its presentation of four cubes of watermelon topped with feta cheese and coriander cress. Watermelon and feta together is always going to win but in this instance the dish offers of unexpected heat offset by the cool fruit and the gazpacho-like liquid it sits within.
Having enjoyed Chef Petersen’s food on countless occasions over the past year or so, it goes without saying that his dishes are instantly reconginsable by their look. A touch of Catch’s haute-cuisine comes to the table in the form of a Pan Seared Organic Salmon (AED 101), beautifully pink and dressed with spiralised cucumber and gherkins that could easily rival any of the artworks within the museum itself.
The Braised Baby Chicken (AED 111) is an entirely different dish to the salmon. Gone are the subtleties of the delicate salmon and its watercress sauce, replaced with a dish of so much depth in flavour that you almost forget the casual setting. The dissected chicken is beautifully moist, yet still manages to retain a slight crispness to the skin and paired with potatoes, olives and mushrooms, it’s a deep flavoursome gravy that brings the whole dish together.
Catch’s Chocolate Sphere and Passionfruit Cheesecake are two dishes not to be missed at that venue but the desserts at The Louvre impress just as much. A bowl of large profiteroles stuffed with cream and accompanied by a chocolate pouring sauce hold a surprise. For they are laced with popping candy that will conjure up images of childhood nostalgia once the grains hit your palate. The Mandarin Cheesecake is also of note for its light filling and ability to balance sweet and tart components into a memorable finale.
The menu at The Louvre Abu Dhabi may be small, but based on our experience there really are no bad dishes, though the price point is perhaps a little high. In regard to the food, you can almost forgive the higher-than-average pricing structure but when it comes to service and atmosphere perhaps not!
When Chef Petersen explained the dishes to us as being more simplistic than we’re accustomed to, we expected standard cafe fare (which is available from the seemingly never-ending grab and go line snaking its way around the cafe) but this is not the case. The Museum Cafe features Petersen’s unmistakable plating and penchant for flavours that make the food far superior to your standard casual spot.
The marrying of Petersen’s artistic talent with The Louvre is clearly a match made in heaven. One culminating in an iconic dining location where the food, much like the art, leaves a lasting impression worthy of intense discussion.
It’s a shame you currently pay the museum entrance fee (AED 60) even if you only want to visit the cafe, though we believe plans are afoot to have this changed. As is the addition of licensing to the restaurant, which would make for an exceptional sun-downer spot after all that walking through the galleries and exhibits.
Location: The Louvre, Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Hours: 10am – 10pm
Phone: 800 565 566
Out & About UAE were guests of the Museum Cafe. Views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.