Home to arguably one of the most popular ladies nights in the capital, Stills at the Crowne Plaza Yas Island has become a firm fixture on the Abu Dhabi nightlife circuit. Boasting the longest bar in the city (a whopping 26m in length), the interiors wouldn’t be amiss in an upmarket Manhattan eatery with pendant-style lighting and over-sized Victorian mirrors.
We’ve always found Stills to be lacking in the identity department, torn somewhere between sports bar and upmarket lounge while struggling to fully commit to either. Things look set to change at this popular Yas Island establishment with the launch of a new menu that’s set to reposition Stills as more than just a venue for drinking.
Gone is the leather bound menu-book, previously home to an overwhelming choice of international staples. Replaced by one (albeit large) page showcasing signature dishes, with each choice carefully selected to please those in search of some elevated pub grub.
Our evening begins on the terrace (it is al fresco dining season after all), an expansive area providing views over the water and the location for Stills marathon seven hour FUNCH on Fridays. Illuminated in hues of purple and with palm fronds swaying overhead, it’s a pleasant place to spend an evening with a cocktail in hand. We’d recommend the frothy blend of the Blueberry Blush (Bourbon, blueberry puree and pasteurised egg) but found the Lemonati (Bacardi, Limoncello, lychee liquor and lime) to be a little artificial and far too sweet.
We appreciate the concise nature of the new menu which allows the team at Stills to really focus on the dishes they’re renowned for. The Stills Burger remains a firm fixture on the menu, as do the steaks, which are held in high regard and offer some of the most reasonably priced cuts in the city.
From the appetisers we select Pepper Crusted Seared Tuna (AED 75), served with tahini sauce, avocado and fresh cilantro. Unfortunately, the pepper coating is so prevalent that it overpowers everything else, meaning the subtleties of the tuna flesh are completely lost in the mix.
A Pulled Lamb Flatbread (AED 75) and the Chili Chicken Lettuce Wraps (AED 65) are much better. The tender chicken dish coated in a sweet and sticky soya glaze and toasted peanuts, is simply addictive and comes together nicely with the fresh nature of the lettuce cups. The blend of flavour and textures on the flatbread also offer much to admire, with sweetness from the balsamic and a nice earthiness from the goats cheese.
Aside from the steaks, the main courses revolve around British pub classics, with burgers (chicken, beef and quinoa), prawn tacos and grilled fish available. Our instant reaction is to order the fish and chips, but Stills’ friendly bar manager steers us towards the Wagyu Pie With Puff Crust (AED 145) and we’re glad he did. A tower of flaky buttery pastry gives way to a rich Guinness and onion gravy and chunky cubes of beautifully tender 12-hour slow cooked Wagyu brisket. The filling is piping hot and works well with the accompanying savoy cabbage and mashed potatoes to provide a hearty and warming dish that instantly reminds us of pub lunches back home.
Our dining companion enjoys the Prime New York Striploin (AED 195), grain fed for 185 days and served with vine tomatoes, a grilled Portobello mushroom and creamed spinach. Despite a significantly lower price point, he proclaims it to be superior to the same dish from the Fairmont Dubai’s The Exchange Grill, we’d enjoyed days earlier.
Much like the savoury options, the dessert choices have also been condensed, with only five choices available. Though the Pina Colada Panacotta and Lemon Citrus Bar sound appealing, nostalgia tugs us towards the Sticky Toffee Pudding (AED 45) and Hot Chocolate Cake (AED 55) with both hitting the mark despite looking more like something you’d find at a TGI’s.
While the food at Stills is unpretentious, we do wish there was a little more refinement when it comes to presentation. Just because the food is casual shouldn’t account for sloppy plating, which can’t be saved by the use of wooden boards and slates.
Stills is one establishment that has succesfully managed to retain customers over a prolonged period of time and this new menu should encourage this trend to continue. Yet Stills may have some competition from neighbouring Filini Garden, which despite a more appealing terrace is currently struggling to keep up in terms of food and service.
Out & About UAE were guests of Stills. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.