Abu Dhabi’s Beach Rotana is a property we’re not too familiar with. Aside from the occasional trip to Tiki favourite Trader Vic’s and the annual festive market, our knowledge of this beachfront five star hotel is fairly limited. Prior to our recent visit, we were aware of Abu Dhabi’s only German restaurant Brauhaus and sushi spot Benihana but nothing could’ve quite prepared us for Finz.
Following a trail lit by firelight we follow a path along the shoreline under palm fronds and soon find ourselves at the waters edge. Moonlight reflected in the lightly lapping waves provides a romantic ambiance which is perfectly suited to such a picturesque venue. Finz rises out of the tides like a Balinese temple, its perimeter lit by flickering torchlight, behind, the glass structures of Al Maryah Island are silhouetted on the horizon. Leaving us to wonder, how it has taken us four years to stumble upon this spot.
The appeal continues as we move inside to find a space that resembles ‘greenhouse chic’. The ceiling and walls are made of glass panels and provide a sense of dining outside. Finz is cosmopolitan and sleek like a beach house, with a distinctly modern edge. A central show kitchen hosts a fresh selection of the days catch, displayed pleasingly upon piles of glistening ice. Towards the back of the room, you’ll find the bar with lights made from lobster pots suspended above.
Despite it being 17 degrees, we opt to sit outside, as the wrap around terrace suspended over the sea is far too appealing. The terrace feels as though we’re dining on a boardwalk and despite the outside temperature, an abundance of outside heating makes the experience bearable.
Staff appear prompt, friendly and exceptionally well versed in the intricacies of the menu, throwing out recommendations and ingredients with little need to pause and think. All too often, a dining experience can be let down by the lack of knowledge of the staff but we’re pleased to see that, at Finz, the team are completely on the ball.
We order cocktails to start and are more than a little pleased with the Arabesque, a unique blend of rum, pomegranate, date honey and lemon which is extremely fitting considering our Middle Eastern location. Meanwhile the Tiffin Punch gets top marks for its presentation within a tiffin tin and reveals a wonderful combination of gin, prosecco, lychee, grapefruit and ginger, hitting the right balance between sweet and sour.
Normally, we wouldn’t go into too much detail regarding complimentary breads but Finz does something a little different. The breadbasket contains a bread of black colouration made from squid ink and filled with diced squid inside, not for everyone but something that we certainly admired. Also of note, was a Gorgonzola and seaweed bread that was packed full of flavour, but across the board we would’ve preferred the breads to be served warm.
The menu is simple in terms of both content and design, written in a simple font on a horizontal bi-fold. Despite our waiter trying to sway us towards a sharing platter known at The Elaborate we’re feeling more restrained and opt for a trio of starters. We have made it a personal mission to always try ceviche if it appears on a menu (we just can’t get enough of it) but things get off to a rocky start with the Lobster & Scallop Ceviche. Rather then being presented with the usual thin slithers, we get chunks of seafood, not a problem in theory but when combined with a chilli and tomato sauce that tastes more like a cold soup, we struggled. The sweetness of tamarind and a hint of coriander is evident and the chili certainly comes into play but there isn’t enough citrus zest and for us we’re ultimately disappointed.
Crispy Calamari is much better and offers glorious golden rings atop a bed of rocket and mint. The portion appears too large for a starter and marginally under seasoned but with a fantastic saffron aioli we polish off the entire bowl in no time at all. The Roasted Shrimp is our favourite of the three dishes and notably Spanish in concept. Flavours of butter, garlic, smoked paprika and chorizo tease the palette and combine into a remarkable dish, one that impresses so much that we struggle to believe that the chorizo isn’t pork (our waiter informs us its beef).
For mains we order the Royal Mixed Grill an impressive combination of lobster, king crab, tiger prawns, scallop and catch of the day. The individual elements have been de-boned and had the shells removed for ease of eating (this is a fine dining establishment after all) and the towering pyramid of shellfish is certainly memorable. Care and attention have been given to each individual element of the dish, from the delicate flesh of the scallops and lobster, to the tender crab legs and gigantic shrimp. It’s a mini feast and one that continues the theme of simplicity, allowing the premium ingredients to speak for themselves, unencumbered by sauces or heavy seasoning.
Altough predominantly a seafood restaurant, we couldn’t resist Pan Seared Sea Scallops With Braised Beef Short Ribs. An upmarket surf and turf if you will. The sweet scallops are the star of this plate and work in perfect conjunction with the slow cooked short ribs. It’s a wonderful choice of complementing ingredients and textures, further enhanced by mushroom essence and a light cauliflower puree. A smart move from the kitchen and a nice change from the expected mashed potatoes.
Settling on these two main courses was a difficult decision in itself. With so few restaurants specialising in quality seafood in the capital (Catch, The Fish Market, Aquarium) we felt spoilt for choice selecting between Black Cod, Alaskan King Crab Legs, Whole Maine Lobster and a plethora of other undersea delights. The menu at Finz also features a smattering of non-seafood related items but this was something we had little interest in exploring.
Finishing with the Finz Dessert Platter, the final course was full of peaks and troughs like an ocean wave. We delighted in the homemade baklava for its powerful flavour of rose, the remaining items, which included a Valencian orange and almond cake and a pleasant sounding fig and dark chocolate tart, provided interesting flavours but were by far the weakest element of the meal. Our accompanying Irish Coffee and Chili Hot Chocolate provided the sweetness we needed and next time we’d skip the dessert course entirely.
Finz offers a wonderful dining room and fantastic waterfront views. Perched at the waters edge, the restaurant is a fitting tribute to the Mediterranean seafood theme and there’s no denying the quality of the seafood on offer. Much like our recent visit to The Atlantic in Dubai, we appreciate the simplicity of the food in terms of both flavour and presentation. From the coastal waters of the Mediterranean to the Moorish influences of North Africa, this pontoon at the Beach Rotana is a spot we look forward to returning to.
Location: Beach Rotana, Tourist Club Area (Al Zahiyah), Abu Dhabi
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Hours: 12:30pm – 3:30pm / 7pm – 11pm
Phone: 02 697 9011
We were invited to dine at Finz. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, with the exception of two images used courtesy of Finz.