Caramel has carved out quite a reputation since launching onto the Abu Dhabi dining scene back in November 2013. An upmarket lounge and restaurant concept, housed within The Collection at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort. Caramel has gained traction on the capital’s nightlife scene thanks to their popular Thursday and Friday evening brunches.
Having never visited before we are truly captivated by the darkened venue with an ultra-modern look and exceptionally sleek interiors. As the name suggests, slender neon bars of light ascend from the ceiling, dripping to the floor like a caramel sauce. Bathed in hues of amber, the dining room is a mature and alluring space that livens the senses.
With a glass wine cellar and minimal lighting, Caramel offers an intimate and cosy experience. The bar area is far more comfortable with low slung couches perfect for lounging, while a central table divides the space in two. This large marble slab is illuminated in neon yellows and is perfectly situated close to both the bar and DJ booth. Making it the primary spot to procure, should you be with a large group of friends. A more formal dining area leads to a small outside terrace that looks out over palm trees to the twinkling lights of Reem Island.
The first thing that was apparent while dining at Caramel was how well looked after we were by the team at Caramel. It makes for a welcome change when management are actively involved in the customer experience, as so often they can be found hidden away in dark offices or skulking the floor with no apparent purpose other that to ‘oversee proceedings.’ At Caramel, the manger actively engaged us in conversation and was truly interested in our thoughts regarding the space, the food and what can be done to enhance the overall experience.
With a refreshing selection of cocktails (Passionfruit Mojito and Strawberry Fizz) we eagerly studied the menu of new American cuisine. The menu itself is short and sweet and although it doesn’t offer the largest choice in terms of food, each dish has been selected for a reason and there is no ‘filler.’ The menu gives little away, foregoing fancy names or endless lists of ingredients, instead opting to keep things simple, leaving the arrival of the food as a complete surprise.
Appetizers include Chicken Lollipops, Sizzling Hot Rock and King Crab Tacos. We begin with TNT Shrimp a dish that we can never resist and one that didn’t disappoint. The version at Caramel sticks to the well worn formula of plump shrimp coated in a creamy sauce with a spicy kick and was presented in the obligatory Martini glass. As expected the shrimp were good and probably the spiciest version of the dish that we’ve encountered, though the price point of 150 AED could be seen as a little excessive.
Ordering the Truffle Mac N Cheese, we naively expected the pasta dish to be presented in a bowl. Instead the staple from American’s deep south has been re-interpreted into more of a finger food, with the macaroni deep fried into a breaded stick. Not only is it easier (and less messy) to eat but the creaminess of the cheese sauce and the richness of the truffle complement each other wonderfully, leaving us salivating for more.
Main courses offer a selection of seafood and steaks with the 1.5kg stuffed Maine Lobster of particular note, alongside Seared Chilean Seabass and a 500g Tomahawk Ribeye. We instead picked the Rack Of Lamb, beautifully cooked with a pink interior. Slicing the tender meat was like a hot knife through butter and the lamb literally melted in the mouth. Accompanied by a light and creamy potato dauphinoise (that was a revelation in itself), dried cherry tomatoes and earthy spinach. Most importantly, the jus was used sparingly, so as not to detract from the flavor of the meat.
The high quality of meat continued with the trio of Kobe Beef Sliders. Simply presented in a row with a portion of fries. The Kobe beef was juicy and full of flavors that were only enhanced by the addition of aged cheddar, balsamic onions and a sweet brioche bun. As one of Caramel’s signature dishes it’s easy to see why these small burgers are so popular.
Caramel’s concept of American fine-dining certainly offers something a little bit new for Abu Dhabi and we throughly reveled in the savory items. Saying that, there was one item on the dessert menu that we had been eyeing for sometime…
As fans of savory over sweet (we’re always more likely to order an appetizer over a dessert) an Instagram post had recently caught our attention. A number of months prior to our dinner at Caramel, we already knew what we would order without having to look at the menu. Much like the main courses the dessert menu is short, offering Dark Chocolate Fondant, Butterscotch Bomb, Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée, Chocolate Chunk Brownie and a selection of sorbets. Yet it was a dish that we had never tried before that had us intrigued – the Baked Alaska.
Arriving at the table, Caramel’s Baked Alaska was one of the most spectacular desserts we’ve seen in a long time. The process of encasing ice cream in a sponge and then cooking the outer shell of meringue is masterful and thankfully it wasn’t a case of style over substance. Tucking into a dessert that’s almost too beautiful to eat, the light and airy peaks of charred meringue are soft and gooey, revealing a layer of sponge cake and fresh strawberries before reaching the hidden ice cream. In terms of taste the Baked Alaska reminded us of the UK ice cream truck favorite ‘Strawberry Split’, as memories of childhood nostalgia came flooding back to coincide with the sweet hit of strawberry.
Despite a great soundtrack of party music (everything from Bob Marley to Kanye West) it was a little quiet during our early evening dinner. Granted it was Sunday night and we’ve heard that it’s getting near impossible to secure a reservation on the weekends. It must be said that we were completely enthralled by Caramel.
For the neigh-sayers who claim there is nowhere good to eat in Abu Dhabi (yes we’re talking about you Dubai folk), we present another example of excellent fine dining in the capital. Yes, the American dining concept has been taken high-end to meet its target demographic and exclusive Saadiyat location. Yes, the price point unfortunately reflects this fact but Caramel is housed in the same building as the ultra-luxurious People By Crystal nightclub – so what do you expect?
With outposts in Dubai, Muscat and Nairobi, Caramel is looking to firmly cement its reputation on the worldwide dining scene and judging by our first impression – they’re very likely to succeed.
Thursday’s & Friday: Celebrate the weekend with bottomless house pours (grape, hops and bubbly) alongside Caramel’s favourite bites. Served to the table brunch style from 7pm – 10pm for just 199 AED per person!
Monday’s: Slider Monday Madness. Enjoy a trio of tasty sliders with a side and dessert for only 150 AED. Thirsty? Add a bottle of house grape for an additional 150 AED.
Tuesday’s: Caramel offer’s unlimited Prosecco and a 50 % reduction on food during their weekly Ladies Night.
Location: The Collection, St. Regis Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
We were invited to dine at Caramel All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.