With Sofitel being such a highly regarded brand on the hotel scene, it’s surprising that having lived in the UAE for four years, we had yet to set foot inside their Abu Dhabi property. This all changed last week when we received an invite to sample the new menu from their rooftop establishment, Grills @ Chill’O.
Despite a rather confusing tongue twister of a name, we hadn’t heard of this restaurant (nor any of the other nine food and beverage outlets) in the hotel before, an unusual fact considering the renowned draw of the Sofitel brand.
Ascending to the rooftop terrace, the lift opens out into a casual poolside eatery, that’s both urban and chic. You could easily be mistaken for thinking that you were attending a trendy party in the Hollywood hills, with the entire establishment lit by electric blue LED’s and patrons lounging around the pool.
Grills @ Chill’O is a hybrid of casual eatery and sports bar, with the addition of a shisha lounge thrown in for good measure. It’s a difficult space to decipher but one thing’s for sure – the vibe is one of pure relaxation. Much like the concept, the menu struggles to pinpoint exactly what it wants to be. Instead opting to cover all bases in providing diners with a mish-mash of Asian, Western and Arabic inspired favorites.
We began with the Grilled Chicken Satay which arrived in an unexpected format. Expecting wooden skewers of tender chicken drenched in peanut sauce, we instead received a deep ceramic bowl, kept warm by a tea light. Inside was the satay mixture, resembling more of a curry and tasting fantastically fragrant. A complex blend of Asian flavors is hidden within a thick nutty sauce that we just couldn’t get enough of!
This new menu at Grills has only been available for the last two weeks and is the brain child of a French/Moroccan chef whose approach to handcrafting each individual element of the dish is certainly admirable. He also has a distinct flare for presentation with each dish being immaculately plated.
Our second appetizer of Vegetable Spring Rolls with Galangal (an Indonesian variation of ginger), lime and chili sauce, were presented in bamboo stem channels. Not only looking spectacular but helping to enhance the Asian thematics of the dish by resembling the nodes of the bamboo plant itself. These appetisers are actually referred to as ‘tapas’ on the menu but don’t let the name fool you as the portions are more than generous.
Main courses cover a vast spectrum of dishes and features salads, pastas, sandwiches, sliders, steaks and a variety of Arabic inspired grilled dishes. Judging by our fellow diners, it would appear that you can’t go wrong with the Beef Cheek Confit or Omani Lobster Thermidor – both appeared to be extremely popular choices. We opted for something far simpler, the Rigatoni Fresca. A delightful blend of fresh vegetables that included roasted aubergine, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, bell peppers and Kalamata olives.
Our unmissable dish of the evening had to be the Mulwarra Lamb Chops. A succulent rack of lamb that is glazed in a marination of Arabic sweet chilli paste, with a mild sweetness caused by a caramelization during the cooking process. With a charred exterior, cutting into the flesh revealed a beautifully pink and tender flesh that was a joy to eat. This lamb is a dish that would make us return to Grills @ Chill’O without a second thought.
Diners should note that the lamb is not accompanied by any side dishes and these most be ordered separately. Something which seems to be an increasingly common practice in hotel restaurants at the moment and one that is likely to leave many diners frustrated. Sides on offer are mainly potato based and include French Fries, Garlic Parsley Fries, Potato Wedges and a Garden Salad.
Desserts range from Arabic (Umm Ali and Baklava) to French Petit Fours, seasonal fruits plates and platters of cheese. The simply presented Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream was refreshing purely for the fact that it was the first fondant we’ve had for a while that actually had the expected runny interior. The last two fondants we’ve had in Abu Dhabi restaurants have been an absolute disaster, so it was pleasing to see an establishment get it right.
On the flip side. We really need to stop ordering tiramisu in restaurants and branch out to something else when it comes to dessert choices. Tiramisu is our all time favorite dessert so we find is exceptionally difficult to resist when it appears on a menu. Even though we can count on just one hand the number of good ones we’ve had in the UAE. Unfortunately the version at Grills @ Chill’O feel into the disappointment category, featuring an over abundance of cream and very few layers. The tiramisu was one of a couple of minor hiccups that we experienced during an otherwise very pleasant meal, though the accompanying chocolate truffles certainly went some way in appeasing the disappointment of this dessert.
The other hiccup was the service, which was (at times) painfully slow. Taking 45 minutes from ordering for the appetizers to arrive! This is an exceptionally long time and it was unclear wether this was a fault with the front of house team, or the kitchens familiarization with the new menu. Thankfully the main courses and desserts arrived promptly within a few minutes of ordering.
Grills @ Chill’O transpired to be an unexpected find. The ambiance is wonderful and the wide range of seating options (cabanas, air conditioned glass house or poolside terrace) certainly make it a wonderful place to be, especially with the current cooler climate. An illuminated rooftop, beneath jagged skyscrapers and an emerald green pool is certainly not a bad place to dine. Go for the lamb and the shisha and we doubt you’ll be disappointed with this casual dining spot with a gourmet twist.
With a promotional push and the introduction of a happy hour, Grills @ Chill’O has the potential to become a great spot on the Abu Dhabi nightlife scene that could finally put the Sofitel on the map as a dining destination of choice.
Location: Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, Corniche Road East, Al Markaziya, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Hours: 9am – midnight
Phone: 02 813 7777
We were invited to dine at Grills @ Chill’O. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Cover image used courtesy of Sofitel Abu Dhabi.