We can’t believe it’s been over two years since we last dined at Market Kitchen! The small restaurant tucked away on the ground floor of Abu Dhabi’s Le Royal Meridien Hotel boasts an interesting concept where high quality produce and the promise of market freshness are the USP.
With successful operations in Bogota, Mexico City, Vancouver, Doha and Abu Dhabi, it’s a delight to return after so long, even if the space does appear smaller than we remember. The dining room beautifully combines the traditional farmhouse kitchen (evidenced by rolling pins, milkshake glasses and numerous trinkets scattered across the expansive shelving) with distinct modern touches. A collection of lamps hang from the ceiling and bathe the space is a warm orange glow, while the glass atrium provides the illusion of dining al fresco. A lone tree is the restaurants prominent feature, bringing nature inside as it meanders skywards. Upstairs, a mezzanine ‘attic’ features a small bar which offers an inviting place to linger over a post-dinner cocktail.
Beverages are key to the Market Kitchen experience and focus on botanical components. Our rose cocktail is spritzed with truffle at the table (an interesting combination), while a beguiling mocktail is infused with chilli to give a fiery heat to the sweet concoction. Meanwhile, service remains courteous and snappy despite the notable absence of previous restaurant manger Juliet Vidal.
In the years since we last dined things have changed substantially at Market Kitchen with the appointment of a new restaurant manager and Colombian Head Chef.
Our meal begins simply with a basket of puffed sweet potato bread. Vibrant in colour and brushed with a rosemary butter, the seductivley sweet and nuanced flavours represent everything we have come to expect from Market Kitchen. The bread gives way to the Red Snapper Ceviche (AED 79), a dish inspired by the Pacific Coast of Peru and one that is bursting with flavour thanks to a marinade of leche de tigre. While ceviche is certainly a trending dish, it can often be texturally ‘one-note.’ This is not the case here and the ceviche comes topped with toasted quinoa and a side of fried plantain chips.
With menus around the country seemingly rushing to add burrata and ceviche with such rapidity, Market Kitchen has added both! Thankfully Chef Jhon Faver Martinez’ Burrata (AED 85) dares to be different! Rather than the expected heirloom tomatoes, the bulbous Italian cheese is laid upon a bed of smoky baba ganoush and adorned with lime zest, black sesame and wasabi sprouts. There’s even a hand made toast constructed from samosa pastry layered with Parmesan to add some ‘bite.’
Previous meals at Market Kitchen have resulted in us continually ordering the Tuna Sashimi and Soy Glazed Beef Short Ribs, so we’re happy to deviate and take recommendations from the Chef on this occasion.
The Seared Octopus (AED 80) is perhaps not as successfully executed as we would’ve hoped and despite the Galician tentacle being wonderfully tender, it lacks the seasoning and charred nature we would expect. The kimchi sauce is remarkably good though. While our dining partner comments upon the elasticity of the accompanying potato cream, we actually appreciated the variance this texture brought to the dish.
Rubbed in market spices (cumin, salt and paprika) and served with an exciting roasted pepper and almond sauce the Aji Tuna Steak (AED 165) shows that ingredients are what elevates the dishes at Market Kitchen. The taste of each individual element is apparent without overwhelming one another. The quality of the Beef Rump Cap (AED 152) is very high with the meat requiring very little embellishment in terms of seasoning. Simply grilled, it works wonderfully with a roasted pepper chimichurri just as it would in Argentina or Uruguay.
From past experiences the desserts at Market Kitchen have often played it safe, focusing on simplicity rather than excitement. This is still the case, though there’s no denying that the Baked Chocolate Mousse is a resounding success. Topped with burnt marshmallow and served with chocolate financiers which are baked to order so they arrive hot to the table.
What makes Market Kitchen stand out is the ability for diners to customize their food because everything is made to order. The addition or removal of ingredients in no issue for the kitchen team and this willingness to cater to individual needs is a core strength of the restaurant. We often forget just how good the food can be at Market Kitchen and this new menu corrects a lull that the restaurant has suffered from in recent times. It’s nice to see a return to form and with a new menu being rolled out at Stratos (the hotels revolving rooftop lounge) we look forward to seeing what happens next at the Le Royal Meridian Abu Dhabi.
Location: Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street, Al Markaziya, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 12pm – 4pm / 7pm – 11pm (midnight on weekends)
Phone: +971 800 101 101
Out & About UAE were guests of Market Kitchen. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.
The Verdict: Market Kitchen
A new Chef and new menu bring Market Kitchen back to the fore! We often forget just how good the food is here and the new menu certainly makes an impact.