Always chasing sunsets, we think we may have found one of the best spots for sundowners in Abu Dhabi with the arrival of Filini Garden on Yas Island.
Without meaning any disrespect to Radisson Blu but Filini Garden marks a step up from the expectations of this popular mid-range hotel brand. As a restaurant, Filini has been in existence for some time but the opening of a winter terrace has successfully elevated the experience to something quite spectacular.
Evoking Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden, we enter Filini via a tunnel of foliage strung with chandeliers. The leafy passageway opens out into a courtyard with a living wall, chunky wooden tables and the focal feature – a large tree rising from the elevated woodwork. It’s a beautifully realised space and one that reminds us of the all-encompassing terrace of Dubai’s Ramusake.
Filini’s raised deck provides views over the fairways of Yas Links Golf course with glimpses of the ocean through the swathes of savannah grass covering the landscape. Spread over two levels, the lower deck presents a sunset frame strung with exposed lightbulbs making for an Instagram worthy location. The addition of low-slung couches, complimentary blankets and outside heaters make this the ideal spot for a winter sundowner. Meanwhile, the raised deck is home to a central bar alongside a selection of dining tables leading into the indoor restaurant space, which lacks much of the charm and character of the outside garden.
We start (as any good meal should) with a selection of cocktails. Each of the signature beverages at Filini are inspired by celebrated fashion designers and interestingly adopt the term ‘haute couture.’ A current Abu Dhabi buzzword(s), with both Catch and 99 Sushi using the terminology to describe their menus in recent months. We’re immediately taken with the Brothers In Almonds (AED 42) a mix of almond gin, Campari, hazelnut liquor and peach, inspired by Mario and Martino Prada. Paired with Cicchetti (Venetian inspired snacks similar to tapas) of Arancini (AED 22), Fritto Misto (AED 23) and Langoustine (AED 19) these small plates offer exceptional value for money.
The reasonable pricing is likely to become the main talking point surrounding Filini and this focus on value for money makes the restaurant a sensible choice for money-conscious diners and one of the cheaper hotel options on Yas. Is Filini offering the best Italian food in Abu Dhabi? Certainly not (you need to head to the likes of Cafe Milano or Roberto’s for exceptional food) but in terms of value, you’ll find it difficult to find fault.
Having indulged in a few too many Cicchetti, we skip the starters in favour of pasta (though the burrata has been earmarked for a future visit), of which we try four. Prepared by the young and charismatic Italian Chef, Federico Vigilante, we try a parmesan and pumpkin gnocchi with white truffle (a little heavy on the truffle) and saffron spaghetti tossed with zucchini and Sicilian red shrimp. Yet it’s the Carbonara (AED 60) with smoked goose and the ravioli stuffed with ricotta and porcini mushrooms that mark the highlights of our meal.
On paper, the signature Filini Fontana Pizza (AED 58) calls out to us thanks to a combination of fontina cheese, black truffle crumb and truffle oil. Unfortunately, the substitution of truffle oil as opposed to the real thing (presumably due to cost constraints), results in an aromatic dish lacking the required depth of flavours, with the cheese taking prominence. The Roast Cod (AED 92) with spinach and lentils is a hearty choice promoting earthy flavours, but ours was over-cooked, resulting in a dish that was overly dry. The Chargrilled Tuscan Style Beef Fillet (AED 105) is one of the most reasonably priced cuts in the city and arrived cooked to our requested medium-rare, with the tender meat plated with a green peppercorn sauce that’s wasn’t afraid to go bold in terms of flavour.
For dessert, we shared the signature Tiramisu (AED 35) which Mrs. Out & About immediately proclaimed to be the best on Abu Dhabi for its even layers and the inclusion of the all-important Amaretto. Our preference lay with the Chocolate Fondente (AED 33) which satisfied the criteria for ‘ooze’ and was paired with a small vanilla milkshake bottle for extra gluttony.
Service throughout was amiable but inconsistent between the front of house team and something Filini really need to work on (we’ve since been back on a second occasion and the service was hit and miss). An ambient soundtrack completes the picture and the restaurant was at full capacity on the Thursday evening that we visited. With so many Italian eateries in Abu Dhabi, Filini Garden certainly makes its mark but more for the ambience, value for money and the ambience
With so many Italian eateries in Abu Dhabi, Filini Garden certainly makes its mark but more for the ambience, value for money and those beguilling drinks.
Location: Radisson Blu, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 5pm – 1am (closed Saturday)
Phone: 02 656 2000
Out & About UAE were guests of Filini Garden. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.