When the Rosewood Hotel on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island first opened back in 2013, the line-up of fine dining options was a little different to what we have today. During the opening phase and the two years that followed, there was Spice Mela, A Pan-Indian restaurant specialising in the colours and flavors of India.
Spice Mela closed its doors in late 2015 and the restaurant has been sorely missed, leaving a gap in the market and one whose absence has been notably felt. Spice Mela still crops up as a common point of conversation on the capitals food circuit and the restaurant certainly seems to have a loyal following.
During Spice Mela’s two year run, we never had the pleasure of dining there but things are all set to change with the launch of Aqua’s new Wednesday Tandoori Night. It would appear that the food and beverage team at the Rosewood have been listening to their customers and although Spice Mela will not be returning as a fully fledged venue any time soon, the very best dishes from the menu can now be re-discovered and enjoyed at this weekly theme night.
Granted Aqua as a venue doesn’t exactly invoke a sense of Indian culture or thematics, opting for a more subdued colour palette and a classical fine dining approach. In fact Aqua is unique for the fact that it’s one of only a handful of all day dining restaurants in the capital that doesn’t feel clinical and lacking in personality. Aqua is gorgeous, with decadent chandeliers of dripping crystal and jutting out into the waters of Al Maryah Island, the glass walls and curved structure feel more like the bow of a ship than a restaurant.
Much like the popular Friday brunch, the focus of Tandoori Night is on quality as opposed to quantity, with all available dishes displayed neatly around the central show kitchen. In all honesty we were a little dubious about the buffet nature of a theme night like this but being the Rosewood, we needn’t have worried. The buffet has been carefully thought out by Aqua’s Chef Sid and Chef Fran and features a Tandoor oven baking the freshest of naan breads and kebabs. Outside on the terrace you’ll find a BBQ station offering lamb chops and paneer, flame grilled to your liking and of course, you won’t want to miss Spice Mela’s signature dishes such as the famous butter chicken.
It’s been about a year since we last dined at Aqua and it’s pleasing to see the familiar faces of the staff who are always so welcoming. The service at the Rosewood never fails to impress, offering some of the most proficient and attentive in the city, with the entire team well versed in the menu and inspiring a confidence in the product that many properties could only aspire to.
Despite the beautiful interiors of Aqua, we opt to sit outside on the terrace, a wonderful poolside location ovelooking the waterfront and partnered with ambient background music. The Tandoori night package comes paired with Indian beer (Kingfisher) or a selection of Indian wines, either of which go down a little too well with the food.
As we work our way around the buffet our favourite items include the Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Salad and the Aloo Papadi Chaat which are packed full of flavours and work as a means to provoke the senses. The Dhokla and Sesame Fried Okra were also of particular note and are perfecr accompaniments to the Mangalore Prawn Curry or Char-Grilled Sea Bass.
Each item we sampled was certainly bold in flavours, but for us the pièce de résistance was the BBQ on the terrace. The Wagyu Beef, Lamb Chops and Spiced Shrimps surpassed everything found inside, including the signature biryani. The char-grilled nature of the tender meat coated in Indian spices, is something that we would return for time and again and combined with those made to order naan breads, prove a winning combination.
The small dessert buffet includes many Indian favourites. Small pots of Kulfi embedded in ice, Gulab Jamun, Carrot Halwa, Garam Masala Rice Brulee and creamy Rasmalai. At a time when the trend in Indian cookery leans further into modernist territory via its use of progressive techniques, the Tandoori Night at Aqua sticks firmly to the cuisines traditional roots through its provision of beloved classics.
Wednesday nights at Aqua will never be the same again and while many may wish for a full return for Spice Mela, this new Tandoori Night goes some way to filling the void. So much more than the standard fare displayed across countless buffet counters in the capital, this offering deviates from the norm for its focus on not only quality food but friendly and professional service.
Tandoori Night takes place every Wednesday from 7pm – 11pm and costs AED 170 ++ with additional beverage package available for AED 100
Location: Rosewood Hotel, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 6:30am – 11pm
Phone: 02 418 2498
We were invited to dine at Aqua. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE