The Abu Dhabi Edition has created quite a stir since opening it’s doors late last year. The boutique hotel with its communal pool table, gentleman’s barbershop and distinct food and beverage concepts masterminded by British Celebrity Chef Tom Aikens, has injected the Abu Dhabi dining landscape with a rather sharp jolt!
Having thoroughly enjoyed a wellness breakfast with Aikens himself at Market and a recent meal at rock and roll steakhouse The Oak Room. Next on our Edition ‘hit-list’ was Alba Terrace. A Mediterranean day to night concept that like the rest of the hotels restaurants, maintains a small size in a strive to provide high quality and intimate dining experiences. Alba presents a bright and appealing space to diners with a dining room that is anchored around a large bar area. Modern in feel, the poolside restaurant is divided by large bi-folding doors which open out to reveal the pièce de résistance in the form of a terrace complete with sunken couches. These are the tables we would recommend requesting when making a reservation. In fact, the tables are one of the few criticisms we have surrounding the capital’s latest brunch, for they are crammed in so tightly that we are practically sharing with the strangers next to us.
As is fast becoming the brunch norm, Alba’s brunch is a table offering in which thirteen courses are presented sharing style, in addition to two live stations. The menu development has been undertaken by Chef Aikens who by coincidence was on hand the day we visited. It’s refreshing to see a celebrity chef actively involved in their restaurant rather than putting their name on the door and collecting their cheque as is so often the case here in the UAE. We’re sure we’ll see plenty more of the youngest chef to ever be awarded a Michelin star in the near future.
The first round of food arrives rather rapidly and boasts a freshness we have already begun to associate with the first Middle Eastern venture for the Edition. A simple dish of ricotta stuffed heirloom tomatoes would likely verge on boring at another establishment but here at Alba the simple dish is elevated sheerly through quality of ingredients. A buffalo mozzarella salad with roast tomato fondu hits all the right notes yet it’s the seafood dishes that really garner our attention. Red snapper carpaccio with lemon preserve and the prawns with grapefruit, vanilla and almond make for killer flavour combinations, to a point that we’d like to see the prawn dish as a permanent fixture on the a la carte menu.
Two live stations flank the dining room and even though guests are encouraged to personally customize their choices with the chef, staff are just as happy to do so on your behalf. With one station offering a lobster cocktail of dried black olives and iceberg lettuce that does not scrimp on the lobster. The other presents stracciatella and burrata which we unfortunately, can’t comment upon because (despite asking twice) it was never received by our table.
Five main courses arrive next and although the dishes are heavier in nature, the portions are sensible. Plus there’s always the option to re-order if required. Rustic veal and lamb meatballs in a rich tomato sauce compete with a roast baby lamb leg on a base of basil polenta to insatiate our carnivorous cravings. Though surprisingly, it was the al dente beetroot gnocchi with caramelised walnuts and parmesan that stole the show for us! Mains also include a provencal vegetable tart (pleasant though not particularly memorable) and a pleasing crab linguine.
Thanks to the leisurely hours of this brunch (running from 12:30pm – 4:30pm) and the unhurried but efficient service-style, we’re able to leverage dessert into our brunch despite rather full stomaches. Three are offered – petit pots de creme, vanilla and bay leaf crème brûlée and vanilla mille feuille. The later would be our preference for its crisp layers complemented by mixed berries and confit lemon.
With the Abu Dhabi Edition already attracting loyal patrons and repeat guests, the Alba Terrace brunch offers a refined experience that appears to attract a mature crowd. A balance hard to come by in the capital. Personally we would like to see the menu evolve going-forward, so that repeat visitors are offered the opportunity to experience new dishes. While the female singer is an undeniable delight to listen too, she should be accompanied by a full band as opposed to a backing track, to really connect with guests. Despite a few minor mishaps such as the missing burrata, brunch is paired with the high-standards of service that continue to impress us on repeat visits to the property. While much of the focus and devotion at the Edition seems to have fallen upon The Oak Room, with it’s meat sommelier and butchery. Alba Terrace should not be overlooked.
Alba Terrace’s brunch successfully completes the objective undertaken and that is to pique the interest of diners for return visits and an a la carte dining experience. Which we will most certainly be doing! In addition to Mare, Mare at the new Jumeirah Saadiyat and Roberto’s and Cafe Milano on Al Maryah Island, we now have another favourite Mediterranean restaurant in the capital.
Out & About UAE were guests of Alba Terrace. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.
The Verdict: Alba Terrace
A refined Friday brunch that has gained popularity with a mature crowd who are willing to spend without the need for vouchers and discounts. A varied menu of generally high quality Mediterranean dishes and a good selection of beverages. Don’t miss the beetroot gnocchi