The opening of the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl has been a long time coming. The spiral shaped building situated in the West Corniche district has long captivated residents and tourists alike, and as of June 1st the five-star property is open for business.
As a brand, Grand Hyatt is associated with “living life grandly” and the Abu Dhabi property is no different. Visitors are greeted by an expansive lobby dotted with carefully curated artworks, gurgling water features and bulbous light fittings. The property is well integrated into the heart of the city and the decor is firmly embedded with influences drawn from the local Emirati culture. Check-in desks surrounded by curtains provide the impression of bedouin tents and a feature wall takes on the curvature of rolling sand dunes.
Grand Hyatt’s arrival in Abu Dhabi marks a number of appealing food and beverage destinations, including Italian trattoria Verso. While Abu Dhabi has no shortage of Italian eateries, Verso is somehow different. Managing to create its own unique identity and one that is at once homely. The venue is undeniably casual and boasts a bright colour scheme revolving around vibrant yellow (reminding us of Italian tipple Limoncello) and an interactivity that’s hard to find elsewhere. From the moment we enter, we’re engulfed by the aroma of the Italian kitchen. Hints of freshly baked bread, cheese and basil (from Verso’s very own herb garden) can all be identified as we meander our way past display cases stuffed full of Italian goodies, with tiramisu and gelato laid out for diners to obsess over.
This feast for the eyes continues throughout the restaurant space with shelves stacked high with cookery books, olive oil bottles and ornaments. Wooden tables are laden with a selection of cheeses and the setting has been meticulously designed with even the smallest of details creating a lasting impression – the tiled floors, the ceramic drinking cups – and an expansive outside terrace overlooking a glorious cabana flanked infinity pool.
Service is snappy and personable with the team well versed in a menu featuring classic Italian dishes of fritto misto (fried seafood), arancini (Sicilian rice balls) and linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams and white wine), all prepared with ingredients sourced directly from Italy.
The simplicity of the dishes will likely be one of the (many) talking points surrounding Verso. Dishes are presented in a rustic and fuss-free manner. An intentional decision which allows individual ingredients to stand for themselves. A prime example would be the burrata, a dish commonly found on Italian menus throughout the city. Here at Verso the cheese is served at room temperature (as it should be) with the particularly creamy offering heightened, via marinated honey tomatoes and sweet taggiasca olives. The vitello tonato with its combination of slow cooked veal loin, grilled tuna and capers also impressed but was unfortunately overshadowed by the remarkable citrus cured salmon. A raw dish of organic salmon enhanced with a kick from a sweet mustard dressing that left us wanting to order a second portion.
Verso’s menu offers twelve pasta options and nine pizzas, each cooked in the wood fired oven visible across the gleaming marble counter tops of the open show kitchen. It’s the sourdough which is key and even on the simplest of pizzas (the Margherita), the flavors of the crisp base leave the lasting impression over the toppings of tomato sauce mozzarella.
We indulge in two pastas, of which the marginally al dente tagliatelle with braised lamb would be our pick, thanks to a winning combination of lamb and rosemary which results in a pronounced flavour. The gnocchi sorrentina is another comforting dish, comprising of a rich tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella that immediately caused us to reminisce on a long-ago trip to Italy’s Amalfi coast.
With no formal dessert menu, it’s back to the display cabinets to select our deserts, from which the tiramisu (with or without alcohol) would be our choice. Glorious layers of mascarpone, espresso soaked lady fingers and a chocolate dusting is as close to traditional as your’e likely to get and really helps to solidify Verso’s strategy of homely Italian cookery executed well. With the majority of dishes priced beneath AED 100, Verso represents value for money and makes for a sensible family-dining option.
Verso manages to succeed in creating a unique ambiance which succeeds in setting this Italian restaurant apart from its inevitable hotel setting and sits alongside the Pearl Lounge as the only outlets currently open within the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl.
Once summer is over, diners can expect four more restaurants added to the hotels dining repertoire which will collectively be referred to as The Podium. With wine bar LEXX, steakhouse Bovine, Japanese Izakaya concept Aisu, and all-day-dining venue Sahha all on their way. We cannot wait to return to see what else this luxurious property has in store.
This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of FACT Magazine.
Location: Emirates Pearl, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi
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Hours: 12pm – 11pm
Phone: 02 304 8196
Out & About UAE were guests of VERSO. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.