South African steakhouse The Meat Co is a bit of an instution on the Abu Dhabi dining scene, having opened almost a decade ago in Souk Qaryat Al Beri. In terms of location it’s a real winner and much like the brands other outlets in Dubai (Madinat Jumeriah and Souk Al Bahar) the phrase ‘dinner with a view’ immediately springs to mind. The Meat Co in the capital can be found conveniently perched on the waters edge of Khor Al Maqta, providing a good vantage point for the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Like many places in the Souk, The Meat Co also has the advantage of an outside terrace making the restaurant a worthy choice for a pre-dinner sundowner.
The first thing that strikes us during our visit are the service levels. The Meat Co may be a fairly causal spot but the service is a showcase of African hospitality for which the brand is renowned and this notion really shines through. At the entrance, we’re met with warmth and beaming smiles and led through the lower level of the restaurant before arriving at a striking stairway with a central column made up of stacked wine bottles. Representing more than just a visual gimmick this large (and fully functional) ‘wine rack’ spreads out across the upper levels, covering the majority of the back wall.
Arriving at our table we find a pleasant surprise, a chalkboard with our name written on it, which certainly adds a personal touch to proceedings. Our waiter ensures we’re comfortable and spends some time explaining the ideology behind the brand (fun fact, they also own Bentley’s Bistro on Maryah Island and Tribes in Dubai) and for those perturbed by what to order when it comes to wine or steak, the team at The Meat Co are extremely patient and will try and steer you in the right direction.
While the decor doesn’t deviate from the expected steakhouse norms, offering an abundance of dark wood and leather upholstered chairs, the views certainly make up for what’s missing internally. Although this was our first time dining at The Meat Co we’d heard many good things about the food, but less so about the prices, which may be a deterrent for many diners unless you have an entertainer voucher. The pricing structure is by no means excessive but on par with the likes of Butcher & Still or JWs Steakhouse, both of which are located in luxury properties and offer more refined fine-dining concepts. Ultimately, it will all come down to personal preference.
Our visit to The Meat Co coincided with the launch of the new menu but much like the decor, the menu offers nothing out of the ordinary, sticking to conventional steakhouse favourites and a scattering of African signatures, such as Mozambique Style Chicken Livers. Usually we wouldn’t dedicate any blog space to the complimentary bread basket, but at the Meat Co you’ll receive a delightful loaf of betroot and chocolate that’s perfectly sweet without being overbearing and makes for a welcome change from the usual sawn-off baguette or crusty rye.
Venturing into the starters we select Burrata (AED 80) which has fast become our go-to dish, though on this occasion it’s perhaps priced a little too high, and the Boerewors (AED 55). The burrata ball sits on top of slices of cherry tomatoe that bring a hint of sweetness to the dish and in turn complements the creamy nature of the cheese sprinkled with hints of mint. The traditional South African Boerewors – deriving from the Afrikaans words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage) – are braised beef sausages that offer a winning combination of spice and texture. Served with an addictive tomato and bean sauce known as Chakalaka, the only element of the dish that didn’t seem to work were the polenta fries, which bring little to the plate in terms of flavour and do nothing to complement the ‘gamy’ nature of the sausages.
Wgen it comes to the meat we select the 400g 150 Day Grain-Fed New Yorker (Sirloin) (AED 330) and the Barbecue Beef Short Ribs (AED 270) from a selection that includes skewers, lobster, ribs, venison and premium cuts such as the Blackmore and Wagyu. The New Yorker is cooked in butter and glazed with a special recipe sauce to our requested medium-rare. Nine additional sauces are also available ranging from AED 19 – AED 37 and include Béarnaise, Mushroom cafe-au-lait and our selection, the spiced black peppercorn.
The short ribs also impress, braised for three hours before being grilled in barbecue sauce, which we’d recommend you ask for an extra portion of (it’s that good). The short rib is remarkably tender and boasts that melt-in-the-mouth expectation, but accompanied by the usual choices of sides (salads, fries, mashed potatoes) we had hoped for a little more in terms of the plating and overall presentation to elevate the visual levels of the experience in line with the impeccable flavours.
For dessert we opt for the traditional South African Malva Pudding, a sweet baked sponge of Cape-Dutch origin made from a combination of caramel and apricots. Personal preference means we would’ve preferred the malva to be served with a hot custard as opposed to vanilla ice cream, and ultimately we found the sponge to be a little too dense (for a great malva we suggest Jim’s Kichen Table). We also indulged in a Ferrero Roche Cheesecake which was a much better choice, for its combination of chocolate and hazelnut that we would certainly order again.
With eight restaurants located in South Africa, the Middle East and the United Kingdom, it’s easy to note the appeal of The Meat Co, offering a causal dining experience amidst a pleasant atmosphere that promotes a relaxed meal. Yet, the thing that stands out the most about dining at The Meat Co are the service levels, emanating high levels of warmth and enthusiasm, so often missing from the UAE hospitality industry. Dinner ends with a spot of theatre, with live percussion, dancing and singing staright from the African continent that works to re-iterate to Abu Dhabi diners just how different the service is.
We were invited to dine at The Meat Co. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Interior images used courtesy of The Meat Co.