The Collection at St. Regis on Saadiyat Island is well named – it literally does house a collection of places well worth investigating as I discovered with my first taste of the place when I ate at Caramel Restaurant and Lounge.
On entering the restaurant you have two sides to pick from – one side (as above) which is dedicated entirely to restaurant seating, or the other side, the lounge and bar which is a little more informal if you prefer, though still set up with cocktail tables, sofas and low set tables that you can also eat from.
On the lounge side of the venue is a rather impressive Onyx bar which is well positioned next to the DJ box for bigger groups or people who just feel like mingling and making new friends.
Whether the more formal table arrangements or the lounge style seating is for you, the whole place has a welcoming and calming feel about it, with a modern and stylish interior in low light allowing a feeling of intimacy and privacy.
As we were there to eat, we decided on a very comfortable booth seat in the far corner of the restaurant side, allowing us to enjoy the surroundings and see who else was coming and going (who doesn’t love to people watch?!).
There’s a wide selection of shared platters on the menu including shawarma bites, chicken lollipops, pizza, tacos and so on, all of which can be easily dipped in and out of between several people. We decided to try one of the house specials – ‘TNT Shrimp’, lightly battered shrimp (or scallop of you prefer) served in a spicy Japanese mayo. Hopefully the picture below speaks a thousand words – but if not, I can tell you it was sensational! Served piping hot and perfectly cooked the flavours were delicious and it’s worth noting for those not fond of strong spices that the Japanese mayo was tangy and tasty, but not so spicy as to overpower the delicate (but impressively sized) shrimp. It’s apparently one of their most popular dishes – you’ll have to try it to see why!
Next up, I went with the Kobe beef sliders in soft brioche bread, with aged cheddar and balsamic onions. Another good dish to order if you’re in a group and want to order a few plates to share, and individually also very filling. Again, the beef was perfectly cooked leaving it incredibly tender and moist. I also loved the service of the cute jar and spoon for the tomato ketchup! Very novel, and much nicer to look at (and easier to use) than many other alternatives in other restaurants that I’ve seen.
Mr. Arabian Notes enjoys a steak when we’re dining out, so it was no surprise when he chose the Tomahawk Rib Eye from the menu which our helpful waiter had recommended as being well marbled and therefore very tender and flavoursome. Yet again, it was cooked exactly as requested and served with garlic butter to top, along with two house special sauces, and everything on the plate received rave reviews from the husband. As you can see in the image below – it was quite a beast, so if you go for this, make sure you’ve brought your appetite!
We had decided that one side dish between the two of us would be more than enough and could not resist the call of the Tater Tots with Brie cheese… The photo is a little dark, but they were crunchy and well browned on the outside and filled with gooey potatoey cheesy goodness on the inside.
As if we hadn’t already eaten enough, the lure of dessert was also too much to resist. Frequently we don’t eat a dessert, but with Baked Alaska on the menu, I couldn’t resist giving it a whirl to see how it compared to others I’ve had. This one was served not only with the obligatory sponge, ice cream and topped with meringue, but also had a layer of strawberries above the sponge, and was topped with a strawberry sauce or coulis of sorts. I would definitely recommend this dessert as one to try. Baked Alaska is a tough one to get right – often the meringue is not firm enough or the ice cream to soggy or too hard inside, but I am pleased to report that the ice cream was so smooth and creamy it eased perfectly onto my spoon and just as easily into my stomach! I would personally prefer if the outside of the meringue in these desserts had a little more crunch to it as I’m used to from home, but gently torched and delicately browned just seems to be the norm in this region as far as meringue is concerned.
The husband found it tough to find room for dessert after his steak, but managed to squeeze in a light and palette cleansing serving of tasty, tangy mango and lemon sorbet.
We found Caramel Restaurant and Lounge to be a great setting for a relaxed bite to eat or some lively post work drinks and snacks. We visited on a laid back Monday night and even then on what is usually a quiet night of the week, there was a good mix of couples, business people, expats and locals dining on both sides of the venue. Caramel is also notable in the fact that it is completely non smoking throughout (though there is a comfortable terrace with a great outlook for those of you who haven’t yet kicked the habit), has a good range of global wines on the list at decent prices and party people will be pleased to note that the DJ plays from 9pm to 2am, Tuesdays to Fridays. What else can I say? Get over there and give it a shot.