Pearls by Michael Caines is the two Michelin Starred British chef’s first venture outside the UK where he is best known for his success with Gidleigh Park. Located in the shell of the old Scott’s restaurant at Jumeirah Etihad Towers, this is one place I’ve been dying to try out since it opened back in October – and now I’ve been I can tell you that if you like not just good food, but really great food, then you need to get yourself down there too.
UPDATE: As of Oct 2016, Pearls by Michael Caines is sadly no longer in business.
I was actually lucky enough to dine there twice in one week recently, once with a friend of mine and a couple of days later for a cooking demonstration with none other than Michael himself.
On first look it may not seem that much has changed since Scott’s quietly closed its doors, with the decor having changed little. There are a few small changes, no tablecloths on the tables provide a more casual feel and the specially chosen flowers in Michael’s signature orange colour from his logo (itself reflective of his signature dessert, the Chocolate Orange Mousse). Somehow little has changed and yet everything has changed. The restaurant was beautiful to start with , a contemporary Art Deco style design and there’s certainly no argument that it boasts one of the most impressive locations and outlooks in the city.
One particularly noticeable change is the utilisation of the amazing space upstairs – a dramatic outdoor bar area with a fabulously relaxed vibe. What a place to be, to sit and enjoy a drink before dinner, perfect for sundowners. The bar in itself is worth a visit alone!
With that said, it only gets better from here on in… To see Caines in action and to speak to him for even only the shortest period is to realise how passionate he is about what he does. He’s quietly confident, but never arrogant, and always insistent on the highest quality. He sees no point in lending his name to something that isn’t the very best it can be. And it becomes evident pretty quickly that Pearls by Michael Caines is much more than just a restaurant bearing his name. He’s thought about everything, from the food and wine to the dinnerware, the service and of course, to assembling the best team he possibly can – he’s clearly put a lot of time and effort into this project, pouring himself into it. Of the team he speaks excitedly, pleased to have put together a group that work hard and are keen to learn and take the restaurant forward with him. Every detail is of huge importance to him, far beyond the food, acknowledging that it doesn’t matter how great the food is, if the service or any part of the evening is not up to par.
He describes the restaurant as ‘casual fine dining’, and the food is evidently so, but within an environment that is so perfectly Abu Dhabi, where you can dress up for a special evening out or still enjoy the place in a more casual manner if that’s what suits, it’s totally up to you.
As for the food – ‘Expressions of Flavour’ is the term he uses, and you’ll understand why the minute you taste it. The flavours he puts together on a plate just work so incredibly together, but more than that, there’s a touch of genius behind it, to understand how anyone finds it so natural to put it all together – so flavoursome yet delicate, but all perfectly paired, the mind boggles. And with that, I won’t waffle on trying to find the words to describe the food, you just need to get down there and try it for yourself. And don’t worry about fine dining being an excuse for small poncey portions either – Michael recognises it’s about finding a balance to create beautiful, tasty food, but that is also satisfying, and without ever being too much!
Pearls by Michael Caines is absolutely worth venturing out for and currently stands as one of the best restaurants in the city without a shadow of a doubt. And price wise you should be pleasantly surprised too. Abu Dhabi has it’s fair share of great restaurants, though many you practically need to remortgage your house to afford an evening at – amazingly, Pearls by Michael Caines offers pretty exceptional value, given the quality.
Everything is good, you can’t go wrong, but with the Signature Tasting Menu (and optional Tasting Wine Flight Menu) you’ll get to the heart of what it’s all about.
As Caines says himself, “I prefer to talk about the food after having cooked for you – I like to let the food speak for itself first”.
Find out more via the website.