Take a drive down Sheikh Zayed Road for about 140 kilometres from the Burj Khalifa, into Abu Dhabi, and onto Al Maryah island.
Here you’ll find The Galleria – an exquisite mall offering the world’s most exclusive fashion and jewellery brands, like Prada, Gucci and Bulgari; and five star dining experiences like the world famous Zuma (no relation to SA’s JZ, and probably not as pricey as Nkandla, either!)
The mall is so upmarket, there’s not even a visible parking lot – you access this spread of luxury via the imposing glass lobby after having handed the keys to your car to the valet parking attendant.
The Galleria also sports an Armani Café – so yeah, there’s that!
On the ground level, opening onto the Arabian Gulf, is the relatively new Bentley French Bistro, where we had our next taste adventure.
The hospitality team at Bentley all look like they stepped out of a fashion magazine – gorgeous women and striking men bearing swarthy stubble are almost as delectable as the menu itself.
Bentley is one of the few eateries where alcohol is served, by the way. Obviously this has no meaning to a teetotaller like me, so I asked for the most popular mocktail. I was brought a flaming red concoction called the ‘Magic Wood’ – and Bentley’s host told me that thanks to Instagram, patrons arrive at Bentley asking for barman Luca’s famous Magic Wood. A promising start…
We decided to try a whole lot of different dishes, to sample as much of the menu as possible. A tray of lavish entrées arrived and I wondered about the possibility of eating myself to death, like that character in ‘Seven’…
Rich foie gras in a sweet cucumber glaze – soft, buttery and a little tart. I had to close my eyes so as not to be distracted from the subtle, sultry flavours and smooth richness. Ephemeral. That’s a good word to describe these. Yes. Definitely ephemeral. Gads, I do sound pretentious but this isn’t a tub of cheap chicken livers; this is a select duck liver, carefully prepared with the best ingredients, freshly prepared. A stupendously decadent entrée, by anyone’s standards! It was really good – though I don’t think the richness is to everyone’s taste – this is definitely an acquired taste, and I am pretty amped to have acquired it, thank you very much!
Next up, was a burrata, served on lentils. Burrata is a ball of mozzarella cheese, wrapped around a mixture of cream and mozzarella. The combination is a creamy, soft cheese amplified in both creaminess and the sensation on your tongue as it slowly melts. According to my host, the lentils on this particular dish give the burrata a firmness that is essential to enhancing the flavours. I am not a huge fan of lentils and seeds and such, so I experimented, for the experience of it, and decided on the whole that burrata is fine just as it is. In fact, in my opinion, if you wanted to add some texture, a good old fashioned saltine would be preferable. I’m a savage, I know.
Also on the table was a ‘riceless’ risotto – a light but creamy potato and mushroom dish, and a grilled vegetable stack. I’m also pretty ‘meh’ about vegetables – since I grew up and left home tears ago, my mission is to never eat another miserable, bitter boiled-to-death vegetable again, but Bentley’s grilled veggies topped with baked feta were pretty decent, I must say. There was a warm prawn salad, too – but at this point I had to stop eating and take a breather – how the hell was I going to fit in the main course?
Ah, never mind – I am made of sterner stuff, and not one to quit in the face of a good meal – so off we went!
I ordered the beef short rib served on beans – because I am a huge fan of ribs, despite the sticky mess I become and my wholly indecent manner of eating decent ribs. The sweet meat fell off the bone – that’s not a metaphor – it was so soft that a gentle tug with my fork brought the meat beef clean away from the bones, and I could happily munch away without flinging basting everywhere. The beef short ribs were a real treat – and nowhere near as fatty as pork or lamb ribs normally are.
Also on the menu was roast rabbit – it looked good, but my inner child yelled out about eating Bugs Bunny, so I lied and said I was full, rather than try any (because SOME days the food adventurer in me is a bit of a wimp!)
A less adventurous foodie at the table ordered a burger and chips – and the meal that was delivered to the table was a far cry from the fast-food rubbish we tend to apply to our busy lives. It was a towering work of pure beef art on a fresh, home-baked bun! (Can you tell I was a little jealous?)
The real winner for me, though, was side order of fries that came with the burger and the rib eye steak someone else ate – because (*cue the M&S voice over artist) – these are not just ordinary fries; these are thin-sliced, uncoated, top grade fries, sprinkled with truffle oil (yes! I know!) and topped with fresh parmesan – it’s like someone is making sweet, sweet love to your face! These are the kind of carbs fitness freaks have wet dreams about at night – they are UNBELIEVABLY good.
It’s quite reasonable to consider the 140km trip from Dubai *just* to order a plate of these fries – they are <insert a seemingly endless list of superlatives here>!
By now, I’d passed any sense of being sensible about my eating for the day. What the hell – everything else had been so good – so why deny myself the pleasures of dessert? “Life’s too short! Eat dessert first!” I’ve often heard people say – perhaps I should have done that at Bentley?
Because despite the entrées and mains being top class and amazing, and all that – the desserts were next level!
Sweet, tangy lemon meringue in a glass jar! Fresh, lightly crisped meringue, too – not the usual 4-day old squishy mess you get served up in coffee shops with poor stock management! Really good stuff…but…the absolute winner of the day was the walnut and white chocolate mousse, served in a chocolate cup, and topped with thick white vanilla ice cream. The THINGS this did to my mouth are not printable on a blog where children might stumble upon it. Food so rich and decadently creamy should come with an ‘xxx’ rating. Without a doubt.
So, Bentley made be a fair distance away, but really, 140km is nothing, when you’ve already flown halfway around the world to experience the wonders of the UAE. It’s worth it because the whole Galleria experience is so over-the-top and exclusive – you won’t see so many exclusive brands gathered in one place anywhere else in the world, I’m pretty sure. You have to go to Bentley because truffle oil and parmesan fries and walnut and white chocolate mousse exist, and can be found there, and it would be travesty if you lived your whole life without trying these.
Bentley French Bistro
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.