Simply one of the best Italian restaurants in the capital 19 Reviews
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It’s hard to walk into a certain breed of Italian restaurant, particularly one that looks a little brash or moneyed, and not say something about Goodfellas. If there’s a blood-red colour scheme and wide, high-backed booths ideal for gangster family sit-downs, well it’s practically impossible.
Fortunately for Frankie’s, despite ticking all the above boxes, the far more immediate pop culture association is with the restaurant’s namesake. Frankie Dettori, the miniature man who’s better known for his jockey work, owns the spot in partnership with renowned chef Marco Pierre White. We’ll own up to a little snobbishness here – scepticism over the dubious benefits a sportsman could bring to a restaurant and a really naff sign at the door saying something cringe-worthy about Italian mamas and their sons almost had us turning on our heels.
But we shouldn’t have judged so hastily. From the moment we sat down, the service was impeccable, the food classy and the atmosphere warm and sophisticated.
We sat near the open kitchen, where a chef peacefully peeled tomatoes for the full duration of our meal. The expression on his face was one of such Zen concentration – the perfect harmony of man, knife and tomato – that it almost seemed staged. To produce food as good as this, though, there must be real kitchen chaos going on behind closed doors.
A basket of sundried tomato bread arrived immediately with whole green olives nestled in the slices, accompanied by a tray of tapenades and pesto that the waiter replaced not once, but twice, so our greedy table wasn’t left for a split second without something to scoop up.
Although our expectations had rocketed by this point, the crab cakes took us a notch higher. The crab meat was fresh and softly stringy, just as it should be, with a crunchy breadcrumb coating, served with a lemon sour cream. Our main courses were sea bass and tenderloin steak, and it’s hard to say which of the two was better. The fish was a truly hearty meal of family dinner proportions, rather than the usual meagre posh restaurant serving. New potatoes, firm green beans and tomatoes were all present and correct, as well as a topping of finely diced cucumber and apple. Along with the lime butter, this gave the dish a fresh, zingy edge.
We’ve heard the steak here called the best in the city, and ours was certainly a perfect medium rare, seared outside with shades of pink on the inside. It may be hard to believe that a great steak could be upstaged by a side order of humble mashed potato, but it was. When a savoury dish tastes that good, of course, the magic ingredient is usually a vat of butter, and the texture of this serving suggested it could almost have been a half-and-half recipe.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, a trio of tiramisu arrived; one classic, one with a hefty kick and the third with maraschino cherries, each with gloopy mascarpone and cream. We usually like our mascarpone thick enough to stand a spoon in, but these were delightfully sloppy, and resulted in a spoon fight at the table to get at the last mouthfuls.
We’d bet that Marco Pierre White had more to do with this exemplary dining experience than little Frankie, but it’s all the same to us. We’ve tried few better Italian restaurants in this city. For a great meal, put your money on Frankie’s.
The bill (for two)
Crab cakes Dhs75
Tenderloin steak Dhs185
Sea bass Dhs150
Tiramisu trio Dhs45
Large bottle of sparkling water Dhs28
Total (excluding service) Dhs483
Time Out Abu Dhabi,
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