As the hottest new hotel in town, we’re pretty sure most of you will be well aware of the Abu Dhabi EDITION by now.
The hipster-friendly venue at Al Bateen Marina boasts understated glamour, an incredible three-tier bar and club, and perhaps most importantly, three superb restaurants.
British celebrity chef Tom Aikens is the brains behind the Oak Room, Alba Terrace and Market at EDITION, and we were lucky enough to catch up with the Londoner during his latest visit to the capital.
How did you end up working here in Abu Dhabi?
The EDITION team first asked me to come and work here a couple of years ago. We then did a lot of research into the restaurants here and what seems to be working. We wanted to do something a little bit different, but also something that would fit with the clientele.
It was important to me that all three restaurants offered something very different, and had different price points, too.
Oak Room has a very different vibe to the other steakhouses here doesn’t it?
It’s a premium restaurant but we didn’t want it to be fine dining. So we decided to call it a British rock’n’ roll steakhouse, just to keep it cool and funky. Playing ’60s and ’70s pop music kind of gives it an informal feel, too.
The majority of the steak restaurants here serve wagyu beef. There’s nothing wrong with that but we wanted to do something different. So we have wagyu but we also have Japanese, Irish, Spanish and American beef. We use some classic British flavours, too, dishes like scallops with a mango chutney piccalilli and oysters with a celery jelly.
Why did you decide to hire a meat sommelier?
We wanted someone who was very knowledgeable but also expressive and creative as a chef. So that’s why we have Charlie Grainger. He’s able to give guests a bit of background on the beef they are eating, explaining how it’s cut and what it tastes like. I think that really sets the tone for a meal at Oak Room nicely. He’s got the character and personality for it as well.
How did you come up with the menu at Market?
People tend to think that healthy food is boring, bland and tasteless, so I’ve tried to make sure that it all looks great and tastes amazing. I wanted to do a whole menu without using any cream or butter, and for a chef who has been using those ingredients throughout his whole career, it was a big ask. But I just wanted to see if I could do it, and I did. Out of all the menus, the most research went into the one at Market. Dishes like the poke bowls just have so many ingredients in them. It was a lot of fun, though, and I really enjoyed it.
And Alba Terrace is Mediterranean food?
Yes, Alba has a really nice and balanced menu of salads, fish, meat, pasta and risottos. It’s a really peaceful and informal place to eat. All the restaurants are.
What do you think of the hotel itself?
I love the hotel. I saw it for the first time three years ago when it was just a concrete shell, so I’ve really seen it grow. The style of the service is very approachable and easy going, and some of the other hotels here are so formal. It’s a happy, friendly environment and the lobby has a natural warmth to it.
Is working in Abu Dhabi very different to Dubai?
It has a slower pace, which I like, and it’s more conservative. There’s such a huge choice of restaurants in Dubai, so the customers are perhaps more demanding and a bit more fickle.
Are you friends with any of the other British chefs who work out here?
I see Jason Atherton a lot and I want to try and do something with Gary Rhodes. He’s one of the iconic British chefs and he was one of the first to come out to the Middle East.
Have you had chance to do any sightseeing here?
A bit, but my schedules are always busy so it’s difficult. But I’ve been to the Louvre and on a desert safari. It’s nice to do these kind of things, and I always try to get out one evening.
You were the youngest chef to get two Michelin stars, are you still quite ambitious?
Yes I’d say that I’ve still got the fire. I like travelling and going to other countries. That way you get to meet interesting people, try different foods and experience other cultures. It can be quite tiring but there are far worse things to complain about.
Where have you been recently?
I went to Mexico for the first time recently and as a chef I think it’s one of the best places to go because the food is amazing. The produce is incredible with such fresh limes and mind-blowing avocados. The markets in Mexico City were hilarious. Some of the fish was refrigerated but all the meat was out on slabs in the sunshine. There was also a vast array of cockroaches, spiders and scorpions, all fried or covered in chocolate. But I just couldn’t bring myself to try one.
The Abu Dhabi EDITION, Al Bateen Marina (02 208 0000).