DETAILS: Dhs190 (soft drinks), Dhs250 (house beverages). Sat noon-4pm. Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2630).
The notion of “Italian” food is, in some ways, something of a nonsense. A country that was unified in the 19th Century has always had regional variations on its cuisine, and the popular opinion of Italian food being pizza and pasta is a very, very simplified take on it.
With that in mind, Cafe Milano, our newly crowned Best Italian restaurant, launched a brunch with a difference. While the usual Friday offering remains the same (with some seasonal updates of dishes) week after week, the Saturday brunch takes diners on a tour around Italy. Each week, the restaurant serves a set menu of dishes from a different region of Italy. On our visit, we were in Liguria, the home of basil pesto. You won’t find many fish dishes in Liguria, or a lot of tomatoes, instead there are stuffed vegetables and aromatic herbs.
The setting in the restaurant is stunning. During the winter the floor-to-ceiling windows are opened up, so you’re simultaneously inside and outside, looking over the glistening waters back towards Abu Dhabi. It certainly has a Mediterranean feel. Staff are super, too. Serving with charm, knowledge and intuition. Food, in keeping with the inspiration is simple and tasty. While it doesn’t all wow, it is done very well indeed.
First up is a selection of olives and breads. There aren’t many things we like more than olives and breads, so this makes us happy. Up next is an afternoon tea-style stack of sweet and savoury dishes. Quite why there’s a croissant in there we don’t know (it is very good, however). Best of this first wave of food are the deep-fried pizza dough balls and the focaccia with soft, creamy cheese (yes, we really do love bread and cheese). A quinoa salad with hazlenuts is another winner.
Next, ravioli stuffed with endive and borage is served with a rich veal and beef ragu and trofie pasta comes with potatoes, green beans and that famous pesto. It’s probably the dish of the day.
Of the three choices of mains, two are veal, which isn’t really our cup of tea so this course isn’t our favourite.
Dessert is a choice of pastries and cakes. Paired with a coffee, you have the perfect ending to the trip.
This is an innovative and informative brunch, and you don’t get the chance to say that very often.
The bottom line
A classy lazy afternoon dining out.