Nice buffet, shame about the à la carte at the Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan
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Time Out Says

You know that something’s afoot at a restaurant when the waitress dismisses the entire menu and tells you to opt for the buffet instead. This unusual suggestion was presented to us as we sat down to eat at the all-new Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan’s Horizon restaurant, which has both à la carte offerings and a giant spread of food.

‘No,’ we insisted, waving our hands like Obi Wan Kenobi trying to hypnotise an imperial stormtrooper. ‘Please bring us the menu.’

‘Are you sure?’ she queried. ‘Our buffet is very good, and all our á la carte dishes are very small.’ Suitably told, she scuttled away looking slightly dejected at our refusal. The weaker willed of our two dining companions was swayed by the waitress’s assertions and stormed off to the tempting counter of dishes to fill her boots.

We stood firm, and regretted it. While our buffet-loving pal tucked into some deliciously fresh looking salad followed by a tasty pasta whipped up at a live cooking station, we were left to browse the menu. When our orders finally arrived, we wished we’d listened to the sage advice – not only were the menu choices diminutive, they were also incredibly mediocre. We started with a salmon platter, which was nothing more than a big plate of smoked salmon accompanied by miniature slices of toasted bread. Pleasing enough, but only because we love salmon. Our eating accomplice also had seafood in their sights, opting for some fried calamari rings; crunchy and light, though nothing your average trainee cook couldn’t knock up during his first week at chef school.

The mains were a serious disappointment. We plumped for a tuna steak, which the menu told us would be, ‘steeped in soy and ginger’, and we were presented with a dry hunk of unseasoned fish and a small jug of lumpy sauce. To us, ‘steeped in’, is another way of saying ‘cooked with’, hence it was with a disillusioned grimace that we poured on the sauce ourselves in order to swallow the bone-dry fish. The vegetable risotto was equally disappointing – bland, stodgy and with a rice to vegetable ratio that was highly unbalanced against green matter.

We could hardly bring ourselves to try dessert, but we forced ourselves to order an apple and raisin tart, and were surprised by the crisp pastry shell and gooey centre infused with cinnamon, which slightly lifted our spirits, but was, again, so diminutive that only those with the appetite of a sparrow would have been sated.

Despite the inadequacies of the food, the vibe within Horizon was decidedly relaxed and homely, with a simple, sparse design and a nice, laid-back jazz soundtrack – a stark contrast to the Arabian marble and chandelier covered lobby of the glitzy new Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan hotel. And the fact the whole hotel is alcohol-free and Horizon is the only eating option for guests means that, in this part of the world, it’s likely to be busy a lot of the time. Meanwhile, the waiting staff were charm personified, and, as it turns out, unusually candid. But we’ve learnt a valuable lesson from our experience here – when a waitress says don’t order the à la carte, don’t order the à la carte.

The bill (for three)
Calamari rings Dhs65
Salmon platter Dhs85
Tuna steak Dhs89
Risotto Dhs78
Buffet Dhs137
Apple and raisin tart Dhs35
Fresh watermelon juice Dhs26
Two fresh apple and ginger juices Dhs52
Total (excluding service) Dhs567

By Time Out Abu Dhabi staff  | 15 Nov 2010

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