My last staycation in Abu Dhabi involved a few days of rest and relaxation. The plan involved nothing more than a quick drive to Abu Dhabi with my ‘activity list’ including nothing more energetic than to relax by the pool, read a book, sip a cocktail or two and recharge my energy levels. Hard to imagine, that even in August when the temperature hits the high 40’s every day it’s still possible to enjoy the heat in the Middle East. But by escaping to a retreat with a chilled pool and decent facilities it’s very doable and affordable too, you get so much more hotel for your money just by taking a short trip to Abu Dhabi.
As my Eid treat I booked a few days away at Anantara, Eastern Mangroves and had upgraded the room to a Kasara package (the Executive Lounge deal) so that I could use the facilities of the lounge which includes complimentary breakfast, free tea and coffee, snacks throughout the day and drinks and some snacks in the lounge in the evening.
In terms of the hotel, it has a great location, it overlooks the Mangroves and Abu Dhabi city skyline and the rooms, whilst feeling a little dated, are comfortable and spacious. The bathroom has a lovely separate rainfall shower which I love, a decent sized bath and decent enough toiletries to make your stay feel a little indulgent. Sadly, the coffee situation (instant nescafe) always makes me shudder, but I know now to travel with my Aeropress so I can always make decent coffee on the go – seriously hotels, is it too much to ask for a Nespresso machine in every room ?? Anyway, that aside the hotel was great, the pool is situated overlooking the Mangroves and was graced with a lovely sea breeze which was refreshing as was the chilled infinity pool which never seems to be crowded. Pool side service with regards to towels and sun loungers is always great and the staff regularly bring around chilled towels, face sprays and sunglass cleaning cloths which is really thoughtful. Poolside restaurant service is not as attentive, but when you get the attention of staff, the food and drinks on offer are good. I’m reliably told that the gym facilities are great too, but this was not on my agenda this trip. With regards to the lounge, breakfast was adequate, enough choice of hot and cold items without being overwhelming, discrete service from the staff and unlimited tea and coffee too. Pre dinner drinks were great, I indulged in plenty of chilled Prosecco and some lovely nibbles including a platter of cheese and smoked salmon, if you can afford to upgrade to the lounge experience then it’s certainly worth it just for access to the lounge, avoid the crowds and indulge in a pre-dinner drink or two.
The first night I had been invited to visit Boa Steakhouse which is literally a five minute stroll along the promenade from Anantara. I first visited during a pre opening food tasting session and had a fair idea of what I wanted to order from the food menu, but first we stopped off at the cocktail bar where we were dazzled by some spectacular cocktails which were whipped up in front of our eyes. Our bar tender for the evening dazzled us with some delectable cocktails, using a who variety of techniques, including a little bit of molecular magic with a pineapple sphere which packed a punch in terms of a sweet explosion of tastes.
Janya is passionate about his cocktails and is able to whip up a few surprise treats when you give him a challenge, of course mine was to make a cocktail using coffee which he did with a smile on his face as he quickly whipped up a beautiful coffee inspired cocktail with whipped cream and indulgent chocolate on top (recipe to follow).
Worth noting is that Boa have a casket system available where you can have your own small barrel filled with a spirit of your choice which is slowly aged in the barrel for you as it takes on the smokiness of the oak barrel, I’ve never seen this before and I’m sure it will prove to be popular. We sampled a 10 year old Kentucky Bourbon which was amazing.
After being entertained and wowed over some cocktails we move swiftly to our table where the serious art of fine dining was to begin. For starters we delved into a giant seafood platter which was stuffed full of crab, oysters & mussels – fresh, crisp and tasting of the ocean this was an experience which was indulgent, and decadent and a sweet treat. We also had an heirloom tomato and buratta platter which was served with a basil emulsion and tasted divine. I’m a sucker for good buratta and this was rich, indulgent and creamy and offset by juicy and succulent heirloom tomatoes which were perfectly ripe.
No visit to a steakhouse comes without an order from the steak menu (unless you’re vegetarian, in which case there are plenty of choices for you too) and so we moved into our main course order with gusto. Firstly we had the bone in ribeye steak a 28 day dry aged grain fed prime black angus US steak which was succulent, and contained just the right amount of fat to meat ratio to leave my companion drooling. I choose the tenderloin which was soft as butter to cut, cooked to perfection and beautifully tender and succulent. Sides included truffle cheese fries, one of my favourite dishes from a previous visit, Mac N Cheese which was an indulgent cheesy treat and sautéed mushrooms which were buttery and rich. We also had a tasting platter of six different sauces which were perfect accompaniments to the steak, although to be honest the steak tasted so good that in a way it was a shame to add sauces as frankly meat tasting that good doesn’t need much else than to be cooked expertly, rested then served.
Tempting as the dessert menu looked, including a Snickers Bar, Baked Alaska and S’Mores plus a whole host of other sweet treats, sadly the steak course had overwhelmed my somewhat full tummy. But I did just about find room to indulge in a single scoop of ice-cream with a shot of espresso to make my very own Affogato at the table which was a perfect end to a perfect evening.
Service at Boa Steakhouse was impeccable, staff were at tentative, knowledgeable and friendly as always and it was great to get to meet the team again and to see the restaurant full of diners enjoying this fantastic dining experience.
I can’t wait to return to Boa when the evenings cool down a bit, to sit outside on the terrace overlooking the mangroves with the Abu Dhabi city skyline in the background and fantastic lounge music will be a real treat, the two minute walk back to the hotel which looks beautiful when it’s lit up in the evening is an added bonus.
The next day, having had a deep an uninterrupted sleep, there’s something about hotel bedding that puts me in a deep sleep no matter when I am – note to self, buy hotel quality sheets and duvet asap ! The day started with it a lazy breakfast in the lounge followed by more lounging, this time by the pool, with nothing more to do than enjoy some people watching, check out the inside of my eyelids (aka a poolside nap), indulge in a cheeky poolside glass of cold beer and to plan for dinner. But of course before dinner, comes pre-dinner drinks in the lounge, to watch sunset over the city skyline and to indulge in a few pre dinner snacks which is a great feature of the Kasara Executive Lounge experience.
Dinner on the second night was a complete contrast to the first night. A twitter recommendation for a g
ood chinese restaurant resulted in a tweet about Oasis Garden which was conveniently only a quick five minute taxi ride away from the hotel. The restaurant is quirky to say the least, inside it’s very chinese, red lighting, lanterns everywhere, chinese staff and booth seating. The restaurant isn’t large, but it’s quirky and had a nice authentic chinese feel to it – it kind of took me back to some of the restaurants we dined in when I was in China about fifteen years ago. The menu was quite extensive, so we choose a few dishes that looked good, a duck dish, a chicken dish, noodles and veggies plus a starter of spring rolls . The dishes are served mainly in terracotta pots and the portions are large. So large that we vastly over ordered, but despite this our bill came to no more than 150/AED.
Service is a little hit and miss, but overall this was a lovely experience.
Disclaimer : I was a guest of Boa Steakhouse, but all comments and views are my own.