Does Rhodes 44 at St Regis Abu Dhabi live up to the name?

Rhodes 44 Terrace - St Regis Abu DhabiOn entering Rhodes 44 at the St Regis Abu Dhabi, I was immediately transported back to my youth carving out a career as a chef. Gary and I go way back, (well let me be honest and frank here, I know of him and he doesn’t know of me).  As a young, aspiring chef, I admired Rhodes, and the likes of Ramsay, Bourdain, Pierre White and Mossiman. I spent hours drawing inspiration from their cookbooks, only hoping that one day I could be an inspiration to someone else.  Gary Rhodesspiky hair, checked pants, very modern British fare (we are talking 20 odd years ago).  That’s how I remember him. So never in my wildest dreams did I think I would one day enter one of his establishments to eat his food AND write a review about my experience.

As we walked in on a Saturday lunchtime, we were greeted by a well presented hostess, almost with the grace of her gliding towards us on a magic carpet.  The interior is a mix of modern with a twist on French Baroque. Bright colours matched with even undertones of earthy pantone colours, perfect lighting and equally perfect set tables.  I was expecting Marie Antoinette to jump out from a corner shouting, ‘Let them eat cake!’ - alas she didn’t.  The restaurant was very quiet, but apparently they get busier at night. And there, in the distance I observed the open kitchen; shimmering like a diamond, with fast moving streaks of busy ‘chef white clad’ chefs.  I love open kitchens, they transport the public into the adventures of the restaurant world’s culinary underbelly  - the engine rooms of any well-oiled establishment.

You have the choice of eating inside or al fresco (overlooking the Corniche, unfortunately you don’t see much of the Corniche, all you do however is hear it).  Opting for the terrace, we were escorted to our table. Settling into my French Baroque chair, I was handed a menu by the friendly manager. The wine list is well balanced and we opted for a Veuve Du Vernay Rose at AED240 a bottle. What’s a lazy lunch without a few bubbles? To my disappointment, it wasn’t available.  My bubble burst!  So we settled upon a Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2011 from Argentina.  The Argentinians know how to make a good red wine – silky, intense and elegant.  100% Malbec aged for 12 months in French oak barrels pronouncing the violet and chocolate aromas.  The palate delivered berries and smoky oak with well-balanced tannins.

A bread basket arrived with warm aromas of freshly baked bread.  As I was sipping on my glass of Malbec, I quizzed the manager with my ever enquiring mind, wanting to know why the restaurant was named Rhodes 44.  Well it’s because Abu Dhabi is broken up into sectors and not streets with names (only recently have we acquired names for the streets).  So the restaurant at St Regis is situated in the 44th sector. I also asked if Gary was inhouse, but he had just left a few days earlier.  He did however reassure me that Gary does oversee his restaurant often and will return later this month to launch a new menu.

Beetroot Goats Cheese TowersWatermelon and Fetta Salad

As a chef, I spotted true British cooking and ingredients, married with the traditional French foundation discovered by Georges Auguste Escoffier and Marie Antoine Carême. You could see Gary’s culinary training shining through – well rounded with a wide choice. There is a steak section with extra add ons like sauces, vegetables, and side salads for those of you that wish to make up your own meals when dining out. There is a small selection of starters, but again well balanced and some different dishes to choose from.  We decided on the beetroot creamy goats cheese towers and the watermelon, fetta cheese and almond salad. The beetroot towers arrived elegantly plated with vibrant colours – a feast to the eyes.  The marriage of the beetroot and the goats cheese was well executed. The beetroot was cooked perfectly and combined with the toasted pine nuts, pink grapefruit and blackberry vinaigrette, the flavours made a good match. I am not a fan of watermelon and fetta to be honest.  It’s pretty much over rated.  Personally I don’t like the flavours, but it works for others and that’s why we have opinions.

Roast DuckPork Belly

For main courses, we opted for the roasted duck, red cabbage jam and foie gras with red wine blueberry sauce and the slow-roasted belly of pork with buttered prawns and sweet pea purée.  The roasted duck was beautifully cooked and tender, accompanied by a quenelle of red cabbage jam, placed on the tip of my fork with some potato fondant and foie gras. I popped this into my mouth where there was an explosion of tastes – delicious. The Kaiken Malbec accompanied this dish very well. While dining we were constantly seen to by our waitress who was unobtrusive and thankfully didn’t come over and ask if we were enjoying our meal when our mouths were full.  Yet she was very attentive and service was impeccable.  The pork belly was an elegant play on ‘surf & turf’.  It came very succulently prepared, melting at every mouthful.  The prawns, perfectly cooked, gracefully topped the sweet pea purée, laced in foam. It was accompanied by a jus poured at the table.

Eton MessCreme Brulee

As we sat back with our bellies bursting, a very joyful waiter arrived and enticed us into having dessert, he was so convincing. We ordered the Eton Mess, which Rhodes 44 is well known for at its Friday brunch and a vanilla crème brûlée.  The Eton Mess was accompanied with a strawberry mousse and iced parfait – a very rich dessert but delightfully presented.  The crème brûlée was smooth and creamy and erupted of vanilla once tasted.

At AED625 for two excluding wine, the bill was steep but then you can’t expect anything else from a celebrity chef’s restaurant in the UAE. It is in the Entertainer book and app by the way. Enjoying the last few sips of my Malbec, I can say that Rhodes 44 was an experience I will never forget. I will return to savour Chef Gary Rhodes’ new menu when it launches and hopefully he will be there, along with a few more diners. I am giving Rhodes 44 a four out of five Foodiva knife rating.  Do yourself a favour and tantalise your taste buds with Gary’s food. I would love to hear your experience. Watch out for the man himself and give him my regards!

Bon appétit.

Liesl. x

So who’s Liesl, FooDiva’s new guest restaurant reviewer for Abu Dhabi? “I have been a chef for 20 (odd) years, incorporating my many travels and experience with an intense passion for food.  I have called Abu Dhabi my home for the last four years where I work as a private chef.  I love food, exploring new cultures and people. I will probably die doing what I enjoy best, and that is cooking!”

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 4
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15 Responses to “Does Rhodes 44 at St Regis Abu Dhabi live up to the name?”

  1. Dave Reeder April 2, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Worth pointing out that the chef running the kitchen is Paul Lupton, who was the mainstay of Rhodes Mezzanine for many years. He certainly kn owe how to deliver big time on the Rhodes promise…

    • PB April 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Spot on with the review. I had Friday brunch there the week before. Food was great and extremely plentiful, wine was lovely and service was great. Liesl is correct regarding not seeing but hearing the Corniche from the terrace, but at this time of year it’s good.

      • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm

        Hi PB

        Thanks for dropping by to leave a message! I am ecstatic that you had a wonderful brunch and I do believe that it is of good value. Correct me if I am wrong but it might be the only place in Abu Dhabi where you are served brunch at your table. But they do have live cooking stations which you can choose food from. Yes the terrace is great at this time of the year, soon we won’t be able to sit outside anymore! Please do let me know if you will be visiting Rhodes 44 again and I would love to hear about your experience.

    • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      Hello Dave

      Thank you for the information, I was not aware that Paul Lupton is the chef at Rhodes 44. I shall take a bow in honour of Paul’s culinary creations. On my next visit I might be fortunate enough to meet both Gary Rhodes and Paul Lupton. If that is the case, I will be most grateful to be in the presence of such great chefs.

  2. EH April 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Lovely review! Envy your experience in these exotic venues. But like a true journo, I have to know what he lost the final fork for? :-)

    • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Hi EH

      Thank you for leaving a comment. I am delighted to see another person with an enquiring mind, like myself. I think this topic is debatable. It might be one of those topics that is discussed over a long lunch with many foodies. I would like to ask you this question if I may? Is there any restaurant that you have ever dined at that you would possibly give a 5 out of 5 rating too? And if so why? My answer to your question is, in the food business one can always strive to be better, there are never any limits and there is always competition. And besides we all have opinions and yours might differ once you dine at Rhodes 44. My reason for giving them 4 out of 5 is, their food is magnificent, but when you are a chef and you receive a good rating, you feel empowered, it gives you the drive to achieve a 5 and be better than you already are.

  3. Kelly April 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Interesting review by a professional chef. I must say that G. Rhodes is one of my favourite celebrity chefs. I also like your photographs.

    • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Kelly

      Well if Gary Rhodes is one of your favourite celebrity chefs, then I urge you to please visit Rhodes 44 for a great culinary experience. But remember to let me know how your dining experience went. Thank you for your kind comment with regards to my food photos, I do appreciate it!

  4. Maree April 2, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Very good food review. I have been a follower of Chef Thompson’s food creations for many years and have had the pleasure to dine from her table a few times. I’ve also been in awe of her food photography – well worth checking her out on Instagram. I couldn’t think of anyone more qualified and colourful to write food reviews. Definitely South Africa’s lost, and Abu Dhabi’s gain!

    • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      Hi Maree

      Firstly, I would like to thank you for dropping in to write to me. I do believe I have a fan. Your words have inspired me on so many levels. Thank you. I know you are a keen foodie and your food itself is remarkable. Keep it cooking and always remember to have fun while doing so.

  5. Tracey April 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Great review and fantastic photos Liesl :)

    • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Hello Tracey

      I have a sincere love for photography and food. I am grateful that I can combine two of my passions. Photography reminds me of the memories and cooking gives me the faith and hope that tomorrow I have a completely new canvas to create something more beautiful. Thank you for your kind comment.

  6. Peter Marx April 2, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Brilliant review! Felt like I was there myself…

    • Liesl April 2, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Dear Peter

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on the review. I am overjoyed that I could transport you too Rhodes 44 through my writing. It’s a special experience that I will keep in my memory for eternity. If you ever do have the chance, I insist that you visit the restaurant for the same culinary journey that I transported you too. Many thanks.

  7. Lee April 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

    At 9 in the morning after reading the review I got a mouthwatering sensation for a glass of the red wine paired with the main course! Well written & a great review.

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