Bentley Bistro & Bar – a slice of France in Abu Dhabi
I know a few people who love dining at Bentley Bistro & Bar in Abu Dhabi, and they continuously ask me if I have eaten there or when I will be. So my expectations were set quite high.
Bentley is located in the Galleria mall on Al Maryah Island – unassuming from the outside, but upon entering, you are transported into an eclectic mix of old and new, yet with authenticity and simplicity. Mismatched furniture, minimalistic table settings, and antique silver platters adorning one wall create a certain nostalgia of being transported to a bistro in France. Bentley is a modern day French bistro serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a contemporary mix of fusion. There is a well stocked bar area which also offers a light menu for those who wish to have a snack – as well as an al fresco dining area overlooking the waterfront of Sowwah Square which will be magical on evenings when the weather cools down.
I was suitably impressed by the friendly and efficient staff who were by no means obtrusive in any manner during the course of the evening. Being shown to our table, I noticed the restaurant was very quiet for a Friday night, but I assumed that was because most people were still on summer vacation. A small easel with a blackboard chalking out my name and ‘welcome’ was placed on the table – as it was for all table reservations. A very nice touch. A waitress arrived with menus and a selection of hot bread. The wine list was well balanced and divided into Old and New World wines, with a great variation for the wine connoisseur. We opted for a Wild Rock ‘Gravel Pit’ Merlot Malbec 2012, hailing from New Zealand – what an exceptional new world wine – fruit filled, mainly prominent berries and a hint of leather. Very interesting and complex; the palate is soft and supple, yet vibrant and structured. This wine accompanied both main courses very well.
A few of you might know that I have an utmost fascination with open kitchens – being a chef myself, I believe this is the portal to the restaurant world for any guest to peer into. Bentley has one and I once again found myself mesmerised by the hustle and bustle of this very kitchen as I watched chefs working in unison to create dishes surrounded by gleaming copper pots and pans. Bentley’s kitchen is run by Chef Marouane Bouhmidi, originally from Morocco. Having trained under chefs with Michelin star kitchens, and having worked at some prestigious establishments, he brings with him his own unique style and flair. Marouane also represented his country in the Bocuse d’Or competition, the World Cup of gastronomy.
The menu combines a good symmetry of dishes showcasing a traditional French influence with a twist. For starters I chose the peppered chicken and sweet potato salad with rocket and tamarind. A very simple salad with a burst of flavours and the tamarind’s sour taste complimented this salad very well. Light and refreshing – a perfect start to a three course meal.
We also ordered the Spanish style garlic prawns with chilli, parsley and crisp potato. A slight disappointment with garlic overload – I felt like I was biting into a head of garlic only with no other flavours – even the chilli spicing wasn’t pungent enough. The potatoes topping the dish were indeed crispy, but I am afraid they might have been cooked in reused oil as they were slightly too oily.
For main course, I chose the braised wagyu long rib with half a grilled lobster which was undoubtedly the stand-out dish of the evening – and a great revamp on the classic ‘Surf & Turf’. Succulent Wagyu melted in my mouth at every mouthful, whilst the lobster was cooked to perfection. Eaten in unison, it was a wonderful gastronomical experience.
We also ordered the special of the day, a rabbit leg stew with white bean cassoulet. It arrived in one of those beautiful copper dishes with a shiny lid. As the waitress lifted the lid, an enticing aroma of cinnamon filled the air. The rabbit was cooked delicately, and was succulent and moist, whilst the white bean cassoulet was a good, wholesome accompaniment. However the large bark of cinnamon that enticed us in the first instance, dominated and sadly overpowered the entire dish.
For dessert we ordered the chocolate crumble tart with lime caramel sauce and pistachio ice-cream. It was most certainly a remarkable death by chocolate dessert, and the pistachio ice cream, a refreshing compliment. The chocolate hazelnut pudding with hazelnut ice-cream was a too intensely rich dish to end a meal, however the creamy hazelnut pudding packed a punch – a little too heavy for my liking but well presented.
At AED377 per person, excluding wine, Bentley Bistro & Bar borders on slightly expensive given the casual bistro setting but with the majority of the dishes impressing, coupled with intuitive service and a delightful ambience, it does offer value for money – so it’s a 4 out 5 FooDiva knife rating from me.
In the words of Luciano Pavarotti, ‘one of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating’. I don’t know why I took my time to dine at Bentley, but after reading this review I hope you won’t wait as long as I did. Or have you already eaten there?
So who’s guest reviewer Liesl? “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!”