Can Ser­gio Lopez find re­peat suc­cess in a new city?

What's On (Abu Dhabi) - - CONSUME -

San­der­son’s has been one of the most an­tic­i­pated restau­rants in Abu Dhabi – not least be­cause of the Tom & Serg as­so­ci­a­tion.

Food­ies in the cap­i­tal have felt shunned for years be­cause the suc­cess­ful duo of Tom Ar­nel and Ser­gio Lopez had only given Dubai their creative culi­nary love.

But then they parted ways ear­lier this year, with Lopez set­ting his first solo eatery sights on Abu Dhabi at a beau­ti­ful glass-walled space in the some­times over­looked Al Seef Vil­lage Mall.

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Troy Payne promised a menu full of healthy, nour­ish­ing food. But San­der­son’s could never be la­belled a purely ‘ healthy’ cafe in the man­ner of its com­peti­tor Nolu’s Raw, just down the Al Seef walk­way.

In­stead what Payne has drawn up is one of the most in­ter­est­ing menus in the city, fea­tur­ing In­sta­gram-wor­thy and some­times slightly mys­te­ri­ous-sound­ing, dishes with in­gre­di­ents like ‘ blue­berry-acai bombs’ and ‘seeded tacos’.

We sat at a cosy cor­ner ta­ble, sur­rounded by plants, sun­light gen­tly dap­pling the ta­ble. The in­te­rior of San­der­son’s is gor­geous: a mix of stone, with wood and mar­ble-tiled ta­bles, and com­fort­able rat­tan chairs soft­ened with cush­ions. It feels like a green breath of fresh air.

We de­voured the veg­gie pa­per rice wrap starter (Dhs39). Filled with mixed greens, wild rice and silken tofu puffs, it was the sweet and sticky tamarind sauce that set it apart.

Af­ter our server de­ter­mined that the chicken was from France – and both hor­mone and an­tibi­otic-free – we chose the grilled ver­sion with pump­kin cous­cous and tahini dress­ing (Dh59). The chicken was de­li­cious, sit­ting atop big chunks of pump­kin in the cous­cous, moist­ened with a sub­tle tahini driz­zle. As with all the dishes on the menu, it looked beau­ti­ful too, stacked into a per­fect rec­tan­gle. The lamb and quinoa salad with shred­ded car­rot, cu­cum­ber, herbs and pomegranate dress­ing (Dhs55) was equally fan­tas­tic. The slightly sweet dress­ing was spar­ingly ap­plied and per­fectly ac­cented the strength in flavour of the juicy, pulled lamb. For dessert we went with the two most pop­u­lar on the menu: a pis­ta­chiocrusted maple and yo­ghurt tart (Dhs49), with del­i­cate strings of can­died sweet potato, dec­o­rated with pollen and pe­tals. But the show-stop­per is an ic­ing su­gar mosque sifted on the plate. Such a sim­ple – and ob­vi­ous – ac­cent, but one that we’ve not seen in the UAE. The tart’s fill­ing was creamy and slightly sweet, and it was very good, but it was blown away by the matcha yo­ghurt skil­let cake (Dhs25), with banana ice cream and miso caramel, topped with slightly de­hy­drated skin-on ap­ple flow­ers. Ev­ery bite of this dish made it a wor­thy calo­rie-splurger.

There are a few kinks to work out. The staff are very friendly and wel­com­ing, but on a sub­se­quent visit a server had to go away to get ba­sic in­for­ma­tion from the chef. And the pric­ing, par­tic­u­larly with dessert, is con­fus­ing. Half the menu is Dhs25 and half is Dhs49, with no dis­cern­able rea­son for the dis­crep­ancy.

But for a lovely, dif­fer­ent and slightly ad­ven­tur­ous meal, or even some very good cof­fee and a friendly vibe, San­der­son’s is a solid – and wel­come – ad­di­tion to the UAE’s din­ing scene.

San­der­son’s, Al Seef Vil­lage Mall, Abu Dhabi. Daily 8am to 10pm. Tel: (02) 2221142. wear­e­sander­

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