Can Sergio Lopez find repeat success in a new city?
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. wearesandersons.com