Review: Caramel Restaurant and Lounge, Abu Dhabi

From the conception of Caramel Group we highlighted that it would play a fundamental role in the development of the hospitality industry in the region and we are now delivering on that promise.” Mohammed Al Hashimi, Founder & Owner.

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It was very exciting over in my little corner of the blogosphere last week when I was approached to do my first official restaurant review. After a brief period of self-doubt and deliberation (ie. is it or isn’t it spam) I set up the dinner reservation for myself and the other half with the Caramel Group’s PR agency. Having visited Caramel in Dubai with friends for drinks last year, I was excited to compare the Abu Dubai version with that of its counterpart in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

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Driving across the scenic Saadiyat Island at sunset was the perfect start to our evening at Caramel Restaurant and Lounge which is located at the stunning St.Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, within The Collection.  A fairly new addition to the Abu Dhabi dining and nightlife scene, The Collection provides guests with drinking, dining, and entertainment options in one centrally located spot inspired by Mediterranean architecture with terraces and piazza’s akin to a quaint Italian town

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Caramel offers American cuisine in an appealing, trendy and ambient setting at one end of The Collection, where we were greeted on arrival with an enthusiastic and warm welcome from manager Suranga Kank and his staff. Now when you think American cuisine you immediately think burgers and fries, mac and cheese or maybe peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and although some of these appear on the menu, it’s with a fine dining twist. This American export offers an extensive menu packed with so many options so  it was perfect for the other half who is both a carnivore and fish lover and myself the vegetarian.

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The stunning interior of Caramel Abu Dhabi

(source:www.republiquedubai.com)

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ImageThe central long table area perfect for socialising

ImageDJ booth (above) Contemporary lighting and bold lines give the restaurant and lounge a stylist feel 

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Caramel is a sophisticated, low-lit and relaxed affair featuring a long central table, perfect for socialising in front of the DJ booth and bar area, which is synonymous with its Dubai counterpart. A perfect spot to chill out while enjoying high quality food and service but with an added air of a sophisticated cocktail lounge, Caramel offers guests a flawless dining and entertainment experience. As the capital has so many different dining options these days establishments have to provide an unforgettable experience to ensure return business and I can throughly recommend what Caramel has to offer. Well stocked fridges line one wall adjacent to the bar housing an impressive selection of grape based beverages to accompany the wide-ranging flavoursome dishes on the menu.

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ImageThe well stocked bar and fridges offer guests a wide selection of beverage options

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The restaurant has a sumptuous and spacious interior, a bold statement combining natural wood with stone, illuminated by funky lighting which offers a chic and contemporary feel. Due to the time of year the outdoor terrace is currently closed but realistically unless you had individual fans blowing at your face no-one wants to sit outside in the summer months. I ventured out to get an idea of its potential and the view and will return maybe for lunch when it’s cooler to sit outside and enjoy the panoramic views across the resort and its backdrop of the charming Saadiyat Island.

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Definitely penciling in a return visit when its cooler to sample lunch sitting on this fabulous terrace (source:www.republiquedubai.com)

ImageThe outdoor terrace is currently closed for dining due to the intense Abu Dhabi summer heat and humidity

ImageViews from the terrace area across The St.Regis Resort and Saadiyat Island

The service was impeccable without being intrusive. Our server was attentive and super friendly throughout the meal, offering menu recommendations and attending to our every need. The other half took his advice ordering the Sizzling Hot Rock for his starter (his other recommendation was the Signature Chicken Lollipops) and I opted for my favourite vegetable, Crispy Eggplant (Aubergine with tomato and cilantro) served in Hoisin sauce.

ImageSizzling Hot Rock cooked at the table on the hot stone

ImageSliced Sirloin with Micro Radish sizzling on the red-hot stone

The Sizzling Hot Rock was an impressive dish that came with a red-hot stone which gave the other half a chance to channel his inner Jamie Oliver, cooking his thinly sliced tender sirloin stripes (with micro radish) at the table.  The meat was apparently mouth-watering and tender and it was all devoured in record time so he then polished off the rest of my tangy Asian inspired starter dish that was delicious, but extremely filling.

ImageCrispy Eggplant with Tomato, Cilantro and Hoisin Sauce, a perfect veggie starter

We skipped the Greatest Hits, Salads, Sliders and The Grill parts of the menu which proved to be foresighted of us as the portions of our ‘Shared For The Table’ starters were huge. Our mains were delivered with a flourish of waiters, mine a Veggie Risotto of Asparagus Tips (another favourite of mine), Baby Spinach and Portobello Mushrooms and Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Rock Shrimp Risotto, Lobster Broth with Tomato Basil Tapenade for the other half accompanied by a side of Creamed Spinach with Black Truffle Yogurt. I couldn’t resist a carb overload and had ordered the Roasted ‘Mini’ Bakers as a dish to share. All the food was beautifully presented and although my order was heavy on the calories it was delicious, especially the Mini Bakers (that’s baby jacket potatoes to you and me) served in a cast iron dish and crisped to perfection with a great selection of fillings (creme fraiche, chopped spring onions, veal bacon bits and aged cheddar), all washed down with a couple of glasses of a particularly refreshing and oaky Merlot.

ImageSeared Chilean Sea Bass with Rock Shrimp Risotto, Lobster Broth and Tomato Basil Tapenade

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ImageA rather large side dish of Creamed Spinach with Black Truffle Yogurt (source:www.republiquedubai.com)

ImageVeggie Risotto with Baby Spinach, Asparagus tips and Portobello Mushrooms

ImageRoasted ‘Mini’ Bakers with Creme Fraiche, Chopped Spring Onion, Veal Bacon Bits and Aged Cheddar

Dessert was a somewhat tricky affair as I could have opted for them all and I was also so full from all the yummy food and the extremely generous portions that I’d already consumed. The other half who doesn’t have a sweet-tooth and usually opts out of this course, choose a palette cleansing Mango and Lime Sorbet selection with berries and I went for the homely dessert from my childhood of Baked Alaska, well by this stage I was going all out so it was all or nothing. Fresh strawberries accompanied the sponge cake and strawberry flavoured ice-cream and jus topped off with meringue, a stunning looking creation and scrummy too. A three-coloured tiered latte was a perfect end to a perfect meal.

ImageMango & Lime Sorbet with berries, the perfect palette cleanserImageThe attractively presented Strawberry Baked Alaska, a modern twist on an old classic 

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Aside from the dim lighting which would not be to everyone’s taste for dinner, our Caramel Abu Dhabi experience was a delightful and relaxed affair where every member of the immaculately dressed staff that we encountered went the extra mile to accommodate and anticipate our every need. This restaurant offers something for everyone and it’s definitely a place for a romantic dinner for two, a meal with friends, a perfect meet up venue with colleagues for a drink and a bar snack after work or a place to enjoy a cocktail or two on a night out and I’m sure its great to take the family for lunch although at night there’s a distinctive maturer vibe. There is also a private room that can be hired for parties, which can be catered to personal choice for food, music and lighting. I was pleased that the restaurant has enforced a ‘No Smoking’ rule (very, very unusual in the UAE) and it was a real bonus to come home with my clothes and hair smelling smoke free. This venue has most definitely been added to my ‘Brett Tours’ itinerary, so future visitors prepare yourselves as you are in for a real treat.

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ImageOur very gracious and attentive host Caramel Abu Dhabi Manager Suranga Kank

Caramel Restaurant and Lounge is open for lunch and dinner.

Dinner : Saturday-Wednesday: 7PM – 2AM and Thursday & Friday: 7PM – 3AM.

Lunch : Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11AM-3PM.

For more information and reservations please call 02.678.3344. Visit Caramel’s website here and their official Facebook page here.  For more information about Caramel, Dubai click here.

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I was invited to review this restaurant but the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.