“I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food” Erma Bombeck
After the resounding success of the inaugural Taste of Abu Dhabi in 2014, this year’s event was back bigger and better. The three days of alfresco eating, drinking and entertainment at this popular food festival held at Du Arena was a real treat, if the temperature had been turned down a notch or two, it would have been just perfect!
With twenty-five fine dining restaurants showcasing their wares in bite size pieces Taste of Abu Dhabi is a foodies paradise. Add in ten international celebrity chefs giving live cooking demos and classes, live music, retail opportunities, a play area to keep the children entertained and of course a bar or two, it was a superb way to enjoy a weekend of outdoor activities suitable for all the family.
Joining the 2014 restaurant line-up were eleven new venues taking part for the first time this year. Official hotel partner Rotana had three restaurants at the event; Blue Grill (Yas Island Rotana), Prego’s (Beach Rotana), Teatro (Park Rotana) as well as the Rotana ‘Trader Vic’s’ Bar. Other restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines included Al Gusto, Al Mrzab, Atayeb, Avasa, Barocco, Belgian Beer Café, BOA, Café Dalsace, Caramel, Carluccios, Dolmabahce, Ristorante Cavallino, Flooka, KOI, Mikado Cafe and Bakery, Nolus, Peppermill, Prego’s, Royal Orchid Restaurant, Safina, ShoCho, Villa Toscana and Zambar.
My whole family visited several times over the course of the three-day event. Our top family food picks were the Margherita pizza (may have had that two days running) and calamari fritti from Prego’s, TNT shrimp and mini sliders from Caramel Abu Dhabi, their lobster lasagne was certainly very much in demand too. The teenager had her sushi fix in the form of salmon and avocado rolls from Mikado followed by some crispy beef from Royal Orchid, butter chicken from Teatro and freshly squeezed orange juice from Barakat. With my weekend calorie count already off the scale, I finished off my third day visit by tucking into a Prego’s tiramisu, a divine creamy coffee concoction, Villa Toscana were doing a roaring trade in tiramisu magnum ice-creams too, just a shame I was already too full! The other half walked round to do a full reccy before he made his choices, a considered approach to get the best options and not wanting to miss out on anything either, his favourites were the chicken kebabs and short rib pizza from Al Gusto Italiani (located in Etihad Towers).
The opening night draw was the Wailers concert which definitely brought out a large crowd of reggae lovers, the place was absolutely heaving. As I wiped the perspiration from my brow, die-hard Bob Marley fans were decked out in woven colourful shirts and woolly hats, crazy fools! Abu Dhabi was a one night stop for the legendary band as part of their worldwide tour, they entertained us with a set-list of iconic Bob Marley and the Wailers hits that has the enthusiastic crowd singing along to classics such as Buffalo Soldier, No Woman No Cry, One Love and my personal favourite, Redemption Song.
Day two was a real treat for us as we were VIP guests of Etihad Airways, who even sent a car to take us to and from the event. Collected promptly by our Etihad chauffeur we were whisked off in style, on arrival we enjoyed hospitality courtesy of the airline in the Taste of Abu Dhabi VIP Etihad lounge. Part of the experience was to take a tour of the luxurious First Apartment available on the newly introduced A380. With the option of sitting in an armchair or laying in bed, the First Apartment offers the discerning traveller the opportunity to travel in style and ultimate luxury. Couples travelling together can book adjoining apartments which can then be opened to one big space, there’s a turn down service, 24-inch flat screen TV viewed from the chair or bed, vanity and wardrobe, a personal refreshment cabinet, a full-height shower is available too and of course five-star dining provided by the inflight chef, this really is an amazing premium hospitality service in the sky.
The First Apartment is currently available on the A380 to London and Sydney, will fly to New York from 23rd November and start flying to Melbourne in 2016. I got the other half to take my photo lounging on the bed, his look said make the most of it, that’s the nearest you are ever going to get, so please excuse me if you find me pawing and whimpering at the First Apartment door on my next A380 flight to London before I’m forcefully removed and taken back to my seat! Thank you Etihad Airways for the great experience and of course the chauffeur service.
On the OSN Food Network live demo stage, darlings of the TV kitchen gave inspiring and entertaining demonstrations across the three days to rapturous audiences. The contingent included flamboyant Indian chef Reza Mahammad, South Africans ‘The Giggling Gourmet’ Jenny Morris and Siba Mtongana from popular TV show Siba’s Table (above), Master French pâtissier and celebrity chef Eric Lanlard aka Cake Boy, Valentine Warner dubbed by the BBC as ‘the Russell Brand of the kitchen‘ and the vivacious Arabic celebrity chef Suzanne Husseini author of the best-selling cookbooks When Suzanne Cooks and Modern Flavors of Arabia (below). Masterchef India winner Nikita Gandhi, Spanish chef Jose Pizarro and the dynamic duo of Steven Edwards (professional Masterchef winner) and partner Joshua Stanzl made up the star-studded line-up. Edwards and Stanza are partners in food company Etch, who are due to open the restaurant at the new and exciting i360 tower project on Brighton’s seafront (already on next summer’s to do list).
Food lovers and amateur cooks signed up for 30-minute hands on masterclasses with the various chefs at the Quooker and Lurpak Cookery school. I caught Husseini in full-flow during her vegetarian moussaka master class where she taught her students ‘to cook with love‘ in her own signature style. Quooker, co-sponsors of the cookery school were showcasing their revolutionary instant filtered boiling water tap, which offers unprecedented functionality in the kitchen with a healthy, easy and fast way of cooking.
A wide range of exhibitors displayed their services and wares across various stalls and stands. Among the exhibitors were restaurant search and discovery service Zomato, a Cheese and Grape experience offered by supermarket Spinneys, Holland House Mini Pancakes topped with lashings of Nutella always had a queue and Vasa Vasa were offering their fabulous Italian Gelato, I very much enjoyed their hazelnut flavoured iced treat. The other half was in a spending mood, not sure if it was a day in the sun or the beer, maybe a combination of both but he purchased two German carbon steel precision knives from British retailer Flint and Flame, shame there weren’t any handbag and shoe shops in the vicinity to capitalise on his splurging.
All in all a great weekend was had by all, I would be as bold as saying that Taste of Abu Dhabi 2015 was an enormous success. The worldwide alfresco food festival concept has become an essential event for foodies, restaurant-lovers and chef-groupies alike, believe me there were a few chefs being mobbed for selfies at this event. Currently there are twenty-one Taste festivals in cities across the globe including events in UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, I’m sure the popularity of existing events will promote continued expansion to even more places in coming years. I really enjoyed this years festival, it was excellent event that brought together all the nationalities and cultures residing in the capital which is always a good thing. If someone could organise more seating and lower temperatures for next year that would be marvellous, I personally would love to see some food trucks there next year too.
Thank you Taste of Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways for the opportunity to visit this year’s event. All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.
Read more about Taste of Abu Dhabi 2014 in previous posts here