Manuel Café: Luxury chocolatier and very much more. Read The Luxe Diary’s review of this unexpected fine dining experience.
‘Manuel arrives in Abu Dhabi with the main objective of providing a complete café experience with a focus on its core signature product – luxury chocolates from the house of Manuel, Lausanne’
With this description in mind, we set out for lunch at Manuel Café expecting a fine salad or sandwich and some wonderful chocolate cake and coffees for our midday collation. How wrong we were, and what a wonderful surprise Manuel Café presented us with.
Promisingly located in the luxury fashion area of Marina Mall, the Café itself is anchored by a a gilded canopy highlighting an opulent display of chocolates, cakes and other sweet temptations, a pleasing but slightly misleading vista, as we were about to discover.
Although the Café is situated in the middle of a mall thoroughfare, clever design and luxurious finishes impart a feeling of intimacy while allowing the diner to watch the passing promenade of shopper s and diners. In a city where pavement dining is rendered impossible by the weather, Manuel Café a lovely sunlit and stylish space with that critical September ingredient – air conditioning!
After healthy and delicious aperitifs, Ginger Cucumber and Apple subtly flavored with basil and Grape, Beetroot and Carrot with thyme, lunch became seriously indulgent. Chef Francois suggested a tasting menu showcasing the best of his elegant bistro menu.
We started with salads, a subtly luscious burrata accompanied by handsome heirloom tomatoes, Greek with perfectly briny feta, and a Crab Caesar. With a history as debatable as the correct preparation and ingredients, the Caesar salad is to be avoided in an unknown spot. Not so at Manuel Café. Crisply fresh romaine dressed with a silky (secret recipe) Caesar dressing topped with just crunchy enough croutons. Add to this delight a generous portion of crab meat, and this dish is flawless.
While the menu is classic the interpretation is creative and contemporary. We sampled a sophisticated a tortellini of salmon, canadian lobster and langoustine with a lentil risotto, accompanied by a broccoli veloute. A Caponata which rather daringly juxtaposed alpine mushrooms with an accompanying sea bass resulted in a complex and deeply satisfying dish. Equally as satisfying was the Beef Cheek on a reassuring mash, playfully surrounded with a potato foam. The beef cheek is cooked for fourteen hours; and in our opinion worth every minute of the wait!
Lunch progressed with a charmingly presented berry iced tea, that tasted like a walk in an alpine meadow, lightly herbal and perfectly chilled. During lunch we became acquainted with Chef François’ philosophy of the best ingredients sourced from small European producers.
Café Manuel’s signature product is of course chocolate, and having forewarned to ‘save room for desert’ we managed to share a whimsical tower of dark chocolate mousse, divinely delicious and luxurious. Chef François continued our charming and entertaining lunch experience by introducing us to tonka bean ice cream. Tonka beans are the aromatic seed of a giant tree from deep in the amazon rain forest, new to us, lightly vanilla a spice flavored and quite delicious.
Our lunch was beautifully paced and served, we were attended to, educated and engaged by Chef Francois and his team. Manuel Café succeeds – indeed more than succeeds with the magical combination of ingredients, cooking, service and ambience.
Manuel Café is situated on the Ground Floor, Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi | Manuel Café is open from Sunday to Thursday from 09:00 to 23.00 and from Friday and Saturday from 09.00 to 00.00.
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