David Tapley visits the latest restaurant opening at Saadiyat Beach Club to embark on a theatrical voyage through Provençe and its coastal cities.
As we skirt around the Insta-worthy infinity pool, flanked by swaying palm trees and incandescent waters that stretch out to sea, we notice the vibrant painted blue doors of La Salle that immediately conjure up images of a French farmhouse deep in the countryside. Crossing the threshold, we’re greeted with an intimate restaurant space that is home to just 42 seats. The pleasant dining room continues the farmhouse theme thanks to a rustic wooden table that takes pride of place in the centre of the room and is used as a chef’s table for special functions and events. A large mirrored bar area fills the back of the restaurant while the impeccably laid tables with their glistening silverware and sparkling glassware provide a sense of sophistication. Heightened only by the levels of service provided by the front of house team.
Tables are well spaced throughout the restaurant and are strategically located beside the floor-to-ceiling windows to allow for premium views of the beachfront and ocean waves. It’s a delightful space in which to dine and when accompanied by a picture-perfect Saadiyat sunset, makes for a memorable dining experience indeed.
While the surroundings are best described as modern farmhouse-chic, the menu works as a showcase of Provençal cuisine which is unique for the UAE capital. We begin with a rustic crusty loaf slathered in truffle butter as we peruse a menu that has been designed as a theatrical voyage through Provençe and its coastal cities, where each dish has been imaginatively constructed using premium ingredients. Their intention is clear, to provide a showcase for the very best Provençal cuisine via a combination of robust flavours, vibrant colours and rich textures. We begin with Pulpo á feria, a dish of charred octopus and potato mousse, underpinned by a fiery Romesco sauce that works unbelievably well against the delicate flavours of the mollusc. Wonderfully tender from the sous-vide cooking method, the octopus tentacle comes topped with smoky paprika and it’s easy to see why the staff recommend it so highly.
The La Salle Carpaccio is another dish that is plated to perfection. It was so beautiful to look at that we almost didn’t want to eat it! Comprising of thin slices of Yellowtail Kingfish adorned with Caviar, lime zest and a beautiful Arbequina olive oil from Italy. La Salle’s Carpaccio is a plate that exemplifies the joy of subtlety and is a dish to take your time with and fully appreciate each mouthful.
Unable to resist burrata if it’s on the menu, we are suitably impressed by the Burratina salad. A fresh combination of Stracciatella, Roma tomatoes, olive powder, baby rocket, balsamic pearls and caviaroli that boasts the creamy texture that we have come to appreciate so much. Served with an aged balsamic of 20 years the dish is Provençal perfection at its finest. Main courses revolve around pasta choices and a selection of dishes ‘from the land.’ The Le Risotto Acquarello transpires to be a real standout with its robust and earthy flavours complemented by a delightful al dente texture. This particular mushroom risotto is elevated thanks to the inclusion of truffle shavings, pecorino foam and summer peas and guests are encouraged to add a touch of decadence with the addition of Alba white truffle, which is priced per gram.
Next to arrive is the Westholme Wagyu 8+ fillet mignon. The cut is a more than generous 200g and is beautifully cooked to our requested medium-rare temperature. As we’ve come to expect from Westholme meat, the Australian grain-fed beef boasts an abundant marbling and signature tenderness. It is a flavoursome choice, especially when complemented by La Salle’s mushroom sauce and sides of artichoke hearts and creamed spinach.
When it comes to dessert, we select their traditional French Crêpe Suzette. Prepared tableside, the dish is the epitome of ‘presentation goals’ thanks to a nifty transference of flaming liquid between two copper pans before being placed upon the thin and sweet crepes. We are delighted by the theatrics and interactivity of the finale with the flamed crêpes served alongside Bordeaux soaked pears and an orange butter cottage cheese ice cream.
Innovation and excitement are a crucial part of the La Salle dining experience and the beverage menu is full of surprises! The expansive beverage options encompass drinks presented in glassware resembling pipes and even a beverage where you can add decorative designs to your glass via the inclusion of a paintbrush, syrup and dehydrated strawberry powder.
It’s this extreme attention to detail combined with some of the most efficient, knowledgeable and proficient service in the capital that makes dining at La Salle such a pleasure. As we leave into the night, we cannot help but appreciate our oceanfront surroundings, where blue waters shimmer and palm fronds sway in the breeze. There’s little doubt in our mind that La Salle at Saadiyat Beach Club ticks all the right boxes when it comes to organising a special occasion meal. ✤