Roberto’s Abu Dhabi: The Esquire Review
It’s fair to say that Roberto’s is a restaurant that has truly “made it” here in Dubai.
Known for its stellar location and top-notch ingredients (many flown in daily from Italy), it serves swanky punters delicious food in fine dining style. And in Dubai, you pay for that privilege (it ain’t cheap).
The brand has recently opened up a second location, this time in Abu Dhabi. Like its OG restaurant, this version boasts another stellar location adjacent to the city’s posh Galleria shopping complex and is stone’s throw away from the likes of Zuma and Coya.
But Abu Dhabi is not Dubai. The capital tends to be a little quieter than its louder cousin down the road and doesn’t tend to attract the same type of glitzy clientele. So how does Roberto’s manage to translate its own particular brand of Italian to Abu Dhabi? It doubles down on what it does best, and throws in a posh new lounge, with live music and a DJ.
Because if you can’t bring the party from Dubai, you better make one yourself.
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi: What’s the vibe?
The venue is huge. Massive, even. There’s room enough to fit a Crudo Bar with live seafood, a large open kitchen, bakery as well as a huge outdoor terrace. Oh, and there’s also that lounge.
Diners sit near the front of the venue, inside the spacious dining room that’s been kitted out to look similar to the Dubai version. Tucked away near the back is the lounge, which is big enough to warrant its own separate entrance. It looks and feels different to the main restaurant, with a separate menu of bar snacks as well as drinks. There is live music almost every night, and the party doesn’t stop until four in the morning.
While the dining room is so large that it requires an awful lot of people to seem ‘busy’, the opposite is true for the lounge. It’s quite startling to walk from semi-abandoned (we visited on a stormy Saturday night) restaurant into a lounge that is – as the kids say – “going off”.
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi: How’s the food?
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi is quieter than its counterpart in Dubai, and everyone knew it would be. The kitchen staff then decided that with fewer bums on seats it could do a little bit more from a culinary perspective.
While Roberto’s in Dubai specializes in homegrown Italian fair – served at speed – Roberto’s Abu Dhabi has a bigger focus on its tasting menu, designed with help from 2 Michelin star Chef Enrico Bartolini.
Expect the likes of spaghetti with pesto – created tableside with the help of liquid-nitrogen – and a host of classic Italian staples (such as calamarata, carpaccio and tartares) brought bang up to date thanks to some ultra-modern cooking techniques.
The food is superb, and the kitchen – helmed by executive chef Francesco Guarracino - has really taken advantage of the capital’s quieter nature. There are dishes at Roberto’s Abu Dhabi that I wish they’d serve here in Dubai.
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi: What’s the verdict?
The team at Roberto’s were clever enough to know that sticking a direct replica of the Dubai Branch in Abu Dhabi was never going to work. The people are different. The city is different.
Instead, they took it the capital’s differences in their stride and created something unique.
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi: Where is it?
Roberto’s Abu Dhabi is part of The Galleria Al Maryah Island, directly below the Rosewood Hotel. You can get access to it via the hotel, by walking through The Galleria or directly into the lounge from the promenade.