A French restaurant wth real savois-‘fare’…

Art and gastronomy are two pleasures that are often delivered better with a French accent.

Which is why we’re grateful to that little corner of Saadiyat Island that’s proudly flying a spiritual tricolore.

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Dining hall
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Snails
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Foie gras
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Millefeuille
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Dining hall
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Snails
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Foie gras
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Millefeuille

We collectively ‘oohed’ at the arrival of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, sister museum to the world-renowned French cultural landmark. But we saved the ‘la-las’ for earlier this year when we heard about another Parisian import arriving just next door.

Fouquet’s Abu Dhabi landed in the emirate with a menu designed in collaboration with Pierre Gagnaire, the same Michelin Star-winning chef responsible for the food at the Champs-Elysées based Fouquet’s.

So it’s with great expectations we find ourselves being ferried by golf buggy from the parking area to the restaurant’s access point. And because Fouquet’s sits within the shadow of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s grand canopy, contemplation continues as we check through a few more security steps than your typical dining date requires.

Once inside, the interiors strike an immediately gallic tone. This is Paris, with a little Middle Eastern flex. Blanched walls and table settings stand in deliberate contrast with the stylish crimson seating (an homage perhaps, to the Parisian restaurant’s famous red awnings).

Large electric chandeliers provide soft light for the evening sittings, but we’re here for lunch and the ceiling-high windows invite ample illumination alongside calming watery vistas.

We order a selection of starters from our knowledgeable and friendly waiter, and scan the menu for potential follow-ups. Before we settle on the choice for our main dishes, we’re greeted by a sizzling plate of Burgundy snails in garlic butter; prawns paired with avocado, pink grapefruit and egg mimosa; and duck foie gras terrine, date chutney, and toasted rustic bread.

You’d probably have to take a plane before you find a snail dish that fits so snugly with the traditional archetype. They are note-perfect here. The pink grapefruit and egg mimosa help uncover hidden depths in the prawn entree and the daubs of date chutney are more than just a charming regional foil to their foie gras pairing. They belong.

For the plats principaux, our waiter directs us towards pan-seared salmon fillet, a popular choice amongst the restaurant’s faithful; and braised lamb shoulder, served with green lentil hummus flavored with curry paste.

Whilst it’s true that the UAE isn’t lacking in strong salmon dishes, there are few we’ve tried that can match Fouquet’s finesse. A cuite-perfect fillet, subtle in tone, with the honest fleshy flavor of wild salmon, neatly echoed by a velvety butternut velouté.

But the real grand dame of the brasserie, is the lamb shoulder. A taste expedition that begins with a stroll down Avenue Victor Hugo but crosses purposefully into the souks of old Abu Dhabi.

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The lamb is tender and breaks effortlessly beneath the fork, cooked in the classic French style, but given a poetic reimagining by the swathes of nutty, precisely-spiced hummus and a sprinkling of pomegranate.

We end the meal with a trio of desserts, because all great art should be finished with a flourish. We try the coconut tapioca with pistachio parfait; Fouquet’s chocolate biscuit; and mille-feuilles with praline and carmelised hazelnuts.

It’s all wonderful, but we find particular reverence in the chocolate biscuit. Deep, not overly sweet, and just the right side of rich, it’s an appropriate way to drop the curtain and call ‘fin’ on this meal.

This is a fine-dining restaurant in the most faithful of ways, and going a la carte means there’s a price tag to match. But you can explore the cuisine quite freely with Fouquet’s keenly-priced lunchtime and dinner set menus from Dhs210.

Fouquet’s, next to Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District 1, Sun to Wed noon to 11pm, Thu to Sat noon to 11.30 pm, Mon closed. Tel: (02) 205 4200

Images: Fouquet’s