Does this new restaurant, have an old Sole?

Last month Jumeirah at Etihad Towers became Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers. And as often happens when individuals move on from a relationship, changes have been made to help ensure a clean split.

In one of the most exciting post-break-up developments, Conrad has moved-in a new Italian restaurant, Sole. It replaces its predecessor Bice, with — we’re informed — far more than just superficial changes.

There will undoubtedly be some that greet the news of a new Italian restaurant in the capital with a casual ennui, ‘do we really need another one?’ The Facebook comments will almost certainly ask.

And the answer rather hangs on whether or not it’s any good. So there’s a genuine sense of anticipation as we take a seat on the restaurant’s Podium terrace.

It’s a smart venue, fancy even, but stops short of what millennials might term ‘extra’. Low overhead lighting and individually illuminated tables, give the dining experience a cosy, intimate feel despite the eatery’s spacious layout.

Chef Simone, is taking a brief break from the kitchen to meet the evening’s diners. We flag him down to ask him what’s different about Sole (pronounced ‘So-lay’, and thus making a nonsense of our above jeu-des-mots)?

He tells us that, an uncompromising insistence on the quality of ingredients is at the core of everything they do here. At Sole, they resolve to use only the finest produce, from home or overseas.

We begin our investigation of the new Mediterranean suitor, with an eggplant parmigiana — the Naples Staple.

It’s served to the table in a bijou cocotte pot, inside a thatch-work melange of thin aubergine tranches have been baked in a rich tomato ragu, with buffalo mozzarella, basil and crumbly parmesan.

A simple course, but we’re happy to go on record as saying, probably qualifies as one of the best new dishes we’ve tried this year. It’s rural European comfort food at its best. There’s a hearty vegetable backbone to the flavour, luxurious spoonfuls of fondant cheese, and a distinctly botanical endnote courtesy of the fresh basil.

The main course is a char-grilled rib eye, cooked in duck fat and served with roasted potatoes, asparagus and a spicy salsa verde. The quality of the cut, the seasoning, the accompaniments, everything about this dish demonstrates culinary skill and an eye for balance.

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One further note of appreciation here. Using a rosemary-infused salsa verde as the lead condiment is an intelligent, refreshing move. It’s a subtle partner, not overpowering, functioning more as a post-grill marinade than a sauce.

Dessert was a neatly executed scoop of sorbet. *Shrugs shoulders* when in Rome.

Verdict: And dear reader, it turns out that we did need another Italian restaurant. This one specifically. The standard of cuisine puts the restaurant in the top tier of Abu Dhabi eateries, with a price point that represents excellent value. 

Rating: A

Sole, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, West Corniche Rd Abu Dhabi. Tel: (02) 811 5555, @sole.conradetihadtowers

Images: What’s On Archive/Provided