By Julia Wheeler
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
Winter sunshine and Arabian hospitality await you in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. More self-assured and less frenetic than neighboring Dubai, largely due to oil wealth, it has taken a more leisurely and measured approach to tourism. The result is a considered, confident city that melds traditional with state-of-theart, luxury with tranquillity and full-on excitement with an evolving restaurant scene. The city is made up of dozens of islands (not man-made like Dubai’s) and this geography is being used cleverly to focus on the different aspects the city has to offer. Whichever you choose, you are assured of a warm welcome – as the locals say bayti baytak (my house is your house).
Pearls and Caviar by Sergi Arola
Based within the Shangri-La Hotel, the two-Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola has been helping reincarnate Shangri-La’s Pearls and Caviar brand, introducing Spanish heat to Abu Dhabi chic. Expect twists on paella, tapas and seafood served amid sparkling black and silver decor and the perfect mood. Arola is respected by many as the high priest of Spanish haute cuisine. Born in Barcelona, he cooked at home for his grandfather as a boy before becoming one of the first to study at the city’s Hospitality and Restaurant School in the mid-80s. A composer and guitarist for the alternative Los Canguros group, he joined Ferran Adrià’s teams at Talaia Mar and later elBulli before moving to Paris for Pierre Gagnaire. It was in Madrid where Arola’s name began to glint when his La Broche restaurants were awarded first one, then two Michelin stars. Another pair followed for Sergi Arola Gastro.
Arola has restaurants in São Paolo, Istanbul, Verbier, Mombasa, Barcelona and Ibiza, as well as Abu Dhabi. Here, his hand-crafted dishes and signature tipples are overseen by chef Antonio Giuseppe Borrelli. He graduated from the Hospitality and Culinary Institute in Fiuggi, Italy and worked across Europe before honing his skills alongside Arola in his Barcelona kitchen. Whichever dining venue you choose, be sure to stop by the elegant, open-air p&c Bar, which also bears Arola’s stamp of approval. There you’ll be tempted by gin infusions – spicy, sweet or dry – as you take in the stunning nighttime views across the Khor Maqta canal to the minarets of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.