Gracing the powdery, white sands of Saadiyat Beach is the iconic St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi.
Saadiyat is TDIC’s visionary project located just 500 metres off the coast of Abu Dhabi. So, my girls and I decided to visit this grandiose destination to celebrate the last day of 2016 with a ‘drunch’ at the legendary Sontaya Restaurant.
Commanding a view of the turquoise Arabian Gulf, Sontaya is a destination in itself. Offering Asian cuisine, this restaurant is an array of pavilions that drift on the glistening lagoons that surround it.
As you arrive, there is a little walkway with water on either side which will make you click 50 pictures and strike 100 poses. With the sunlight pouring in perfectly, you are sure to get the perfect shot within seconds, but a few extra shots don’t hurt, do they?
Sontaya has both indoor as well as outdoor seating, but for a last day of the year brunch and looking for Sex and the City feels (Carrie Bradshaw would definitely approve), we chose to feast amidst a network of pools.
As we took our table with an uninterrupted view of the pristine beach, our waitress presented us with the menu. At first look I was worried as most of it was non-vegetarian. Being the assorted bunch we are, we called for the manager and gave our special requests:
3 non-vegetarians, 1 vegetarian (me) and a girl, highly allergic (and I do not say that lightly) to way too many things, who just got stung by a jellyfish. LOL .
The non-vegetarians seemed to be on cloud nine reading the menu. They didn’t have anything to worry about and apparently so didn’t I. The manager spoke to the chef and spruced up an interesting menu which could be shared by me and my allergic friend. Now, that’s the generosity you come across only with a table brunch as opposed to a buffet.
As our package included the house beverages, our preference for wine was noted. To set the mood, we were first served a variety of South East Asian salads.
Their (Non-vegetarian) Salads included:
Thai Banana blossom salad
Vietnamese Sea bass salad
Thai Grilled beef salad
Thai papaya salad
My (vegetarian) salads included:
Thai banana blossom salad
Green papaya salad
After trying a bite of each, the first thing I asked myself was, “Since when did salads get so flavorsome?” The pomelo salad stood out for me firstly because I’d never tried pomelo before as it is native to South-east Asia and secondly, the citrus flavor left me fresh in the afternoon Sun.
Next up, came the starter platter.
Their (Non-vegetarian) platter included:
Vietnamese Duck Spring Roll
Thai Vegetable Fritter
Vietnamese Grilled Calamari
Malaysian Beef Skewer
My (vegetarian) platter included:
Thai Vegetable Fritter
Vegetarian Spring Roll
I’m not a big fan of Tofu and the vegetarian spring roll was nothing out of the ordinary. So, fritters stole the show for me. It had a mix of some shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, carrot, sweet corn and onion. It was served with a perfectly balanced sweet chili sauce that very much appealed to my taste buds.
The platter was served alongside a bowl of soup. Given to me was the vegetarian version of a Tom Kha soup which really was my favourite out of everything I’d tried yet. What can I say, I’m a sucker for mushrooms and coconut milk makes everything taste good; not to mention that coconut foam was a delight. It had the perfect creamy texture and my non-vegetarian friends stole a few sips.
For the main course my menu (vegetarian) included:
Sweet and Sour bean curd, broccoli and some rice that I paired with the yellow curry that included some seasonal vegetables. It was delicious to every morsel.
As for my friends (non vegetarian), they were treated to Thai Wok Fried Chicken and Indonesian Vegetable Fried Rice with sambal, long bean, sweet corn and spring onion.
The table fell silent for 10 minutes as everyone was way too focused on relishing each bite.
Finally, our waitress brought in the glorious dessert, Sontaya Village which included Crème brûlée, choco-chili, mango sticky rice, coco-banana and sorbet.
There is a reason why even 9 months later, I am yearning for a bite of that Crème brûlée. It was the best I’ve ever had. Rest of the items were tasty too, albeit, overshadowed by the Crème brûlée.
All in all it was one happy ‘drunch’ as we lost count of the number of glasses of wine we had. The wine paired really well with the food so you know you will get a bang for your buck when you visit Sontaya as everything is thought to detail.
St. Regis Pool & Beach Pass:
Saadiyat Beach is where the pristine white sands melt into the blue. By paying an extra AED 100, you get a pool and beach pass which also includes house beverages instead of just soft drinks for brunch (the socially acceptable excuse for day drinking).
With this pass, you can luxuriate in one of the 3 outdoor pools or befriend Hawksbill Turtles that use Saadiyat Beach as their nesting ground. If you get lucky, you might even catch some dolphins playing in the surf along the shore.
However, with personal experience I’d suggest you to be careful while swimming in the sea as my friend got stung by a jellyfish. The lifeguards on duty even said that the jellyfish season was over; it must have been the last one by the shore. So, you can never be too careful. Even if you never step into the sea, the white sands are inviting enough to just lounge on a sun bed. So the pool & beach access along with the choice of house beverages is really worth upgrading for and all the swimming and walking will definitely make you hungry for the appetizing brunch that awaits you.
What I really liked about Sontaya and St. Regis?
Photo Courtesy: St. Regis
Other than the culinary delight that Sontaya is, it is the design that I fell in love with. Maximizing water views at every possible juncture roofed with timber frames, Sontaya as well as the hotel itself is a unique reflection of its location. It epitomizes the idiosyncratic originality of a St. Regis hotel. It seamlessly connects the exterior to the interior with frameless glass that looks out to the sea and the interiors complement the location with a natural palette of creams, blues and golds.
Moreover, I loved how Sontaya is so versatile. The Saturday brunch could be an extravagant date with your partner or a day out with your friends or even a family get together. Other than the brunch, this place is surreal in the evening. The place literally transcends into a captivating, romantic setting and the upscale charm will keep you coming back for more.
Photo Courtesy: St. Regis
How much cash will you have to splash?
AED 230 per person inclusive of soft drinks
AED 330 per person inclusive of house beverages and pool & beach pass (as per availability).
If a Saturday brunch is not your thing (really?), Sontaya offers some more specials:
Lunch with a view
Enjoy a light lunch with a stunning view, a 3 course set menu with a selected aperitif, a glass of wine, water and tea or coffee.
Price: AED 275
Watch the sun fall while enjoying Sontaya’s three-Course sunset menu featuring a refined selection from their signature dishes.
AED 190 per person (food only)
Available daily from 6:00pm – 7:00pm
All prices are subject to 10% Service Charge, 6% Tourism fee and 4% municipality fee | Pool & Beach day passes are subject to availability
Fallen prey to its charming spells? Stay the night at St. Regis, starting at $325
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