I won’t lie – me and Matt were a little worried when we were told that we were moving out to Abu Dhabi just a couple of days before Ramadan began. Mainly because we didn’t know what to expect, but in reality, it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as stories make out.
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting. This year, Ramadan began on Thursday 18th June, and will finish on Friday 17th July. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, with no food or drink at all (along with no smoking).
Tourists and expats like ourselves are required to follow the same protocols, as it’s actually illegal to eat/drink/smoke in public during the Holy month. We are of course able to eat and drink in the privacy of our own apartment – and there are curtained off areas within the hotel where we are able to eat breakfast/dinner out of sight. It’s really strange to walk around the many malls here in Abu Dhabi with every single food and drink outlet closed until sunset. Imagine your local shopping centre, and the food courts and Starbucks/Costa etc all, well, closed! At first, it was strange to see, but as the days go on, we seem to just be getting used to it.
When the sun does finally set (which is around 7:10pm at the moment) everybody gathers in various places for Iftar. Iftar literally translates to ‘breakfast’ and is the evening meal where the fast is broken, just after prayer. Every single hotel and restaurant are putting on Iftar events, and so we thought we would head to The St. Regis on Saadiyat Island to give our first one a go…
Just driving up to the
palace place in the taxi was breathtaking. We’d passed The St. Regis on a previous trip to Abu Dhabi, and I’d done a little research before heading there for Iftar, but it was truly stunning. Me and Matt arrived a little before sunset, and so we took a walk around the grounds to have a look around.
With multiple pools and it’s own private beach, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful spot to watch the sun go down – and so that’s what we did. Walking through the gardens, all staff offered a polite ‘Hello’ as we passed, and pro-actively asked whether we needed assistance as we waited for the rest of the party to join us.
After the sun had set, and prayer had taken place, we were ready to head to Olea Restaurant in The St. Regis for Iftar. Neither me or Matt really knew what to expect, but the staff were extremely helpful when seating us, explaining the different food ‘stations’ and what we could expect to see at each.
To Begin With…
…There were salads & breads with an abundance of cold meats and legumes to go alongside. I went for a little bit of most things; couscous, chickpeas, spinach, olives, roasted lamb & pitta bread with dips (plus a few other bits). Though I did avoid the lamb brain salad, I made sure I attempted a few things that I wouldn’t normally choose.
There were traditional ‘Ramadan juices’ available, but unfortunately I completely forgot to give any of them a go (a #TiffyToDo for the next Iftar I go to).
Service was fabulous, our waiter offering us special drinks alongside what was already available – and though we went for water in the end, I feel that anything we required would have been available immediately. Our plates were cleared quickly by various staff, and everyone was extremely polite.
…Were the masses of hot food available on 4 different stations. We were told by our server that the first two were more traditional foods, and the others more continental styles. Meat & fish as far as the eye could see, all freshly cooked in front of you and added to the buffet for us to select. I went for a variety once again; chicken pieces, mixed kofta’s, roasted vegetables, lamb curry with a beautiful seasoned cashew rice. There were so many things to choose from, we didn’t touch half of it (an even better reason to head back again me thinks) but everything we did have tasted absolutely incredible, so full of flavour and a quality you very rarely see for a ‘buffet’ type event.
The family feel to the Iftar made it great for the company we were with. A group of colleagues who hadn’t really met before, just in passing at the hotel. We were all chatting and getting to know each other, discussing our first week here in Abu Dhabi and laughing together throughout the evening.
The Best Bit..
…Of course, are the desserts. And they definitely didn’t disappoint. A massive selection, some known to us, some completely alien – but we plated up a selection and headed back to the table.
I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone, so I tried a couple of things I’d never even seen before – let alone eaten – and I was pleasantly surprised! I’ll definitely be delving in a bit deeper next time and trying some more traditional desserts, but everything that we did have this time round was absolutely spectacular. I think Matt actually said ‘I think I could cry’ when taking a bite of the pecan pie…a seal of approval me thinks!
Traditional dates were of course on offer in abundance, and were absolutely lovely. There was also a cheese station that we didn’t even manage to touch… (again, next time!!)
The conversation carried on well passed the eating, and we were offered tea/coffee once the servers were sure we’d all finished.
All In All…
Our first experience of Iftar was absolutely fabulous. The service, the quality (and quantity!!) of foods available, and the incredibly beautiful surroundings. Every member of staff we passed in The St. Regis was polite and helpful, and me and Matt have already mentioned that it’s a place we’d like to visit often, as we came across a beautiful little beach bar ‘Turquioz’ – which looks like the perfect place to watch a sunset with a cocktail or two (after Ramadan of course).
To book in for Iftar at St. Regis, Saadiyat Island, call +971 2 4988443
We’ve created a bit of a bucket list of Iftar’s that we’d like to attend, and so hopefully you’ll see reviews from the following soon:
– Origins @ Yas Viceroy
– The Latest Recipe @ Le Meridien
– The Pavilion @ Emirates Palace
It’s a very exciting time to be here in Abu Dhabi, and we are really enjoying the start of our new life here 🙂