Azura

An outdoor area on the third floor overlooking a pool might not be the first place you'd think of when looking for a restaurant, but make the effort at St Regis Abu Dhabi Nation Towers because you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Getting to the diner is a little convoluted — on the third floor, through the pool area and up a large flight of stairs. Once we get there though, it's worth it. The breathtaking views of the Corniche, the Abu Dhabi skyline and Marina Mall across the water, the light breeze that dances across the restaurant and the low-lit tables among the plants combine to set an ambience rarely matched in the capital. The restaurant is divided into two sections: one side has low-set couches and the other side offers dining tables with chairs. We opt for the latter while we eat, with a view to moving to the couches after dinner. The staff are quick to our table to offer us drinks and menus, and we sit back and enjoy the view. While the lighting is romantic and low, it's almost too dark to read our menus, which is something of an issue. We are surprised with the pleasant temperature — the restaurant's roof seems to have been designed to maximise the breeze. Many happy diners are sitting on the couches enjoying shisha and the views — most have opted for the couches rather than the tables. The menu starts with appetisers — all Middle Eastern style with halloumi, falafel, hummus and various mezze. There are sandwiches and seafood dishes as well as an impressive selection of salads. We agonise over the mains before deciding to order a range of mezze to share, so we can try a variety of dishes. After a short wait, the food is served. The servings are small but probably just the right size given the number we have ordered. The falafel is cooked to perfection, crispy on the outside and moist and flavoursome on the inside — and we dip the falafel into the hummus which is creamy and enjoyable. The jarjeer salad is a mix of leafy greens, feta cheese, tomato, radishes and olives. It's a large serving size, which we appreciate. The dressing is slightly acidic, but the leafy greens balance it out and it tastes fresh and hearty. The tabbouleh, while decent, is nothing spectacular — the other dishes outshine it. It's good, but lacks the lightness that our favourite tabbouleh always has. The rakakat (pastry rolls filled with a light cheese) are crunchy, and the cheese is fluffy and delicious — we love the size and flavour of them. The dish comes with a mint dressing which works well, despite sounding unusual. The service is impeccable throughout, though as our meal comes to a close Azura begins to fill up with people and the service gets a little less attentive — we appreciate that the staff don't make us feel the need to move on (even after two hours) but it takes a bit of time to flag a staff member to get our bill. Overall, the food is good, but the setting is where this place really shines — it is worth stopping here even if it's just for shisha or a casual coffee before summer heat sets in. The bill (for two) Falafel Dhs40 Hummus Dhs40 Rakakat Dhs40 Tabbouleh Dhs50 Grilled halloumi Dhs40 Jarjeer salad Dhs65 Total (excluding service) Dhs275

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