It’s 9pm and Luca Paltinieri Executive Chef of Felini, the signature restaurant at Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island, is teaching me a valuable lesson about Lambrusco in Abu Dhabi. “The bubbles disappear the minute the wine crosses the Italian border. Better you should drink Barolo.”
Luca is almost a one man show, but there is no doubting his culinary skills are just as impressive as his vocal talents. A plate of antipasti with taleggio, peccorino and gorgonzola dolce cheeses with asparagus, pumpkin and mint salad and rolled bresaola with ricotta is just the first round, followed by a trio of perfect pasta; linguine carbonara, Beef tortellini in porcini sauce and potato ravioli with gorgonzola and sage.
Then, a fitting headline dish, prime fillet with a balsamic sauce and sautéed spinach and a couple of desserts; a delicious fresh pineapple covered with a fresh orange and mint sauce and a chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream.
It was a sensational meal served up with love and passion as only an Italian can.
The Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island is remarkable on a number of levels. It resides on a totally man-made island next to a very impressive 18 hole Yas Links golf course in the middle of the Arabian Gulf for starters. It’s practically opposite Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 race circuit and a hop and a skip from Yas Mall. Its three restaurants, The Belgian Beer Cafe, Assymetri the all day buffet restaurant and the aforementioned Felini are all equally joyous places to find excellent food and its pool complex is a triumph. I’m particularly fond of the shady cabanas with their comfy loungers and being able to lower the billowing drapes for an afternoon nap. There is well stocked gym for burning off the restaurant calories and an excellent spa for pampering your ying and yang into perfect harmony using treatments from aromatherapy to neurocosmetics.
Of course there are some added bonuses if you elect for a spacious business class room; furnished balconies, a golf course or Gulf view and the use of the top floor business class lounge with its happy hour free drinks between 6pm and 8pm and those glorious Arabian Gulf sunsets.
Yas Island has been purpose built for tourism so I’m not expecting to find any historical and cultural hotspots here; those are in Abu Dhabi itself some 25 minutes away by car with Dubai perhaps 90 minutes. What I do find though is Ferrari World, the biggest indoor theme park in the world and in the Formula Rossa the world’s fastest roller-coaster, 240 k an hour in 5 seconds. Waterworld, another adrenaline filled park of water chutes and slides and not much further away, the huge Yas Mall with every retailer known to man. There are a couple of beaches if you yearn for the feel of sand between your toes, the hotel provides a free ticket for a chair and parasol at one of them; Yas Beach. But personally I wouldn’t bother, the hotel pool complex is a lot better.
I spend a day sampling Yas Island’s tourist haunts and actually breathe a sigh of relief as I get back to the peace and tranquillity of the hotel.
The morning after Luca’s Lambrusco lesson I’m having breakfast in Assymetri and finding it difficult to choose a table outside or eat in. Rose, a lovely waitress who hasn’t stopped smiling since I arrived, makes up my mind for me.
“Outside, there’s a gentle breeze, and its quieter.”
Out I go then.
This is an excellent buffet. There’s a whole section for fruit and dairy products, another for bread and another for meats while all the hot choices are by the brigade counter where chefs are on hand to make fresh orders and replenish the hot items.
A double shot latte magically appears on my table before I ask. “I remembered from yesterday, you like your coffee strong.” Says Rose, still smiling, and now so am I. We chat for a bit, Rose telling me about her home in Zimbabwe while I go through the science of my golf swing which I’m about to use on the Yas Links. Rose manages to look very interested and then very professionally finds an excuse to escape.
After the exertions of a blistering round of golf and some more exploration of the pool cabana, I find myself up on the Business Lounge outdoor terrace for a free glass or two of red wine and few canapés.
I’ve decided to go for dinner tonight in Radisson’s adjoining sister property, The Park Inn. Amerigos is full on Mexican fare, guacamole and fajitas and everything else.
“Do you have any Mexican beer? ” I ask my server.
“I don’t I’m afraid, but I can make it Mexican.”
“err how do you do that then”
“Put a wedge of lime on the glass rim with some salt.”
There are highlights, the tuna ceviche is delicious as is the guacamole, but this is an altogether different experience from Lucky Luca’s Felini and perhaps better enjoyed with a big crowd of friends.
After dark, the Radisson pool area transforms into a shisha club complete with low lighting and soft music. A gentleman arrives with a selection of hookahs and a menu of flavours and in no time the tables are full with much vaping and discussion.
I’ve really enjoyed spending a few days at the Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island. It’s offered everything you would expect from a luxury resort hotel without the need for any formality or pretentious posturing. My only cautionary note is Yas Island is not somewhere to base yourself if you want to sample the sights and sounds of Abu Dhabi unlike the Radisson Blu Deira Creek in Dubai, but if you just want a few days of fun and sun and maybe the odd Grand Prix it is perfect.
Just make sure you don’t order any Prosecco when Luca is in earshot!
Falini and pool images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about the Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island
Summer season Business Class room rates are from AED 585 (without surcharges). Yas Island Family Summer all-inclusive package on offer here: http://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-abudhabi/hotel-deals/yas-island
Golf Plaza, Yas Island
P.O. Box 93725
United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 2 656 2000
Airport parking at Heathrow
UK Airport car parking: I Love meet and greet offers valet parking at Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow airports. Costs vary throughout the year with a week’s parking at Gatwick starting from £78. Book atwww.ilovemeetandgreet.co.uk