As dining out resumes in Abu Dhabi, David Tapley tucks into the prime cuts at Butcher & Still, the 1920s Chicago steakhouse at the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences with the world gripped by a global pandemic. While we’re rightfully fed up with hearing phrases such as “unprecedented times” there is little doubt that these descriptors accurately summarise the current situation we find ourselves living in.
After a two-month hiatus the hospitality industry in the UAE capital is once again open for business, so armed with our masks and gloves and following all government precautions we ventured out for an early dinner to experience “the new normal.”
Butcher and Still represents a unique entity in a city that is bursting with restaurant options. The popular steakhouse has built its reputation on charismatic service, premium ingredients, and the ability to enamour guests from the moment they enter. Much of the restaurant’s charm derives from how guests are transported into another era as soon as they cross the threshold, making them immediately forget they’re in Abu Dhabi.
Things are no different in a post-COVID world and the restaurant remains largely unchanged except for the social distancing stickers on the floor, which indicate that a distance of two meters must be maintained at all times. Hand sanitisers stand at the ready and the Butcher & Still team are fully kitted out in protective masks and gloves. It’s an unusual feeling but one that soon passes.
With reduced capacity meaning that only 30 per cent of the restaurant space can be occupied at one time and no more than four guests can be seated at a table, dining has been restricted to just three hours per visit. Thankfully this is more than enough time to sink our teeth into some sumptuous steaks and signature dishes.
Presenting a modern interpretation of the 1920s prohibition-era Chicago steakhouse, Butcher and Still is precisely what you’d expect from a haven to all things meat. An abundance of dark wood, retro-inspired decor and distressed leather banquettes, make for an intimate and inviting venue. Yet it’s the small touches, such as the bullet casings embedded into the grout in the bathroom stalls or the meat cleavers included in the cutlery that add character and lasting appeal to this specific steakhouse.
We begin in the bar, which offers impressive views across the water to the sparkling lights of downtown Abu Dhabi and is an ideal spot for sundowners. Even on a sleepy Sunday evening, a notoriously quiet night on the Abu Dhabi dining scene, Butcher & Still is buzzing with the after-work crowd.
A concise menu focusing on quality cuts is the main draw and although the à la carte pricing is as expected, there are several promotions to entice those in search of value for money. All meals at Butcher & Still begin with a loaf of warm truffle bread that is as moreish and addictive as it sounds and leads the way for the appetisers. The selection comprises of several reinterpreted steakhouse classics, such as Prime Angus Steak Tartare and U-6 Gulf Prawns Cocktail. Under the guidance of the charismatic Chef Marshall Roth, we are enticed into trying the 99% Lump Crab Cake and the Bone Marrow, both of which transpire to be winning dishes. The crab cake comprises an abundance of crab meat and is not bulked out with the usual potato. Instead, the delicate and flavoursome crab is bound together with scallop, Remoulade sauce and lemon. The bone marrow is soft, rich and quite literally melts in the mouth.
Butcher & Still’s main course selection revolves around steaks, chops and some signature dishes but we can’t help but be drawn to some of the more obscure choices. The Ice Burger offers a beautifully cooked patty of duck fat house-ground beef accompanied by shoestring fries. Still, as the name suggests, the bun has been replaced with chunks of iceberg lettuce which is both unique and visually appealing. The Bone-In New York Strip proves to be an excellent cut that is full flavoured, tender and moist, especially when cooked at our preferred medium-rare temperature. The prime cut is generously portioned at a weight of 550g and marks another advantage of dining at Butcher & Still, where the dishes are designed to be shared and appreciated.
Desserts were probably not required on this occasion. Still, we couldn’t resist the all-American choices such as the Cherry Pie La Mode and the Tribune Tower which has been classified as a ‘master dish’ by the Four Seasons brand. An impressive dessert comprising of 34 layers of chocolate cake and ganache that is inspired by the iconic Tribune Tower (Chicago’s tallest skyscraper in the 1920’s). The cherry pie is a fruity delight and provides a real taste of Americana, using both fresh and canned cherries to give an undulating texture and a sweetness that is so hard to replicate.
Even with mouths covered by masks and gloves making silver service tricky, the front of house team were outstanding and have adapted admirably to the new dining guidelines. Service is knowledgeable, friendly and engaging and each time we dine, it feels like we’ve returned home.
Butcher & Still remains consistent and sets the bar for steakhouses in Abu Dhabi. The restaurant continues to impress on repeat visits and stands out as the leader of the pack in a repertoire of reliable food and beverage offerings at the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island. No easy feat considering the hotel is also home to upmarket Italian eatery Cafe Milano, stylish pool bar Eclipse and sophisticated lounge Zsa Zsa. ✤