With a stable of trendsetting eateries under their belts, including Common Grounds, The Sum of Us, Brunswick, and the eponymous Tom & Serg, Tom Arnel and Serg Lopez have long been the power pair of the Dubai dining scene. So, when Serg announced he was stepping down from parent company Bull & Roo earlier this year, he caused a something of a storm in a latte cup. Now, Serg has reemerged, bringing his hospitality nous to the capital with the opening of Sanderson’s at Al Seef Resort & Spa in Abu Dhabi.
The urban-chic pedigree of Serg’s earlier projects is immediately apparent at Sanderson’s, which is situated in Al Seef’s burgeoning dining hub of The Walk. Leafy vines form a lush canopy at the entranceway, marble and timber tables are topped with pot plants, and the space is filled with Instagram-worthy textures, including whitewashed bricks, piles of cushions, and an eye-popping turquoise banquette.
That sense of vitality translates to the menu, too. Head chef Troy Payne, an alumni of The Sum of Us, has followed Serg to Abu Dhabi to lead the kitchen, and the Australian chef has a knack for creating feel-good food with freshness and integrity. Fruit and vegetables take centre stage in a range of wholesome bowls, salads and mains. That’s not to say animal protein is an afterthought. Indeed, there’s an indulgent lobster Benedict with poached eggs and bearnaise, and sustainable prawns, seabass and bream feature in wraps and pizza, but here vegetables are given equal billing, rather than playing a bit part.
To start, we order a pair of drinks that cry out for a #cleaneating hashtag: a green juice loaded with celery, watercress and apple; and the Miss Mambo, a dessert-worthy smoothie of banana, peanut butter, cashews, dates, frozen coconut and cacao nibs. First up for mains is the stone-roasted prawns with mixed beans and Turkish spoon salad. Served in a pair of nutty, dense, seeded wraps, this is Mexico City by way of Istanbul, where the zesty flavours of the finely diced salad riff off the earthy notes of the beans. Next, we share the soft-shell crab – two crunchy, palm-sized crustaceans in a pistachio gazpacho, with cucumber, coriander, and a gentle lick of chilli. It’s an accomplished, delicious dish that brings together the best of Spanish and Southeast Asian cuisines.
It’s virtually impossible for an Aussie abroad to avoid ordering the pavlova, and so we finish with Troy’s modern take on the classic. The pav itself is perfect: crunchy on the outside, with a chewy, marshmallow-like centre. It’s topped with chantilly cream, berry compote, and wafer-thin curls of green mango that balance the sweetness of the fruit and cream.
We’ve pounced on Sanderson’s in its second day of trading, and where other establishments may be experiencing teething problems so early in the game, here the floor team doesn’t skip a beat. It’s a testament to Serg, his experience and his vision. Abu Dhabi’s gain, indeed.
Sanderson’s, open daily, 8am-10pm, The Walk, Al Seef Resort & Spa,
Abu Dhabi, wearesandersons.com