A long-standing favourite in Abu Dhabi, this popular eatery still hums with diners every evening and weekend – a testament to the consistency of its Portuguese food and, it must be admitted, the distinctly un-Iberian Indian section and ever-popular pizzas.
Indeed, there’s a chance most diners don’t venture too far from this section of the menu, fired as the pizzas are to crispy perfection and piled high with fresh ingredients. The Vasco’s special comes complete with bresaola, sliced tomatoes and tomato sauce topped with fresh rocket leaves. The flavour warrants the description.
Diners ready to go Portuguese can select from the seafood cataplana, a house speciality inspired by the traditional Algarve recipe featuring fresh fish simmering in a stew of seafood and vegetables, cooked in a copper casserole. The variety of cataplana preparations is reflected in your choice of mussels and clams, prawns or cod, which is the preferred fish in Portugal. Our advice: go with the latter, the meatier fish works better with the assortment of flavours.
The meat options are up to par, too. The Wagyu Beef Burger features a 200-gram pattie made from full-blood Wagyu beef served in a toasted sesame bun with caramelised onions, French fries and a truffle mayonnaise that manages to offer enough of its earthy flavour withour overpowering the whole. Another recommended dish is the veal escalope, cooked simply but masterfully in herb butter and served with seasonal vegetables and boiled potatoes. This is a classically Portuguese dish which regular visitors to the country will have seen on most menus there, and rendered faithfully here without any undue flourish.
Another reason diners come here is for the setting. Inside, it’s cosy and rustic, trattoria style with lots of maritime-themed décor and house plants. However it’s the outside area that really draws the crowds. It’s an appealing setting on a little wooden deck with the gardens of the Hilton Abu Dhabi Hotel in the foreground and the sea lapping the shores a hundred yards behind. There are even pets – a small troupe of resident ducks who waddle up to the fence and quack pleadingly for pizza crusts before continuing on their way. At the right time of year, watch out for ducklings in tow.
Ultimately, this is an established restaurant that has become many people’s default dining option in Abu Dhabi. And we mean that as a compliment.
Three dishes to try:
Herb-marinated beef carpaccio
Light, refreshing and succulent dish of beef tenderloin, olive oil and a splash of truffle oil. Should leave you room for what follows.
It’s too easy to recommend the pizza here so we’ll suggest this meaty slab of fish which is served with fluffy potatoes and a mango salsa. Ideal for the warmer weather.
Indulgent dessert that combines chocolate ice cream, hot fudge sauce and brownie bits. Come on, you’re not ordering anything else, are you?