As a young boy growing up in Manila, I’ve always associated Switzerland with milk.
Much of that had to do with a popular ad of an imported milk brand playing on repeat on TV and radio, day and night.
Later on, my impression shifted from simple dairy drinks to something more enticing: chocolate! I remember excitedly bringing home Swiss-made chocolates courtesy of friends who have parents or relatives working overseas.
But Swiss food is more than just chocolates, and hoping to share the many flavours of Switzerland with Abu Dhabi food lovers is the Lausanne-based restaurant, Manuel, located on the ground floor of Marina Mall.
Blending elements of Western aesthetics with Arabic flare, the café features mahogany flooring with soft cushioned chairs and a gold façade adding a luxurious feel to the ambiance.
And as we find out, as much as Swiss cuisine is famous for its chocolates, the country likewise boasts rich culinary influences from neighbouring France, Germany and Italy.
The country’s love for vegetables is evident in the way it integrates root crops in the dishes, something that Manuel incorporates in its own menu. Dishes include egg variations and pastries for breakfast as well as soups, pasta, seafood and meat dishes.
The creamy burrata is a pleasant ball of cheese surrounded by heirloom tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. The basil pesto is a welcome addition as it gives the dish a tasty, salty kick – I highly recommend this starter.
The wagyu beef cheek is deliciously tender. Paired with mashed potato, glazed carrots and tarragon, it perfectly balances the savoury flavour without overpowering the soft meat.
Appealing both visually and in taste, the black cod comes with rösti potatoes mixed with stewed fava bean fricassee and truffled watercress, adding a slight bitter taste.
For those who have a sweet tooth, you’ll be delighted to know that there are a variety of sweet treats to choose from, including, in true Swiss fashion, plenty of chocolate-based desserts.
Try the so-called Artisan, a colourful medley of chocolate fondant, fresh berries and popcorn ice cream. It’s a great end to the meal paired with a hot coffee.
With a unique selection of dishes and ingredients, Manuel proves that there’s more to Swiss cuisine than chocolate.
Location: Manuel, Marina Mall, Ras Al Akhdar
We say: Sample a new cuisine in a cosy ambiance
Cost: AED 416 for two
Opening times: Daily 9am-11pm
Contact: 02 633 3383, manueluae.com
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez