F&B Focus: Zaya Retreats Nurai Island
How with the concepts reflect the themes of the new Abu Dhabi resort
Carl Stockenstrom, executive assistant manager - culinary, F&B joined the team at Zaya Retreats after spending a year with Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai as executive chef.
At Zaya Retreats, Stockenstrom has helped develop the F&B concepts and menus on the island, which he says will offer healthy cuisine, to reflect the theme of “the island being an escape and retreat”.
Stockenstrom is keen to work with local growers and use seasonal produce in his dishes and menus. “I’m not going to stick to a three-month menu, it will change frequently depending on what’s available. It’s good for the kitchen as well because we can always be creative,” he states.
Menu planning is also an important element of the kitchen team’s job, especially given the island location. The kitchen receives its produce, meat, and dairy twice a week, when a barge carries a refrigerated truck to the island, so Stockenstrom and his team of 33 have to plan every last detail accordingly.
“Planning is key to everything. I always tell my staff that the preparation you do before the restaurant opens determines how successful it will be. So we need to prepare, because we know that if we run out of something, we can’t just run down to the shop and pick up an extra kilo of tomatoes. We need to know who’s coming to the island, when, how much produce we need, when the next delivery is going to be.
“The barge takes 45 minutes to bring a vehicle on board. Generally we have a fresh fruit and veg delivery twice a week. There’s no need to have deliveries every single day because the shelf life of the product is long enough. We can ferry smaller quantities by speedboat.”
The island’s three outlets — Nurai’s Terrace with its Mediterranean cuisine, Deli, which will offer Australian dishes, and a fine dining concept — will have a combined capacity of more than 250 seats, which is a significant number for a 32-key property.
This means the hotel will rely heavily on day visitors to the island, while guests will also be able to order dishes from different venues and locations. He explains: “It won’t be that you go and have one dining experience.
You can order dishes from various restaurants. The overall concept is farm to fork. We won’t have menus of 80 dishes that stay that way,” he comments.
“That relaxation time spent [by day visitors] is going to be very important to us. We will do the bonfire on the beach, house DJs playing in the evenings, there will be a set in the evening by the pool. It will be a very enjoyable late night experience we hope,” Stockenstrom adds.
And while Stockenstrom says traffic has been slow in the summer because “a lot of residents have been away or fitting out their estates”, he is confident the soft opening phase is good preparation for the team once Zaya Retreats begins welcoming visitors.