Simply put, L’ETO is serious about good food. But scratch just below the contemporary, cool interior, and head chef Carmen Landsberg adds another dimension to the London-born eatery now occupying a prestigious spot at The Galleria.
The obvious influences you can probably guess. Small town and plenty of time at home, equals shadowing mum in the kitchen and helping make family meals from scratch from a young age.
However, pivotal moments as a young adult – experiences she had never been fortunate enough to have before – truly inspired and shaped the way she cooks today.
A particularly inspiring moment for the South African was during a trip to the UK.
“I had an amazing opportunity to eat at one of the top 20 restaurants in England,” she explains. “Not coming from a very fortunate background, this was a highlight. The experience was so amazing it brought me to tears. But it was also magical. It was the moment I made the decision that this was how I wanted people to feel after they ate my food.
“I had been in a kitchen filled with love from the age of 10, helping mum make the basics and trying creations of my own, but this was different. The food, drinks and service was the best I had ever experienced. The way the chefs moved, communicated and the structure and flow of the evening was so captivating. It was a moment I would never forget.”
Having been in Dubai for just over three years, Landsberg is now making waves of her own in Abu Dhabi.
A further expansion for the restaurant outside of London, L’ETO is a unique dining destination at The Galleria Al Maryah Island. Serving the most delicious cakes, pastries, breads, healthy salads, mains and of course, great coffee, it’s an all-day dining café and restaurant for those who are discerning about what they consume.
Having opened the doors of the first branch in Soho, London, in February 2011, L’ETO has blossomed and now has five locations in London, two in Dubai and now, a flagship branch in Abu Dhabi.
L’ETO is an exceptionally popular addition to The Dining Collection, further confirming The Galleria’s position as a culinary hub in Abu Dhabi, boasting an already impressive portfolio of luxury restaurants and cafés.
Landsberg completed an intense training programme at the Valley of a Thousand Hills Chef School in Durban, South Africa, and remembers the all-consuming late nights and very early mornings.
“They eventually shaped me for a tough industry,” she says. “It was hard being away from home and family but coming into a career like this, you have to learn to be pretty independent, really fast. With hindsight it helps you harden up for a fast-paced life ahead. There were extremely early mornings followed by late, late nights. But I have many fond memories.”
Inspired by cookbooks and biographies of famous chefs, Landsberg is a fan of many and believes in education over ego. “Learning from the best is the most intelligent way,” she says.
“I enjoy reading classic cookbooks and searching on social media to see what pops up. You find gems in hidden places. I love “no name” cookbooks from chefs you’ve never heard of. You find them in the corner of the library that no one thinks to look at. They hold magic most people will miss.”
Other favourite books for Landsberg include the famed dining encyclopedia The Larousse Gastronomique, anything by Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal’s Further Adventures in Search of Perfection.
The recommendations come with a small caveat. “Heston’s aren’t really practical for home cooking, but are really interesting to read and learn from for chefs at a slightly more advanced level – in my opinion,” she laughs. “But Mr Oliver is just perfect for a good home cooking experience. I like his more advanced books and when I was younger I learnt a great deal from the pages of these treasures.”
Landsberg admits to being strict in her kitchen. “My one rule is to keep things simple but make it tasty. Don’t over complicate things,” she says. “Forget the fancy gadgets and expensive machines, my favourite piece of kitchen equipment is my trusty tasting spoon. I’m not sure there’s anything more important if you truly care about what your food tastes like.”
Succulent and spectacular dishes from around the world, such as teriyaki salmon, roasted rosemary turkey, or honey roasted pumpkin and kale line the main section of a varied menu at L’ETO, using the freshest of ingredients. But the entire menu is something special.
“Our breakfasts are really popular, and I have tried not to change too much of the taste on these as I firmly believe they are good as is,” Landsberg says. “Why change something that works?
“A dish I can take credit for, which is new on the menu and very popular, I’m happy to report, is our California burger. I got the inspiration from our California breakfast, which was also a favourite. It’s a well-balanced and seasoned patty with avocado, pico and two cheeses.”
While much has changed over the last seven years, the core L’ETO philosophy remains the same. Its outstanding cuisine is achieved by, “blending the heart and mind of nutritious and healthy dining, complemented by a palatable variety of desserts that few mortals can resist,” explains owner and founder Artem Login.
Whether feasting your eyes on the enticing cake display, enjoying Antipodean coffee, sampling an unbeatable breakfast or indulging in a full three-course meal, Landsberg and her entire team urge you to, and we quote, “count the memories, not the calories!”