Best brunch for five-star food, impressing visitors and more ...
Time Out Dubai staff
We all have our favourites. The ones we swear by, the first one you ever went to or the one where you have to take every visitor, whether they’re interested in stuffing their face or not (because you like the pudding). But how about changing it up a little? Dubai’s fit to burst with brunch options, so we’ve done some digging, and undertaken a lot of eating, to uncover the city's finest, suitable for a range of occasions.
Perfect for ... five-star food Spectrum on One Variety of food: Split between different kitchens, the spread covers Japanese, Asian, European, seafood and an enormous pudding section. Oh, and did we mention the port and cheese room? Best dish: For Sunday roast lovers, the hotel’s Yorkshire puds are hard to beat – a rarity in themselves in the desert. Quality of food: Although Spectrum weighs in at the more costly end, the quality of the food is exceptional and the range on offer can be dazzling for those who haven’t been before. Layout/presentation: Spectrum’s a large restaurant but because the tables and kitchens are essentially in different rooms, you aren’t overwhelmed. You might have a problem remembering where the melt-in-the-mouth dim sum are, but you’re not faced with wall-to-wall dishes. As to be expected at this price, food is delicately arranged and stunningly presented. Atmosphere: When it’s busy, it’s really busy, when it’s half empty it’s much better. More refined than the mega brunches of Al Qasr or Saffron, it works better for smaller groups or couples rather than rowdy birthdays.
Setting: Unfortunately, there’s no al fresco area (although there is an in-house cigar bar where you can smoke). Value for money: For a special occasion or for impressing visitors, the cost is worth it. Entertainment: There’s no laid on entertainment. Because of this, families with small children tend to be few on the ground (leaving you to raid the pick n’ mix guilt free). Service: Amazing service. Glasses topped up continually, plates cleared and chairs pulled out every time you make a dash for just one more bit of cheesecake.
Dhs295 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs395 (with selected house beverages); Dhs550 (with bubbly). Fri noon-3pm. The Fairmont, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
Perfect for ... impressing visitors Al Qasr Variety of food: There aren’t many other brunches where staff hand out maps to guests as they arrive, but there aren’t many brunches as huge as Al Qasr. As such, the food options are seemingly limitless – from tapas to wagyu burgers, baked beans to brioche, Sunday roast to sushi. Best dish: The wagyu burgers barbecued right before your eyes.
Quality of food: The quality of the food is, on the whole, quite excellent. This said, the sheer quantity of dishes on offer does mean that some are considerably better than others.
Layout/presentation: As you’d expect from a brunch where a map is issued, the layout is labyrinthine, so don’t be alarmed if your dining companion goes missing for lengthy periods of time – they’re safe, and most likely eating their way back to you. Atmosphere: The Al Qasr brunch is very ‘Dubai’ in the sense it’s big, brash and over-the-top. On the surface, this is a very sophisticated affair, though at the end it’s littered with the usual brunch casualties. Setting: The outdoor terrace is a magnificent place to take in views of the Madinat’s canals and the Burj Al Arab in the distance. Value for money: As we’ve already established – it isn’t cheap. However, all things considered, it’s worth every last dirham. Entertainment: There’s something about brunches and jazz music – the music genre is omnipresent at so many of Dubai’s all-you-can-eat events.
Al Qasr is no different – there’s a jazz singer, who ups the tempo as the afternoon wears on. Service: The downside of Al Qasr’s size means that service, at times, can lapse into the inattentive.
Dhs395 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs495 (with premium house beverages); Dhs220 for kids 5-12 years. Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah
(04 366 6730).
Perfect for ... keeping kids amused Farriers Variety of food: More cuisines than you can swing a jockey’s whip at – from Asian to Italian to European fare, and the occasional themed brunch. Best dish: Tricky one, this. The sumptuous seafood counter, with crayfish, lobster, mussels and prawns is a must, but leave plenty of space for the tender roast beef striploin carved like butter before your eyes. Quality of food: Fresh, tasty and well-prepared, many dishes are cooked in front of you (the sizzling fish and chips is a perfect example) so there’s not too much lukewarm grub languishing in the displays. Layout/presentation: A gargantuan affair, a horse would come in handy just to get round this food fest. The kids’ section is out of the way (not necessarily a bad thing if you want to avoid being stabbed by an inflatable sword) but it is possible that mum finds herself scoffing solo while dad is on parenting duty. Atmosphere: A great option for large families or groups of friends with kids, Farriers is lively without being rowdy, pleasantly posh without being pretentious.
Setting: The airy inside seating areas make you feel like you’re almost on the racecourse, but opt for a terrace table in the cooler months to be closer to the green. Value for money: On the pricey side, but if you’re a large family, then the ‘kids under 13 eat free’ policy will make it kinder on
your pocket. Entertainment: Plenty on offer for the little people, with a bouncy castle, face painting, T-shirt painting, a balloon bender, video games and movies. Service: Spot on. An ample supply of waiting staff whip away dirty plates before you can say ‘seconds please’.
Dhs295 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs495 (with bubbly). Fri 12:30pm-4pm. Meydan racecourse (04 381 3111).
Perfect for... plenty of people Saffron Variety of food: The Atlantis hotel isn’t renowned for understatement, which explains why this brunch at Saffron is jam-packed with international offerings (in spite of the restaurant’s loose Oriental theme). There’s curry, dim sum, sushi, Sunday roasts, plus an extremely generous drinks selection.
Best dish: At a push, we’d choose the Indian dishes, though it’s definitely worth stopping by the dim sum counter. Quality of food: Considering the relatively affordable price of this brunch, the quality of the food is pretty good. We’re not saying it’s the best you’ll find in Dubai, but you won’t regret parting with Dhs325 for the well-prepared and plentiful fare available here. Layout/presentation: Food stations line the sprawling dining room, which is great for big groups. Despite the size of the place, it’s relatively easy to get the attention of the staff since there are so many posted around the venue.
Atmosphere: It’s a rowdy, casual affair at Saffron, which is just as popular with families as it is young singletons. Setting: The garish red dining room is a remnant of Dubai’s more brash, less tasteful past, which in many respects makes it all the more fun.
Value for money: Possibly the best value for money brunch around – especially when you consider the food and drink options. Perfect for leaving parties, big birthdays, rambunctious families and those ever present singletons. Entertainment: There’s a DJ pumping out disco classics, as well as a painting corner for tots (and tipsy adults). Service: Rushed, but polite nonetheless.
Dhs395 per person (with unlimited house drinks). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah
(04 426 2626).
Perfect for ... end of the month McGettigan’s Variety of food: The amount of dishes on the menu is reasonable and represents traditional British and Irish bar meal fare, but diners are restricted to just one plateful.
Best dish: The Irish breakfasts, with sausages and bacon aplenty, are doled out by the armful. Quality of food: Top-drawer pub food. Burgers are juicy and thick, the Irish stew filling and tasty, and breakfasts are cooked
to perfection. Layout/presentation: Food is served to order and drinks are brought to your table. Atmosphere: Traditional lively pub feel. McGettigan’s is a popular starting point for Friday drinkers lining their stomachs. Setting: Brunches are served indoors in the Irish pub, which is surprisingly well laid-out and aesthetic (i.e. non-Irish). Value for money: Food-wise, the single serving is among the worst value of all the Friday brunches. The value comes in the drinks. Three drinks of beer, spirits or wine and a good plate of food easily justify your Dhs99. Entertainment: A live singer/guitarist belts out '90s rock hits and might even take requests. Service: Waiters bring out your dish promptly and are always on hand to top up your glass.
Dhs99 per person (with three house drinks). Fri noon-6pm. The Bonnington Hotel, Jumeirah Lake Towers (04 356 0600).
Perfect for ... cheesy music Warehouse Variety of food: More like bistro pub grub than award-winning cuisine, set-menu dishes include everything from mango salad and oysters to start, to fried rice and cod and chips for mains. Courses are unlimited and can be mixed, matched and ordered at different times, depending on what you are in the mood for. Best dish: Opt for the prawns to start, though you only get two, they are big and meaty and you can order more when you’ve finished.
Quality of food: Not great, the emphasis here is on drinking
not eating. Layout/presentation: There are three floors and a patio area from which to enjoy your brunch. We were seated on the second floor (the most raucous of them all) next to the DJ booth and the dance floor. There is a bar towards each end of the room and the curtains are drawn to make it more of a club atmosphere. Atmosphere: This is a party brunch, no doubt about it. There are stag and hen dos, people standing up rather than sitting around their tables, smoking over their neighbours’ food, and dancing between courses. Then later in the brunch people focus on the drinks and get louder. Setting: If you sit outside it has a pleasant pub garden feel about it.
Value for money: Great value for money if you treat it as a liquid brunch, however, if you’re coming solely for the food you’ll not get your money’s worth. Entertainment: A DJ playing tacky hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s and noughties. Service: Service is great, the waitresses are very attentive and very patient when dealing with their lively guests.
Dhs299 per person (with unlimited selected drinks including mojitos). Fri 1pm-4pm, Warehouse, Le Meridien, Garhoud (04 217 0000).
Perfect for ... full on excess Bubbalicious Variety of food: It’s not just a room filled with food, it’s corridors filled with food! Spread across three restaurants, there’s meaty treats in Hunters Room & Grill steakhouse, international fare at Blue Orange, and South-East Asian delights at The
Spice Emporium. Best dish: The pies at Hunters are all crumbly pastry on top and deliciously succulent and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside.
Quality of food: Nothing tastes like it’s been left outside for too long and while most brunches that focus on quantity end up compromising in quality, Westin’s Bubbalicious is the exception. Layout/presentation: Laid across three different restaurants, the buffet is really quite impressive. Feeling like a kid in a candy store, every which way you glance there are goodies for you to pile on. It might seem a pain to keep walking the corridor for seconds and thirds, but persevere. Atmosphere: There are live cooking and drink stations along the buffet path too, which gives it an almost carnival atmosphere, especially when you see little kids running about. Viva la Bubbalicious! Setting: The al fresco area, close to the beach, is the best place to brunch if you really want to experience ‘Dubai’, but if you’re all about being in air-conditioned comfort, you won’t be disappointed by the elegantly designed indoor venues.
Value for money: While it may well be one of the pricier brunches in town, it’s worth every dirham. Definitely one for many special occasions. Entertainment: A live soul/jazz band plays while you eat inside and Chinese acrobats twist and turn outside. Kids are spoilt with a petting zoo, indoor cinema, face painting, bouncy castle and even a video games room. Service: Fast and friendly. Drinks are topped up and plates cleared with well-oiled efficiency.
Dhs350 (soft drinks only); Dhs490 (with premium beverages); Dhs190 for kids 6-12 years. Fri 1pm-4pm. The Westin, Al Sufouh Road, Jumeirah (04 511 7136).
Perfect for ... a touch of the exotic Nobu Variety of food: It’s a no-brainer that Nobu serves Japanese food (with Peruvian characteristics) – edamame, slippery hijiki inaniwa noodles, wonderful crab tacos (which feature spicy wasabi tempered by sweet crab meat and sour cream), yellow-tail jalapeno sashimi, salmon sashimi, black cod and wagyu beef. Best dish: Crab tacos – just for the sheer inventiveness (and
taste, obviously). Quality of food: Needless to say, the quality of the sushi and seafood at Nobu is second to none. However, we were left disappointed by the beef and teriyaki options which followed. Layout/presentation: Since the brunch is a la carte, guests needn’t worry about navigating buffet stations for their meal dishes and drinks are brought directly to the table. Atmosphere: The combination of (relatively) high prices and the out-of-the-way location (The Palm is a long way to go to fork out Dhs400+) renders Nobu one of the quieter brunches around town, meaning that the sizeable venue can, at times, feel rather empty.
Setting: Nobu’s location is certainly more conducive to evening-time dining, which gives the brunch a bit of an off feel – the place loses some of its slickness in daylight. Value for money: The brunch is a pretty penny, but for fans of sushi and fine bubbly, it’s worth checking out. However, it’s not necessarily a brunch you’d keep going back to. Entertainment: Other than the food and lashings of bubbly, unlike others, there’s little in way of live entertainment. Service: Attentive and knowledgeable – no complaints here.
Dhs320 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs490 (with bubbly and selected house beverages). Fri noon-4pm. Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Perfect for ... a meal with a view Bateaux Dubai Variety of food: This brunch cruise caters to lovers of buffets as well as a la carte aficionados – the starters and desserts are laid out before you, while you order the main (as many as you like, we must add) from the menu. Starters are heavy on seafood, desserts are varied – from cheeseboards to custard slices – and the main options have a contemporary European focus. Best dish: The whole salmon gravlax is a study in smoked perfection and comes with an impressive range of accompaniments. Quality of food: The seafood selection is fantastic – scallops, oysters, lobsters, the lot. The mains vary in quality – a beef roast with jus and mash is delectable, while the vegetarian option of poached eggs with gravy and pastry, bewildering. Layout/presentation: With the food stations at the helm of the boat, some of you may have to totter quite far for your grub, but the Bateaux cruises at sloth speed so there’s no danger of slipping. Atmosphere: A beautifully modern glass boat cruising up and down the creek – passing by palaces, heritage buildings and dhow docks – it doesn’t get any better in Dubai. Setting: While you sit inside, there are plenty of outside decks to sit on and feel the wind in your hair. Ask for a window seat. Value for money: Considering it’s a boat cruise and a meal, it’s very good value. Entertainment: There’s a live pianist and guitarist, a nice touch that just dodges being cheesy. Service: Friendly, top-up happy and speedy in delivering the mains.
Dhs295 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs395 (with house pours); Dhs495 (with unlimited bubbly). Only first Fri of the month, 12.30pm-3.30pm. Bateaux Dubai, Creek, Bur Dubai, opposite the British embassy (04 399 4994).
Perfect for ... a la carte Belgian Beer Cafe Variety of food: There’s a small selection of salad and cheese on the buffet table for starters, plus some wonderfully crusty French bread and rolls. The main course is also served a la carte, offering several options from the venue’s standard menu. It’s all homely-style Belgian pub food, from mussels and meatballs to steak and sausages. Guests can either return to the small buffet for dessert, or pick Belgian waffles or choc mousse from the menu. Best dish: The fries here are excellent – crisp, fluffy and flavoursome – and are served with most of the main courses. Quality of food: The a la carte options are fresh from the kitchen, ensuring they reach the table piping hot, and the quality is a lot better than you’d get from a standard buffet table. Layout/presentation: We like that much of the brunch is a la carte, as it avoids the aimless wandering that can occur at buffet-only venues. The small buffets are set inside and compact enough that you can refill in less than a minute. Atmosphere: The a la carte option makes things more sociable, as you don’t lose the thread of the conversation by constantly heading to the buffet. Setting: We love the balcony area overlooking the creek, scattered with huge umbrellas and wicker furniture. If the weather’s too hot, there’s plenty of space in the traditional Belgian interior. Value for money: Not bad. There’s no soft drink option, but for Dhs199 you get some homely, filling food and unlimited beverages. Entertainment: There’s no dedicated entertainment, but the Britpop and indie tunes on the stereo are enough to keep us occupied. Service: It can take a while for the staff to get into the swing of things (on our visit we couldn’t work out which parts of the brunch were a la carte and which were buffet, and it took two staff members to explain the finer points). But once we were settled in, service was friendly and swift.
Dhs150 per person (soft drinks only), Dhs199 (with selected house beverages); Dhs65 for kids 5-12 years. Fri noon-4pm. Crowne Plaza Festival City
(04 701 2222).
Perfect for ... vegetarians Spice Island Variety of food: There’s everything from Arabic, Indian and seafood to Thai, Chinese and Japanese, with a decent spread of desserts too. Best dish: The Chinese stir-fry station where you can specify exactly which of the many ingredients you’d like tossed in the heat. Quality of food: It won’t blow you away, but then everyone knows you come here for the sheer variety on offer (over 120 items is the norm). While some lack any distinct flavour, the salads are delightfully fresh and the desserts make up for any disappointment you might face with the mains. Layout/presentation: There’s a lot of food on offer, so make sure you walk the length of the restaurant before you decide on what you want to eat. It’s not a very big venue in comparison to other brunches, but everything is neatly arranged and the live cooking stations make the place come alive. Atmosphere: It’s always quite busy here and you can see why – a warm, cosy setting with charming decor. Setting: There’s no al fresco area but the tables inside are well-spaced, so you and your friends won’t have to suffer the loud mouth from the other table regale experiences on his yacht all too clearly. Value for money: If you’re after a no-fuss brunch and lots of variety, you’ll be tempered with contentment at Spice Island. Entertainment: Kids will love the clown who does face painting and little tricks just for them. Service: Genuinely nice, topping up drinks without us asking and making good recommendations.
Dhs149 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs199 (grand buffet with house pours); Dhs269 (with premium pours). Fri noon-4pm. Crowne Plaza Dubai Deira, Salahuddin Road (04 262 5555).
Perfect for ... meatlovers Grand Grill Variety of food: Carnivores will do well to find a brunch that serves up more meat in three hours than The Grand Grill; there’s mountains of the stuff, with barbecue chicken, beef ribs, American rib-eye and sirloin steaks, and meat skewers all on the menu. A salad buffet to kick-start your food frenzy is also available, but really only ravenous meat-eaters should consider this brunch. Best dish: The juicy, tender rib-eye steak cooked to your liking takes some beating.
Quality of food: The meat is succulent and most options can be cooked to taste, so there are no complaints here. Layout/presentation: The modest salad buffet is ideally located in the centre of the restaurant for all diners, with little ground to cover, even when sitting outside. Chicken, ribs and steak are ordered from the waiters, so you’ll be well looked after wherever you sit. Atmosphere: An eclectic mix of '90s and soul music makes for a pleasant, civilised setting with enough people to make it feel busy, but not overcrowded.
Setting: Apart from indoor seating, there is also an al fresco setting on the terrace with some covering to block out the harsh
mid-day sun. Value for money: Considering a standard steak meal at Grand Grill can set you back around Dhs250, paying an extra Dhs45 for drinks and as much meat as you can muster isn’t a bad deal. Entertainment: Background music provides the only entertainment, but DJs are brought in on special occasions, such as Christmas, to get people up and dancing. Service: The staff are pretty efficient and constantly come round to check you have enough drinks, clean cutlery and meat on the table.
Dhs225 per person (soft drinks only); Dhs295 (with selected house beverages). Fri noon-4pm, Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 4221).
Perfect for ... something new c.taste Variety of food: When you’re paying Dhs99 for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink meal, you really shouldn’t expect much, but budget Centro surprises by delivering a decent spread of about 50 individual dishes – from hot and cold desserts, starters and mains with international, Arabic and Indian flavours. Best dish: The chicken tikkas cooked in the tandoor oven and served to your table with fresh-baked naans. Quality of food: Mussels from the salad spread are a bit dry, but that’s the only lowlight as everything else was fresh and tasty, including the hummus and cuts of meat. It’s hard to fault the mains either, but make sure you leave room for dessert, especially the strawberry cheesecake. Layout/presentation: All the dishes are clearly labelled and the live cooking station is a nice touch. It’s a small-ish venue, but it works. Atmosphere: The bright, cheery decor reflects the mood and you’ll find mixed groups, couples, as well as families with toddlers. Setting: It has a cosy feel. There’s no al fresco option but with summer well and truly here, why would you even consider it? Value for money: At Dhs99 it’s an absolute bargain. Well worth it. Entertainment: Aside from watching the cooks go about their business, there’s not much in way of entertainment, but there’s soothing music and lively chatter. Service: Fast, efficient and friendly. We’ve even seen them serve plates of dessert to tables who asked politely, and engage in conversations with guests.
Dhs99 per person (with selected house beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Centro Barsha, behind Mall of the Emirates and Ibis,
Barsha 1 (04 704 0000).
The classic ...
There’s not a lot that can be said about Yalumba that hasn’t already been written. Legendary, raucous party potential takes precedence over the food.
Dhs479 per person (with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm. Le Meridien Dubai, Garhoud
(04 217 0000).
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Fuzzball Aug 03, 2011 02:35 pm
Does anyone know if these will be on through Ramadan pls?
Annie Jun 15, 2011 11:03 am
"....surprisingly well laid-out and aesthetic (i.e. non-Irish)....."; that statement could be easily misconstrued. I think what you mean is that it is not your typical Irish-pub-in-Dubai, and not that the Irish people are messy and ugly. Or that pubs in Ireland are, which they are not. I've been to lots.
Sarah K Jun 12, 2011 02:03 pm
At the Belgian Beer Cafe the copy says there is no soft drinks option but then at the bottom in the prices it says 150 (soft drinks only)...
Stacey Almond May 27, 2011 09:19 am
Great info and great layout! Sometimes a bit confusing with articles purporting to be about something and you follow the lead and it doesn't give much about location, price etc. as the article writer assumes you know the product already! Not everyone who reads Time Out has lived here a long time and visits all the nightspost and restaurants continually.
JP May 26, 2011 12:28 pm
Good selection, but what about Traiteur's friday brunch at Park Hyatt Dubai?