Wow-factor Friday feasts to impress your partner or friends
Time Out Dubai staff
Wow-Factor BrunchesAl Qasr The deal: You know you’re in for an extravagant experience as you approach Al Qasr – golden prancing ponies adorn the lawn, while the driveway is packed full of Bentleys and other eye-wateringly expensive jalopies. The setting inside is equally grand, and guests are handed a glass of bubbly and a map (such is the size of the brunch) as they enter. The sprawling layout offers every imaginable international cuisine, as well as countless bars mixing up drinks and pouring ice-cold hops beverages.
Atmosphere and setting: As you’d perhaps expect from its price tag, the Al Qasr brunch is frequented by those celebrating an occasion or the kind of people who don’t blink at dropping over Dhs400 per person for a Friday meal – as such, an air of opulence and celebration pervades.
Make sure you try: The chocolate room is fantastic (those with a sweet tooth should be sure to save this until last or else they may never return). We’d also recommend the wagyu beef burgers.
What needs fine-tuning? On our last visit, we felt that the sheer size of the brunch, and the choice of dishes it offers, has diluted its quality. The seafood section is jammed in a corner where foot traffic bottlenecks, while the quality of the oysters (a quintessential brunch starter) is poor. We’d also like to see more dim sum options.
What should you wear? Smart-casual – gents tend to wear pastel-coloured shirts and chinos, while ladies are garbed in light, flowing dresses. Why you’ll return? Despite a few (minor) shortcomings, this is a great place to bring out-of-town guests, as it's a real Dubai experience. Dhs425 with soft drinks, Dhs525 with selected house beverages, mixed drinks and sparkling grape, Dhs250 for children aged four to 12, free for under fours. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Wow-Factor BrunchesAl Muntaha The deal: A perfectly respectable variety of European and pan-Asian fare, cooked to a perfectly respectable standard. But for Dhs550 a head, you are entitled to expect more than just the (admittedly incredible) views. Food-wise, you get nothing you won't see at 20 other brunches across the city.
Atmosphere and setting: Set your face to stunned as you cross the Burj Al Arab's extravagant lobby, ascend the great tower's glass elevator up 27 floors and are led by huge windows displaying miles of blue sea below. If you are lucky to get a window seat overlooking the Palm and Dubai Marina, the views at night are equally spectacular. The views aside, however, and the dining room itself is more than a little underwhelming. Keep your fingers crossed your booking doesn't fall on a hazy day.
Make sure you try: A taster plate of caviar (you don't go to the Burj Al Arab for the mixed grill) and the foie gras live cooking station. Tempura and brioche baked salmon are excellent, as is the tiramisu.
What needs fine-tuning? Brunch food is displayed in quite a haphazard manner, dotted around wherever there is room for it. The buffet needs a centrepiece – something memorable that allows the food to live up to the setting. And Dhs50 for a litre of local water? Come on, guys, really?
What should you wear? Ladies should wear chic summer dresses, a short suit or smart trousers. A collared shirt for gentlemen. Jeans are fine, but no shorts.
Why you'll return? Al Muntaha and the Burj Al Arab should be experienced once, but at more than Dhs500, once is enough. Dhs550 with juices, tea and coffee only. Fridays 10am-3pm. Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah (04 301 7600).
Wow-Factor Brunches The Observatory The deal: A great shout for the hot summer months – The Observatory’s dark hues and great views combine to make a chic and memorable brunch setting. Once you’ve powered up to the 52nd floor of the Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites, you’re greeted with a glass of bubbly and have time to mingle at the bar before sitting down to your Friday feast. When you do take your table, you have the option of ordering à la carte or perusing the food stations. Mixed drinks, meanwhile, are carted around on a trolley, but before you carry on inside, don’t forget to take in the great views of The Palm outside.
Atmosphere and setting: What begins as a most civilised affair has the potential of descending into silliness courtesy of the syringe shots. Yet this is by no means a bad thing.
Make sure you try: The seafood and pork stations are among the best we’ve seen – and sampled – of all Dubai’s brunches.
What needs fine-tuning? The à la carte option is a nice touch, though some of the dishes are underwhelming and aren’t served with the speed and efficiency a hungry bruncher might expect.
What should you wear? The Observatory brunch is perhaps one of the more formal affairs, so it’s certainly a good excuse to dress up. Gents, throw on a jacket; ladies, feel free to go glam.
Why you’ll return? Definitely a good summer brunch location – and one that will suit most celebratory occasions. Dhs350 with soft drinks, Dhs450 with bubbly. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai Marina (04 319 4000).
Outdoor Brunches Le Méridien Village Terrace The deal: Le Méridien offers themed al-fresco buffets on its terrace most nights throughout the cooler months, including Latino, Asian and even Bavarian nights. We particularly like the barbecue evening on Thursdays, when the food is geared towards carnivores, with a surprisingly wide selection of grills, sausages, pork, steaks and kebabs, plus some fish selections, a sizeable salad bar and a scattering of desserts. Bottled and draught hops, grape, house mixed drinks and house spirits are included in the cheaper package, while you can add premium spirits and higher-quality grape for an extra Dhs41.
Atmosphere and setting: The setting is divine: tables are laid out on Le Méridien Village’s grassy lawns and patios, with fairy lights illuminating the picturesque walkways. A live band takes to the stage mid-way through the evening to belt out covers of well-known chart tunes, and they even encourage revellers to join them on stage for some dancing. Patrons are a mix of couples, small groups and larger parties, yet while the atmosphere is upbeat, it’s never rowdy.
Make sure you try: The freshly carved roast beef striploin can’t be beaten.
What needs fine-tuning? Some of the more popular dishes on the buffet could do with being refilled more often: we occasionally had to wait while more meat was cooked.
What should you wear? Anything seems to go here, although most guests opt for loose, cool clothing to beat the heat. Tip: don’t forget the mosquito spray.
Why you’ll return? The idea of an evening brunch has always appealed to our more sensible side (overindulgence in food and drinks at lunchtime can make for an extremely long afternoon, after all), and at this price and in this beautful setting, Le Méridien’s offer can’t be bettered. Dhs209 with regular beverages, Dhs250 with premium beverages. Daily 8pm-11pm (last drinks order 10.30pm). Garhoud (04 702 2455).
Outdoor Brunches Mina a'Salam The deal: This brunch lines Madinat Jumeirah’s waterways and offers a mind-boggling array of different cuisines from across the world – from Chinese to Tex-Mex to sushi to a great carvery, sizeable pork section and wonderful cheese room. Though the weather’s getting toasty now, it’s still possible to sit on the al-fresco deck in one of the many shaded areas with good views of the impressive complex.
Atmosphere and setting: One of the strengths of this brunch is that it facilitates all occasions – from rowdy birthdays to more relaxed, intimate affairs. The sheer size of it means that there’s always enough room between tables and you never feel cramped or have to wait too long to get a plateful of whatever food takes your fancy. Make sure you try: We love the delicious selection of Chinese treats from Zheng He restaurant, but the extensive pork room is perhaps the pièce de résistance. What needs fine-tuning? Very little. One of the reasons this brunch won its category in the 2012 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards is because it manages to do everything well (quite a feat considering its size). Admittedly, drinks service could be a little swifter, though if you’re dying to whet your whistle, there are plenty of drinks stations scattered about the venue.
What should you wear? As we say, Mina A’Salam brunch facilitates all occasions. While it’s not uncommon to see people dressed to the nines, it seems shorts are permitted too. You’ll also notice the occasional sun-burnt man walking by The Wharf wearing nothing but a pair of Speedos (don’t worry; such types are hotel guests rather than brunchers).
Why you’ll return? Though the appeal of the brunch is lessened slightly in hot weather, we’ll be happy to return whenever there’s an excuse – the reasonable pricing of the brunch makes this viable. Dhs365 with soft drinks, Dhs425 with selected house beverages, sparkling grape and mixed drinks. 12.30pm-4pm. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 8888).
Outdoor Brunches The Terrace The deal: This outdoor brunch serving up international fare by the hotel’s pool is a relaxed affair. Thankfully, there are no long queues to get food, mostly because they have, rather cleverly, scattered food stations across the entire venue. There’s a lot to choose from – a great range of salads and appetisers, plenty of mains including Indian, Arabic and Thai dishes, a fajita and taco station, a shawarma and grill station, and a fair selection of desserts including the ubiquitous chocolate fountain and crêpes. On the whole, it’s tasty fare.
Atmosphere and setting: It’s all quite mellow. The live DJ by the pool spins everything from new age and classic pop through to R&B and soul. Aside from a few couples and one large group of friends on our last visit, young families were making the most of the pool before lunch. There are plenty of tables with umbrellas for when the sun’s too fierce (just remember to get there early or, better yet, book in advance), but the views are nothing to write home about with sweeping views of construction and sand.
What needs fine-tuning? The staff can’t seem to cope, as service isn’t stellar – either they get orders wrong or they serve you what you want about 15 minutes after you’ve ordered.
What should you wear? Casual and comfortable will work here. Don’t forget your bathing suit if you fancy a swim before brunch (but you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege). Why you’ll return? The Terrace never feels crowded and is a good setting for whiling away a few hours on a Friday afternoon, and brunch price is quite reasonable for what you get. Dhs220 with soft drinks, Dhs239 with unlimited selected drinks and shisha. Friday pool access: Dhs120 for adults, Dhs60 for kids and Dhs240 for families (two adults, two kids). Fridays noon-3.30pm, Media Rotana, TECOM, Al Barsha south (04 435 0000).
Asian Brunches Hukama The deal: Hukama is a welcome relief to the typical Dubai brunch. Rather than a staggering collection of contrasting flavours from around the globe, here it is strictly delicate Chinese cuisine and, rather than rows and rows of bursting buffet platters, it’s a very light menu of mainly Cantonese dim sum. It’s more a case of what you don’t want, than what you do. Luckily every dish we sampled – more than half of the straightforward menu on our most recent visit – was absolutely fantastic and satisfying. You’ll work yourself through around five à la carte courses and not even notice you filled up on these startling nuggets of sheer culinary joy.
Atmosphere and setting: Rather than rowdy revellers celebrating a weekend, Hukama is as quiet as, well, a nice quiet restaurant in the evening. Service is as elegant and poised as you’d expect in five-star trappings and did we mention their spacious balcony? Perched on the edge of the Dubai Fountains, with views of the Burj Khalifa, you won’t find a more impressive brunch spot in terms of views in the city.
Make sure you try: The delicious, flavourful har gow prawn dumplings.
What needs fine-tuning? If you’re not drinking, the only beverages included in the cheaper package are green and iced tea – which we love, but some variety wouldn’t go amiss, in our opinion.
What should you wear? Something sharp but understated – call it a swish lunch date. Why you’ll return? For some of the best oriental cuisine in town, served with love and flair in a pristine environment boasting great views. Dhs145 with soft drinks, Dhs250 with house beverages. Noon-4pm. The Address Downtown (04 888 3444).
Asian Brunches The Thai Kitchen The deal: Those who want to brunch in the serene setting of the Park Hyatt, but can’t quite stretch their budget to the Traiteur brunch (which takes place in the same hotel), should head to The Thai Kitchen for a fantastic and affordable à la carte brunch. As you’d expect from a restaurant of this name, fare consists solely of Thai classics, which are brought to the table intermittently throughout the course of the brunch. In this respect, The Thai Kitchen is a most sociable brunch, since people aren’t forever leaving the table to top up their plates.
Atmosphere and setting: The vibe is far more relaxed than that of neighbouring Traiteur, though the effortless Mediterranean-style of the hotel and the al-fresco setting still ensure an air of refinement.
Make sure you try: It’s an oldie, but a goodie – the pad Thai is a sure-fire staple at this brunch.
What needs fine-tuning? The à la carte nature of this brunch is perfect for couples or small groups. Go in a bigger, group, however, and you’ll find the staff struggle to serve all guests at the same time, which can be a tad frustrating when you’re starving and have to watch your friends at the far end of the table chow down.
What should you wear? As we say, the vibe is casual, but you’d be doing yourself an injustice not to look nice for the occasion. Why you’ll return? This is one of the few (classy) brunches in town that you can visit on a whim (the prices are exceptionally affordable). Dhs210 with soft drinks, Dhs260 with selected house beverages, Dhs320 with selected house beverages and premium spirits. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Park Hyatt Dubai (04 317 2222).
Asian BrunchesZuma The deal: The menu offers Dubai's finest Japanese food (Zuma recently won Best Japanese at our annual Restaurant Awards), from the hot and cold maki, sushi and various salads that you can pick up yourself from the counters, to the selection of main courses available to order from your table. The sashimi is fantastic – it's not the cheap, fatty stuff you get elsewhere – and the crispy chilli squid is delicious and keeps arriving at your table until you say ‘stop!’ (which we never have). Depending on your deal, this is all washed down with some fast-pouring signature Japanese beverages and high-end mixed drinks.
Atmosphere and setting: Zuma offers perhaps the most sophisticated brunch in the city: the chic, simple decor and open-plan layout consistently wows as you waltz in. Why not have a drink upstairs in the bar, before heading down and getting stuck into some serious feasting?
Make sure you try: While everyone raves about the blackened cod, yet we prefer the grilled prawns from the mains menu. Tasty.
What needs fine-tuning? The service can be a little spotty at times, and you may well be asked to leave your table once your allotted time is up – it is a fantastically popular spot, after all. However, on a good day you'll be well and truly charmed. What should you wear? Something stylish and modern: the crowd is relatively young, moneyed and has good taste.
Why you’ll return? For the food, the drinks and the buzzing atmosphere. Zuma can be enjoyed by couples as well as medium-sized groups. Dhs315 with soft drinks, cleansers and boosters; Dhs425 with selected grape and rice beverages; Dhs550 with bubbly. Fridays 12.30pm-3.30pm. Sheikh Zayed Road, DIFC (04 425 5660).
Brunch for Couples Aquarium The deal: There’s a table of cold seafood dishes set out around a small (at least by Dubai standards) aquarium, featuring the usual suspects such as smoked salmon and mackerel, cold jumbo prawns, squid and oysters, and more acquired tastes such as sea snails.
Atmosphere and setting: Nestled right at the edge of the creek, Aquarium should be one of the city’s most popular spots, but it’s not unfortunately – which is a real shame, because the service is decent and they aren’t stingy with the drinks. Yet sadly the food fails to be anything other than bland, and we gave up pretty quickly.
Make sure you try: Nothing is above average here. Of the seafood or meat mains (your only two options, though you could just stick to the buffet of cold fish, dim sum and creamy soup), go for the meat, which includes lamb chops, chicken breasts and cubed beef kebabs.
What needs fine-tuning? The brunch includes grape and short drinks, but not hops – a serious fail in our opinion. In terms of the food itself, the kitchen would probably benefit from some more direction.
What should you wear? A polo shirt, jeans and smart trainers for the boys, and anything that isn’t flip-flops for the girls.
Why you’ll return? If they can improve things, we'll be back for the great location. Dhs145 food only, Dhs290 with selected house beverages. Fridays noon-3.30pm. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).
Brunch for Couples Flavours on Two The deal: This cheap and cheerful brunch has a varied spread (although not compared to the city’s high-end outfits), which includes seafood, sushi, a mix of hot and cold food (more the latter), salads, antipasti, curries and a cheese stand (which makes itself more known as the brunch goes on). For hot food, Flavours doesn’t cater well to vegetarians, but the fresh sushi, salad bar and gelato stand will make up for that.
Atmosphere and setting: Located on the second floor of Towers Rotana, there is no al-fresco seating and the dining room is quite small, but it pulls a fun, low-key crowd. There is nothing in the way of live music or entertainment, so it can sometimes feel like you’re sitting in the restaurant of a hotel lobby.
Make sure you try: The oysters, sashimi and sushi. It’s all amazingly fresh and on level terms with most Japanese restaurants in the city.
What needs fine-tuning? Unfortunately, the stand serving classic minty Cuban mixed drinks is craftily hidden away on the opposite side of the room, so it may not be until the end of your brunch that you figure out it even exists. The service can be a little inconsistent too.
What should you wear? Smart-casual is the way to go here, as it’s more of a brunch that accommodates small groups and friends, rather than the usual dress-to-impress events.
Why you’ll return? The seafood gets our approval, and the classic Cuban drinks (once located) are fresh and full of tangy mint and lime. Dhs199 with soft drinks, Dhs299 with selected beverages, Dhs399 with bubbly. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Towers Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8000).
Brunch for Couples Splendido The deal: Brunch at The Ritz-Carlton always has and always will be a very sophisticated affair. While the hotel’s expansion project means the sea views we’ve come to know and love are not quite the same (less sea, more construction), Splendido does its best by focusing on delivering quality food and drink. There’s a lot to choose from, including an extensive salad and appetiser buffet, an international range of main dishes (dahl sits alongside Bolognese and roasted veggies), as well as a sushi station, grills and delicious risotto cooked and served fresh. The dessert counter has it all – pastries, mousse and even chocolates – and competes for attention with the chocolate fountain and crêpe station nearby.
Atmosphere and setting: Splendido is a grown-up affair with several older couples seated comfortably, and while the restaurant certainly looks the right side of classy with perfectly set tables and a harpist gently plucking away classics, the atmosphere can be a tad sterile for our liking – we would therefore recommend a table outside on their patio (if the weather’s good).
Make sure you try: The excellent selection of cheeses and chutneys served at the cheese station – we couldn’t get enough of the apple chutney and the smoky, truffle-infused cheese – if you can manage to tear yourself away from the chocolate fountain, that is...
What needs fine-tuning? While no doubt elegant, Splendido’s decor sports a few scruffy corners (we noticed a paint job unfinished in a corner), but it’s a minor quibble with what is otherwise a good brunch with above-standard brunch buffet food, drinks and service.
What should you wear? Smart-casual.
Why you’ll return? This is a brunch to which you can bring loved ones (and even your in-laws), and the quality of food and drink will, no doubt, leave a positive impression. Dhs275 with soft drinks, Dhs375 with sparkling grape, Dhs695 with premium bubbly. Fridays 12.30pm-3.30pm. The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Residence (04 399 4000).
Brunch for Couples Traiteur The deal: Having won Best Brunch at the 2010 and 2011 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, and Highly Commended at the 2012 Awards, you know that you’re in for something special at Traiteur. While the interior is beautifully appointed and features an open kitchen that foodies can wander around and select some of the finest French dishes available in Dubai, we prefer the gorgeous al-fresco terrace with views of the creek (weather permitting, of course).
Atmosphere and setting: The Traiteur brunch is a laidback and sophisticated affair that is perfect for a long, lazy afternoon of supping marvellous bubbly and eating fine French fare. Make sure you try: Where to start? The spit-roast, with spoonfuls of apple sauce, is a must-try, as are the delicious garlicky snails, the simple, yet ever so delicious eggs Benedict and the tuna carpaccio. What needs fine-tuning? This brunch has so much going for it, it seems a little churlish to complain about anything – though we must say the price of the bubbly package (granted, top-drawer bubbly is the order of the day at Traiteur) limits it to a once-a-year treat for many.
What should you wear? European chic – gents can’t go wrong with a classic pair of wayfarer sunglasses, crisp shirt, a pair of chinos and boat shoes. Ladies, meanwhile, can wear a cool smart-casual dress or their evening best and feel at home. Why you’ll return? This is one for special occasions, such as birthdays or farewells. If and when we win the lottery, we’ll be here every weekend. Dhs395 with soft drinks; Dhs495 with selected house beverages; Dhs595 with bubbly; Dhs1,998 with pick-up and drop-off in a limo, bubbly and a gift from Pistache. 12.30pm-4pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
Brunch with FriendsSpectrum On One The deal: It’s an oldie, but a goodie – Spectrum on One’s brunch (one of the first of its kind to open in Dubai) has clawed its way back into the reckoning (it was awarded Highly Commended in our 2012 Restaurant Awards) with its extensive selection of consistently quality fare.
Atmosphere and setting: Since Fairmont Dubai is one of the older hotels in Dubai, there is a feeling that quite a lot is crammed into Spectrum’s floor space. Yet this is not necessarily a bad thing since it makes up for a lively atmosphere. Guests are of all ages, though we’d go as far to say the brunch attracts a more mature crowd.
Make sure you try: The South East Asian, Indian and Japanese options are all fantastic and the cheese room is one of the best you’ll find in town. What should you wear? The dress code is smart-casual, though we have seen people loaf about, plate in hand, wearing shorts. However, since this Friday feast is the ‘old dame’ of the brunch circuit, we recommend making an effort.
Why you’ll return? Spectrum on One is a great brunch during the hot summer months, so should definitely be considered for any occasion when it’s just too hot to brunch al-fresco. Dhs295 soft drinks, Dhs395 selected house drinks, Dhs550 bubbly. Fridays noon-3pm. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
Brunch with Friends Saffron The deal: This is definitely one of the ultimate Dubai brunches: last time we visited we walked around literally in open-mouthed wonder at the sheer number of people feasting in one vast space at once. Most cuisines are included, from great South East Asian noodles to massive (and that's no exaggeration) roast dinners. The brunch also boasts drinks counters, which mean, for certain concoctions, there’s no need to wait at a bar; you can simply go up and grab a pre-prepared glass.
Atmosphere and setting: The atmosphere is charged; it's like going to a packed club in the middle of the day. The venue's sheer size and high ceilings, as well as the DJ pumping commercial classics all heighten this ambiance. Make sure you try: The South East Asian seafood. This is the restaurant's speciality and therefore its strongest cuisine. People have also been known to go a little bit mad for the Yorkshire puddings.
What needs fine-tuning? The last time we tried the lamb it was a little tough. A small complaint, but it's stuck in the memory nonetheless.
What should you wear? Get dressed up: again, it's like diners are at a club in the middle of the day (which makes life easy for when many press on to Nasimi or Sandance straight afterwards).
Why you’ll return? Whenever we're in the mood for a day of partying, and we're in a big group, we're sure Saffron will tempt us. Dhs415 with selected house beverages. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Brunch with Friends The Grand Grill The deal: Friday brunch at The Grand Grill is themed ‘BBQ The South African Way’, which essentially means meat, meat and more meat – everything from ribs to hearty meatballs (though the menu changes each week, depending on availability), along with your choice of steak and chunky chips on the side. There is a small salad station for more placid appetites and, while the meats are of excellent quality, we can’t help but think there needs to be more variety on offer. Serving ribs and steaks directly to brunch tables instead of having us queue up in line is a nice touch (they were probably worried about having all the meat, so lovingly prepared, knocked about).
Atmosphere and setting: A favourite with large groups, the outdoor area tends to get really cramped, with tables set quite close together, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as we made several new friends seated at adjoining tables when we last visited. Also, we’ve never seen people so eager to get up and dance to Wild Thing… but it’s all part of Grand Grill’s charm, so shake loose, tuck in and pretty soon you’ll be toasting ‘lekker braai, bru’. Make sure you try: The sticky tender ribs that you’ll want to tear into with your bare hands (and then lick your fingers afterwards).
What needs fine-tuning? They really can improve the food selection – yes, meat wins but there’s nothing wrong with offering more options, especially for the price they charge – and, as it’s a rather small venue, it can get quite messy.
What should you wear? The usual dress-to-impress brunch attire that Dubai’s become famous for won’t be amiss here, but there’s also (thankfully) plenty of denim- loving people about. Why you’ll return? There’s plenty of meat, drink and upbeat music. If there ever was a ‘man’s brunch’ award, there’s no doubt that The Grand Grill’s Friday BBQ would be a mighty strong contender. Dhs225 with soft drinks, Dhs295 with house drinks. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm, Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Al Sufouh Road (04 399 4221).
New Brunches Hakkasan The deal: Dim sum aficionados will be quick to point out that the weekend tradition of early afternoon dim sum – or yum cha as it’s known – has been about for ages. In fact, Alan Yau, the man who created Hakkasan, made yum cha a popular pastime in London. In this respect, it’s no surprise that the format of Hakkasan Dubai’s Friday and Saturday meal deal is closer to Yum Cha than what we Dubaians recognise as brunch (four hours of excessive consumption).
Atmosphere and setting: The dark, sleekly appointed restaurant offers a cool respite from the Dubai heat, while in cooler months, we would recommend eating out on the fantastic terrace.
Make sure you try: Each of the ten dim sum offerings on this à la carte menu is fantastic, but, at a push, we would recommend the crispy duck roll – effectively a chunky, compact and filling variation of a Peking duck roll (which is equally hearty, the flavour of the meat offset wonderfully by the sweet, sticky plum sauce). The scallop shumai, meanwhile, provides a lighter dynamic to the course, though is excellent in every respect.
What needs fine-tuning? Though you’ll be left satiated by the dim sum, the number of dishes served doesn’t really work in the context of a ‘Dubai’ brunch, which is effectively all-you-can-eat for a limited amount of time. Those who pay for the bubbly option will have finished all the food on offer by around 1.30pm, meaning that they’re left with two hours to drink bubbly and the signature mixed drinks. While this is no bad thing, you’ll perhaps feel that your Dhs500 would have been better spent at the nearby Zuma brunch, which offers quality drinks and limitless amounts of its award-winning Japanese fare. What should you wear? Hakkasan, being Hakkasan, is a smart brunch for smartly dressed people.
Why you’ll return? We’ll go back for the delectable dim sum, but we’ll probably avoid the bubbly option (and save over Dhs300 in the process). Dhs199 with dim sum and puer ya jian tea; Dhs500 with bubbly. Fridays and Saturdays noon-3.30pm. The Boulevard, Jumeirah Emirates Towers (04 384 8484).
New Brunches Imperium The deal: Imperium’s à la carte brunch menu (laced with French favourites) as well as the extensive buffet options (which include a carvery, pork options, a garden’s worth of salad, indulgent desserts and a commendably varied cheese section) suggest a gut-busting Friday afternoon is in store.
Atmosphere and setting: Imperium has all the ingredients for a great brunch. For a start, the venue captures the essence of Dubai wonderfully. Huge chandeliers drip from the high-vaulted ceiling, while walls are adorned with faux-Renaissance reliefs. It’s mad and beautiful in equal measure, and the perfect setting for a Friday brunch – a pastime that is, by its very nature, excessive and over the top (not to mention a great deal of fun).
Make sure you try: The deliciously tender beef cuts (a real rarity at buffet brunches), excellent beef Wellington (which you’d be happy to order à la carte in a restaurant) and the heartily-sized oysters that make their way from table to table via trolley. The food is excellent and all the better when lubricated by flutes of premium bubbly.
What needs fine-tuning? Service is slow and confused, and waiters seem reluctant to top up bubbly as and when is needed (a cardinal sin at any brunch). Furthermore, the different packages aren’t explained very well by staff.
What should you wear? Keep it smart-casual.
Why you’ll return? If the service ups its game, this could be one of the best brunches in town. Until this happens, however, we’d rather spend our money at another high-end brunch. Dhs275 with soft drinks, Dhs395 with selected house beverages, Dhs550 with bubbly, half price for children aged four to 12, free for children four and under. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, West Crescent, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0444).
New Brunches Toro Toro The deal: Award-winning Toro Toro showcases its delectable Latin American fare at this all-you-can eat à la carte brunch (the ‘Hola Hola’ brunch, to be precise, though it’s actually more of a long lunch) in a cool, dark intimate setting. Food is served in the true tradition of Brazilian churrasco-style dining: guests are issued with a special table mat – green on one side (‘keep it coming’) and red on the other (‘back off’).
Atmosphere and setting: As far as four-hour showcases go, Toro Toro couldn’t have presented itself better: the food is exquisite and the service so polite it verges on affectionate. But a quintessential Dubai brunch Toro Toro is not – it’s more of a long, lazy and extremely luxurious lunch.
Make sure you try: Where to start? The guacamole and tortilla chips, tangy tuna ceviche with sweet potato and quinoa, and heirloom and tomato salad are fantastic starters, which are followed up with de papas, chilaquiles (tortilla chips with cheese, white onion and tomato sauce), smoked salmon flatbread embellished with horseradish and capers, and (our favourite) beef chorizo empanada.
What needs fine-tuning? On a quiet day, service is warm and attentive and swift – we hope this can be maintained on busier Fridays. Also, we weren’t fans of the lamb sausages or the frejoles con carne – both were a bit bland and stodgy in comparison to the rest of the near-divine dishes.
What should you wear? Toro Toro is a slick venue, so you should dress accordingly.
Why you’ll return? We’d happily return whenever we’re looking for a tasty, affordable à la carte brunch option. Dhs300 with soft drinks; Dhs400 with selected beverages and mixed drinks. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Grosvenor House, Tower 2, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
Pub Brunches Belgian Beer Café The deal: Having opened its doors back in February, things are still relatively new at this Madinat venue. It’s a little disappointing when the waitress points out that, for brunch, diners can only choose a small selection of dishes (and drinks) from the otherwise far more extensive normal menu. Yet don’t despair, as there’s still a decent variety on offer, from breakfast staples such as eggs Benedict to traditional Belgian highlights like ‘Ostend vispannetje’, a creamy gratinated seafood stew, mussels in white grape sauce and, naturally, Belgian waffles for dessert. Dishes are served quickly enough and are surprisingly small – but this is a good thing, as it lets you taste a greater variety (in fact, two of you could, with a healthy appetite, eat your way through everything on the menu).
Atmosphere and setting: The dark wood interior, Belgian signs and posters, large bar area and TV screens showing sports won’t let you pretend you‘re anywhere else but a pub. Alternatively, if the weather permits, opt to sit outside on the terrace overlooking Madinat’s romantic waterways. It was a little empty on our visit, and lacked a bit of buzz, but no doubt business will pick up as soonas more of Dubai’s residents learn of the Belgian Café’s brunch offering.
Make sure you try: The mussels were a genuine delight, as were the hops-based beverages for which Belgium is so famous.
What needs fine-tuning? It took a while for staff to take our order, and there was some uncertainty over which drinks were included in the brunch deal, but we’re hopeful such concerns will soon be ironed out.
What should you wear? No need to get fancy, as pretty much anything seems to go.
Why you’ll return? For the great Belgian drinks. Dhs180 with soft drinks, Dhs269 with selected draught hops and house grape and spirits. Fridays 1pm-4pm. Madinat Jumeirah (04 447 0227).
Pub Brunches Double Decker The deal: Double D’s draw lies not so much in the mainly British fare on offer, including roast beef, pork sausages and mash, giant Yorkshire puddings and a decent enough dessert selection, but in the relatively affordable price, the down-to-earth, unpretentious vibe and guests – oh, and the drinks, of course. The modest selection of food will definitely fill you up and help stave off any unwanted effects from the free-flowing beverages – but then again, the mostly youthful brunchers here really don’t seem too bothered about making a scene, as the raucous weekend atmosphere gets into full swing.
Atmosphere and setting: The queue outside is a good indication of what’s to come. Tables with white table cloths are squeezed into the small outdoor area, while inside, the dark wood interior lined with old London double-decker bus numbers reverberates with the sound of cheering groups, bar banter and pumping dance music. In addition, TV screens let guests catch the latest football and rugby games, and altogether there’s a bit of a student union feel – which is why you’ll either love it or wish you’d gone elsewhere.
Make sure you try: The pork sausages are pretty tasty, but there’s nothing standout.
What needs fine-tuning? Our only gripe has to do with our forgetting to book ahead, which resulted in us having to pull up bar stools and eat at the bar – a rather unpleasant experience, especially with fellow brunchers crowding round to order drinks.
What should you wear? The sign at the entrance forbids shorts and flip-flops, but we saw plenty of these during our visit, and the easygoing atmosphere certainly doesn’t warrant anything too fancy.
Why you’ll return? If you’re with a group of mates and after a fun-filled, drinks-fuelled afternoon, this is the place to let your hair down. Dhs179 with selected house drinks (just the one package offered). Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Al Murooj Rotana, Al Doha Street, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 321 1111).
Budget Brunch C.Taste The deal: Perhaps sensing that its home in Barsha’s Centro, round the back of Mall of the Emirates, isn’t really the most glamorous of locations, C.taste keeps its brunch straight, simple and with none of the fussy extravagance that you might be accustomed to. The place knows that the very affordable brunch price is its calling card, but despite a compact buffet area the brunch still offers a surprising range of international mains. Instead of quantity, they’ve gone for quality, and it has paid off. For this price we have no complaints whatsoever and it’s a brunch that you can actually enjoy on regular weekends, instead of a once- a-summer splurge.
Atmosphere and setting: Far from high-end dining, they keep things simple with a small, sparsely-furnished and clean space that is entirely comfortable, but not one you’ll want to linger in for longer than a couple of hours. On our last visit, there was a jovial bunch of middle aged folk enjoying an ever-so-slightly rowdy Friday, while kids weren’t out of place. It can get a bit noisy with the little ones about, but we still keep coming back for more because of the price.
Make sure you try: None of the mains were a knockout or stood out from the usual brunch fare you get around town, but the pasta salads were top notch.
What needs fine-tuning? It is tough to force yourself to leave enough space for dessert, and we have to say that the tiny selection of C.taste’s unappealing fare meant it wasn’t worth the struggle after all. What should you wear? Anything smart-casual will work.
Why you’ll return? For a low-key, affordable place to eat and drink in a comfy, non-pretentious environment, C.taste certainly makes a fine spot to catch up with mates over free-flowing drinks. Dhs99 with soft drinks, Dhs139 with house beverages. Fridays 12.30pm-4pm. Centro, Al Barsha (04 409 8877).
Evening BrunchesAsiana Grand Buffet The deal: Surprisingly, a Dubai label finally holds true at this ‘grand’ celebration of Asian flavours. The Asiana Hotel’s Friday evening brunch is one you have to experience at least once while in the city if you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, as it sees the hotel’s Sonamu (Korean), Hanabi (Japanese) and Jade (Chinese) restaurants serve up all their specialties. You can expect authentic fare made with the freshest seafood and meats, as well as warm, friendly service. Keep in mind that while there are a few vegetarian offerings served up at each restaurant, this is one brunch that’s more geared towards carnivores and pescetarians. Atmosphere and setting: It may be a rather sombre affair, but it’s still laidback. You know it’s the real deal as predominantly Asian clientele come with families in tow. There’s only faint music playing in the background and fiery action at live kitchens by way of entertainment, and it may seem staid if you’re used to other, livelier brunches in town. Make sure you try: The Peking duck from Jade, Korean grills from Sonamu and the unique Asian tipples you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Dubai, or even the country.
What needs fine-tuning? The food and drink are more than enough to keep you merry, but we did wish there was some traditional, live entertainment – that would really take Asiana to the brunch big leagues.
What should you wear? Smart-casual. A few guests can be found dressed to the nines, but comfort is the name of the game here. Why you’ll return? We’ve yet to find a brunch that comes close to Asiana in terms of authenticity and variety. If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, make sure to request a table at one of Hanabi’s four private traditional dining rooms. Dhs220 per person food only, Dhs270 for food and unlimited selected drinks. Fridays 6pm-11pm, Asiana Hotel, Salahuddin Road, Deira (04 238 7777).
Evening Brunches Ember Grill & Lounge The deal: This popular evening brunch’s USP is a ‘jazz band’, though if you’re expecting a four-piece complete with double bassist, you might be disappointed: the band actually comprises a keyboard player and singer crooning jazz-style covers of popular songs. Still, the tunes provide nice background music to this meat-oriented feast. Starters, salads and desserts are served from small buffet tables, offering fairly bog-standard versions of the usual hummus, mezze, Greek salad and cold cuts. Yet it’s the main course where this brunch comes into its own: guests can choose from meat, seafood or a mixed grill of both, cooked fresh in the kitchen and brought to the table. Each plate features a selection of cuts (the meat option, for example, boasting chicken kebab, grilled beef and some fantastic chorizo). Mains are accompanied by veggies, fries, mash and a nice selection of sauces. Drinks-wise, those opting for the alcohol package can choose from house spirits, draft hops and house grape.
Atmosphere and setting: The evening timing makes this feel less boisterous than a Friday lunchtime brunch, and the live tunes in the background are a nice touch. The restaurant itself falls mid-way between a bar and a high-end restaurant: curved cream-leather booths help to divide up the high-ceilinged space, with low lighting.
Make sure you try: The roast beef from the buffet table (pink, juicy and perfectly cooked) and the grilled chorizo on the meat plate (spicy, smoky and wonderfully flavoursome).
What needs fine-tuning? Some of the cuts served fresh from the kitchen were a little overcooked, leaving them chewy and rather dry. A couple of minutes less under the grill would help to retain the flavour.
What should you wear? Ember is less dressy than a lunchtime brunch: guests don everything from smart jeans and T-shirts to cocktail dresses.
Why you’ll return? The all-you-can-eat deal is great value, especially if you arrive at 6.30pm and stay all evening. It’s a good spot to catch up with friends or celebrate an occasion without breaking the bank. Dhs180 with soft drinks, Dhs245 with house beverages. Thu 6.30pm-11.30pm (drinks served 7pm-10.45pm). The Address Downtown Dubai (04 438 8999).
Pitch your ideas now to win up to Dhs25,000 investment
TFC Apr 30, 2012 07:40 am
I still cant believe that Timeout keep on calling affordable 300dhs ++!!!!!
I think you guys should visit other options, less glamorous maybe, but if you are listing "group of friends" think about younger crowds and crisis time, just as a suggestion!
Andrew Hudson Apr 30, 2012 06:18 am
The annoying thing about these comments is that they attach to the whole article, rather than one particular page. Which location is Vicki disagreeing with the Timeout review team about?
jane Apr 30, 2012 05:07 am
Yes it is busy but it is one of the best in Dubai. Large, good quality and excellent band.
Jim Apr 30, 2012 04:54 am
C Taste Centro Rotana, Barsha. Hmm. Well we went there last Friday afternoon. It was all very pleasant. No busy at all and the food was lovely too. There was more of a selection for salad and starters than main course. They do need some more main course I believe. Although live station for chicken tandoori was much appreciated.
Well worth the money if you are driving (soft drinks option for 99 dhs).
Vicki Apr 27, 2012 12:52 pm
I think the Timeout review team must have gone somewhere else???? What about the long queues to get in to the place, the bun fight for the food, the drunken parties getting completely out of hand within the first two hours, poor service and mediocre food (once you get to it) ??? How can you have missed it? Four hideous times now I have been there for various birthdays and events so not based on one experinece. Hideous, will not be going back again. Would rather pay the same amount to go somewhere civilised with an atmosphere.