Looking for a weekend feast? Try these brunch offers in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
New brunches Armani/Hashi A great, high-end bespoke Japanese dining experience
The venue: Armani’s signature Japanese is an exercise in modernistic minimalism, a bright, metallic venue that feels clean and classy. The culinary curious will enjoy the large, circular open-plan kitchen, where you can watch as meats are grilled and noodles fried by a team of pros. To the left of the entrance there’s a small bar, while the restaurant’s glass walls offer tranquil views over the Armani Hotel’s terrace and gardens. Brave the heat and dine outside and you’ll be rewarded with some views that shed fresh light on the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa.
The food: Smartly, Hashi sticks to what it’s good at: quality, traditional Japanese foods, with hints of fusion that never overpower the concept. By Dubai standards, there’s a relatively small selection of dishes on offer, but that means there’s not a weak link in the chain; everything we tried was of a very high quality. The sushi is among some of the best we’ve tasted this side of Tokyo, while the live-grilled meats and seafood are sublime. If you leave space for the small dessert room, you won’t be disappointed either.
The drinks: Brunchers are greeted with an inventive Japanese welcome drink, and there’s very drinkable free-flowing grape throughout. Teas and coffees are also expertly made.
The atmosphere and crowd: The atmosphere is more that of a lunch deal at a high-end restaurant than a ‘Dubai brunch’: by 4pm the sparse crowd of families, couples and hotel guests have cleared out entirely. Expect to dine among a mix of affluent folk here on business, luxury tourists and connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine. The entertainment: There’s a lounge DJ playing pleasant lounge house – although on our visit some unfortunate technical problems meant the tunes kept cutting out. We imagine this embarrassment was a one-off.
Highs and lows: Sushi lovers are unlikely to be disappointed, and the high is simply the quality of cuisine on offer. However, one large niggle is that while staff members outweighed diners by several times during our visit, finding anyone that speaks English felt exasperatingly impossible at times. And being seated at a table stained with dirt is also rather disappointing. Fine tuning is required. Dhs350 (with soft drinks), Dhs450 (with grape, hops and Japanese premium beverages). Fri noon-4pm. Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
BiCE Ristorante It’s worth visiting this high-end, classy brunch for the high-quality food alone
The venue: This large fine-dining restaurant overlooks the Hilton’s outdoor pool and private stretch of beach. The decor is dark and classy in the main seating area, with a bright and airy extension towards the back reserved for smokers – with possibly the best view of the resort and the beach that the space has to offer.
The food: This is the real reason to visit. BiCE's brunch is à la carte, with a set menu of salads followed by a pasta course and a choice of a mixed meat, seafood grill or rock salted sea bass for mains. A selection of desserts completes the experience, and you can reorder your favourite items as many times as you like. The bresaola salad with parmesan shavings and insalata caprese with pesto are highlights of the salad course, while the star of the pasta show is the tortellacci ricotta and spinach with creamy wild truffle sauce – a real delight to the taste buds. Both mixed grills are cooked to perfection, and the sea bass is huge. For dessert, the profiterole with espresso cream and vanilla sauce is disappointing, perhaps because of its lack of a chocolate accompaniment, and the chocolate cannoli ‘BiCE Style’ doesn’t make up for it – it’s deep fried, overly crisp and fails to impress. Thankfully, the tiramisu is intensely creamy and delicious.
The drinks: A small selection of fine Italian mixed beverages and grape grace the menu to accompany the high-end dining experience.
The atmosphere and crowd: This is a sophisticated brunch that seems to attract the well-heeled. It’s a classy affair that feels more like a leisurely lunch than the classic Dubai brunch experience.
The entertainment: A pianist at the venue’s entrance plays live music that fits well with the relaxed ambience. Highs and lows: It’s the perfect setting for a long lunch as a couple or with a small group friends, and service is faultless. But the brunch menu has changed recently, most notably in the dessert course – we miss the chocolate soufflé and raspberry panna cotta, which captured our attention in the past. Dhs285 (with soft drinks), Dhs375 (with house beverages). Fri 1pm-4pm. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort, The Walk, JBR (04 318 2520).
Frevo A small and intimate Brazilian-flavoured brunch on The Palm – one for the carnivores out there
The venue: Situated at the relatively new Fairmont hotel, on The Palm, Frevo is a lovely, intimate Brazilian restaurant with views overlooking the hotel’s pool and beach, which really helps create a suitably South American atmosphere. The food: Guests can look forward to amazing cuts of beef, lamb and chicken cooked to perfection – staff will just keep bringing them until you turn your table light to red, signalling for them to stop. There’s also a nice selection of cold cuts, salads and vegetable dishes, plus desserts. But make no mistake; Frevo is primarily focussed on its fine selection of meats.
The drinks: There’s plenty on offer, but if you’ve opted for the more expensive drinks package, we recommend kicking things off with one of Brazil’s most famous mixed drinks.
The atmosphere and crowd: It’s a quiet brunch, ideal for families and couples, with an older clientele enjoying the relaxed ambience. It’s also a great brunch to really savour the food – and catch up with friends while you’re at it. The entertainment: A Brazilian acoustic duo make for a perfect soundtrack, and thankfully it’s just the right volume enabling conversation. And if you fancy a dance at the end, the more the merrier. Highs and lows: The quality of the meat is top-notch and the service is faultless. As it’s a small venue, however, the atmosphere does take a while to get going. Dhs295 (with soft drinks), Dhs475 (with mixed drinks, hops and grape). Fairmont, The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).
La Parrilla A sophisticated, refined brunch with great views of the Burj Al Arab and beyond
The venue: On the 25th floor of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, La Parrilla faces the property’s private beach and marina with a view of nightclub 360 jutting out into the Arabian Gulf. It’s also home to possibly the most impressive view of the Burj Al Arab in the city. The fine-dining venue is bright and airy, complete with white furniture and tablecloths. The decor is accentuated by the seats’ cowhide backs, adding a touch of individual character to the space. It also gives a nod to the venue’s steakhouse credentials, in addition to its status as an award-winning Latin American restaurant.
The food: La Parrilla’s brunch is part buffet, part à la carte. Guests can choose as many of the tapas-style starters from the menu as they please, along with one main course per person either from the grill or from a choice of fish. There are also buffet salad and seafood stations with a live cooking station offering up freshly prepared foie gras. Desserts are also à la carte.
The drinks: The drinks selection is small but comprehensive, with Argentinian grape paired with dishes such as the Lomo and sirloin steaks – also from the South American republic.
The atmosphere and crowd: Diners appear to be mainly hotel guests enjoying a smart meal with the family. Couples in search of a more romantic, refined brunch experience also head here to admire the breathtaking views.
The entertainment: An excellent live Latin band accompanies a salsa-dancing duo as they whirl their way across the restaurant keeping brunchers entertained throughout proceedings.
Highs and lows: More a relaxed lunch experience than the typical Friday brunch, at La Parrilla the emphasis is on enjoying the venue’s wow-factor setting and live entertainment. Staff are friendly and attentive and the foie gras cooked live is made to perfection. But the low point is the rest of the hot food. The steak served for brunch seems to be a lower quality cut than that served at other times, while the lamb is dry and tough. And many of the dishes arrived cold. Dhs425 (with soft drinks), Dhs550 (with a selection of house beverages and bubbly). Friday 12.30pm-3.30pm. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Umm Suqeim (04 406 8999).
La Terrazza at Rosso Perfect for anyone looking to get their Italian fix over a low-key, lazy lunch
The venue: Best visited in the cooler months, the outdoor terrace is the place to be, complete with faux turf, palm trees and a DJ pumping easy tunes at borderline deafening decibels. There are tables inside, but as the bar is the main centrepiece it’s hard to ignore that musty smell reminding us that what Rosso is really good at are ladies’ nights.
The food: If you’re a sucker for Italian food, look no further. Mediterranean fare is La Terrazza’s specialty, so you won’t find sushi or fresh seafood here. The buffet inside includes a DIY bruschetta board, antipasti options, such as grilled eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms, arranciata balls, deep-fried mozzarella, ceviche on puffs of pastry, cured meats and a decent selection of bread. The dessert section is extensive, with options including tiramisu, cannoli with cream and chocolate cakes. Pasta and grilled meats from the barbecue station are ordered à la carte.
The drinks: Once seated, brunchers are treated to a traditional Italian mixed drink that looks radioactive and is somewhat unpalatable. As well as a selection of beverages, each table is conveniently provided with a cooling bucket for unlimited bottles of grape, meaning you don’t have to chase down the staff too often. The atmosphere and crowd: Family-centric, it’s popular with young couples with little kids as well as guests staying at the hotel. You’ll be disappointed if you come preparing to bust some moves on the dancefloor, but if it’s a low-key affair you’re after, this is the ticket.
The entertainment: A DJ plays cheesy, easy-listening tunes from the likes of Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder on the decks outside – just make sure you don’t get a table directly opposite the speaker or you’ll be shouting just to be heard.
Highs and lows: The al-fresco setting offers a welcome alternative to the city’s many dungeon-esque brunches. A number of tables are only slightly shaded by palms and so you might have to ask to move when the big hand hits hot-o-clock. Families will appreciate the toned-down, civilised atmosphere, though Dubai’s younger set will perhaps not. Dhs199 (with soft drinks), Dhs299 (with house beverages). Amwaj Rotana, The Walk, JBR (04 428 2000).
Mizaan A pleasant Mediterranean brunch in the classy surrounds of the H Hotel
The venue: Hosted in a fairly nondescript dining room on the ground floor of the classy H Hotel, Mizaan is a calm and comfortable spot. Cooking stations and different hot and cold snacks are scattered throughout the venue, which is spacious enough to wander around without disturbing fellow guests.
The food: There’s a big selection of fresh Mediterranean breads and cuts of cured meats served by a meat slicer at the charcuterie station. Salads are mainly cold mezze and Arabic style, which is confusing considering the theme of the brunch – think hummus, moutabal, mushrooms, asparagus, corn and the like. We like the make-your-own tabouleh station, but are less impressed that the malai kofta is the only vegetarian main available – and it’s Indian. Also, the vegetable crepe is, bafflingly, served with salmon. We’re more impressed with the freshly prepared lobster ravioli, which proves tasty and light, and there’s also a good selection of cold seafood to choose from and numerous desserts, including pancakes and pastries. The drinks: The soft drinks package is Dhs255 and the Dhs355 package covers all beverages, including bubbly. Bizarrely, we were repeatedly presented with a pineapple mixed beverage without asking, but we can report that the grape is good quality. The atmosphere and crowd: This is not a party brunch, rather more along the lines of somewhere you might come for a business meeting, a 50th birthday or if you’re on holiday with teenage children. The entertainment: There’s a female pianist, who sings with backing from an acoustic Spanish guitarist.
Highs and lows: It’s a pleasant place to spend a few hours and the Mediterranean food is very good. Service, while friendly, could have been sharper, and there could be better vegetarian options. Dhs255 (with soft drinks), Dhs355 (with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. The H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 501 8888).
Nomad An easygoing, affordable and family-friendly brunch in pleasant surrounds
The venue: Pleasantly bright and airy, with a light colour palette, artworks tastefully displayed on walls and windows at every turn, looking out onto Jumeirah Creekside Hotel’s pool, gardens and waterways. While it’s comfortable indoors, the shaded outdoor areas are preferable – but with the arrival of summer imminent, we’re not sure for how much longer that will be a realistic option.
The food: It’s not the biggest spread by any measure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s plenty of Asian cuisine, including a modest selection of sushi and sashimi, a teppanyaki/stir fry station, crispy duck with hoi sin sauce and pancakes, dim sum and spring rolls. Spanish tapas also makes an appearance, along with a generous salad bar, Middle Eastern fare, grills and shawarmas, and of course lots of delicious sweets, ice creams and a cheese board.
The drinks: Beverages are served up at various drinks stations and bars dotted about the venue, but staff will also come and top up your glass at the table as and when needed. The selection is wide and covers all manner of soft drinks and juices, mixed drinks, hops, grape and sparkling grape – just ask.
The atmosphere and crowd: It’s definitely a family-friendly brunch, with lots of kids running about (chasing the resident ducks), but couples and groups of friends won’t feel out of place either. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, making for an easygoing, unpretentious afternoon with food that matches the ambience.
The entertainment: A lone singer fills the air with his acoustic covers. This fits with the relaxed vibe.
Highs and lows: Standards are pretty consistent across the board, with nothing truly standing out but nothing letting the side down either. Dhs295 (with selected house beverages), Dhs195 (with soft drinks), free (kids aged under ten). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Garhoud (04 230 8571).
No.1 Fridays BBQ Brunch The perfect brunch for beach bums
The venue: Slap-bang on the shoreline, this Rixos brunch includes beach access and even use of the five-star hotel’s Jacuzzi. Located at the end of the Palm Jumeirah with beach cabanas and sun loungers, we’d recommend heading to the sand and enjoying the views across the water to Dubai Marina once you’ve eaten. Restaurant seating is scattered around the venue and the décor is distinctly Dubai, with cushions, patches of grass and palm trees adding to the laid-back, ocean-chic vibe.
The food: A barbecue buffet, the brunch boasts a wide selection of different meats including chicken, steak and the ubiquitous shawarmas, along with a selection of fruit, salads and seafood. A distinctly carnivorous affair, the selection of grills on offer is tasty, but we feel the choice could be wider. The drinks: With no soft-drink option, the package includes a selection of mixed drinks, hops and grape, all of which can be ordered directly from the beach bar positioned in front of the hotel. The atmosphere and crowd: With flip-flops and beach attire the order of the day, it’s a laid-back, relaxed ambience. On our visit there was hardly a crowd, but the few guests that were there were young and stylish. It’s a great spot, and if you’re a party animal, there’s the option to kick on through until 3am once the brunch has finished. The entertainment: There’s a DJ spinning funky house tunes.
Highs and lows: The venue and vibe are perfect before the heat of summer gets too much, but we’d prefer to have seen more customers to make it feel like more of a party – in reality, it’s more akin to a few quiet drinks on a beach. Dhs350 (with selected house beverages). Fri 1pm-5pm. White X Beach and Lounge, Rixos The Palm Dubai, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 5555).
Seafire Steakhouse A high-price brunch that still has a bit of work to do on its direction
The venue: Though part of Atlantis, The Palm, don’t expect to be allowed to walk through the hotel and past the impressive aquarium to find your restaurant. Instead, you will be waved in the direction of The Avenues, a noisy, chaotic series of corridors filled with dubiously-attired tourists (you can see why Kanye West was rumoured to have likened the place to Walmart). Inside the restaurant, it’s hard to shake off the feeling you’re sitting in the middle of a mall. The lack of natural light makes the venue feel a little stuffy.
The food: Starters and desserts are set across small buffet islands – the most impressive of which is a small foie gras station, serving up rich but deliciously moreish samples in varying incarnations. Mains are ordered from an à la carte menu, and are designed as sampling and sharing plates rather than a plate of food for one. Surprisingly, for a steakhouse, the cuts of red meat are the low point of the whole experience.
The drinks: Choose from bubbly, grape, hops and mixed drinks, which can either be brought to your table, or assembled by guests themselves at the bar.
The atmosphere and crowd: Guests are a real mix. Unlike at neighbouring Saffron, a reliably party-town affair, Seafire still seems to be finding its niche. Tourists, residents, families, couples, Brits, Italians, Emiratis – the demographic of diner is still incredibly varied. Given that there is only one price for brunch, however, earnings may be the common denominator here.
The entertainment: A decent three-person covers band, starring a female vocalist. What Seafire has undoubtedly got right (and judging by other brunches, this is no mean feat) is the volume. Rather than drowning out chatter, the music provides a soft background, and successfully creates a relaxed atmosphere.
Highs and lows: The foie gras station is an unexpected treat, and the desserts are more interesting than the usual line-up of day-glo oblongs on offer at brunch. Sadly, the chewy, fatty steaks fail to cut the mustard. Dhs435 per person (including house beverages) – no soft drink option. Atlantis, The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Essential brunches Al Qasr One of the city’s largest, most extravagant brunches – it’s what Dubai is all about
The venue: Spread across Al Qasr’s ground-floor restaurants – MJ’s Steakhouse, Arboretum and Al Hambra – this is one of Dubai’s largest brunches. Tables spill out onto the terraces overlooking the Madinat waterways, and in cooler months this should be your preferred seating choice. Yet dining indoors is also pleasant and suitably luxurious, with each restaurant offering its own ambience. Central Arboretum is busiest and noisiest, so great for large groups, while MJ’s and Al Hambra offer a (only slightly) quieter environment. The food: The choice is vast. Food stations are positioned at every turn, with Arabic, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Indian, Spanish, German and British dishes all available, along with barbecued meats, cold and hot seafood, cheeses and of course a whole array of desserts, sweets and fruit. It’s overwhelming – no doubt about that – and there’s no way one person can sample everything. Yet with so many mouths to feed, the heavily-laden spreads can quickly disappear, so it’s good to know that staff and chefs are on hand to swiftly restock platters and displays. Don’t miss the excellent seafood section at MJ’s, boasting oysters, prawns, crab and fish, and we particularly like the tasty Malaysian laksa prepared to order. But rest assured the quality is invariably high across the board.
The drinks: Soft drinks and sparkling grape are served and topped up by an army of wait staff, but with numerous drinks stations positioned throughout the venue, the array of beverages matches that of the food. We’re rather fond of the freshly cut, chilled coconuts, served with or without a dash of fiery beverage. The atmosphere and crowd: The sheer number of people prevents a more relaxed, laid-back and intimate atmosphere, but there’s an infectious buzz and sense of fun and excitement in the air. The brunch attracts a myriad of brunchers, ranging from families with kids in tow, to tourists in search of a quintessential Dubai experience, to small and large groups of friends celebrating a special occasion or just the fact it’s a weekend. Most are dressed up, but you will still spot the odd guest in shorts and a T-shirt. The entertainment: A small band entertains guests out on the terrace, but the venue’s so large you won’t be able to hear them if you’re seated elsewhere – so for most it’s pop music played through speakers.
Highs and lows: The huge variety on offer can be both an attraction and a turn off, depending on individual taste. Thankfully, though, it’s not a case of quantity over quality, as the latter is kept high throughout. Dhs450 (with soft drinks), Dhs550 (with house beverages), Dhs250 (children aged four-12). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Bubbalicious For sheer scale, decadence and spectacle, this brunch is hard to beat
The venue: The main Westin dining hall, Blue Orange, is light, bright, airy and enormous – it can get pretty loud once the band strikes up and hungry brunchers go on the prowl. Alternatively, you can sit in Hunters (near the steak) or The Spice Island (which houses the Asian section) for a more intimate, less ostentatious atmosphere. In winter, there are also tables outside overlooking the gardens.
The food: Three restaurants join forces to dish up almost every food imaginable. Among others, there’s a sizeable sushi station, a cheese section, oyster bar, live Asian cooking stations, seafood galore, plenty of steaks and Brit grub, plus a huge dessert section with a dedicated chocolate table. The presentation of food is immaculate, and service is swift, efficient and unobtrusive.
The drinks: In addition to the expected house beverages, there are various mixed drinks stations dotted about, and the lemon fountain is truly a sight to behold.
The atmosphere and crowd: Bubbalicious is very family-friendly and it doesn’t get as rowdy as some rival brunches – maybe the higher price discourages younger revellers. Nearly everyone is smartly attired: women wear dresses and vertiginous heels and men don open-collared shirts and perfectly pressed chinos.
The entertainment: Guests can expect a three-piece band belting out popular hits, an outdoor petting zoo for the kids (during the cooler months) as well as a group of gawp-inducing Chinese acrobats.
Highs and lows: The sheer size means there should be enough choice to satisfy even the most fussy palates, but the band and acrobats could do with turning the volume down a little: if you’re seated near the speakers, conversation is impossible. Dhs350 (with soft drinks), Dhs490 (with bubbly), Dhs590 (with premium bubbly), Dhs190 (children aged six-12), free (kids under six). Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Umm Suqeim (04 399 4141).
Mina A’Salam An opulent yet not over-the-top relaxed brunch that’s perfect for holidaymakers, visiting family members and friends
The venue: Three of the hotel’s restaurants, connected via walkways over the Madinat waterways, come together to form the Mina A’Salam brunch. International restaurant Al Muna and British venue The Wharf sprawl with guests, but tables are adequately spaced making it comfortable and personal for couples or small groups. Both venues are bright and airy, with food stations aplenty, and they’re popular choices with families and those celebrating an occasion. Chinese restaurant Zheng He’s, meanwhile, is quieter, perhaps due to its decor, which although elegant and traditionally oriental, is dark and more inviting for an evening meal than a vibrant midday lunch.
The food: A jaw-dropping amount of food is all decadently displayed. Expect everything from seafood and sushi to Arabic salads, mezze, a carvery and a selection of desserts in Al Muna, while a full English breakfast is available in The Wharf, with eggs swiftly cooked live to your preference. Zheng He’s across the water offers a small selection of Chinese dishes and we’ve found these to be the least impressive of the selection – the noodles drenched in oil and soy sauce and meat dishes congealing in containers. Food also lines the walkways between restaurants and the outdoor terrace hosts a barbecue, shawarmas cooked live as well as fish and chips. There’s more than you can expect to get through in the allotted hours, but pile the tiniest amount of food on your plate and you have a chance of sampling your way through.
The drinks: Mixed drinks, grape and bubbly are served at your table upon request and the outdoor walkways are lined with drinks stations serving colourful, cooling slushy mixed beverages.
The atmosphere and crowd: Despite its size, this brunch is surprisingly relaxed. The setting makes it feel like a holidaymakers’ brunch and it’s a popular one with families and those celebrating special occasions.
The entertainment: A live singer – whose voice reverberates through speakers in each venue – keeps the crowds entertained without being intrusive or overbearing.
Highs and lows: You’re absolutely spoilt for choice in terms of food and drink, but we’ve found desserts to be less adventurous and numerous than at other brunches of a similar size. And the Chinese selection simply couldn’t compete with the rest of the fare on offer. Dhs390 (with soft drinks), Dhs465 (with selected house beverages), Dhs220 (children aged eight-12), free (children below eight). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Saffron Large, loud and lively, it’s where to go to party!
The venue: Located in Atlantis, 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 ambience, and although it’s not a particularly classy affair, it’s undoubtedly somewhere to go and just celebrate. There’s also an outdoor terrace perfect for the cooler months.
The food: Most cuisines are included, from great South East Asian noodles to massive (and that’s no exaggeration) roast dinners. The South East Asian seafood is the restaurant’s speciality and therefore also its strongest cuisine.
The drinks: The venue boasts numerous drinks counters, which means, for certain concoctions, there’s no need to wait at a bar; you can simply go up and grab a pre-prepared tipple. From cans of hops, glasses of grape, mixed beverages in a coconut or watermelon… you name it, they have it.
The atmosphere and crowd: The atmosphere is charged, as if everyone is dressed up for a night out. Groups of diners are large and age groups vary. It’s certainly not romantic – more the sort of place from where you’d expect people to press on to Nasimi or Sandance afterwards.
The entertainment: On our visit there were easels and blank canvases on the terrace, offering an opportunity to try your hand at painting. There’s also a magician and a DJ pumping out pop classics, ranging from Michael Jackson to Abba.
Highs and lows: You’re unlikely to find many better venues if you’re after somewhere to go in a large group and party. Some of the food isn’t quite up to the same standard as other brunches in the same price bracket, however. Dhs435 (with selected house beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Spectrum on One A good spread with decent variety, in welcomingly relaxed surroundings
The venue: Since Fairmont Dubai is one of the older hotels in the city, there is a feeling that quite a lot is crammed into the venue’s floor space. Yet this is not necessarily a bad thing, since it makes for a welcome, lively atmosphere. The food: The Arabic and seafood spread are little lacklustre, but the South East Asian, Indian and Japanese options are all fantastic. Don’t miss the cheese room, which houses an impressive selection, and the same goes for the neighbouring cold cuts station. The drinks: There are several different packages, and the mid-range one will get you the full selection of drinks except for bubbly. But bear in mind that the premium beverages recommended at the bar are not part of the package and can be pricey.
The atmosphere and crowd: Guests are of all ages, and we’d go as far as to say the brunch attracts a more mature crowd. That said, on our visit we did also notice several families with babies.
Highs and lows: Expect long queues at the slow-moving crepe station for dessert – but they’re worth the wait. The teriyaki skewers from the Japanese station are also well worth a try and the roast beef from the European kitchen is perfectly cooked. Service, however, can be a little slow – you could be in for a long wait for that after-dinner Americano. Dhs345 (with soft drinks), Dhs455 (with selected house beverages), Dhs575 (with bubbly), Dhs670 (with pink bubbly). Fri noon-3pm. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
Yalumba The biggest party brunch in Old Dubai, attracting the city’s long-term party animals
The venue: Yalumba is a medium-sized restaurant, divided into different sections via walls and dividers. Décor has an Arabian touch (photographs of Bedouins offer a surprising contrast to the scenes within), and is generally light and airy. There is space to dance inside once the feeling takes you (the free-flowing bubbly guarantees it will), although most will head outside to the spacious, dance-off-worthy pool patio and bar area, as long as the weather permits. Warning: get dropped off at the hotel entrance, rather than on the Warehouse side, or be prepared for a short walk through the complex to find your destination.
The food: You can select from the à la carte menu or head up to the buffet. There is a vast selection, ranging from sushi to sea bass, pastries to meats as well as an array of desserts (obligatory chocolate fountain included). We recommend the salmon filet main course in particular. Overall, however, we’re not sure the food quality is quite as high as can be found at other similarly-priced brunches around town.
The drinks: Most brunchers tend to stick with the bubbly on offer (there are three top varieties to choose from), although all other house drinks are available at a 20 percent discount.
The atmosphere and crowd: Yalumba attracts an up-for-it, slightly more mature party crowd. Expect raucousness.
The entertainment: A DJ spins chart and retro tunes that are guaranteed to get all the ladies (and some of the men) working it.
Highs and lows: The salmon and bubbly are delicious, and the brunch is ideal for big groups who want to really let their hair down. On the flipside, this is not the best place for more reserved diners or those keen on a more intimate brunch experience. Dhs499 per person. Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm; happy hour 3.30pm-7.30pm (20 percent discount on all beverages). Le Méridien Dubai, Airport Road, Garhoud, www.yalumba-dubai.com (04 217 0000).
Classy brunches Imperium A brunch that’s truly fit for an emperor
The venue: Huge chandeliers hang from the high-vaulted ceiling, while walls are adorned with faux-Renaissance reliefs. The grand dining hall is mad and beautiful in equal measure, and the perfect setting for a Friday brunch. There’s also an al-fresco terrace for cooler months.
The food: The overall tone is traditional and European. There’s a particular focus on French brasserie-style cooking, with a few English classics such as beef Wellington added to the mix. There’s also a decent but not overwhelming variety of buffet stations to delve into, offering hot and eggy breakfast items, terrines, quiches, salads, charcuterie, seafood and roast meats. Also available is a limited à la carte menu of main courses. The drinks: There’s a wide selection of decent quality grape and house beverages, and staff are attentive and knowledgeable, happy to make recommendations and refilling glasses promptly.
The atmosphere and crowd: While Imperium is generally busy, it’s a mixed group of brunchers taking up the tables, from families and older folk to tourist groups, charmed by the ostentatious surrounds. Dubai evidently also deems Imperium worthy of a birthday celebration or two, but it’s a space suited to a special occasion, not a party. The entertainment: There’s a small jazz band playing at the front of the venue.
Highs and lows: A great venue if you’re looking to impress guests, as there is a true sense of grandeur and elegance, although a few of the dishes don’t quite live up to the décor. Dhs275 (with soft drinks), Dhs395 (with selected house beverages), Dhs550 (with bubbly). Fri 1pm-4pm. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0444).
Nobu A decadent Japanese affair in wonderfully sophisticated surroundings
The venue: Tucked away past Atlantis’ luxury shopping court is Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro’s Japanese concept, Nobu. The restaurant oozes class, from the black slate sign at the entrance to the suited staff standing guard as you walk through the door. The dark ambience of the restaurant and artistically twisted rope ‘baskets’ give it a luxurious feel, while the orange, red and rustic brown colour scheme, combined with dim spotlighting, transports you to a sophisticated taste of the Orient. It’s romantic, too, and the restaurant’s strict no-kids-before-6pm policy adds to the adult atmosphere.
The food: Small bites of classic dishes are served on frosted glass slides held together in a decadent flame-shaped three-tiered stand in five courses. Sushi, sashimi, strips of expertly prepared beef and tomato miso soup follow edamame, tacos with spicy tuna miso and a mushroom salad. The sushi overall lacks the wow factor you might expect given Nobu’s worldwide reputation, but the sashimi, beef and Matsuhisa special sauces that come with it more than make up for it. Be sure to keep room for dessert – the peanut butter as well as tiramisu flavoured ice cream mochis are outstanding.
The drinks: We especially like the mixed beverages, which include classic combinations with a Japanese twist, but there’s plenty of free-flowing premium bubbly as well. The atmosphere and crowd: Nobu’s ‘High Brunch’, a take on the classic ‘high tea’, is overall a very high-brow affair. The upmarket and adult nature of the restaurant attracts those celebrating adult occasions, such as engagements, anniversaries and possibly the odd birthday. But it’s also the perfect place for a quiet brunch. The restaurant is spacious and doesn’t fill to capacity, so there’s always plenty of space.
Highs and lows: By far the standout dish is the black cod drizzled in a sticky, honey-sweet saikyo miso sauce. One small square simply isn’t enough! On the downside, we’ve found that staff could be a little more attentive to glasses and refills. Dhs360 (with soft drinks), Dhs540 (with bubbly and a tasting of Japanese rice-based beverages). Fri noon-4pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Traiteur Expect high-end posh nosh – one for an extra special occasion
The venue: If you’re looking for wow factor, then the opulent restaurant’s décor, inspired by a wooden ship’s hull, certainly makes a statement. Although slightly over the top, the raised open kitchen provides a buzz and the tucked away buffet allows the venue to retain its restaurant vibe, leaving the chattering classes to clink their bubbly flutes and imagine they’re in France. Weather permitting, there is also a well-appointed outdoor terrace overlooking the marina.
The food: You’ll find high-end dining options here; it’s a well-heeled foodie’s dream. Expect a brilliantly executed menu with everything from oysters, lobster and eggs Benedict to sushi and desserts – all to kill for.
The drinks: There’s a decent selection of grape included in the package, catering to most palates, and the knowledgeable staff are on hand to suggest suitable pairings with food. Mixed beverages and hops are also included and refills are swift and unobtrusive.
The atmosphere and crowd: There’s a mixture of yummy mummies dressed to the nines, young moneyed hipsters who look like they come from London’s Shoreditch, glamour pusses and smart-casual gents. Men need to look effortlessly cool, while girls should pull out a posh frock. Yet it’s still a relaxed, chatty atmosphere.
The entertainment: There’s a live jazz band with a female singer.
Highs and lows: With excellent service and classy décor, the Traiteur brunch is relaxing and classy. We just wish there was slightly more space around some of the cooking stations and buffets, as it can feel a little cramped at times. Dhs425 (food only), Dhs495 (with grape and hops), Dhs550 (with sparkling grape), Dhs670 (with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 602 1234).
Zuma A quality Japanese brunch in stylish yet understated surroundings
The venue: Intricately carved wood and chiselled stone and granite in distinctly Japanese patterns combine with bamboo features and a sophisticated, controlled palette to create a serene, stylishly understated space, all in keeping with DIFC’s more serious, businesslike design. You wouldn’t come here for a raucous party – such untamed enthusiasm would most likely be frowned upon – but quieter and, dare we say it, classier, more sophisticated affairs will fit right in.
The food: The Zuma brunch is all about the finest sushi and sashimi, a range of Japanese yakitori, salads, noodles, seafood and meat dishes, as well as exquisite Zuma mains, such as the much-talked-about black cod. Diners order their mains à la carte and then help themselves from the two buffets – but the latter is an easy, pleasurable experience, without the queues and mad rush you’ll find elsewhere. Refreshingly, too, the Zuma approach doesn’t involve piling up food in a grotesque, eyes-bigger-than-your-stomach way, with offerings presented in small, appetising batches and then restocked as required.
The drinks: Drinks include delicious ‘cleansers’ (chilled tea, juice and fruit combinations), premium beverages and a range of Japanese rice-based beverages.
The atmosphere and crowd: As the decor dictates, Zuma is less party and more fine dining, resulting in a slightly older, more mature crowd, with plenty of couples and smaller groups. The staff are also (somewhat overly) keen to stress Zuma’s smart-elegant dress code. That said, you’ll still find larger parties out for a celebration, and kids are welcome, too, with a dedicated play area at the entrance.
Highs and lows: With its classy atmosphere, delicate, thinly sliced sashimi and wow-factor miso black cod, Zuma is a must for fans of Japanese cuisine, and others as well. If you looking for mammoth portions and a party atmosphere, however, you may wish to brunch elsewhere. Dhs345 (with soft drinks and cleansers), Dhs465 (with selected premium beverages and Japanese rice-based beverages), Dhs590 (with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-3.45pm. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 425 5660).
Alternative brunches Cultural Brunch A good alternative brunch for the culturally curious and first-time visitors to Dubai
The venue: The cultural brunch experience offered by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) takes place in a renovated 'wind tower' house in Dubai's historic Al Fahidi district. Brunch guests can take a seat on one of the woven cushions around the food displayed in the centre, in a traditional majlis set up, inside a covered courtyard.
The food: The brunch menu is laid out in the centre of the majlis for guests to help themselves. The dishes are typically Emirati, and come with plenty of explanation and interesting anecdotes. A typical menu includes dango chickpeas, chicken machboos, sweet vermicelli noodles with scrambled eggs, khameer bread with soft cheese and date syrup, and luqaimat donut balls. The selection is modest, but there is plenty of each variety of dish, and guests are encouraged not to stand on ceremony, but to get stuck in and have as much as they wish.
The drinks: Traditional Arabic coffee, infused with cardamom and saffron, is served before the meal (alongside a date), and tea is served at the end. Water is also freely available throughout the meal.
The atmosphere and crowd: The majority of brunch goers are tourists, with several families coming to the event.
The entertainment: Here, entertainment comes in the form of 'edu-tainment', with the hosts offering an insight into their culture through stories and discussion. During a group Q&A with Emirati volunteers, brunchers are invited to chat openly with native Dubaians about their culture, history and religion, encouraged to ask anything they are dying to know the answer to.
Highs and lows: The focus and highlight of this brunch is the lesson in Emirati culture and traditional bedouin customs. Sampling real Emirati food is also a rare treat. We particularly like the sweet, chewy luqaimat donuts and light, aromatic coffee, although some dishes are an acquired taste and may not be enjoyed by all. Dhs80. Sat 10.30am-noon. Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, House 26, Al Mussallah Road, Al Fahidi, www.cultures.ae (04 353 6666).
Dup-per Offering brunch on Thursday night, it’s a fine way to start the weekend
The venue: Dubai’s Spectrum on One is perfect for a brunch. The décor is classy but unpretentious, while its circular shape – like walking inside the rim of a tyre – means as you circle the various counters, plate in hand, it feels like there’s even more food on offer than there perhaps is. There’s also a pleasant standalone bar area for smokers (or those who can’t wait for short drinks), and even a space left for a decent-sized dancefloor in front of the DJ booth, although we can’t say we saw a soul make use of it. The name, in case you’re wondering, amalgamates the words ‘dinner’ and ‘supper’. And no, we’re not convinced by this moniker either.
The food: Food genres are clearly and simply split up and labelled according to their origins. The brunch excels with its Chinese sections, including a live wok cooking station, and there’s also sushi on offer in the Japanese section, while the chilled cheese room is top drawer too. We’ve got no complaints about the European, Indian or Arabic selection, although a little more recipe flair wouldn’t haven’t gone amiss.
The drinks: There’s a wide selection of drinks on offer, including grape, hops and shorts, but the brunch’s USP is the selection of mixed drinks, with a couple of stations from which to collect them if your waiter is taking his or her time. A drinks list would be useful, however, as the staff aren’t always that helpful in terms of knowing what’s on offer.
The atmosphere and crowd: The ‘dup-per’ concept is aimed at the affluent, post-work crowd, and the concept largely works, with a generally mature expat pack letting their hair down without embarrassing themselves after a hard week in the office.
The entertainment: The poppy house grooves spun by the resident decksmith suit the brunch’s end-of-week vibe, even if they fail to get the crowd on their feet.
Highs and lows: The best thing about the ‘dup-per’ concept is the relaxed yet stylish post-work vibe – neither formal nor stuffy, nor as messy as other Sheikh Zayed Road Thursday eat and drink deals. The worst thing? That’s got to be the name. And Dhs350 for a three-hour window feels a little steep. Dhs350 (one price including beverages). Thu 8pm-11pm. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
Grand Buffet Authentic Asian cuisine at the Asiana Hotel’s Friday evening brunch
The venue: Diners can pick a table in Sonamu, the hotel’s Korean restaurant, or Japanese venue Hanabi. The former is an imposing space with high ceilings, lots of wood, oversized bonsai-style trees and Korean characters along the full length of one of the walls. Sadly, Sonamu’s sunken seating is only available for those ordering à la carte, so if you’re after a more traditional experience, dine instead in one of Hanabi’s private rooms, complete with tatami floors.
The food: Needless to say, the focus is on Asian cuisine, Korean and Japanese being the main offerings. Dishes such as Japanese ramen, oden (essentially a fish-cake hot pot), sushi and tempura, as well as Korean bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), kimchi and other fermented pickles are all wonderfully authentic. Chinese, Thai and Indian flavours also make an appearance – think som tum, crispy duck and curry – but our advice is to stick to what the chefs know best, namely Japanese and Korean. Adventurous diners might like to try the raw sea cucumber and sea squirt, but we can’t promise you’ll enjoy the experience. And leave room for the modest yet tasty selection of desserts.
The drinks: Drinks are served from the bar set up in the foyer area between the two restaurants. The selection is by no means large, but it does include drinks not available at most other brunches, such as Japanese and Korean rice-based premium beverages.
The atmosphere and crowd: It’s a fairly quiet, subdued affair, better suited to smaller groups of friends interested in trying some excellent Asian cuisine than rowdy parties keen on letting their hair down. The mainly Asian clientele speaks volumes of the food’s authenticity.
Highs and lows: The sushi, sashimi and okonomikayi (savoury Japanese pancakes) all worth mentioning, along with the delicious Korean glass noodles with seafood. But the grilled meats and fish would be better if cooked to order, as they tend to cool rather quickly on the buffet. Dhs220 (food only), Dhs289 (with selected house beverages). Friday 6pm-10.30pm. Asiana Hotel, Deira (04 238 7777).
Mistral A relaxed evening brunch with a wide selection of surf and turf
The venue: The venue is located just off the lobby in a buffet restaurant that’s part of the large, Arabic-themed Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate. There are sushi and dessert counters and a grilling station to the middle of the venue, where chefs are on hand to cook meat and fish at your request. With high ceilings and tables spread a decent distance apart, the atmosphere is one of relaxed space and intimacy. The noise levels do ramp up a bit as the evening wears on though.
The food: There’s a large array of surf and turf along with a wide selection of tasty desserts. While the sweets are good, the raw seafood is average and sushi forgettable. The selection of meat and fish are good though, and we like the fact that it’s cooked to order. Unfortunately on our visit some of the side dishes weren’t quite hot enough.
The drinks: House grape, hops and a selection of mixed drinks are included in the package and although the drinks are decent quality, refills can be slow to arrive.
The atmosphere and crowd: The majority of diners are adults, with a varied age group of attendees including young after-workers, mature couples and hotel guests. It’s also somewhere to head for a celebration as it’s common to find several large groups scattered throughout the room.
The entertainment: Two live musicians play old-school rock and pop music.
Highs and lows: On the plus side, the overall value is good and there’s a large selection of food. There is room for improvement, though, as some of the cooked dishes are let down by being lukewarm and the service isn’t always as quick as you’d expect. Dhs190 (with soft drinks), Dhs249 (with bubbly). Fri 6.30pm-11pm. Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, The Gardens (04 444 5613).
Mazina A great Saturday brunch for the family, with plenty to keep kids happy
The venue: It’s light and airy in the central section near the buffet, with a quieter, more private area around the back of the restaurant, which is often used to host private birthday parties.
The food: Expect cuisine from across the globe, including sushi, a carvery, a very large salad bar, steamed dim sum and satay meats, plus a huge dessert selection and a kids’ station.
The drinks: Beverages are ordered separately, as Mazina doesn’t offer any drinks packages. There’s also a bar within the restaurant.
The atmosphere and crowd: Families with young children make up the majority of the crowd.
The entertainment: Kids will love the bouncy castle, face painting and Wii games console, as well as the screenings of children’s movies. And parents will be pleased and relieved to know that the kids’ area is fully supervised.
Highs and lows: The carvery is impressive, as is the sushi station, and Mazina boasts one of the best dessert counters in town. Plus they seem to have thought of everything with regard to family brunchers. Bear in mind, though, that if you’re going to the Generation Creation brunch event, which is held at Mazina once a month, you should expect an especially noisy experience. Dhs220 (adults), Dhs110 (kids aged seven-12), free (kids under six). Sat 12.30pm-3.30pm. The Address, Dubai Marina (04 436 7777).
The Med Welcome to Media One’s evening brunch
The venue: The Med, on the eighth floor of the Media One hotel, is classed as a signature Mediterranean restaurant, but the decor mainly consists of brightly coloured, slightly gaudy chairs, and the venue lacks any real warmth or character, feeling more like an airport hotel stopover restaurant. The venue certainly has very little wow factor.
The food: Included is a mix of special counters for salads, sushi, pizza, cold cuts, roast cuts and desserts. There is also a range of hot foods, with the cottage pie a favourite, but even this lacks sufficient meat and is drowned in potato. As the evening brunch after the normal daytime brunch, it feels like leftovers, as the food isn’t particularly great for the price level it’s targeting. Most of the meats feel overcooked and the extras, such as potatoes and vegetables, are pretty dry. The drinks: There’s a good mix of grape, hops and cocktails, and the service is constant and free flowing, with a steady and efficient stream of drinks on demand. The range of minty Cuban drinks and premium beverages is better than most.
The atmosphere and crowd: Don’t expect a large crowd in attendance – hence the good service. It is best for large crowds seeking a raucous time, rather than any culinary delight.
The entertainment: There’s a DJ box, but the music is mainly very loud and cheesy disco music, ranking from ’80s classics to ’90s standards. Highs and lows: The food doesn’t live up to expectations, but the excellent staff and service more than make up for it. The music, however, just adds to the cheap overall sense that the brunch is just warmed up leftovers from the earlier serving. Go for the drink rather than the food. Dhs220 (with soft drinks), Dhs340 (with selected house beverages). Fri 7pm-11pm. Media One, Dubai Media City (04 427 1000).
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Muzzi Apr 25, 2013 07:01 am
I tried the Asiana Grand Buffet and it was excellent. I went on the Thursday evening but its available both Thursday & Friday evening. The food was really good and it was great trying some items that i had never tried before. I would definitely recommend!