Ignore the obvious and try a new brunch this weekend
It may mean something entirely different in London, New York or Berlin, but in Dubai, brunch is big business, and we’ve made this repast very much our own. Last year alone, brunching institution Al Qasr served in excess of 33,000 guests at their Friday events. Depending on your personal tastes, you can pay as little as Dhs69 for a pie and pint (at the likes of Dubliner’s), or go all-out with a chauffeur-driven experience for Dhs2,998 at Traiteur. Since the emirate has seen an influx of new brunches, from Peruvian to Prohibition-themed, Time Out has tried out some of the most notable new events in Dubai.
New Friday brunches A different story brunch at Story Rooftop Lounge With a vista that looks out onto Dubai Media City, the beach and cool communal lounge seating, this brunch could be a big hit (although we were literally the only two people there during our visit). A small but sufficient Peruvian buffet offers ceviche, made right in front of you, as well as empanadas and some slightly non-Peruvian additions including steamed veggies and Indian-style chicken. It’s a great place for vegetarians, but the food is slightly disappointing considering what you pay. This feast needs to find its feet before it can be a true contender. Highlight: The freshly made ceviche. Dhs240 (soft drinks). Dhs299 (selected beverages). Fri 1pm-4pm. Story Rooftop Lounge, Holiday Inn Express, Knowledge Village (04 365 9911).
Friday brunch at Reform Social & Grill Reform operates as normal on Fridays in addition to hosting brunch, and as a result, the crowd is an unusual mix of families and kids, couples and girlie get-togethers. What there isn’t, however, is gangs of party brunchers – this is a relaxed, sophisticated affair. The staff will happily furnish you with a bottle of grape rather than sparingly pouring measures whenever they’re in the vicinity. Diners choose a sharing platter to start, with seafood, cold cuts and cheese varieties available, before choosing a main from the short selection. While the crispy seafood platter is top notch bistro fare, the mains are a bit of a let-down on several fronts – arriving cold, not cooked as requested and generally underwhelming for the price. Save room for dessert, however (also served as a ‘platter’), as the English trifle is a creamy triumph. Highlight: Being trusted to drink responsibly with a bottle on the table. Dhs230 (soft drinks), Dhs350 (hops, grape and bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. The Lakes, Emirates Living, www.reformsocialgrill.ae (04 454 2638).
Fab 4 Friday Brunch at Citymax Hotel Bur Dubai A cheap and cheerful buffet-style brunch in Bur Dubai, this event is popular with hotel guests and sports fans taking advantage of having unlimited food while watching the weekend’s action in The Huddle’s sports bar. The Fab 4 offers diners a chance to eat in all four Citymax restaurants, which include North Indian restaurant Claypot, pan Asian restaurant Sizzling Wok, The Huddle Sports Bar & Grill which offers a roast dinner, or the international City Café. The day Time Out visited, it was pretty quiet even in the sports bar. Sizzling Wok and Claypot offer the most variety to keep you coming back for another plate. The crab salad with pineapple from Sizzling Wok, kindly hand-mixed by the restaurant manager, was the standout dish. It was an unusual combination but a very fresh tasting and sweet salad.
Highlight: Staff are really friendly. Dine in all four restaurants: Dhs159 (regular beverages), Dhs199 (premium beverages). Dine in just one restaurant: Dhs95 (three regular beverages). Fri 12pm-4pm. Citymax Hotel Bur Dubai, Kuwait Street, Bur Dubai. www.citymaxhotels.com, (050 100 7065).
The Bubbly Friday Brunch at Pierchic, Al Qasr Set on stilts out to sea from Madinat Jumeirah, Pierchic has long been known as the place to mark a special occasion – it even won our Best Romantic Restaurant award in 2013. The new brunch gives us a reason to visit in daylight, when the unrivalled views of the natural Arabian Gulf and the manmade Burj Al Arab are even clearer. Expect quality over quantity – the four live stations serve just a handful of delicacies (scallops, shrimps, sushi, foie gras), with a choice of soup and one of six mains à la carte. It’s as classy as you might hope from the price tag – expect to be greeted by oysters, bubbly and a smile – but there’s no escaping the fact it’s the view which carries a premium.
Fiesta Brunch at Café Habana Café Habana is a small venue and its Friday Fiesta is an intimate affair. There’s a small à la carte menu, but sit back and staff will present you with sharing platters of starters, mains and deserts. As the name suggests, it’s Cuban food, filtered through the American influences of the brand’s birthplace. Sadly, it all tastes unremarkable, somewhat plastic, and incredibly greasy. It’s clearly not a brunch aimed at foodies, but sadly Café Habana failed to provide the Fiesta promised by its online photo album. When we visited there were less than a dozen brunchers and a bored DJ while – most bizarrely for a Cuban ‘party brunch’ – the staff would only serve us short Mexican drinks mixed with lemonade. Highlight: There is a wide selection of beverages for the price. Dhs250 (selected beverages). Fri 1pm-4pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 422 2620).
Friday Brunch at Prime 68 This is an upmarket foodie’s brunch with a 1920s American prohibition theme. The steakhouse brings diners a set selection of dishes from the à la carte menu. The food is brought to your table and if you want more, the cheerful staff are happy to give you refills. But the amount of food is so plentiful it’s unlikely you’ll need more. The main offering is meat, however there is also a delicious fish course and selection of salads. The mixed drinks are paired with the food and, in keeping with the theme, are served in tea cups. A swing band adds to the ambience and there’s a dress-up table where a professional photographer will take your photo.
Highlight: Stunning views. Dhs495 per person including premium beverages, Dhs595 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Prime 68, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Business Bay (04 414 3000).
Girders Garden Brunch at JA Ocean View Hotel This JBR watering hole is increasingly becoming the go-to place for anyone in the Marina end of town who prefers their brunch served with a healthy air of spit-and-sawdust. Venture to Girders, walk upstairs and you’re now greeted with decking, a half-covered canopy and a bar at the back complete with DJ who played mainly 1970s and 1980s soul when we visited. Don’t have too many high expectations from the food in terms of variety – here you can expect an English breakfast type buffet with a curry or two, salads and ‘English pudding’, which is kind of a cross between rice and bread and butter pudding. And the food is perfectly fine. The vibe screams not-too serious, it’s not too rowdy and the music’s good – so if you’re light of pocket and kicking around JBR, it’s hard to argue at these prices.
Highlight: Fun and light on the wallet. Dhs199 (food and beverages only). Noon-4pm. JA Ocean View Hotel, The Walk, JBR (04 814 5599).
The Q Brunch at Q43 This upmarket pub brunch is fast becoming one of the most popular spots in town and you definitely need to reserve in advance. It’s a slightly older crowd you’ll find here, with a good smattering of couples and groups, though it’s not one for the kids. The food is a unique concept: sushi and tapas à la carte, which is interesting and actually works pretty well. The appetisers are made of an initial serving of sushi consisting of delicious shrimp tempura and California rolls, followed by a tapas selection, which consists of a vegetarian flatbread, a mushroom salad and a delicious prawn dish. The main course is buffet style and things go a bit downhill here with only three meat options, no fish or vegetarian choices and the dessert selection is also a bit lacking. Service is excellent, staff are friendly and fast. There’s no live entertainment, just chilled out tunes from the stereo, but the amazing views of the Arabian Gulf, Burj Al Arab and Media City, plus the in-house pool tables keep everyone content.
Highlight: The shrimp tempura is delicious. Dhs250 (soft drinks) Dhs350 (selected beverages). Fri 2pm-6pm. Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City (04 443 5403).
Yum Cha at Yuan Inspired by the Chinese tradition of taking dim sum with tea, stylish new Chinese restaurant Yuan offers a huge selection of 25 dim sum options – traditionally steamed or fried dumplings – as well as accompanying vegetables and clay pot dishes, plus teas and soft drinks. There’s a traditional trolley doing the rounds carrying a selection of dim sum, but this seems more for show, with most of the menu ordered straight from the kitchen. The dim sum is largely traditional in taste and of a very high quality, and while it’s not the cheapest yum cha promotion in town, the chic surroundings and five star service make this worth forking out for. Highlight: The huge range of dim sum available to try. Dhs188 (with tea and soft drinks). Fri 11.30pm-3.30pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
New Saturday brunches Spanish Saturdays at El Sur Drawing families, couples and even hen parties, this end-of-the-weekend event certainly attracts a diverse crowd, though nothing too raucous. Diners are treated to a lengthy procession of classic tapas such as charcuterie cuts, gambas al ajillo (prawns with garlic), calamari and patatas bravas to name but a few – all of which go down nicely with a glass of the red or white classic Spanish mixed drink. While the food delivery can be a little ill-timed (on our visit, the paella main was served while two starter tapas were still almost untouched on the table), it’s nothing diners can’t prevent with a little forewarning to the staff that they don’t want all their food in the first hour. Despite the promise of background flamenco music, what actually comes through the speakers borders on house, which jarred a little with the relaxed Mediterranean vibe flowing through the rest of the experience.
Highlight: The impressively authentic tapas selection and Spanish beverages. Dhs195 (soft drinks), Dhs295 (house beverages). Sat 12.30pm-3.30pm. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh Road, www.elsurdubai.com (04 399 7700).
Hong Loong at Sofitel The Palm Based in the Francophile Sofitel hotel chain, this is perhaps the only Chinese restaurant in Dubai that greets you with ‘bonjour’. This Saturday dim sum brunch is the perfect way to see out the weekend. It’s popular with young families and staff are very efficient, whipping bamboo steamers in front of you before you can say ‘boo’. The dim sum arrives via hand rather than trolley and is served in three rounds; steamed dumplings, various wet and dry noodle dishes and then a selection of sweet dumplings. Some of the dumplings arrived cold, but overall it is a very welcome addition to Dubai’s lacking dim sum scene.
Highlight: The sticky goodness of the stewed chicken feet and an addictive egg and noodle dish. Dhs150 (tea and soft drinks). Dhs240 (selected beverages). Sat 12.30pm-2.30pm. Sofitel The Palm (04 440 9300).
L’Afternoon weekend brunch at Supperclub Dubai With a red carpeted entrance and Ibiza lounge-inspired interiors (entirely in icy white) this restaurant-meets-nightspot certainly looks the part for a party brunch with cool cache. Sadly, on our visit, it lacked many fellow diners and, despite the DJ playing in the corner, the party ambience was thwarted. Also lacking was the gymnastic entertainment for which Supperclub Dubai is primarily known. Nevertheless, the staff (who were utterly amiable and obliging across the board) did their best to fill this vacuum with charming patter. Sharing plates brought to the table were also of a good standard, with plenty of pleasing Middle Eastern references in the modern fusion menu.
Highlight: The top notch service. Dhs250 (soft drinks). Dhs500 (sparkling grape). Sat 1pm-4pm. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 451 1100).
New evening brunches Nosh at Mövenpick JLT This new Friday evening brunch has a bit of a split personality. Half of the venue seemed to be designated for families during our visit, while the other half, near the bar and its frozen mixed beverages, was full of Dubai’s dolled up party crowd. The vibe here is relaxed, even in the more noisy area by the bar, and the staff friendly. If you’re after a mountain of food, this isn’t the brunch for you. The range isn’t vast, but the standard is reasonable. Expect to find a small sushi counter (a bit too small for our liking), oysters, some Thai, Indian and Chinese main dishes, plenty of salads, Arabic classics and a big bread counter.
Pure Sky Lounge at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah This swish rooftop bar’s sunset brunch is a civilised affair. No herding around cooking stations and buffets is required here – it’s strictly table service. Refreshingly, a selection of marinated meats, fish and small bites, as well as shot glass-portioned desserts, are served in small but filling amounts, avoiding any of the gluttony that can sully the brunch experience. A mixture of groups, couples and different ages, Pure appears to attract people from across the board, creating a healthy murmur (along with the odd table of slightly livelier brunchers). Service is excellent and drinks perfectly palatable, if somewhat nondescript. If they can improve a few of the dishes, for the price Pure’s an impressive proposition.
Where to go for real brunch You know, that meal between breakfast and lunch...
Cave The new Recovery Saturdays promotion offers an à la carte selection including confit duck hash or banana bread French toast, plus cheese and charcuterie boards, and a bar serving tomato-based mixed drinks. Priced à la carte. Sat 11am-5pm. Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 444 7444).
Flow Kitchen Celebrate the best meal of the day with Flow Kitchen’s ‘Breakslow’ promotion (see what they did there?), with classic breakfast items, an al fresco area by the beach and even a fry-up-inspired dessert. Dhs155 (soft drinks), Dhs285 (house beverages and mixed drinks), Dhs445 (half a bottle of bubbly and mixed drinks). Fri 10.30am-3pm. Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).
More Café This soft drinks-only Friday brunch, hosted by one of Dubai’s café institutions, offers a menu of breakfast items and a great family-friendly vibe. Dhs105 (soft drinks), Dhs55 children under 12. Fri 11am-4pm. Al Murooj Rotana (04 343 3779), Gold & Diamond Park (04 323 4350).
Old Friday favourites Al Qasr The wealth of buffet stands and live cooking stations here is extensive enough to warrant being given a map on arrival! Dhs475 (soft drinks), Dhs575 (sparkling grape), Dhs795 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 8888).
Spectrum on One One of the first brunches ever to launch in the city, Spectrum on One’s enormous spread (some of which is on the cover of this magazine) is still going strong, with stations serving Japanese, Indian, Mexican and Arabic cuisine to name but a few. On Friday March 7, to celebrate ten years of brunching, the price of a bubbly brunch is being rolled back a decade to Dhs155 per person – spaces are limited and booking is essential. Dhs345 (soft drinks), Dhs455 (hops and grape), Dhs575 (premium bubbly), Dhs670 (pink bubbly). Fri noon-3.30pm. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
Bubbalicious The Westin Mina Seyahi’s Friday brunch walked away with the Time Out Dubai 2013 Restaurant Awards plaque for Dubai’s best brunch. Whether you’re after a Japanese beverage station, the chance to pet a chinchilla, or acres of cheese on display, this brunch has it all. Dhs390 (soft drinks), Dhs490 (sparkling grape), Dhs650 (bubbly). Fri 1pm-2pm. Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina (04 399 4141).
Zuma Expect to have your taste buds indulged with an array of the restaurant’s modern Japanese signature dishes, plus freshly made sushi, sashimi and robata grilled specials and a dessert counter. Dhs345 (soft drinks), Dhs495 (selected house beverages), Dhs600 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm. Gate Village, DIFC (04 425 5660).
Toro Toro The Hola Hola brunch served here still represents the original Latin experience in Dubai, with waiters passing through the room serving as much grilled meat as you fancy. Dhs300 (soft drinks), Dhs400 (selected house beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
Traiteur You’ll see the usual open kitchen used to excellent, brunch-style, cooking-station effect, as you can witness the selection of fine French and international plates prepared in front of you. Dhs465 (soft drinks), Dhs570 (sparkling grape), Dhs690 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
Sunday night brunch? Positano Fancy starting your week with a feast? Italian eatery Positano in the JW Marriott Marquis has just started a Sunday evening brunch deal serving antipasti, handmade pizzas, handcut pasta, cured meats and seafood. Dhs180 per person including soft drinks, Dhs290 including hops and grape. Sun 6pm-midnight. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 3000).