New Friday brunches There have never been more brunches in the city – fact. As more and more venues try and entice us in with Friday dining packages, competition gets ever steeper, and your hard-earned diarhams can de deployed ever-more selectively. To help you make an informed choice, we’ve loosed our belts, loaded our wallets, and anonymously dined around at 17 of the city’s newest and rebranded brunches, and here offer completely independent reviews. Happy dining! Click forward to see our new Friday brunch reviews
A Different Story Brunch A Peruvian-themed brunch at Story Rooftop Lounge with views of Palm Jumeirah
The venue: With a vista that looks out onto Dubai Media City and the beach beyond, and cool communal lounge seating, this brunch is the perfect day-time dining venue – though it’s yet to draw Friday brunch crowds comparable to other spots in the city. The interior is white and decorated with random works of local art and murals on the walls, while an empty DJ booth sits in the corner of the room.
The food: A small but sufficient makeshift Peruvian buffet offers red snapper ceviche, made right in front of you, as well as chicken and vegetarian empanadas, lomo saltado spring rolls and some slightly non-Peruvian mains including steamed veggies and Indian-style chicken and rice. It’s a great place for vegetarians, but the food is slightly disappointing considering what you pay. The feast needs to find its feet before it can be a true contender.
The drinks: Expect Latin-inspired mixed drinks and standard soft drinks, but there’s no tea or coffee.
The crowd: Being such a new brunch that hasn’t yet caught the attention of the Dubai masses, we were the only people in the venue on our visit, so it’s hard to judge. What we can say, however, is that it’s the ideal place for smallish groups of about five to ten, as well as couples looking for a more intimate experience.
The dress code: Casual – you’d get away with wearing flats here. The service: Staff are friendly, although due to the lack of atmosphere and other people, we were outnumbered by staff, so the service felt a tad overbearing. Highs & lows: The freshly made ceviche is served in a beautiful glass and is really fresh. The biggest disappointment was the lack of atmosphere. The entertainment: None, but this venue could really benefit from live music. The after party: We’d recommend heading to nearby Tamanya Terrace in the Radisson Blu Dubai Media City.
Dhs240 (with soft drinks), Dhs299 (with selected beverages). Fri 1pm-4pm. Story Rooftop Lounge, Holiday Inn Express, Dubai Knowledge Village (04 365 9911). Best for: chilled-out brunch 2/5
Back to Basics Brunch Sample contemporary British cuisine at Table 9 by Darren Velvick
The venue: Thanks to a large skylight, the dining space at Table 9 by Darren Velvick is bathed in natural light. The pale colour scheme and minimalist design add to the crisp look of this restaurant, which is certainly a relaxing setting for brunch.
The food: The food is the clear high at this brunch, which is definitely more about culinary delights than all-you-can-drink raucousness. Brunch is served in courses, with the choice of two breakfast dishes to start, followed by a main complete with unlimited sides and finally an afternoon tea tray for dessert.
The drinks: There are some refreshing mocktails available; the cucumber and pineapple creation is particularly good. You’ll find a decent selection of house beverages and mixed drinks with the midrange package, or you can go all-out with the free-flowing bubbly option.
The crowd: On our visit, the brunch was still very new, and therefore quite quiet. We imagine it will take a few weeks for word to reach Dubai’s brunchers. It’s the type of affair that would appeal to couples and small groups celebrating special occasions.
The dress code: Smart casual is the order of the day, reflecting the fine-dining essence of Table 9.
The service: Service is wonderfully warm and welcoming. All of the staff are relaxed and happy to chat to diners, and you certainly won't feel rushed. If you prefer to take things slowly, then you can request a little breather between courses.
Highs and lows: The combination of delicious food and very friendly staff is the major highlight. As for lows, on our visit, the brunch was so quiet that it lacked a little in atmosphere. This is likely to change, though, as soon as word gets out.
The entertainment: There’s no entertainment at this brunch, as it’s more about the dining experience. Chilled-out music is played at a low volume, ensuring conversation can continue unhindered.
The after party: Still within the Hilton Dubai Creek, you could head to Issimo Bar for a few post-brunch drinks. Alternatively, QD’s at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club is a short taxi ride away and is perfect for sundowners, or for something livelier you're not too far from the always bustling Irish Village in Garhoud.
Ballaro Brunch A sophisticated brunch with a broad Mediterranean cuisine The venue: The restaurant is bright and airy with a fresh decor and plenty of natural light. There are options to sit indoors and outdoors. The indoor dining area is spacious with a pleasant interior and a busy vibe with live cooking stations and a stage for the house band. The vocalist and piano duo perform modern covers, which adds a sense of occasion and enlivens the atmosphere. The outdoor area, meanwhile, boasts views of the hotel’s pool. The food: An extensive array of Mediterranean food. There are live cooking stations where you can have meat and fish freshly grilled to order. There’s a good selection of vegetables and salads as well as a sweet and tangy Peruvian ceviche, a selection of Spanish cured meats, cheeses and artisan bread. The salt-encrusted sea bass is a must-try. The drinks: A range of house beverages, mixed drinks and sparkling Italian drinks. The crowd: Ballaro attracts a mixed crowd. You’ll find rows of couples as well as large family groups celebrating birthdays and other occasions. The dress code: Smart casual is the way to go here. The service: Staff are friendly and personable, and despite it being a self-service brunch, the waiters are more than happy to bring plates to the tables, so guests don’t have to hang around at the live cooking stations. Drinks are topped up regularly and staff are happy to walk brunchers through the wide array of food on offer. Highs & lows: The meat and fish cooking stations are a definite highlight – you can have as much or as little as you like, all fresh and deliciously cooked on the grill. The entertainment: A two-piece band plays laidback lounge cover songs. The music is relaxed and mellow, adding an extra touch of sophistication to this afternoon brunch.
The after party: If you’re not sated after the brunch, head to Cave on the hotel’s mezzanine floor to continue the fun with beverages, cheese and canapés. If you need a change of venue, there are plenty of other Downtown options.
Dhs265 per person (with soft drinks), Dhs365 (with house beverages), Dhs465 (with bubbly and mixed drinks), half price (children aged six-12 years), free (children aged under six years). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Conrad Dubai, Trade Center 1, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 444 7444).
Best for: one for everyone 4/5
Chocoholic Brunch One for chocolate aficionados, permeated by the rich, delicious scent of cocoa The venue: Boasting an amazing view of three Dubai Landmarks – the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah – the Sheraton’s Sanabel restaurant is an indoor/outdoor venue with a relaxed atmosphere, comfortable seating and spacious table settings. The decor is simple and modern, including semi-private booths for couples, with upbeat background music that’s just at the right volume.
The food: Expect a variety of buffet options with stations serving sushi, salads, kebabs, mixed grills, main courses including roast meats, seafood, bread and cheese (including an unusual wasabi variant), and a number of desserts. Needless to say, chocolate is the latter’s main focus, boasting a chocolate pudding, two chocolate fountains and a whole room dedicated to the stuff – in total, you can pick from 33 chocolate desserts.
The drinks: There are three drinks packages to choose from, but don’t miss the hot chocolate, for which you can choose from different flavoured chocolate cubes to melt in hot milk. Also worth trying is the wow-factor peppermint and lavender tea, complete with billowing dry ice that combines with the tea to give it a chocolate-y aroma.
The crowd: It’s a very family-friendly brunch, so expect a mixed crowd of more mature as well as younger brunchers.
The dress code: Smart casual.
The service: Staff are friendly and accommodating, always happy to help when needed, recommending drinks and refilling glasses.
Highs & lows: All that chocolate is a definite high, so our advice is to avoid eating too much savoury food so you have space for the sweets. The entertainment: Brunchers get to enjoy a three-minute taster of the hotel’s chocolate spa treatment, which involves a chocolate scrub and massage. The after party: None to speak of, but there are several options close by in Al Barsha – think Après, Casa Latina or Maxx Music Bar & Grill.
Dhs175 (with soft drinks), Dhs275 (with house beverages), Dhs375 (with sparkling grape). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel, Al Barsha (04 377 2000).
Best for: just about everyone 4/5
CLAW BBQ A pleasant brunch with a hefty dollop of Southern hospitality
The venue: This self-styled American crab shack certainly treads a decent path towards looking the part. Inside, expect a smattering of dark wooden booths, red check tablecloths and an inordinate amount of Deep South memorabilia adorning the walls. The round bar serves as a focal point, and if you venture to the other end you’ll encounter a mechanical rodeo bull, which no doubt comes in more than handy for anyone wishing to shake off a post-brunch slump. There’s also a more-than-pleasant terrace outside, which occupies a pitch-perfect vantage point overlooking The Dubai Fountain.
The food: Expect the usual American suspects. For starters, choose from delights such as spinach and artichoke swamp dip, colossal onion ring towers, hot chicken wings and jumbo shrimp and tortillas. Main courses include a Texas beef brisket, a bizarre mammoth-sized sandwich with beef saturated in BBQ sauce rendering it a bit sickly, as well as tastier chargrilled chicken fajitas. The meat is well cooked but lacks a decent punch when it comes to the spices.
The drinks: The Varsity package includes various hops and house beverages, with free-flowing red and white grape, while the premium package also includes mixed drinks and shorts.
The crowd: It’s certainly a mixed bag in terms of the crowd. Expect a few large groups, plenty of couples and a few families.
The dress code: Casual and basic, there’s no need to wear your best finery, especially if you plan on riding the bull. The service: Friendly and accommodating; service is excellent – pre-emptive without being overbearing. Highs & lows: Rather than an all you can eat, it’s a choice of one entrée, one appetiser and one dessert, which makes for something a bit different. The bull and the up-tempo live band add a fun factor element to the affair. The entertainment: A live band plays rock covers. The after party: Head to anywhere in Downtown Dubai to continue the afternoon.
Dhs195 (with soft drinks), Dhs295 (with selected house beverages). Dhs345 (with premium house beverages and shorts). Fri noon-4pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 432 2300).
Best for: one for everyone 3/5
Fab 4 Friday Brunch A budget brunch with plenty of choice from four restaurants
The venue: Diners can choose in which of the four participating restaurants they would like to dine. Chinese restaurant Sizzling Wok has a red and black oriental theme, complete with a large aquarium full of exotic fish, but lacks a little on impressive views. Claypot, the Indian restaurant, is decorated in warm, spicy orange tones and has a combination of booth seating and tables. Across the lobby is The Huddle, Citymax’s sports bar, boasting large TV screens mounted on the walls. This is the liveliest of the four venues, with pop music playing and sport on the screens. Finally, City Café has an eclectic, international vibe. Each venue offers a self-service buffet.
The food: Sizzling Wok offers a variety of Chinese favourites such as egg fried rice, chilli beef and a creative selection of salads. Claypot’s offering focuses on curries, rice and vegetarian dishes such as dhal. The Huddle offers an unlimited roast dinner with all the trimmings, while the City Café has an international buffet with pasta, grilled meat, fish and the like. On our last visit we opted to dine in Sizzling Wok, and tucked into a variety of salads, including a tangy Thai-style salad with papaya, a buffet of meat, fish and vegetable dishes and a selection of rice and noodle accompaniments.
The drinks: The package includes three free drinks from a selection of house beverages and soft drinks, and staff are happy to keep you topped up. The house white is actually quite good quality.
The crowd: Mostly hotel guests and small groups of tourists in the restaurants, while The Huddle is popular with sports fans from nearby and who vary depending on what sporting event is on.
The dress code: Casual.
The service: Expect very friendly and helpful staff, who will ensure plates are quickly cleared from your table as you finish eating.
Highs & lows: Good value for money. On the downside, the à la carte menu at Sizzling Wok lists some exciting dishes like Peking duck and hot sizzling beef, but these do not feature in the brunch, which is a bit of a disappointment.
The entertainment: There are background tunes but nothing memorable.
The after party: Bur Dubai has loads of small bars – just don’t expect anything too glam. After 6pm, try The Music Room in the Majestic Hotel Tower for good tunes and happy hour deals.
Dhs95 (with three drinks). Fri noon-4pm. Citymax Hotel Bur Dubai, Kuwait Street and Mankhool Road, Al Mankhool (04 407 8000).
Best for: one for everyone 2/5
Fiesta Brunch Cafe Habana’s Cuban-vibe, mid-priced party brunch
The venue: Cafe Habana is a small, fairly unremarkable Latino-tinged bar-restaurant that’s inspired by the New York venue of the same name. Mismatched chairs and weathered tiles give it a bit of backstreet charm, but we don’t think the giant Che Guevara poster adds as much of an epitome of cool as the place may think.
The food: There’s a small à la carte menu, but sit back and wait, and staff will present you with sharing platters of starters, mains and desserts. As the name suggests, it’s Cuban food, filtered through the American influences of the brand’s birthplace. Sadly, nothing lasts long in the memory, as the fare fails to live up to expectations.
The drinks: Expect the usual selection of hops and grape, although on our visit – and oddly for a Cuban ‘party brunch’ – the staff refused to serve us Mexican shorts, unless mixed with soft drinks. The crowd: Unfortunately, when we last visited it was a bit quiet, with less than a dozen brunchers, including Time Out and a rather bored-looking DJ. You’ll mainly find couples and small groups of friends – this is certainly not a brunch for families. The dress code: Casual – no need to get all dressed up.
The service: Friendly, but it could have been faster, especially given how few guests there were on our visit.
Highs & lows: The friendly staff were probably the most memorable aspect of the afternoon. While in terms of lows, we were disappointed by the decidedly greasy food.
The entertainment: The DJ plays pumping tunes all afternoon at a pretty loud level, which could probably get the party started if you were in a large group. On our visit, though, it didn’t quite fit the small, quiet crowd.
The after party: You have the whole of Souk Al Bahar and Downtown Dubai to choose from.
Friday Brunch at Prime 68 A sophisticated brunch with a touch of ’20s New York glamour
The venue: On the 68th floor, the venue offers great views across the city, which adds to the brunch’s appeal. The place is light and bright with glossy white floors and chic white leather furniture. The majority of the tables are window side, so diners can enjoy the view, and there are a few booths with tasselled partitions for a touch of romance and privacy.
The food: This is an upmarket foodie’s brunch with a 1920s American Prohibition theme. Diners are offered a selection of dishes from the steakhouse’s à la carte menu, and if there’s anything you want more of, just ask. But a word of warning: the amount of food the staff plan to bring you is so bounteous that it’s unlikely you’ll need more. The main offering is, quite rightly, meat, and the steak is delicious. The American cornbread, which is served fresh from the oven, is moreish and there’s also a tasty fish course and fresh, crisp salads.
The drinks: The mixed drinks are paired with the food and, in keeping with the theme, served in tea cups. Each new course brings a new drink and they’ll bring more of whichever concoction takes your fancy.
The crowd: Expect mainly couples and small groups.
The dress code: Smart casual.
The service: Expect very friendly, polite and accommodating staff, who will happily explain each dish.
Highs & lows: The views are a stunning highlight.
The entertainment: A swing band adds to the ambiance and there’s a dressing-up table where a professional photographer will take your photo dressed in 1920s attire. The after party: From here, the bars of Souk Al Bahar are just a short taxi ride away, as are the many options on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Friday Brunch at Reform Social & Grill A family-friendly brunch with lots of sharing platters
The venue: Overlooking the lake at The Lakes Club, this restaurant has a bistro-style interior and an expansive patio and lawn, with plenty of room for kids to run around.
The food: Diners choose a sharing platter to start, with seafood, cold cuts and cheese varieties available, before picking a main from a small selection. While the crispy seafood platter is top-notch bistro fare, the mains are a bit of a let-down, arriving cold, not cooked as requested and overall a bit underwhelming. Do, however, save room for dessert, which is also served as a platter. The English trifle is a creamy triumph.
The drinks: Expect the usual suspects – house hops, grape and premium drinks, as well as an Italian house bubbly.
The crowd: Reform operates as normal on Fridays in addition to hosting its brunch, and, as a result, the crowd is an unusual mix of families and kids, couples and girlie get-togethers. What you won’t find, however, are gangs of party brunchers – this is a relaxed affair.
The dress code: In keeping with the casual, relaxed theme, Reform’s brunch seems to have a ‘wear whatever you feel like’ policy. On our visit, there were families in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, as well as more glamorous parties dressed to impress.
The service: On the whole, it’s friendly, and staff will happily furnish you with a bottle of grape rather than sparingly pouring measures whenever they’re in the vicinity.
Highs & lows: The desserts are great, though not always in line with what is stated on the menu. The mains are disappointing and could be improved. If you live in Emirates Living, it’s very handily located.
The entertainment: Nothing to speak of, so entertainment will come from the company you keep.
The after party: Options are scarce, as Reform is in the middle of a residential area. But a short taxi ride will take you to TECOM or JLT, where there are options aplenty.
Dhs230 (with soft drinks), Dhs350 (with hops, grape and bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. The Lakes, Emirates Living, www.reformsocialgrill.ae (04 454 2638).
Best for: brunch with the family 3/5
Girders Garden Brunch A brunch that comes with a healthy dose of spit and sawdust
The venue: This JBR watering hole is increasingly becoming the go-to place for anyone in the Marina end of town who prefers their brunch to be a more low key, rough and ready type of affair. Arrive at the hotel, head upstairs to Girders and you’re greeted with decking, a half-covered canopy and a sizeable bar complete with DJ and a whole host of Marina-dwellers who simply refuse to take themselves too seriously – a general demeanour Girders seems more than happy to cultivate. And it’s certainly hard to argue with this premise. A massive TV screen adorns one side of the venue where you can even have fun playing some virtual football.
The food: Try not to have too high expectations from the food in terms of variety. What you can expect, though, is an English breakfast-type buffet with a curry or two, various bog-standard salads as well as a rather curious-looking ‘English pudding’ – a kind of cross between rice and bread and butter pudding (which is actually rather nice). On the whole, the quality of the food across the board is perfectly fine.
The drinks: It’s all pretty basic, with just one option on offer. The drinks include house grape, premium beverages and the odd mixed drink of the day, if you’re lucky.
The crowd: It’s certainly a mixed bag in terms of the crowd. Expect a mixture of large groups that look like they may be celebrating someone’s impending marriage, plus couples. Anything seems to go here.
The dress code: Expect more of a dressed-down crowd – there’s no need to sweat over your outfit.
The service: Friendly and accommodating service is the order of the day. Expect the staff to take a genuine interest in your fun and, in some cases, add to it.
Highs & lows: Decent sounds provided by the DJ really help to keep the vibe strictly playful and without pretentiousness. The entertainment: Music-wise, it’s a mix of 1970s-1980s soul classics. The after party: Linger in Girders or, for a change of scenery, take your pick from the many bars along The Walk at JBR
Dhs199 (with food and beverages). Fri noon-4pm. JA Ocean View Hotel, The Walk, JBR (04 814 5599).
Best for: party central 3/5
Icho A sophisticated Japanese brunch ideal for couples and small groups
The venue: Expect unrivalled views of Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai’s beachfront from this elegant Japanese venue on the 49th floor of the hotel. The light wood interior, small tables and large windows make this chic spot ideal for daytime dining, and, perhaps most telling, it’s popular with Dubai’s Japanese community.
The food: Expect a mouth-watering buffet of various sashimi on ice, faultlessly fresh salmon, cucumber and tuna sushi rolls, as well as one variety topped with a dollop of charred cream cheese. In the cold section there’s beef tataki salad with truffle oil, crunchy soft shell crab and deep fried pineapple with raspberry vinaigrette. Tempura and edamame are served to the table, diners order one main from the menu, including miso lamb chops, and the hot section is home to Japanese curry, seafood dumplings, steamed buns and skewers.
The drinks: Mocktails including Shirley Temples and fruit punch, as well as hops-based beverages and mixed drinks.
The crowd: It’s a sophisticated and reserved crowd for this brunch. Think lunch-time grazers enjoying the odd drink rather than raucous table-top dancing.
The dress code: Smart casual.
The service: Swift, accommodating and friendly, it’s hard to fault the staff.
Highs & lows: The quality and freshness of the hot and cold food and attentive service will keep you coming back. Yet the dessert buffet, though overflowing with options, doesn’t quite shine.
The entertainment: None – this one is mainly about the food.
The after party: It’s a quiet affair, so it’s more than likely you’ll have to head somewhere nearby for another drink. But there are plenty of options on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Dhs295 (with soft drinks), Dhs395 (with house beverages and mixed drinks). Fri noon-3.30pm. Radisson Royal Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 308 0000). Best for: one for everyone 5/5
Jazz & Bubbles Brunch A sophisticated, family-friendly brunch with live jazz and international cuisine
The venue: The Talk restaurant is a large, spacious and light room, benefitting from a recent refurbishment to give it a touch of European class. Outdoors, there are plenty of seats and a large bouncy castle for kids. The live jazz-pop duo and tiled wall, where brunchers are invited to scrawl their testimonials, are a nice addition.
The food: A large variety of international favourites, including English breakfast, plus live cooking stations for salmon rösti, pasta, roast dinner and even foie gras. There’s a good selection of salads, Arabic and Indian mains. Most memorable is the standalone cheese room with a selection of five cheeses, crackers and chutneys.
The drinks: Sparkling grape, house grape, hops and a mixed drink of the day are on offer with the full-price package. Those on the soft drinks package can enjoy the fresh lemonade station.
The crowd: A mix of couples, hotel guests and families with children.
The dress code: Anything goes – you won’t feel out of place in a dress and heels, but people also come in to eat from the adjacent pool in shorts and flip-flops.
The service: We found the service to be very friendly and attentive. Highs & lows: The live music is a nice addition and adds a touch of class. On the downside, a couple of the dishes we tried were a little cold. The entertainment: There’s a live saxophonist and singer playing jazzy favourites to a backing track.
The after party: Happy hour runs until 9pm downstairs at sports bar West Beach Bar & Bistro.
Dhs279 (with soft drinks), Dhs379 (with house beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 449 8888).
Best for: one for everyone 4/5
Karma Karvery A new and improved brunch serving a selection of the restaurant’s signature dishes
The venue: Pick a table inside Karma Kafé’s more nightlife-y interior, with dark walls, glowing Buddhas and velvet furnishings, or grab a seat outside on the terrace where you can look out to The Dubai Fountain and the towering Burj Khalifa.
The food: The new and improved brunch features a menu full of signature and favourite dishes, including miso black cod, ‘angry’ chicken and sashimi tacos, plus brunch items including Thai omelette and eggs benedict with ‘crab’ – which was actually kamaboko (cured, processed seafood) and which we would recommend giving a miss. The Karma barbecue selection may be described as ‘the star of the show’, but it’s by no means the highlight. You can order an unlimited number of all the dishes on the menu.
The drinks: Choose from house hops, premium drinks, grape or house bubbly topped up with fresh orange.
The crowd: It’s hard to say what kind of crowd this brunch attracts, as on our visit – only a few weeks into the brunch’s launch – there was only one other couple having brunch, and a thin scattering of other punters stopping in for a drink or a quick à la carte lunch. The dress code: While Karma Kafé is typically a glamorous nightspot, and the reservations assistant was adamant that the code is smart casual, we spotted a few guests sporting shorts and T-shirts.
The service: Karma Kafé, on our visit, appeared to be struggling on the service front – despite having a manager who appeared very much on the ball. The rest of the staff seemed uncertain at times, which led to slow service.
Highs & lows: Service is sadly the brunch’s low point, but classic Karma dishes such as the sashimi tacos (the best we’ve had) are highlights. The entertainment: There’s an in-house DJ who keeps tunes spinning all afternoon. The after party: Brunch finishes early enough, at 3.30pm, so you have a chance to get some rest before going out for the evening. If you want to keep on partying, there are lots of nearby Souk Al Bahar and Downtown Dubai venues to choose from.
Dhs295 (with soft drinks), Dhs395 (with house beverages). Fri noon-3.30pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.karma-kafe.com (04 423 0909).
Best for: chilled-out brunch 3/5
Kasa Brunch A quality Japanese brunch in equally exquisite surroundings
The venue: Sydney-born Toko is a genuinely stylish venue with an air of cool about it. The tasteful, wood-heavy interior is understated and yet instantly impressive, subtle details in the design drawing the eye and adding interest at every turn. The outdoor garden to the rear is a beautifully serene space with trickling water features dividing the different seating areas and suspended multi-coloured parasols shielding diners from the sun. And with not a high-rise in sight and the chatter of birds in nearby trees, there’s a real sense of escape from the surrounding city.
The food: Brunch is served to the table in six delicious courses, with a choice of three dishes from each and the option of then re-ordering your favourites. Portions, as should be expected from Japanese cuisine, are small and delicately flavoured – expect treats such as pan-fried scallops with sweet pickled apple and jalapeno garlic dressing, salmon tartare with wasabi miso and sweet potato chips, and saikyo miso black cod from the robata grill. Everything we’ve tried is exceptionally tasty, high quality and well presented, and we doubt anyone will be able to resist requesting another round of the perfectly formed maki and nigiri selection.
The drinks: Greeted with a welcome drink, diners can then pick from three packages – soft drinks, house drinks with Japanese rice-based beverages and mixed drinks, and a premium bubbly option.
The crowd: No raucous parties. Expect couples and larger groups all after the same thing – fantastic Japanese fare, great service and a relaxed atmosphere.
The dress code: Smart casual all the way. Anything less and you won’t fit in. The service: While you could say Toko – particularly its brunch, which only started a few weeks ago – is still finding its feet, everything seems to be running smoothly and without a hitch. Staff are professional, friendly and accommodating – and will even go out of their way to ‘stretch’ the brunch menu for more demanding diners, as we witnessed on our visit. Highs and lows: Watch out for the tempura zucchini flowers with tofu and feta – not because they’re not tasty (they are), but because there’s a good chance the filling will end up splattered all over you or the table. Yet beyond these potentially disastrous, explosive flowers, we like absolutely everything about the Toko brunch.
The entertainment: There are no live performers, clowns or magicians, but these really aren’t needed.
The after party: You’re in the middle of Downtown Dubai, so you’re spoilt for choice with countless bars and lounges just a short walk away.
Dhs265 (with soft drinks), Dhs385 (with house and Japanese rice-based beverages), Dhs525 (with house package and premium bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. Vida Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, www.toko-dubai.com (04 442 8383). Best for: chilled-out brunch 3/5
The Bubbly Friday Brunch at Pierchic A chance to savour one of Dubai’s most romantic spots on a Friday
The venue: 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 2014 for the second time running. The new brunch gives us a reason to visit during the day, when those unrivalled views of the Arabian Gulf and the Burj Al Arab are even clearer.
The food: Expect quality over quantity – the four live cooking stations serve just a handful of delicacies (scallops, shrimps, sushi, foie gras), with a choice of soup and one of six mains served á la carte.
The drinks: The full drinks package will buy you premium bubbly, grape and mixed drinks from the bar, as well as juices and soft drinks.
The crowd: Expect a mix of moneyed men and women enjoying a leisurely lunch and couples splashing out on a special occasions, as well as regulars known well enough by staff to command their usual tables.
The dress code: It’s affluent but relaxed – we’d recommend donning your best in smart casual glad rags for this one.
The service: The service is as seamless and classy as you might hope from the price tag – expect to be greeted by oysters, bubbly and a smile.
Highs & lows: Location, location, location – put simply, Pierchic commands an iconic spot likely to make even the most nomantic of diners swoon. Some more traditional brunchers might be disappointed by the relatively small selection of food, while there’s no escaping the fact this inimitable venue demands a pretty penny. The entertainment: None, although the friendly and informative staff are likely to keep you entertained with regular table visits and limitless enthusiasm. The after party: This is in no way a party brunch, but for another round, head back into the hotel and enjoy the terrace at Koubba Bar. Or, for something more lively, skip over to neighbouring Mina A’Salam for the After Brunch Beats session at Bahri Bar, from 4pm to 8pm.
The Q43 Brunch An up-tempo affair that lets you enjoy a Friday lie-in and still make it to brunch
The venue: Despite some initial pretensions (like having to take private-style elevators that only incredibly wealthy people usually have, with just two floor options – ‘G’ and ‘43’ – to reach Q43) this spot is essentially a giant bar that just so happens to have spectacular views over Media City, the Burj Al Arab and the turquoise-blue Arabian Gulf.
The food: A unique take on the usual brunch format, the meal starts with sushi à la carte, followed by tapas, which consists of dishes liked baked mushrooms, shrimp tempura and vegetarian flat-breads. The main course is buffet style, and to be honest there’s not much to choose from. Chicken, beef, lamb, potato wedges and a few types of vegetable are all that’s on offer; a bit of a disappointment after the variety of the appetisers. The salad bar is pretty basic and desserts are equally lacking, with only two or three options.
The drinks: House grape, hops and selected mixed beverages, plus soft drinks and water.
The crowd: A slightly older, well-dressed but not over the top crowd frequent this brunch, and it’s popular with groups celebrating special occasions. That being said, you can easily book a table for two by the window, and enjoy a more intimate brunch without feeling out of place.
The dress code: Smart casual: think jeans and heels for the ladies and jeans and shirts for the lads.
The service: Overlook the slightly snooty hostesses, and service is amazing. Staff give you a brief rundown on the brunch format and check if there are any allergies or preferences before delivering sushi and tapas to your table. Drinks are readily replenished and there’s a decent amount of notice before last orders are called.
Highs & Lows: Amazing service, and the tapas part of the brunch is a novel concept. The main courses, salad and dessert station sadly let the side down. The entertainment: There’s only background music but it’s at a good level and the right tempo. After eating, folk flock to the pool tables for a bit of a change of vibe. The sunset views, being on the 43rd floor with floor-to-ceiling windows, are a pretty amazing sideshow. The After Party: Stick around afterwards and a DJ will crank up the tunes. The appropriately-titled ‘After Brunch Party’ kicks off at 8pm and sees brunch-goers from the surrounding area head to Q43 to continue the Friday festivities with music by the resident DJ.
Dhs250 (with soft drinks), Dhs350 (with selected house beverages). Fri 2pm-6pm. Q43, Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City, www.q43dubai.com (04 443 5403).
Best for: one for everyone 4/5
Yum Cha at Yuan Enjoy a large selection of quality dim sum in sleek surroundings
The venue: Atlantis’ new, trendy Chinese lounge restaurant mixes a chic urban vibe with more classic touches, commanding both class and buzz.
The food: The Yum Cha promotion offers a limitless supply of 25 dim sum options – traditionally steamed or fried dumplings – as well as accompanying vegetables and clay pot dishes, most ordered à la carte from the kitchen. Expect decent dim sum largely traditional in taste and of a generally very high quality.
The drinks: Inspired by the Chinese tradition of enjoying dim sum dishes with tea – ‘Yum Cha’ literally translates from Cantonese to ‘drink tea’ – drinks included are limited to Chinese teas, soft drinks and water. You can order extra beverages from the bar.
The crowd: On our visit there was a welcome mix of curious Dubaians, hotel guests and plenty of Chinese families enjoying a weekend get-together.
The dress code: While you might not need to dress as sharply as you would when visiting Yuan in the evening, we’re told shorts and flip-flops are a no-no.
The service: Fast and friendly, the best touch is the traditional dim sum trolley, which does the rounds with a small selection of treats.
Highs & lows: While not the cheapest dim sum deal in town, Yuan’s standard package offers a reasonably priced way to try a large range of dishes in a top-notch venue. By no means a ‘low’, it needs to be noted this is in no way a traditional brunch – it’s 100 percent dining over drinking – so if you’re looking to party, head elsewhere.
The entertainment: None – it’s all about the food.
The after party: If a few pots of green tea have got you in the mood, head to Nasimi Beach for a few sundowners.
Dhs188 (with tea and soft drinks). Dhs94 (children 4-11 years). Fri 11.30pm-3.30pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).