11 all-new Friday feasts to make your weekend matter
Time Out Dubai staff
#Brunch at Caramel The venue: This popular DIFC lounge and nightspot doesn’t quite emanate the same cool during the day, and the venue feels almost deserted, with intimate seating ideal for couples. There were only two or three other diners on the day we visited, so the staff to customer ratio was a little off-putting. A DJ spins chilled lounge beats to one side of the venue, but it’s all a rather understated affair.
The food: A set menu of unlimited à la carte options are brought to the table, including hot and cold appetisers, mains, sides and desserts, but much of it tastes the same. The sushi is unexciting and the mini crab tacos with guacamole don’t quite live up to expectations, but the arancini balls are tasty and filling. A round of meat including wagyu beef, chicken and smoked salmon follows with a side of mac and cheese popcorn balls and creamy spinach. Go easy as it can all feel a little heavy. We dig the vanilla yoghurt and mango sorbet and the mini chocolate fondant on the dessert plate to finish.
The drinks: The range of house beverages on offer is limited, but there is the option to order shorts with mixers Oddly, the choice doesn’t include popular mixed drinks.
The crowd: Couples and friends. It’s not really buzzing, so best for a catch-up where chit-chat is the priority rather than partying.
The dress code: Smart.
The service: Professional, but overbearing at times; we were interrupted mid-conversation and had to stave off waiters keen to take away the share plates before we were finished. On the other hand, bartenders are friendly and outgoing. Highs & lows: Following dessert, the DJ’s retro hip hop beats are the highlight, along with the bartenders, who offer alternative entertainment and good conversation at the sit-up bar. Overall, the brunch sadly feels a little overpriced for what you get.
Extras & entertainment: A DJ spinning beats.
The after party: There are a few bars around DIFC, or for those seeking a big party, brave a visit to British pub Double Decker in the Al Murooj Rotana, which is always in full swing post-4pm and their lively brunch.
Best for: a chilled-out brunch 3/5 Dhs245 (with soft drinks and mocktails), Dhs299 (with house and premium beverages), Dhs399 (with bubbly). Fri 1pm-3.30pm. Caramel, DIFC (04 425 6677). A la carte, live music / entertainment
Farriers Jazz Brunch The venue: Brunch is served in a large, light dining area with views of the plush racecourse. The sophisticated and open plan layout of Farriers stops this from being one big kids’ party, despite the countless number of little ones in attendance.
The food: The spread of food is truly international with Arabic, Chinese, Indian and traditional roasts all on offer. The food presentation area buzzes with activity, with a number of live cooking stations to choose from including freshly rolled sushi and pasta cooked to order. Overall, the food tends to look good, but is a little bland to taste. On our visit, the Chinese noodles from the live station, made with duck and pak choi, were definitely a spicy highlight.
The drinks: All your typical soft drinks or house beverages, depending on the package you opt for.
The crowd: Families and couples, and large groups of kids celebrating birthdays.
The dress code: Smart casual. The service: Service varies in different areas. The staff at the live stations are only too happy to explain what they are preparing and offer you a plate, whereas table staff are a bit difficult to find when needed. Highs & lows: Highs include the live cooking stations and the array of desserts to finish your meal. The low point would be the blandness of the food and the fact that some of the dishes on offer are aimed at a child’s palate rather than an adult’s, unless, of course, you're taking the kids along.
Extras & entertainment: A house jazz band plays pop songs throughout the afternoon to entertain adults, while kids are kept occupied by a bouncy castle, face painting, candy floss and mini golf.
The after party: The Meydan is a little isolated, so after brunch you probably need to head back towards town if you want to keep things going later into the day.
Best for: families with kids in tow 3/5 Dhs245 (with soft drinks), Dhs445 (with house beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Meydan Hotel, Nad Al Sheba, www.meydanhotels.com (04 381 3111). Family friendly, outdoor seating, live music / entertainment
Fork & Cork Brunch The venue: The spacious, open plan restaurant in Anantara The Palm is bright and airy and opens up onto a terrace with views of the pool and beach. Guests can choose from round tables for more intimate conversation, or longer dining tables for large groups. Expect a relaxed yet lively atmosphere, suitable for families, friends and couples.
The food: Definitely one for foodies, with everything from a mouth-watering selection of fresh breads and an impressive range of exotic cheeses to salad stations, cold mezze and platters including fresh fish, smoked salmon and oysters. There's also a sushi station and other live cooking areas dotted around the restaurant, with Mexican tacos and guacamole, mixed grill shawarmas, roast dinners and a selection of chicken and fish tagines and casseroles. From spicy to mild, there’s something for all. Desserts are just as impressive, from chocolate fountains to fresh fruits and crème brûlée. Kids will love the sweet cart that rolls around, piled with gummy bears and fizzy creations.
The drinks: The brunch has an innovative drinks counter with all sorts of mixed beverages on offer, some even disguised as popsicles. Shorts, grape, hops and bubbly are available and there’s even a tea specialist on hand to recommend a brew best suited to your taste.
The crowd: Anyone and everyone, from large groups celebrating birthday parties, to couples and families with kids.
The dress code: Fairly relaxed with people in shorts and flip flops, while a few others turn up in dapper attire.
The service: Very friendly and efficient, polite without being pushy.
Highs & lows: The dessert selection is particularly impressive with so much to choose from. The low would be that the buffet ends at 4pm exactly.
Extras & entertainment: A live duo covering timeless tunes ensures that adults are kept entertained. Kids can enjoy Wii games, face painting and henna tattoos.
The after party: Half price selected drinks from 4pm to 8pm in nearby The Lotus Lounge, with stunning views from the outdoor terrace. Shisha is also served.
Best for: one for everyone 5/5 Dhs300 (with soft drinks), Dhs420 (with house beverages), Dhs530 (with premium bubbly). Fri 1pm-4pm. Crescendo, Anantara The Palm Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 567 8304). Family friendly, outdoor seating, live music / entertainment
Jazz@Pizza Express The venue: While Pizza Express may not be your first thought when it comes to brunching, this bustling little spot is a great choice for anyone looking for a casual brunch with decent live music. Don’t expect the glam surroundings of a five-star restaurant, but do expect a lively, modern destination with a great vibe.
The food: The concept is straightforward, a sharing platter of starters is served to the table with onion-topped cheesy garlic bread and stuffed mushrooms proving particularly popular. The rest of the menu is concise, with a choice of two pastas, two salads and four different pizzas that can be ordered as many times as you like. It’s simple fare but the pizza is deliciously crispy and the salads, though slightly on the small side, are fresh and full of flavour.
The drinks: A decent selection, especially considering the budget-friendly package cost. Grape, hops, mixed drinks and house beverages are all available as well as unlimited soft drinks and water.
The crowd: Expect a real mixed bag with plenty of families, couples and groups of friends as well as a few bigger groups celebrating special occasions.
The dress code: Definitely casual, although if you want to wear heels no one will object.
The service: The service is very friendly and efficient to start with. Unfortunately, as the day goes on, it gets much slower. This is obviously something the staff are aware of, you’ll be forewarned about it before it happens, so we’re optimistic that plans are being put in place to rectify the situation.
Highs & Lows: The high is the live music which, while not strictly jazz, really gets the crowd going with a good variety of old classics and musical melodies, adding to the infectious buzz of the venue. For the price, the selection of drinks on offer is decent, while the low is the slow service, but we’re sure they’re working on that.
Extras & entertainment: The band belt out hits for most of the afternoon and there's even a bit of a saxophone solo.
The after party: Next door, UBK serves ‘drunch’, kicking off at 3.30pm and offering unlimited drinks.
Best for: a music-filled brunch 3/5 Dhs99 (with soft drinks), Dhs159 (with grape, hops and selected beverages), Dhs60 (for kids 6-12 years). From October the beverage package will be Dhs189 and will include additional drinks. Fri noon-4pm. Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster A, www.pizzaexpressuae.com (04 4416342). Family friendly, outdoor seating, live music / entertainment, a la carte
Pranzo con Vista The venue: Located on the 50th floor of Emirates Towers, Alta Badia offers jaw-dropping views of neighbouring skyscrapers, Jumeirah’s sprawl, the beach, and beyond. Anyone who has dined here at night will be bowled-over by how much more you can see during the day.
The food: A set menu served to your table, guests will be brought a series of six exquisite-looking courses with antipasti, seafood, soup and pasta before a choice of one of six mains, and an epic dessert platter. Everything looks fantastic – the live-poured pea soup a special highlight – but sometimes the presentation trumps the taste.
The drinks: Three packages are on offer – soft drinks, a selection of hops and grape (two reds, two white), and a top tier package that also includes sparking grape.
The crowd: This is a sophisticated white tablecloth affair with a mature mix of couples, small groups and celebrations. Not a great option for kids but ideal for an anniversary, birthday, or wowing visitors to town.
The dress code: Smart casual is the order of the day.
The service: Friendly and attentive, although with so many courses to plough through, the brunch can feel slightly rushed at times.
Highs & lows: Among the highest-located restaurants in Dubai, the view is the clear USP, while the mature concept and pristine presentation are made to match the mood. What isn’t, however, is the house duo’s jazzy cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ – class and romance evaporate when you hear them whine about being a discontent weirdo.
Extras & entertainment: There’s a pleasant sax and singer duo playing standards and pop covers to a backing track – accomplished but unengaging.
The after party: While we weren’t rushed out the door, this isn’t a venue to stick around at past closing. However, if your thirst for grape remains unsated, head downstairs to The Agency, which is open until midnight on Fridays. Best for: a chilled-out brunch 4/5 Dhs198 (soft drinks), Dhs318 (hops and grape), Dhs398 (sparkling grape). Fri noon-4pm. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.jumeirah.com (04 319 8088). A la carte. live music / entertainment
Pranzo Italiano The venue: The purple and orange, uber-stylish Roberto’s is a great spot for a chilled-out Friday brunch. The atmosphere is trendy with a hint of elegance, but without being conceited. Kids are welcome, although there’s no separate area for them.
The food: This Italian brunch is a gastronomic delight. A seafood tower is served to the table, stuffed with oysters, shrimps, mussels, crab and lobsters over ice. There’s also an unlimited live oyster bar which you can visit as often as you like. Plates of sharing appetisers follow containing everything from pasta to wagyu mix cold cuts. Mains are chosen from the à la carte menu and there’s a small but decent selection with pasta al forno, lobster thermidor and various other handpicked dishes. A selection of delicious mini Italian pastries is served to finish.
The drinks: The grape package includes good quality Italian red, white and rose varieties, while the premium package includes Ferrari bubbly, grape and mixed drinks. Unfortunately, water and soft drinks are charged extra.
The crowd: The brunch concept hasn’t really caught on yet, so expect to be dining with a smattering of couples, families and small groups out for a stylish Friday lunch. That being said, the place is big enough that you can ensure you’re seated away from any hyperactive kids. The dress code: You can dress it up or go for jeans and heels, but whichever you choose keep it stylish – this place is a favourite with the city’s fashionistas.
The service: Superb on arrival; we were greeted warmly, seated swiftly and served our starters and drinks with a smile. Half way through, the original servers disappeared and were replaced with a team who were a bit too snooty for our liking.
Highs & lows: The venue is pretty cool with a European sense of style. It’s Italian without the usual clichés – there’s not a red chequered tablecloth in sight. The dishes are first class, definitely a brunch to impress your foodie friends with, and the low-key music from the DJ keeps up the cool atmosphere without being intrusive. The service was the big let-down of our visit; fantastically friendly when we arrived, it went rapidly downhill mid-afternoon. Also, being charged extra for water, when shelling out for unlimited grape, seems like a dangerous ploy.
Extras & entertainment: There’s a seriously stylish DJ, who keeps the funky house tunes flowing all afternoon. The after party: Roberto’s lounge is a pretty popular spot and the fashion-conscious crowd begin to filter in just before brunch wraps up, so all you need do is mosey on over and join the fun.
Best for: a chilled-out brunch Dhs325 (with soft drinks and mocktails), Dhs400 (with Italian grape), Dhs495 (with sparkling). Fri 1pm-4.45pm, Roberto’s, DIFC, www.robertos.ae (04 386 0066). A la carte, family friendly, outdoor seating
Qbara Friday Brunch The venue: Qbara is a beautiful-looking venue, grand in proportions, glamorous in ambience and flooded with intriguing and original design detail, from the mural of Middle Eastern carpets to the light show moving wall.
The food: For brunch, Qbara serves up a signature selection, brought straight to the table. This includes a set list of starters, and an à la carte choice of one main course and one dessert per diner. Pace yourself, those plates may look small, but the quantity of food is generous, and seemingly never ending. The recipes served are sophisticated re-interpretations of Arabic flavours. Highlights include crudo of yellow tail with coriander seed and Persian lime, fried calamari, compressed watermelon salad with shanklish and heirloom tomatoes, spicy lamb cutlets with minted labneh, and ‘smash’ baklava shards with camel milk ice cream.
The drinks: The selection spans bubbly, grape, mocktails and mixed drinks. Unfortunately, considering Qbara’s mixed beverages are quite a draw in themselves, at the brunch there is only a choice of four, some of which are something of an acquired taste.
The crowd: Most tables at Qbara’s brunch are occupied by large groups, and there is a (civilised) sense of occasion and celebration as a result. While not a typically child-friendly venue, we noticed a few tables with young children at them.
The dress code: No official dress code is described when booking, but Qbara is a glamorous and elegant venue, and a similar style of dress is fitting.
The service: The pressure of serving brunch within a set time was evident and as a result, service isn’t as slick as we have previously experienced during dinner service. Servers were over eager to take plates from the table, and generally hurry the process along.
Highs & lows: The food served is both a talking point and very enjoyable, making it absolutely the high point of brunch here. However, as so much of it is served, it is tough to take your time and enjoy it, with the barrage of anxiety from servers, clearly trying to keep service at a sprinting pace.
Extras & entertainment: Entertainment includes live performances from an electric string duo, and a magician who does the rounds of each table.
The after party: Nothing much else going on around Qbara, but you’re not too far from DIFC if you want to continue on.
Best for: a chilled-out brunch Dhs350 (soft drinks), Dhs490 (house beverages), Dhs590 (bubbly). 12.30pm-4pm. Wafi, Oud Metha (04 709 2500). A la carte, live music / entertainment
Revolving Brunch The venue: Al Dawaar is billed as ‘Dubai’s only revolving restaurant’, and that’s the USP right there. A spinning circular room on the 25th floor peak of the old school Hyatt Regency, you get great views across Deira and beyond. The whole room takes 90 minutes to rotate on its axis, so wherever you’re sat you should get the best view at least twice during a typical brunch. The food: A decent buffet restaurant by trade, the Friday package boasts live fish and roast beef stations, while there’s a decent selection of more than a dozen mains from European, Indian and Arabic schools. A strong salad selection, some great seafood and the standard dessert spread complete the package.
The drinks: There’s a basic soft drinks package, an upgrade that includes grape and hops, and a top package including premium sparkling grape. The crowd: A mixed bag drawn from the pool of families living nearby, expat groups and tourists mean there’s not a lot of atmosphere here, and things remain pretty subdued. The dress code: Smart casual.
The service: Friendly but not exactly warp speed; thirsty brunchers might find themselves having to ask for top-ups.
Highs & lows: The high here is clearly the novelty of being spun around while you brunch – slightly disorientating if you’ve been out the night before, we’d venture. Leave your belongings on the ledge beside your table and you can expect them to disappear a moment later. The lack of any other discernible atmosphere is, however, a shame.
Extras & entertainment: Nothing of note.
The after party: If you stick around until 6pm, there’s a happy hour downstairs at Carpenter’s pub until 7.30pm, when a similar promotion begins at Hibiki Karaoke Lounge for two hours. By then you should be in fine voice to take the mic.
Saturday New Orleans Jazz Brunch The venue: Set in the grand Imperium restaurant, the hall is bedecked with chandeliers and marble walls, and despite the laid-back jazz in the background, it has the look and feel of a royal dining room. The band plays popular numbers at the front of the restaurant, giving guests a musical welcome as they arrive. The hall has views that look out over the hotel’s garden and towards the waters of The Palm, which is an ideal setting during the cooler winter months.
The food: The menu has a Creole New Orleans theme, so dishes on offer include jambalaya rice, Creole baked chicken and grilled red snapper. This is a great brunch for seafood lovers, with a fresh counter full of scallops, crab claws (that are delicately prepared and ready for easy eating), giant prawns and mussels cooked to order. The menu offers meals as rich as the decor and diners can feast on delicacies such as freshly pan-fried foie gras served on brioche and delicately braised rabbit.
The drinks: Enjoy a classic celery and tomato-based welcome drink then sip on elegant New Orleans-themed mixed beverages, or indulge with some premium bubbly.
The crowd: Mainly couples, in-house guests and groups of friends. Not really one for the kids, though.
The dress code: Smart.
The service: Staff are friendly and available when needed, but tend to leave diners to their own devices until last orders, which is announced in plenty of time.
Highs & lows: The offering of seafood here is worthy of second helpings. The dessert table is full of wonderfully decorated cakes and pastries, including a sumptuous red velvet sponge cake. No real lows that we can think of. Extras & entertainment: Live jazz music from the house band keeps the afternoon flowing without being intrusive.
The after party: French colonial Vietnam-inspired bar Vôi is open for after-brunch drinks.
Best for: one for everyone 4/5 Dhs275 (with soft drinks), Dhs395 (with house beverages), Dhs495 (with bubbly). Sat 1pm-4pm. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah, www.jumeirah.com (04 453 0444). Outdoor seating, live music / entertainment, pork served
Taste of the Ivy The venue: Served within the dark wood and colourful stained glass interiors of The Ivy, this is a setting perfect for a brunch of fine dining and live music. Although The Ivy is situated in the shopping-friendly Jumeirah Emirates Towers Boulevard, it feels a world away from this location and has a real sense of occasion.
The food: There are two dining options depending on how adventurous you’re feeling. You can decide to put your faith in The Ivy’s team of chefs and opt for the eight-course degustation menu featuring British classics and optional grape pairing. Or there’s the d’hote table menu, which features three courses and The Ivy classics such as duck hash and egg and shepherd’s pie. Both courses end with a well-stocked cheese board.
The drinks: Drinks of every kind are available during the brunch, from extravagant sounding mixed concoctions, to house beverages of grape, hops and malts. There’s also a refreshing range of mocktails to enjoy, including the thirst-quenching green apple ginger.
The crowd: Couples and groups of friends tend to make up most of the crowd for this fairly lively brunch. Seating is quite close together, so expect to get to know your neighbour pretty well.
The dress code: Smart casual is the way to go for this one, with a dressy crowd attending this stylish jazz brunch.
The service: Expect very warm and friendly service at The Ivy from the moment you arrive. However, this is a very busy brunch, so things can slow down a bit at peak times.
Highs & lows: The live entertainment and atmosphere make this brunch standout from the crowd, while the service is very inviting as well. As you would expect, the food is delicious, yet don’t anticipate endless dishes; this brunch is about quality over quantity.
Extras & entertainment: With a full name of ‘Taste of The Ivy and all that Jazz’, you can expect live entertainment with a Rat Pack theme from Irish singer Ciaran Fox, which sets a lively atmosphere.
The after party: Staying in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, head to stylish grape bar The Agency.
Best for: one for everyone 4/5 Dhs299 (either menu with soft drinks), Dhs399 (either menu with house beverages), Dhs499 (either menu with premium grape), Dhs599 (either menu with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. The Ivy, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, email@example.com, www.theivy.ae (04 319 8767). A la carte, live music / entertainment, pork served
The Asian Brunch The venue: Taking place across the hotel’s Chinese Shang Palace restaurant and Vietnamese eatery Hoi An on the first floor as well as all-day-dining Dunes Café on the ground floor, this brunch offers three very different settings. Shang Palace seems the most popular and atmospheric, though none boast any remarkable views.
The food: Peruse the Dunes Café buffet featuring a decent selection that ranges from sushi to a carvery station, but don’t miss the à la carte selection, which features the majority of this Asian brunch’s namesake fare, with separate sections for Vietnamese and Chinese appetisers and mains. The first floor also houses live Peking duck and summer roll stations. The drinks: In addition to a frozen Mexican-themed mixed drink station in the lobby, guests can choose from a selection of relatively ordinary house beverages.
The crowd: In Hoi An, the crowd is mainly made up of couples and small groups, while Shang Palace seems a more family-orientated setting. Dunes Café, meanwhile, doesn’t fill up enough to fit a specific bracket.
The dress code: Smart casual – jeans and a shirt or a summery dress would be perfect, though we did see a few in more casual attire.
The service: Friendly and helpful, if a little slow with the drinks and slightly confused on the à la carte food ordering front – we do wish waiters would write things down.
Highs & lows: The food was decent, but not show-stopping. Spacing the brunch over two floors highlights the lack of variety, and we wouldn’t recommend those purchasing the house beverage package to navigate the stairs in heels.
Extras & entertainment: Nothing of note. The after party: Head to Balcony Bar (also on the first floor) and every second drink is on the house. For something a little wilder, there’s always nearby Double Decker…
Best for: anyone and everyone 2.5/5 Dhs260 (with soft drinks), Dhs375 (with house beverages), Dhs490 (with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888). A la carte