Try these new all-you-can-eat Brunch deals in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Anise Friday Brunch A quiet brunch in the classy surrounds of InterContinental Dubai Festival City 3/5
Best for: relaxing with friends
The venue: Set within the InterContinental Festival City, this brunch takes place in a secluded location that as a consequence, perhaps, doesn’t attract the regular Friday brunch crowd or a hoard of hungry diners – it’s almost completely empty on our visit. The spacious, high-ceilinged, ultra-modern restaurant is bathed in natural light owing to its floor-to-ceiling windows. Sit outside and you’ll be treated to views of the Creek, though the construction site in the foreground is a little off-putting. The food is set out in the style of a marketplace, with stainless steel and black granite stands displaying daintily prepared dishes. Jars of fresh ingredients, olives and preserves also sit dotted around the display. Small portions of desserts and jars of sweets complete the feast for the eyes and your stomach, perfectly rounding off the brunch. The food: Fill up on a smattering of Middle Eastern dishes including lamb tagine. There are also soups, seafood, a standout beef stew and the more unusual offering of blood orange-glazed root vegetables to try. Live cooking stations offer grilled meats, Mexican dishes and more. There isn’t an overwhelming amount either, and if you plate up wisely you can probably sample a little bit of everything.
The drinks: Expect exotic, fruity mixed beverages, including those made with mango, passion fruit and strawberries, as well as the usual house beverages and soft drinks packages.
The crowd: You’ll mostly see families and what appear to be the hotel’s guests, since some arrive alone. The dress code: Stylish, smart and sophisticated. The service: Staff are attentive and quick to replenish drinks, even if you’re sitting away from the main buffet area or outside.
Extras& entertainment: A live singer entertains throughout the afternoon.
Highs & lows: The quality of food is outstanding, though the atmosphere is lacking a little – it’s just not busy enough.
The after party: Head to Vista Lounge & Bar for a relaxed post-brunch drink and enjoy happy hour discounts from 5pm to 6pm.
Dhs325 (soft drinks), Dhs425 (house beverages), half price (for children aged six-12), free (children under six). Fri 1pm-4pm. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1131).
Big Apple Brunch at Tr!beca A laidback brunch with a focus on organic meat 4/5
Best for: a chiled-out brunch
The venue: Taking inspiration from the area of New York it’s named after, Tr!beca Kitchen and Bar is urban and trendy with a casual and unpretentious vibe. Exposed brick work is adorned with large paintings of singers, classic American movie icons, and graffiti-style murals of the Statue of Liberty. The outside terrace has rows of wooden benches and tables, while inside diners sit at high tables or relax on leather sofas. The food: Tr!beca’s USP is organic and healthy food. Its brunch has a table of salads with a few choices of grains and leaves, and a chef on hand to serve you burrata. There's a pasta station serving up gnocchi and a selection of roast meats and salmon - with perfectly cooked spicy beef being our favourite. There's also a barbecue serving up sliders and sausages.
The drinks: Tr!beca serves organic grape, but disappointingly not the organic hops they have behind the bar. The mixed drinks are great, though, and shorts are also on offer. The standard drinks package includes juices and soft drinks.
The crowd: Popular with groups and couples looking for a chilled-out brunch.
The dress code: In keeping with the vibe of the place, casual is fine.
The service: Its still early days for this brunch and there were teething troubles on our visit. Over time we're sure the staff will get used to the packages and what each one entails, and the service from the live stations will sharpen up a little. At the moment it's a little haphazard though the staff are all keen.
Extras & entertainment: Tr!beca has a great DJ, who spins a selection of rare funk and soul while you dine. The venue does have a stage for live music, but there are no bands playing during brunch.
Highs & lows: The start time is a bonus for those looking for a lie-in on Fridays. The decor and atmosphere of the venue is attractive and eclectic, and the DJ provides a suitably funky soundtrack to the afternoon, but the service is in danger of letting the overall experience down.
The after party: You could nip across the balcony to Girders if you feel ready for a little more noise.
Garden of Eden A flashy and stylish beach brunch for partygoers and sun worshippers 4/5
The venue: Eden Beach club is perched at the very tip of Palm Jumeirah’s crescent, giving it a welcome out of the city feel. The brunch area is arranged in tiers around a large swimming pool, which lies between tables and the beach cabanas on the shorefront. It’s stylish but laidback, and the exclusively blue and white colour scheme and rustic wooden tables are reminiscent of a quiet Greek island, but with an atmosphere that’s more Spring Break in Malibu. If you’re looking for all-inclusive fun in the sun, this is the brunch for you. The food: Most of the options on the menu are fresh and light – ideal for a day spent lounging poolside. Choose a selection of appetisers to share from a list including soft shell crab salad or Angus Beef aburi with teriyaki sauce. We would recommend the Japanese scallops, which are served with crispy parsnips, asparagus and chili vinegar dressing. The platter of nigiri and sashimi is fresh and delicious, while other heartier mains include a seafood spaghetti with scallops, clams, mussels and prawns, truffle tagliatelle and mini burgers. Opt for the chocolate tart for dessert with its silky layer of creamy peanut butter, or the sorbet selection if you fancy something refreshing; this option comes in lychee, coconut and mango flavours. The drinks: Grape, shorts and fruity signature mixed beverages packed with slices of fresh fruit.
The crowd: A young and fashionable crowd in large and lively groups.
The dress code: Beach-chic, but dress to impress, and maybe buy a new swimsuit – it’s a trendy crowd at this brunch-turned-bikini-pageant.
The service: Accommodating and friendly – on our visit they managed to seat us despite a mix up with the booking and it being full to capacity. But keep an eye on the time, you may not be informed of last orders, which could prove costly.
Extras & entertainment: Eden’s resident DJs play a mixture of deep house, nu disco and indie, plus there’s pool and beach access, so don’t forget your swimming gear.
Highs & lows: Overall the menu is limited and not of the highest standard for a brunch – you’re paying the hefty price tag for the drinks and the setting. This said, there’s nothing glaringly wrong with the food, so when you weigh it up with the fantastic atmosphere and venue, it makes for a brunch that’s perfect for a fun day spent in the sun with friends.
The after party: There’s no need to leave Eden Beach Club, as come 5pm, the party shows no signs of slowing and keeps going until 9pm.
Dhs495 (house and mixed beverages), Dhs595 (bubbly). Sat 1pm-5pm. Eden Beach Club, Rixos The Palm, www.edenbeachclub.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (055 277 1477 / 04 277 1477).
Brunch, Sip and Swim A lazy beach brunch with an outdoor festival vibe at The Kitchen Table 3.5/5
Best for: Chilling out
The venue: The brunch is set within the minimalistic and modern The Kitchen Table at the all-new DoubleTree by Hilton in JBR. The display of food on glass shelves adds to the venue’s bright, clean and airy feel. The fresh food at the seafood, salad and dessert counters is artfully displayed, and the colours are a feast for the eyes. Guests can also make use of the hotel’s pool and private beach for the day.
The food: There are five different food areas at this brunch: seafood, salads, hot food, roasts and desserts. There are also live cooking stations preparing omelettes to individual tastes and noodles with fresh vegetables. The salads are fresh, crisp, varied and wholesome, and are the stand out dishes at this international-leaning brunch.
The drinks: A selection of house beverages and mixed drinks.
The crowd: Groups of friends, individuals, families with young children and the hotel’s guests chill out by the pool listening to live music and enjoying the vibe.
The dress code: Beachwear, but be sure to dry off and cover up before hitting the buffet.
The service: The staff are happy to oblige with everything. On our visit, one staff member offered to carve the roast beef upon seeing us milling around the roast station. Drinks are topped up, but you may have to alert the staff when your glasses are starting to run low.
Extras & entertainment: A duo perform outside, ensuring that the entertainment is not overpowering, and giving the outdoor area a bit of a festival atmosphere.
Highs & lows: It’s great being able to use the hotel’s facilities, but it can feel a little crowded at times.
The after party: The restaurant and beach bar continue to serve drinks all afternoon and into the evening. And being in the heart of JBR and nearby Dubai Marina means guests are not short of options for continuing the party.
Dhs299 (soft drinks), Dhs379 (house beverages), half price (kids aged five-16), free (under fives). Fri noon-3.30pm. Until May 31, 2015. DoubleTree by Hilton, The Walk, JBR (04 453 3333).
Cargo Friday Brunch A relaxed pan-Asian brunch with Marina views 3/5
Best for: chilling out
The venue: Located on the third floor of Pier 7, Cargo has great views over Dubai Marina, and makes the most of them with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outside terrace. Inside, Cargo is Asian-inspired, with a contemporary and sophisticated red and black colour scheme.
The food: The brunch package offers a wide selection of Asian starters, which are brought to the table on platters for sharing. Meat and vegetarian spring rolls, sushi, bowls of salted edamame beans, and skewered chicken are included. Diners can request more of the starters and there’s also a choice of tom yum and noodle soups. When ready to move on to mains, diners can order one dish each from a select menu, which includes curries, stir fries and seafood. All the food is served to your table. The drinks: Beverages here include a selection of juices and house shorts, which the staff are very good at replenishing. The only downside is that teas and coffees are not included in the soft drinks package. The crowd: Cargo attracts a varied crowd, being popular with large groups, families and couples. The venue is not particularly family friendly, though, as there are no designated areas for young children.
The dress code: Casual is acceptable here, though you might want to smarten up a little if you’re planning to head on elsewhere after. The service: Service is friendly and efficient, and staff are happy to offer you more drinks and food. The brunch is served to your table, so they are regularly checking to make sure you’re well stocked. Extras & entertainment: Nothing of note.
Highs & lows: There is certainly plenty of food, the range of starters is good and the staff keep it coming. Dessert is disappointing, with the only available dish available on our visit being a strawberry cheesecake, while the advertised dessert station was non-existent. The after party: There are plenty of options within Pier 7, or by talking a short walk to JBR.
Casa de Tapas Brunch A lively Spanish gathering that brings in the crowds 2/5
Best for: a party brunch The venue: Rustically decorated in dark wood and tiles, Casa de Tapas is an inviting venue. It’s also deceivingly spacious, with seating spread out around corners and in hideaways. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide sweeping views of the Creek and give this brunch a light and airy feel.
The food: When you arrive at your table, you’ll find some light dishes, such as salads, waiting for you. How long they’ve been sitting at the table for is unknown. Tapas dishes are occasionally brought to the table, and you can expect to feast on typical Spanish treats such as patatas bravas and the less-traditional mini chicken burgers. It’s the seafood dishes that impress the most, including prawns in a slightly spicy sauce. There are also an array of salads, roast meats, cold cuts and desserts laid out buffet style.
The drinks: Drinks packages for this brunch are very competitively priced, with Spanish mixed beverage included with the mid-range option. If it’s a special occasion, you can also splash out on bubbly.
The crowd: This is very much a party brunch, with large groups of friends out celebrating. It can get quite rowdy as the day progresses, especially when the live music starts up.
The dress code: Guests tend to wear casual clothing or fancy dress, depending on the occasion. Don’t dress up too smart for this one. The service: Chaotic would be a kind word to use. It starts off brightly, with a staff member showing guests to a table, but after that you may find yourself left to your own devices. No explanation of the format of the brunch is forthcoming, and drinks orders may require repeating several times. Tapas dishes are served to the table from the open kitchen, but this service is sporadic at best.
Extras & Entertainment: A live band takes to the stage midway through the brunch, playing Spanish songs to an enthusiastic crowd that likes to sing along.
Highs & Lows: The atmosphere at Casa de Tapas for its brunch is perfect for a lively gathering with friends. If you’re out to celebrate a birthday, then you’re sure to have a good time. It’s also great value for money, especially the mid-range package with house beverages. However, the poor service is a let-down and can be frustrating at times. The After Party: Head up stairs to Cielo Sky Lounge for al fresco drinks overlooking the Creek.
Dhs149 (with soft drinks), Dhs199 (with house beverages), Dhs249 (with bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 416 1800).
Cut by Wolfgang Puck Friday brunch This classy version of a lazy weekend lunch is a cut above the average brunch experience 4/5
Best for: foodie friends
The venue: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s Dubai outpost of his steakhouse concept CUT is a quintessentially classy, under stated and slightly masculine looking restaurant, with plenty of natural light at brunch time, a cosier, darker bar, and a small terrace overlooking the Burj Khalifa.
The food: There is a three-course set menu for brunch. With a charming take on what brunching means, the meal begins with a bread basket that includes fresh and lovely breakfast favourites such as muffins and croissants. The set menu offers a choice of plates off the menu, and while main courses include steaks (of course), there are also plenty of other options to choose from.
The standard across this playful and imaginative menu is very high, and highlights to sample include the dan dan chicken dumplings from the starter menu, the miso baked salmon from the main courses, and the divine and enticingly looking dessert of salted caramel and chocolate fondant.
The drinks: A highlight is the trolley full of ingredients for tomato-based mixed beverages. Also available are a number of other creative refreshments, and there is also a lot of mixing expertise on offer within the mocktail list.
The crowd: You’ll find a quiet, sophisticated crowd, enjoying a quiet and sophisticated lunch experience.
The dress code: There’s no specific requirement to dress up here, but smart casual and upwards would fit the bill.
The service: Service here is exceptionally good. It is obliging to a point rarely witnessed in Dubai, while also friendly and efficient. Those who want to lounge and really take their time over this experience will appreciate the relaxed vibe.
Extras & entertainment: None. It’s all about the food.
Highs & lows: The food and service are both really excellent, and are the high points that should draw you in for this more civilised style of brunching. One thing to note on the menu is that side dishes are all charged separately.
The after party: Not really applicable at this high-end haunt, but you can certainly move your party on to one of the hotel’s bars or shisha lounges.
Family Brunch at Lounge Café Italiano Low-key brunch in Dubai Media City, suitable for parents with young children 2/5
Best for: young families
The venue: Alongside the American University of Dubai in Media City, this Italian eatery is unlikely to pick up much in the way of passing footfall or tourist custom. In fact, while we find the location to be ideal on a busy weekday – with a proliferation of affluent students and office-workers – the same target demographic are absent at the weekend. This leaves the dining room almost empty, with a spacious corner set aside for a children’s play area. The food: Not a brunch in the all-you-can-eat sense, but rather a set menu of limited range. While we often like an à la carte offering at brunch instead of a wasteful and stagnant buffet station, the options here are few in number to say the least. The Italian bruschetta starter only differs from the bread basket – with which it simultaneously arrives – by a light covering of tomato. When it comes to the main courses, the seafood pasta has a tangy tomato sauce and is definitely worth a try. Another highlight is the rich chocolate mousse served with a sorbet.
The drinks: A limited range of juices and soft drinks are the extent of this unlicensed outlet’s offerings.
The crowd: Sadly lacking on our two weekend visits. Significantly less than a quarter full, there were just a handful of diners including Italian friends of the chef and a family with a young child playing in the kids’ corner. The dress code: Casual clothing and maybe a bib for younger children.
The service: Contradictory and forgetful service is forgivable in a crowded restaurant, but when the dining room is almost empty, it is inexplicable. From an adult perspective, we found the service lacking. However, the treatment of children was excellent. While waiting for food to be delivered, we noted three waitresses playing with and looking after children for several minutes.
Extras & entertainment: Anybody over the age of four or five may struggle, but toddlers have toys and a well-monitored corner to stumble around.
Highs & lows: Although food, service and location fall short of the high expectations of a Dubai brunch, peace-seeking parents may still be attracted to the crèche-like ambience.
The after party: The remote venue doesn’t have any neighbouring outlets, so any further consumption would probably involve a short walk to Radisson Blu Hotel Media City or Media One Hotel.
Dhs130 (with one soft drink for adults), Dhs60 (for children aged 4-12), free (children under four). Fri noon-4pm. Arenco Tower, Al Marsad Street, Dubai Media City, www.loungecafeitaliano.com (04 453 3318).
Friday Fiesta at Salero Terrific tapas to tempt the tastebuds 4/5
Best for: a chilled-out brunch
The venue: Tucked away in the corner of Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is Salero, an intimate Spanish restaurant. The room isn’t the largest, but it’s split into a smoking and non-smoking area with seats around the bar, where you can also see some of the food being cooked. The decor is the perfect mix of fun and restraint. The food: Typical Spanish tapas dishes and paella can be ordered over and over again until you are ready to explode like a piñata (we know, that’s Mexican). A platter of meat and cheese will be brought to your table before ordering anything, alongside Salero’s fantastic tomato bread. Then choose from hot or cold tapas. A cold beetroot soup with goats’ cheese and almonds is a surprising favourite, as is the tuna ceviche. Hot chicken and cheese croquettes also hit the spot, while sautéed shrimps and braised beef ribs are also winners. If you have room, any of the desserts will finish the brunch nicely. The drinks: Traditional Spanish grape-based mixed beverage is available in limitless supply. Water and soft drinks are also there to wash down the food. The crowd: Couples or small groups of friends are there to catch-up, chat and while away the afternoon without much hassle or excitement. This is a brunch to enjoy at a leisurely pace.
The dress code: No need to go too glam at this one, you wouldn’t want to wear shorts and flip flops guys, but anything smarter than that will be fine. Ladies, you can relax at this brunch.
The service: Attentive, friendly and not too intrusive. Nothing to fault. The food arrives on time, and glasses are kept filled.
Extras & entertainment: A Spanish guitarist and singer plays while you eat – he is excellent and pitched at just the right volume.
Highs & lows: Despite being at Mall of the Emirates, Salero feels secluded and calm – it almost feels like you’ve stumbled on to a cool private party. The service and entertainment are great and the food is enjoyable, but not fine dining.
The after party: The bar at Salero remains open after brunch, but for a change of scene you might want to head to Après upstairs in Mall of the Emirates.
Dhs295 (Spanish mixed beverage and soft drinks), Dhs350 (house beverages and Spanish mixed beverages). Fri 1pm-4pm. Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 409 5888).
Hollywood Brunch at Delphine A brunch with a classy American menu 3/5
Best for: one for everyone
The venue: Located on the ground floor of The H Hotel, Delphine occupies a smart space that opens up to the hotel’s lobby. The restaurant has comfortable leather chairs and is decorated in shades of gold and black, giving it a glamorous 1920s feel. While this brunch is suitable for families, there isn’t a separate area for kids to play and eat in, but the staff here tend to seat families together.
The food: This venue offers a Californian-inspired menu, featuring cuisine that is fresh and seasonal, with plenty of seafood. The buffet of starters includes an array of sushi rolls, prawns served with mango, lobster, oysters and fresh salads. The main courses can be ordered à la carte from a set menu. Diners can order as much as they like from dishes such as fried chicken, home-made pasta and tender beef ribs. The drinks: Diners are greeted with a welcome drink as they arrive, and the brunch menu offers American grape varieties, house shorts and an assortment of fruity mocktails.
The crowd: The venue attracts a mix of couples, small groups and families.
The dress code: Smart casual is fine here.
The service: Very warm and friendly. Waiting staff and management are on hand to walk you through the buffet and offer recommendations, and are always attentive and accommodating.
Extras & Entertainment: Delphine has a lively house band playing jazz and swing during the brunch. The band is fun and engaging and even gets the kids involved as they parade through the restaurant.
Highs & lows: Service is impeccable and the main courses are worth saving space for. While the band is entertaining, it doesn’t really make up for the general lack of atmosphere. That might improve as the brunch becomes more established. The after party: Head to Delphine Bar for happy hour from 5pm-8pm, then continue the party on the rooftop at 40Kong.
Dhs230 (soft drinks), Dhs390 (house beverages), Dhs115 (children aged 6-12), free (children under six). Fri 12.30pm-4.30pm. The H Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.h-hotel.com (04 501 8623).
Kitchen 6 Brunch A varied international brunch that doesn't compromise quality for quantity 4/5
Best for: a family-friendly brunch
The venue: Simple and understated, Kitchen 6 is a minimalistic combination of warm woods, glass and chrome. It's light and spacious, which means it doesn't feel crowded, but also that even when relatively busy, it has a slightly clinical edge – an out-of-place LED screen with scrolling headlines doesn't help. It's not bursting with character, but it has a casual-yet-refined vibe. The food: Large international buffets can run the risk of having too much choice of a mediocre standard, but Kitchen 6 does everything well. The Middle Eastern mezze-style dishes are perfect for piling on a plate to share at the table, and includes the particularly tasty spinach fatayer. The Indian curries are rich and well-seasoned, and you'll also find an impressive selection of noodles and soups as well as British favourites like roast beef, plus a station full of vibrant salads. The drinks: Nothing particularly adventurous, with only two packages available, one with soft drinks, tea and coffee, the other with house grape and hops.
The crowd: Lots of families, large (but quiet and civilised) groups and a few couples.
The dress code: Laidback chic. Ladies can feel free to leave the heels at home, while shirts and chinos aren't necessary for guys, but don't opt for a t-shirt and shorts either.
The service: Impatient at times. On our visit, we felt a little rushed when a concerned staff member hurried over to remind us that brunch would soon be ending after we took a second helping of dessert. However, on the whole service is friendly and pleasant.
Extras & entertainment: A relatively standard brunch with no live entertainment or extras.
Highs & lows: The food has a number of unique standout dishes – the spicy strawberry sushi, for example, is definitely a must-try – but the overall atmosphere is a little lacking and will be too quiet for some.
The after party: Head to Vault for sundowners with a view from 5pm to 8pm, when selected drinks are half price.
Dhs195 (soft drinks), Dhs395 (selected beverages). Fri-Sat, 12.30pm-4pm. JW Marriott Marquis, Business Bay, www.jwmarriottmarquisdubailife.com/dining/kitchen6 (04 414 3000).
Frioul Bistro de Luxe Classically French in its food, setting and sophistication 4/5
Best for: a chilled-out brunch
The venue: Occupying perhaps the best spot in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Frioul sits beside the canal and is tucked away from the main area of the souk, sheltering it from the heavy footfall of tourists. The outdoor seating is quiet, pretty and tranquil. Sitting at the white tables, shaded by palms and a fluttering white canopy, you could almost be in the French Riviera, if not for the direct view of the Burj Al Arab.
The food: Everything is served to the table to share, starting with a selection of appetisers, including a salty kingfish ceviche salad with tart passion fruit, apple and fennel – the standout dish of the brunch. Frogs’ legs come with a parsley puree and crisp batter, while the duck croque madame is a much richer and indulgent inclusion. From the mains, the creamy truffle macaroni and slow-cooked wagyu beef both impress. A chef’s selection of desserts arrive to finish. The macaroons are a let down, but the chouquettes are fluffy, filled with a decadent vanilla custard and absolutely moreish – prepare to fight for the last one. The drinks: There are three packages to choose from: one including soft drinks and fresh juices, one with selected house beverages and a third with premium beverages and fruity mixed drinks. In a nice touch, these are served from a separate bar in vintage-looking hand-painted ceramic glasses. On the mocktail menu are refreshing concoctions like the ‘Lala Oo’, made with apple and sage jelly, apple juice, vanilla, grapefruit and chamomile tea.
The crowd: Couples and small groups tend to frequent this brunch.
The dress code: Smart casual.
The service: Attentive to a slight fault, but friendly on the whole.
Extras & entertainment: The live jazz band manages to strike a balance between lively and mellow, which is perfect for lazy brunching.
Highs & lows: The dreamy setting is a definite high, marred slightly by the fact that some of the tables outside are a bit too close together for comfort.
The after party: You couldn’t be more ideally placed for post-brunch drinks than the Madinat. Seek out authentic Belgian hops at Belgian Beer Cafe, have a quiet few glasses of grape at The Agency (or go all out on their Bubbly Friday deal), or head to livelier Trader Vic’s to while away a few hours before Pacha opens in the evening.
Dhs295 (soft drinks and fresh juices), Dhs395 (selected house beverages), Dhs495 (mixed and premium beverages). Fri noon-4pm. Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, www.frioulbistrodeluxe.com (04 567 0111).
Le Rivage Friday Brunch An affordable brunch with good quality food just off The Walk in JBR 3.5/5
The venue: Just off The Walk and on the ground floor of the JA Ocean View Hotel is Le Rivage, a light, airy and spacious restaurant.
The food: To start off there are exquisite ‘little dishes’. We can’t get enough of the avocado mousse with shredded crab, shots of creamy leek and potato soup, bite-sized quiche lorraines and tiny pastries filled with cream cheese and topped with herbs and fish roe. Next up there are duck pancakes, Chinese dumplings, sushi, octopus, potato salad and sweet, hot edamame beans. Late-risers will appreciate the ‘breakfast bar’, with a full fry-up on offer, including crispy hash browns and eggs cooked how you like. And if you’re missing your mum’s roast dinner, there’s juicy chicken with almost all the trimmings. The roast duck with orange sauce is slightly pink in the middle and perfect with baby new potatoes and roasted veg. There is no chocolate fountain, but Le Rivage serves an impressive hot chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, or an equally comforting hot bread and butter pudding. Try the delicate pear strudel with vanilla sauce to finish off a very good meal.
The drinks: The emphasis is on the relaxing vibe and food rather than drinks here, but there is a package with house beverages if that’s what you’re after. The crowd: On our visit, the majority of the crowd appeared to be hotel guests enjoying the brunch offering. The dress code: It’s casual at Le Rivage, you won’t want to dress up too much. The service: The staff are very attentive; it’s hard to fault a thing.
Extras & entertainment: The soulful singer keeps guests entertained and lifts the atmosphere when she performs.
Highs & lows: The food is excellent here. There isn’t a huge selection, but what there is will impress. The venue can be a little empty, though it fills up as the afternoon progresses. The after party: You could always head upstairs to Girders or Tr!beca if you feel like carrying on the party.
Dhs179 (food only), Dhs299 (house beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. JA Ocean View Hotel, The Walk, JBR (04 814 5590).
McGettigan’s JLT Friday Brunch A good value brunch with a lively atmosphere 4/5
Best for: couples and groups of friends
The venue: The spacious venue offers indoor and outdoor seating. There is a sheltered canopy area, soft sofas and wooden picnic tables outside or tables and booths indoors. It can get pretty busy, and with a no reservation policy, you’ll have to get there early to snag a seat of your choosing.
The food: The menu is pretty impressive for the value of this brunch. You can go à la carte or head to the live carving stations. Menu items include a traditional roast with all the trimmings, vegetables and potatoes, meatballs and spaghetti, salmon and steamed chicken, as well as breakfast dishes such as scrambled eggs.
The drinks: There’s a good range of house grape, shorts and hops, which is pretty good value for money.
The crowd: The crowd is a mixture of friends and couples. It’s quite laidback at first, but gets livelier as the day progresses.
The dress code: Almost anything goes at McGettigan’s, and guys can get away with flip flops and shorts, making it an ideal go-to spot for those who just want to relax.
The service: The venue gets pretty busy, which means service can be testing at times. Overall, the staff are quite friendly and helpful, but expect to wait a while when requesting drinks.
Extras & entertainment: A DJ plays a mix of commercial hits and traditional Irish favourites.
Highs & lows: The outdoor setting is laidback and it has a fun atmosphere. Overall, the standard and quality of the food is pretty high, with straightforward pub grub that is tasty and filling. The service can be slow at times, and you might have to queue to get in, which means you probably won’t have a choice of seating.
The after party: For Dhs149 per person, you can enjoy free flowing drinks from 5pm to 8pm, while listening to the DJ and band. It gets pretty lively at the post-brunch event, which is either fun or rowdy, depending on how you look at it.
Medley at Little Suzie’s Diner Fun, upbeat and novel brunch with decent food 4/5
Best for: a family-friendly brunch
The venue: Little Suzie’s is on the mezzanine level overlooking the lobby, and simply decorated in dark wood, green, cream and marble. Some tables are more private than others, tucked away in their own little alcoves, and there’s a children’s area with a TV to keep the little ones amused.
The food: Better than expected for a diner-themed brunch. There's a waffle and pancake station (try them with vanilla sauce, cream and the sour-sweet cherry compote), a bagel station, a burger station, a sizeable salad station and a selection of decent American classics like meatloaf and mac ’n’ cheese. While the cuisine won’t win any Michelin stars, it will definitely satisfy comfort-food cravings. Our only gripe is that the pancakes and waffles aren't warm and the bagels aren't toasted. Desserts include delicious whole poached apples that are light and fruity enough to eat several of, adequate pavlovas and cheesecakes and an obligatory chocolate fountain that we have no complaints about. There’s also a children's station well stocked with jars full of gummy sweets.
The drinks: The standard selection of house grape, hops and selected mixed beverages, with a bubbly package, too.
The crowd: Lively with lots of families and large groups. The dress code: Casual, to suit this chilled out and unpretentious brunch.
The service: Attentive, swift and accommodating. The staff are particularly patient with children.
Extras & entertainment: There’s a big wheel at the entrance, which can be spun to win prizes, at the risk of forfeits including doing the twist for two minutes and singing your favourite ’50s or ’60s song for two minutes. Needless to say, this is a big hit with the kids.
Highs & lows: The 72-hour slow-cooked (and huge) ribs with smoky, gooey barbecue sauce are the best part of the brunch. There could be more evidence of a diner theme. Apart from the food, there are some ’50s songs playing, and a hostess dressed in an American diner outfit who roller skates through the restaurant offering short beverages.
The after party: Happy hour at La Fabrique is daily from 4pm to 8pm, and Azure Pool Lounge has fantastic views over Old Dubai for the cooler months.
Dhs165 (soft drinks), Dhs195 (selected beverages), Dhs390 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Pullman Dubai Deira City Centre, Deira, www.pullman-dubai-deiracitycentre.com (04 603 8201).
Miami Grill at Purobeach Urban Oasis A quiet brunch within lush surrounds in the heart of the city 3/5
Best for: relaxing by the pool
The venue: Lighted fires line the pathway leading into Purobeach Urban Oasis, the Conrad Dubai’s outdoor poolside bar on the sixth floor. A huge swimming pool dominates the centre of the space, and it resembles a swish holiday resort that wouldn’t look out of place among those in the forests of Bali, owing to the palm trees and lush foliage. Look up though, and the skyscrapers betray the venue’s true location. The furniture is crisp white, creating a sense of sophistication, and the chilled out lounge music is the right volume to be enjoyed while having a conversation.
The food: The buffet is small, and initially looks a little disappointing, but there is quality over quantity. There’s a choice of five salads, mussels, grilled vegetables, potato wedges, as well as meat and fish grilled to your preference. The small selection means you can sample everything without feeling uncomfortably full. The grilled chicken breast, Kobe beef, lamb chops, kingfish and king prawns are all succulent and beautifully seasoned.
The drinks: The list includes a handful of premium beverages, mixed drinks, grape and bubbly. The package includes one welcome drink – anything from the list, so choose wisely – while anything else is charged separately.
The crowd: This is a relaxed evening buffet attended mostly by the hotel’s guests and small groups who seemingly want a quiet, relaxed night out. The dress code: There isn’t much of a dress code here – flip flops and shorts are welcomed. Take your swimwear, too, if you want to use the pool. But this is the five-star Conrad, and the dress code of some guests reflects this. The service: Staff are helpful and eager to please, efficiently clearing away plates and cutlery. It can sometimes be difficult to get their attention for drinks, though.
Extras & entertainment: Guests are welcome to take a dip in the pool.
Highs & lows: The food is healthy and tasty, the setting relaxed and tranquil. But the buffet could benefit from a little more variety, as well as a dessert station.
The after party: The bar continues to serve throughout the night, but prices are quite steep.
Ocean Brunch at Sofitel the Palm Impeccably executed dishes served within picturesque surrounds 3.5/5
Best for: chilling out in the sun The venue: Head outside through Sofitel the Palm and emerge into the picturesque, leafy grounds of the hotel, where cobbled stones and a running water feature create a sense of serenity. Seafood restaurant Moana is situated just in front of the hotel’s main pool, with the private beach beyond. If the weather permits, sit outside to soak up the atmosphere. The sound of splashing in the pool, amid the lush surrounds, gives this brunch a peaceful ambience.
The food: Cold and hot starters, a main course and dessert course are served to the table, each artfully plated and presented. The selection will delight pescatarians, being 90 percent seafood. Of the starters, the yellowfin tuna tataki is a delight to eat, while the ginger and chilli-glazed grilled salmon, and pan-seared sea bass with spinach potato puree and black grape salsa will make your taste buds dance. The amount of food served is impressive, but not overwhelming; you’ll get through it all, especially if you work up an appetite in the pool beforehand.
The drinks: A small selection of house beverages, mixed drinks and impressive mocktails are on offer. The pomme vanilla – lime wedge, mint leaves, vanilla syrup and apple juice – is a refreshing thirst-quencher that should not be missed.
The crowd: Expect young families and holidaymakers, many of whom we suspect are the hotel’s guests.
The dress code: Casual. Beachwear is acceptable, but be sure to dry off and cover up before sitting down to eat
The service: Friendly, if a little frenetic. Be watchful of the time and ask for last orders, since staff may forget to inform you.
Extras & entertainment: Guests have access to the beach and swimming pool.
Highs & lows: The presentation and execution of dishes is nothing short of exquisite, especially for the price. And with full-day beach and pool access, value for money is unrivalled. Staff could sharpen up their service skills, though, which should hopefully come with time.
The after party: The hotel’s Porterhouse Bar, Maui Bar and main pool bar all offer buy one, get one free on house beverages from 4pm-7pm.
Original Wings & Rings Friday Brunch A relaxed sports bar serving up simple and satisfying food 3/5
Best for: sports fans
The venue: The restaurant and bar is located in DIFC’s Liberty House – not somewhere you’re likely to stumble across by chance. You might struggle to find it, but it’s not far from Financial Centre Metro Station. The vibe is casual at this American sports bar, with the sign at the door inviting guests to ‘eat, drink and talk loudly’. There is table football to play, plus various screens showing football, rugby and more.
The food: You order the food to your table here, for brunch. There are various marinade options for the chicken wings, including sweet barbecue, and lemon and pepper. You can order classic wings or the boneless style. A huge plate of nachos, with copious amounts of sour cream, salsa, chopped olives and guacamole, will also please the table. Other sides include the crispy onion rings and the hot and cheesy quesadillas. If you’re looking for something lighter, the plain Greek salad will come as a welcome relief.
The drinks: There’s a house beverage package with hops, mixed beverages and shorts, as well as a soft drinks option.
The crowd: Sports fans, groups of families and friends. This isn’t a fancy brunch, but if you want somewhere with a more relaxed atmosphere, with food at a good price, this is your place. The dress code: Casual is fine.
The service: On the most part, staff Are relaxed, friendly and informed, reeling off the many flavours of wings available with ease.
Extras & entertainment: A DJ playing cheesy and party tunes, plus sport on the TVs. Lots of sports.
Highs & lows: Make sure you know where you stand if you have children – we were offered kids’ meals (for a one and three-year-old) but then were asked to pay extra. On the plus side, the boneless wings are perfect for kids; delicious and very tender, they’re served with hot, crispy fries. The highlight is definitely dessert, especially the dense chocolate cake with caramel crunchy topping, as well as the classic cheesecake.
The after party: The chance to stick around and watch whichever game is on.
Posh Nosh Brunch at Geales Great venue but disappointing food at this à la carte offering 2/5
Best for: groups of friends
The venue: Geales has a spacious indoor area, decked out in British-themed paraphernalia (think Union Flags, post boxes and black and white photographs of Olde English gents). There’s also an impressive fish counter and bar area. Weather-permitting, most of the brunch action takes place on the terrace, which has great views of the hotel’s gardens.
The food: Promising course after course of British fare, the menu looks amazing, but doesn’t live up to its billing. Far from being packed with British classics as described, there are a few missteps, including the distinctly American (and very stodgy) macaroni with cheese. One oyster each as part of the cold starter course also feels very mean – especially when you’re sat gazing at the fresh fish counter packed with the slippery delicacies. In fact, it all seems a little on the stingy side; a small, floppy and lukewarm quiche was perhaps the lowest point of all on our visit. The high point, though, is the Yorkshire pudding, stuffed with roast beef, mash and gravy, but out of 16 things listed, that’s not really enough. The menu does change regularly, though, so that’s not to say there won’t be more things now available to hit the spot.
The drinks: Two packages are available – soft drinks and house beverages. You can expect sparkling, Belgian hops or red or white grape on the latter, as well as a small selection of mixed beverages.
The crowd: A few couples and families, as well as groups of friends enjoying themselves. The dress code: Smart casual is fine, though some guests are dressed glamorously, ready to keep the party going.
The service: Some staff members are more helpful than others. On our visit, it took a while to get any service initially, and then we were seen to sporadically.
Extras & entertainment: Some background music, but that’s it.
Highs & lows: The food, rather than being poor, is simply underwhelming, and there isn’t enough of the better options. The chips are great, though more fish would be welcome. Given the restaurant’s usual menu, a seafood platter would really lift this brunch.
The after party: Move on to other venues in the Le Royal Méridien, or take a short ride to Pier 7 in Dubai Marina.
Dhs350 (soft drinks), Dhs500 (house beverages), Dhs150 (children aged six to 12), free (children under six). Fri 1pm-4pm. Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina, www.geales-dubai.com (04 316 5550).
Souvlaki brunch at Elia A low-key yet authentic Greek feast in Bur Dubai 3/5
Best for: a relaxed, foodie brunch
The venue: A comfortable, casual but stylish eatery with a chic, beachside vibe (impressive, considering the Bur Dubai location). Elia is divided into smoking (a bright conservatory space) and non-smoking areas (the main restaurant), decked out with white-washed tables and Mediterranean sea-blue soft furnishings.
The food: A set menu featuring a selection of classic Greek dishes – start with salad, tzatziki and a filo-encased ‘pie of the day’, followed by gyros, a sharing plate of souvlaki and home-made chips, and rounded off with a dessert of the day (a compote and ice-cream-topped rice pudding on our visit). Every dish is almost indecently tasty – and you’ll have to stop yourself ordering more of each course in order to save room for the next one. The only slight let-down is the souvlaki platter, which though tasty, features some unenjoyably fatty cuts of meat.
The drinks: Guests can sip a selection of house grape, shorts and hops, with an unusually varied selection of the latter.
The crowd: Elia’s brunch is laidback, and as such draws groups who are in it for the authentic food and a leisurely lunch rather than a raucous party. Expect families, groups of colleagues and couples.
The dress code: Smart casual seems to be the leaning of the crowd – though men can wear shorts, if they desire, without fear of being turned away.
The service: Friendly, if a little incessant. The eagerness to be doing something at all times means your cutlery, drinks glasses, bread baskets and anything else adorning the table can expect to be needlessly fiddled with.
Extras & entertainment: None, this one is all about the food.
Highs & lows: The early courses really make this brunch, but for us things tailed off towards the end.
The after party: In the same hotel, you’ll find Breathers bar and Barrels pub, so if you fancy carrying on, there’s no need to leave the property.
Spanish Saturday at El Sur Tapas and paella set menu with a lively Mediterranean vibe and a cool terrace 4/5
Best for: a lazy afternoon in the sun
The venue: A small corner of contemporary Spain exists on the lobby level of The Westin Mina Seyahi. If at all possible, sit out on the walled terrace and look across the top of the palm trees to the sea beyond, while finding the occasional spot of shade. Inside is roomy and stylish, with the decor, thankfully, avoiding a faux tavern feel and instead going for simple understated Euro elegance.
The food: This one doesn’t follow the usual brunch route of a self-service buffet, and instead offers a small selection of tapas followed by a choice of seafood or chicken paella. Sharing platters and small plates are sent out by the chef with a highlight being a pleasantly oily garlic and chilli prawn, which is juicy and has enough kick to encourage repeat orders. Spanish meats, cheeses and olives are among the variety of interesting sides, and the tapas outshines the paella, which although generous, is a touch salty, while clumsy diners should be careful not to burn themselves on the pan.
The drinks: Jugs of either red or white Spanish beverages are fruity and add to the authentic atmosphere.
The crowd: The relaxed atmosphere, without the clamour of many more chaotic brunches, attracts fun-seeking but civilised birthday parties and dining couples. The dress code: Casual, bright and sun-loving.
The service: The tapas plates all come at the same time, and while you are given the option of second helpings, a bit more time between helpings would go down well. The cool and chatty staff add to the general ambience. Extras & entertainment: Other than the moving afternoon sun and an unobtrusive soundtrack, the attractions all sit on the plates. With, perhaps, some people watching thrown in for good measure.
Highs & lows: No real lows, and the highs of á la carte ordering and the outdoor terrace are enough to put this on your brunching wish list. The after party: Happy hour runs from 6pm to 8pm for anybody wanting to keep on socialising after the food stops coming.
Dhs195 (soft drinks), Dhs295 (selected beverages and Spanish speciality drinks). Sat 12.30pm-3.30pm. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh Road, www.elsurdubai.com (04 399 7700).
Spice Route at Asia Asia A refined Far East-inspired brunch served on sharing platters 4/5
Best for: groups of friends
The venue: Making the most of its Pier 7 location, Asia Asia sits directly over the water and boasts views of Dubai Marina and its surrounding skyline. The iconic views can be enjoyed from the outdoor patio, but don’t worry if you’re inside as large windows line one side of the restaurant. There is also booth seating on the other side of the restaurant, from where diners can take in the colourful decor inspired by Thailand, China, Japan, Persia and Bali. The food: The spinach, date and cashew nut dumpling is a surprising winner from the dim sum basket, while you won’t want to miss out on the charcoal grilled asparagus with kaffir lime oil from the Asian tapas, either. Order the shrimp soba noodles served with chilli and black olives, plus the Persian-style black cod from the signature dishes. For dessert, you’ll be presented with a selection including panna cotta with berries, ice cream, sorbet and cakes. Dishes are a mix of those with indulgent flavours and milder, palate-cleansing options, so you’ll be ready to order seconds and thirds if your waistband will allow.
The drinks: Depending on the package, guests have the option of Italian bubbly, house red or white grape, shorts and soft drinks. Make sure you keep an eye on the clock, as last orders are at 4.45pm. The crowd: The venue attracts quite a mix, with the bulk of people being groups of friends, while a few families and couples frequent the place, too.
The dress code: Foodies glam up for this one, although if you’re casually dressed, you won’t be out of place.
The service: Staff are a little slow on keeping guests well watered, however they’re adept in ensuring diners with special dietary requirements are aware of possibly conflicting ingredients.
Extras & entertainment: Minimal house music is provided by a DJ, keeping the atmosphere relaxing but subtle.
Highs & lows: You’ll be tempted to repeatedly order the calamari with coriander nam pla dip, and the shrimp tempura with peanut chill dip. There are no real lows, other than the sometimes slow service. The after party: Continue the fun at Cargo on the third floor of Pier 7, which has a happy hour on Friday from 5pm-8pm, then Atelier M on floor eight has its ladies’ night from 8pm-11pm.
Tamarind Tandoor brunch A laidback, flavourful and filling Indian comfort food feast 3/5
Best for: relaxing family or friends
The venue: You’ll find Tamarind, on the ground floor of the Ramada Hotel in Bur Dubai, isn’t the most stunning of dining rooms. Seating is basic, though there are some more comfortable booths. It doesn’t seem to get full, so the buzz you might get at other brunches is missing. A designated kids’ area is available. The food: The restaurant has 100 different types of chutney, making it the largest self-serving bar of its kind in the world. If you have the patience to look, you’re sure to find the chutney you want. Enjoy it with traditional Indian bread – served warm and direct from the open-plan kitchen – and fried and baked varieties of popadoms. Chicken and vegetable biryani is served from a special tuk tuk, while main courses are plentiful and brought to the table. In all, there’s a good selection of meat from the tandoor, and plenty of curries with rice and naan breads.
The drinks: Indian grape is offered as part of the house beverages package, along with a variety of soft drinks. A self-service lassi bar is also available, offering three varieties of the yoghurt drink, including mango and coconut.
The crowd: Diners are mainly small groups of families, plus a few couples.
The dress code: Come casually dressed, allowing for extra room in the waistband.
The service: The staff are extremely warm and accommodating, taking requests with a smile on their faces. Food flows at a comfortable rate, but unless you intend on eating every morsel, you’ll have to prompt when ready to move on to the next course.
Extras & entertainment: Relaxing Indian music is provided from a singer on a keyboard playing next door at Cascade Lounge, which also houses one of the tallest stained-glass windows in the world.
Highs & lows: The kingfish Goan curry is incredible, with a combination of tomato and coconut in the sauce. It has tough competition from the cottage cheese dish with tomato gravy, both of which are served with the curry course. Dessert will be disappointing if you don’t like traditional Indian sweets. The after party: Head upstairs to Lucien Belgian Café for live sport on the TV and happy hour drinks from 4pm.
Dhs99 (soft drinks), Dhs145 (house beverages). Fri noon-4pm. Ramada Hotel Dubai, Al Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai, (04 351 9999).
The Great British Brunch at Reform Social & Grill Gastropub eats and a laidback vibe, twice every Friday 3/5
Best for: families and friends
The venue: Positioned within upmarket gated community The Lakes, Reform Social & Grill is a Marylebone-born gastropub, transported to sunny Dubai. Expect stylish, retro pub interiors, a spacious patio and large garden overlooking an artificial lake, where the kids can roam freely.
The food: The eating commences with a ‘posh ploughman’s larder’, designed for sharing and featuring nibbles such as cold cuts, pate, battered scallops and haggis fritters. Choose your main course from a selection of the ‘best of British’ – the steamed Shetland mussels in particular is a monstrously generous portion (though with no sides, it probably should be), while other options including roast chicken for two, lamb shank, fish and chips and a full English breakfast. Finally, another sharing plate arrives, featuring desserts including toffee pudding, strawberries and cream mess, and a rhubarb and custard crumble – sadly, it’s the weakest part of the event.
The drinks: Choose from grape, hops, shorts or a jug of mixed beverage (plus Italian bubbly, if you’ve opted for the top tier package), while the staff offer mixed drinks at the interval between courses.
The crowd: Reform’s posh-pub vibe, sprawling garden and kids’ play area attracts family brunchers as well as large groups of adults, couples, and just about every amalgamation of dining party you can imagine. The evening brunch slot from 6pm to 10pm is quieter than the noon to 4pm one, but at no point do things get rowdy.
The dress code: What you wear is entirely down to the occasion you’re celebrating (if any). Reform has no strict code of dress, and you’ll feel as at home in flip-flops and shorts as a shirt and trousers – we recommend a casual-chic vibe to carry you through to any post-brunch parties. The service: Reform’s staff are unfailingly friendly and welcoming but, as ever, are spread thinly, with speed suffering as a result. When we visited, starter platters began turning up before half the table’s drinks had arrived.
Extras & entertainment: None, unfortunately.
Highs & lows: Generous mains are the high point, but service can be disappointing.
The after party: No promotions here, but as it’s open all day, you can continue your revelry without leaving your table. With the restaurant located within a quiet residential area, there are no nearby after parties you can easily head to.
Dhs250 (soft drinks), Dhs350 (house beverages), Dhs395 (Italian bubbly). Fri noon-4pm and 6pm-10pm. The Lakes Club, The Lakes, Emirates Living, www.reformsocialgrill.ae (04 454 2638).
The Onshore Social at Zero Gravity A casual brunch where you’re encouraged to share 2.5/5
Best for: A chilled-out brunch with a view
The venue: Located next to Skydive Dubai, Zero Gravity seems like an ideal spot for brunch. Offering indoor and outdoor seating, guests have a picture-perfect view of JBR beach and the Arabian Gulf. Its funky interior and lively music gives the place a more grown-up vibe.
The food: Food is served on sharing platters, course by course, and is enough for two to share. A selection of cheese and crackers, and fresh bread, are served as an appetiser, followed by starters including vegetable spring rolls, calamari, chicken dumplings, sushi, quinoa salad and foie gras. Main course dishes include beef steak, salmon, creamy mashed potato, vegetables, mushroom risotto and a prawn pasta. Desserts are well presented and include a range of chocolate dishes, with the stand out being a Snickers-style peanut butter fondant.
The drinks: The basic package includes house shorts, grape and bottled hops, while the premium package offers bubbly. The drinks are a little underwhelming, but the novelty of having a mixed beverage served in a huge watermelon makes up for this somewhat.
The crowd: The crowd is mainly large groups and a few couples. With a strictly over-21 policy, there isn’t a child in sight. Throughout the brunch, guests are quite lively and the place has a fun atmosphere, but it’s still more low-key than other party-type brunches.
The dress code: There’s a smart casual dress code here, but people dress to impress.
The service: Staff aren’t anywhere near as attentive as you would want. On our visit, some complaints were met with disinterest.
Extras & entertainment: Dancers appear for brief moments throughout the day, moving to cabaret and jazz numbers in eye-catching and slightly risqué outfits.
Highs & lows: The setting is extremely relaxing, but you might find the poor service ends up having the opposite effect on you.
The after party: Guests can move downstairs onto the grass for a live DJ set, which gets pretty busy.
The Rib Room Friday Brunch A fine-dining steakhouse brunch within the luxurious Jumeirah Zabeel Saray 3/5
Best for: romantic meal
The venue: Don’t let the large wrought-iron cow at the entrance of the venue put you off. The interior is dark, plush and inviting, decked out in deep reds and browns. Though large, it still manages to feel intimate and romantic. The outdoor terrace, just off the central bar area, is bathed in sunlight, offering a contrasting dynamic that still affords a relaxed vibe.
The food: Food is served as a set menu of starters and desserts, and guests can choose between pan-seared sea bass or a selection of beef for their main course. The latter is a meat lover’s dream – the quality being second to none; cutting through the beef is like slicing through butter, and is perhaps the best steak we’ve tried at a Dubai brunch. The John Stone smoked short rib, which is succulent, sweet and simply falls apart, is another standout dish.
The drinks: The dedicated bar serves up a fruity mix of beverages, while a mixologist moves around offering suggestions and creating delicious and inventive concoctions. There are also beverage stations that change weekly.
The crowd: The brunch is suited to couples and small groups, since the vibe here is quite a romantic one.
The dress code: Dress to impress. This brunch provides a great opportunity for guests to look their absolute best.
The service: Staff are friendly, though the service can be slow at times. On our visit, we had to keep a look out and ask to have our drinks replenished on occasion.
Extras & entertainment: A jazz band provides the entertainment throughout the afternoon.
Highs & lows: The service could do with a little sharpening up, but that will surely come with time – the brunch only started in February. However, the food is outstanding, and that alone makes it worth a visit.
The after party: The party continues after brunch with a buy one, get one free offer on house beverages from 4pm to 6pm.
TOY Brunch at China Grill A playful party event for the young at heart 3/5
Best for: partygoers
The venue: Having opened during late-2014, China Grill has emerged as an impressive, trendy bar and restaurant in the Westin Mina Seyahi. Specialising in Asian fusion food (the original in New York was one of the first to do so), it’s dark and sleek, and feels like a real destination brunch.
The food: There is lots of it. More than a dozen different courses are to be had, and there are live cooking stations, including one for moreish crispy duck wraps. Most dishes will be brought to your table, including salty and spicy edamame beans, while a dim sum trolley offering some great dumplings including vegetable, chicken, duck and shrimp will be rolled over to you. A huge sushi and futomaki platter is filled with enough inventive variations to keep you interested for a long time, and that’s before soft shell crab, chicken salad, calamari and chicken skewers turn up. When you think you’re going to burst, there’s a big plate of spicy wagyu striploin and some barbecue salmon. There are also some playful desserts, if you’ve still got some space.
The drinks: The current drinks package includes grapes and Russian shorts, but we hear that the offering will soon be extended to include hops and other beverages. For those who can afford a little more, there’s also a bubbly package.
The crowd: This is a place to party. China Grill will only accept bookings of four or more people, which we feel is a little restrictive, but at least makes for a good crowd. The brunch’s emphasis is balanced finely between having a blast and enjoying the food, so you’ll get those who want to let their hair down as well as serious foodies. This is not one for families.
The dress code: The vibe is that of a New York club, so dress up if you want to fit in.
The service: Lots of staff bringing wave after wave of food. They’re efficient, if not the friendliest bunch in the city.
Extras & entertainment: Performers pop up throughout the afternoon, including mime artists and dancers. There’s also a booming DJ playing house and funk music. Drinks are served elaborately, but it’s all part of the TOY fun.
Highs & lows: The food is superb – if there’s anything that doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, don’t worry, there’ll be something else along soon that probably will. It can be a little overwhelming, though – this is a full-on experience.
The after party: The bar remains open at China Grill, and friends are welcome to join you from 3pm. Or you could always take the short walk over to Barasti.
Dhs450 (grape and shorts), Dhs550 (bubbly). Fri 1.30pm-4.30pm. The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh Road, www.chinagrillrestaurant.com (04 511 7333).
Urban Picnic at 3in1 Charm, character and style go hand in hand at this picnic 4/5
Best for: Chilling out with friends
The venue: Head downstairs from the chic white lobby of the Vida Downtown and you’ll come to 3in1, a bright and airy restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows that open out to a small courtyard pool. It has the same whimsical, dreamy decor as the rest of the hotel, but for the brunch it’s dressed up in a quaint and tasteful picnic theme. Outside are wooden picnic tables and cabanas, which can be booked for an extra fee, and from where you can lounge beside the pool on bean bags. The food: The picnic theme carries through to the food, and buffet tables are laden high with cheese, bread, mini sandwiches, pizza, toasties, little jars of crisp, fresh salads and seafood ceviche. The best part (especially for cheese lovers) is the fondue station; fill a dish with creamy, gooey, cheesy goodness and enjoy with beetroot and carrot batons, bread sticks and crunchy slices of toasted baguette. Steak, lamb chops and a seafood basket are also served to the table, along with potatoes and vegetables. A fun dessert selection includes cheesecakes, crumbles, mini chocolate milkshakes, macaroons and grasshopper cake – a mint and chocolate fudge mousse-like dessert that’s light and fluffy and tastes like an Aero. The drinks: Fruity iced teas and lemonades are served in jars with stripy straws. There’s a drinks package inclusive of grape and mixed beverages as well as a bubbly package. As a nice touch, bottles of grape can be selected buffet-style from a display of bottles and glasses. The crowd: Mostly families and large groups celebrating birthdays, but on the whole the atmosphere is laidback and civilised. The venue itself is quite small, and tables aren’t packed together, so even when booked to capacity, it doesn’t feel crowded or busy.
The dress code: Light and summery – think a picnic at Ascot (minus the fascinators). The service: Nothing to complain about – all the staff are cheerful and accommodating. Extras & entertainment: A spirited and talented singer whose covers strike a perfect balance between jazzy, upbeat and mellow. Highs & lows: The concept of collecting food from the buffet in picnic baskets is a nice idea, but quite impractical, and only really works for the bottles of grape (hardly a complaint). The seafood basket, on the other hand, is a definite high – grab all the Alaskan crab in sight before anyone else catches on; it’s truly outstanding. The after party: At Vida, chilled lounge bar Stage2 has a happy hour from 5pm to 8pm, and nearby Souk Al Bahar is full of popular watering holes such as Left Bank and Karma Kafé.
Dhs265 (soft drinks), Dhs295 (selected beverages), Dhs495 (bubbly). Poolside cabanas can be booked for an additional Dhs100 per person. Fri 1pm-5pm. Vida Downtown Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, www.vida-hotels.com (04 428 6888).
Zeta Fountain Brunch Refined Japanese cuisine and breath-taking views of the Burj Khalifa 4/5
Best for: Chilling out with friends
The venue: Perched on a terrace overlooking The Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa, it’s clear to see that the location is this brunch’s main selling point. It’s the perfect venue for entertaining guests, with a view that doesn’t disappoint.
The food: Diners are served a set menu of Japanese cuisine, including miso soup, sushi, sashimi, black cod miso and wagyu beef. It’s all very refined and the portion sizes are perfect for sharing, especially the generous sushi and sashimi platter. A dessert tray featuring mochi ice cream, sorbet and plenty of fresh fruit rounds off the meal nicely. The drinks: Zeta serves up a refreshing array of fruity mixed beverages, served in huge glass jars to be shared with the table. There are also mocktail versions of these drinks, which pair well with the light Japanese food on offer. The crowd: The stunning view makes this the perfect place to impress, and you’ll find tourists and hotel guests enjoying the setting. It isn’t a rowdy brunch, and you’ll likely see a few families in attendance, too. The dress code: Smart casual is the official line, but as Zeta is positioned next to the hotel’s pool, it tends to have a more casual vibe. The service: Service can be a bit hit and miss. The staff are unwaveringly friendly and always happy to have a chat, but seem a bit forgetful and distracted at times. Extras & entertainment: There’s no entertainment, but The Dubai Fountain starts up mid-way through the brunch, providing a regular and spectacular show. Highs & lows: Zeta probably has one of the best views of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain you can find. Despite not being a Japanese restaurant, the cuisine on offer is high quality and sure to impress. Service, while warm and friendly, can be a bit patchy, but this is nit-picking. This is an impressive all-round package. The after party: Zeta stays open if you fancy a few mixed beverages while soaking up more of the view. Popular lounge bar Calabar is also in the same hotel, should you fancy a change of scene.
Dhs290 (soft drinks), Dhs424 (mixed and selected beverages). Fri noon-4pm. The Address Downtown, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (04 888 3444).
Zuma’s Friday Brunch A stunning feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds 5/5
Best for: Anyone and everyone
The venue: Zuma has rightly been named as one of Dubai’s top restaurants since it opened. Former Time Out Dubai Best Restaurant winner and current holder of the Best Japanese gong, this is a venue that guarantees a good experience. It oozes class and promises a great experience from the moment you enter. There’s also a play area for kids.
The food: Where to start? Fried squid, miso soup and two kinds of edamame beans are brought to the table. The squid in particular is fantastic. Then there is an absolutely staggering selection of sushi, sashimi, oysters and other perfectly pretty little treats. Also available are noodles, rice pots and skewers with wagyu beef, veal belly, chicken and other meats. There’s more than you can manage, and that’s before you choose something from the main course menu. There’s also the famous miso black cod as well as Chilean seabass and Boston Lobster. Once that’s out the way, a fantastic dessert platter arrives.
The drinks: From the soft drinks package you can choose from a wonderful selection of mocktails, or cleansers as they’re called here. There is also a package with sparkling Italian grape, Japanese hops and grape.
The crowd: Everyone will feel welcome here. It’s a high-class venue, but it isn’t stuffy in the slightest. Families with kids of all ages can enjoy the experience and the food. Groups of adults can catch up, while couples are able to enjoy a bit of romance.
The dress code: There might be a relaxed feel, but you’ll still want to look smart. Jeans are okay for the guys, but most people are in trousers. Ladies, you might want to dress up a little.
The service: Perfect. There are plenty of staff and they are all paying attention to every table and never miss a beat. If only everywhere could be like this.
Extras & entertainment: Music plays in the background, which often makes an impression. There are also live cooking stations serving up street food and desserts.
Highs & lows: This is a flawless brunch. The service, ambience, ingredients, food and price point have not been bettered at any brunch we’ve been to this year.
The after party: Nothing in Zuma itself, though there are other options in DIFC, but really it’ll all be downhill after this experience.
Dhs395 (soft drinks), Dhs525 (house beverages and sparkling grape), Dhs595 (bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 425 5660).