Time Out Dubai is the guide to the best brunch in Dubai. Here we profile the pick of Saturday brunches in Dubai. Get reviews, contact details and more
The first day of the weekend is undoubtedly the most popular time to enjoy brunch in Dubai but Friday isn’t the only day that restaurants in the city put on their finest spreads and serve up buffet and a la carte dishes as part of a package. Here’s where to go on Saturdays in the emirate to take advantage of dining event everyone in the city must do.
Arabic fusion fare may be all the rage among Dubai’s newest Middle Eastern restaurants, but in JBR, DoubleTree by Hilton’s Al Maeda is so far from the bandwagon it can’t even hear the music. And for purists, that’s no bad thing.
Set at the base of the glass-clad hotel, at the southernmost end of The Walk, the restaurant has its own driveway and lobby, setting the stage for something grand. Instead, however, the main dining room is unexpectedly low-key, but all the more welcoming for a lack of overly formal, obsessively ironed tablecloths and rows of manically smiling staff. The vibe is upmarket and chic, matching monochrome Arabesque prints with contemporary, minimalist furniture and the odd splash of colour, instead of the ubiquitous, dated lashings of gilded trinkets and furnishings that the city’s eateries are so often lazily stuffed with.
But while the interiors may breathe new life into old Arabia, the menu sticks with the best-loved and known dishes from across the Middle East and North Africa. Think mezze such as tabbouleh, chicken liver and baba ganoush, mains including mixed grills, lamb tagine and ouzi, and typically bakery-confined bites such as cheese manakish.
While we debated what to order, toasted zaatar-brushed Arabic bread, fat, juicy olives, straws of carrot and small dips of flavoured oil and tahini were swiftly brought to the table, and just as quickly decimated. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before our generous starters arrived on rustic crockery. While the traditional Moroccan harira soup was hearty, tangy and true to its well-spiced roots, our dining companion’s kibbeh was the surprising, early highlight of the entire meal, leaving him forced to fend off several attacks as our fork darted across the table. Each individual golden-fried ovoid bore all the hallmarks of being homemade, with tender, fatty lamb mince encased in a chewy shell, with a crisp exterior so paper-thin there could be nothing but wizardry holding it all together.
From the mains, we’d ordered a salt-crusted sea bass, which turned out to be sea bream once the waiter solemnly informed us the former was not available, but promised the same marinade and trimmings. A greasy mound of flaccid green beans formed the foundation for two medium fillets, which had seen most of the moisture fried out of them and replaced with rather a lot of oil (small mercies could be found in the crispy skin). The marinade, however (comprised of roughly 376 bulbs of garlic) was packed full of flavour (dominantly garlic, but enjoyably so) including a variety of ‘Arabic spices’, according to the waiter, who refrained from elaborating in any meaningful way. Across the table, a lamb tagine with fat figs, dried apricots and a side of cinnamon (apparently) couscous was being heartily assaulted, but more out of hunger than appreciation. While there was plenty going on within the sauce, there turned out not to be enough of it to make up for the unexpectedly and disappointingly dry lamb, but it was hoovered up without too much fuss – and just as well, as we shortly after faced a small, stern interrogation once the waiter, who arrived to clear our plates, discovered half the fish untouched.
While there’s certainly no call for every new Arabic restaurant to reinvent the mixed grill, if you’re going to stick to the well-loved classics, you need to do them very, very well. Dubai has no shortage of magnificent Middle Eastern eateries, and many that have earned their reputations over decades. Al Maeda needs the rest of its menu to measure up to its mezze if it’s to stand a chance.
The bill (for two) 1 x harira soup Dhs35 1 x kibbeh Dhs25 1 x lamb tagine Dhs90 1 x sea bass/bream Dhs90 1 x local water Dhs20 1 x fresh juice Dhs27 2 x coffee Dhs37 Total (including service) Dhs324
Unwind at this beach club concept, the first Blue Marlin outside of its Ibiza home at the Ghantoot Al Jazira Island Hotel. Brunch here is served on the terrace or beach beds.
Extras: Resident DJs take to the decks, with live singing as well. Through the season, Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE also offers themed brunches; past themes include ‘Brazilian’, ‘Summer of Love’ and ‘Water Activities’.
Food and drinks: Blue Marlin’s chefs take over the terrace with live cooking stations serving up Mediterranean dishes, including a selection of tempting meats from the barbecue. There’s also fresh sushi and a dessert station.
Dress code: Casual.
Family friendly? Yes, entertainment available for kids.
Post brunch: The venue stays open until 11pm with entertainment from the resident DJs.
Australian food is not a concept often seen in Dubai, let alone Australian cooking with a fine dining edge. As such, being the first to bring this upmarket vision of Down Under to Dubai, Bushman’s Restaurant & Bar occupies a genuine niche in an otherwise diverse dining scene. Inside, the space is fun and full of character, with little design touches that reflect Australian culture. There’s also a large and tasteful billabong-inspired terrace, perfect for the cooler months. Service tends to be excellent, and in the case of senior staff, also Australian, which nicely sets the tone to dining here. The menu spans a selection of gourmet Australiana, including emu, kangaroo, barramundi, ‘bugs’ (like little flat-tailed lobster) and ‘yabby’ (crayfish), prepared with plenty of international fusion touches, from Asian to Italian. Intelligent service and an intriguing setting make the ambience at Bushman’s very pleasant indeed, while the food is also creative and feeds the diner’s curiosity.
Whether it’s hearty British fare or staple Italian dishes such as pasta and pizza, Tex-Mex favourites or sashimi and sushi, there’s a cuisine for everyone at Channels throughout the week. This said, don’t expect a gourmet dining experience – Channels does most dishes well and those that it doesn’t can be forgive thanks to affordable prices and all-you-can drink promotions that run in conjunction with the meal deals. A good place for the city’s hungry penny-pinchers and anyone with an open mind and a taste for fun.
The Friday brunch is something of a Dubai institution.
Scroll down for more details on the Latitude brunch. Price: Dhs340 with house beverages; Dhs225 with soft drinks only; Dhs85 for five-12 year olds; under fives eat for free.
Time: Friday and Saturday 12.30pm-4pm. Last orders 3.30pm.
Food: Expect surreal combos from this buffet featuring international fare and live food stations – bok choy with mushrooms, salmon and tuna sashimi, quail eggs, snapper in lobster sauce; the list goes on...
The set up: Split over a major corridor, hence the pragmatic name, Latitude backs this up with some vaguely cartographic elements of decor. A jazz band features at the Friday brunch and on Friday and Saturday there’s face painting, clowns, games, activities and a great magic show.
Post-brunch plan: Head to Uptown Bar for fantastic views, or 360° to watch the sunset behind the Burj Al Arab (although you’ll have to send your kids home first).
What’s on offer? Mazina’s Saturday brunch is squarely aimed at families with kids. If the food wasn’t of such a high standard, it would take second place to the kids’ entertainment, which includes a huge bouncy castle in the middle of the venue, face painting, games and all manner of toys. For grown-ups, there’s an eclectic spread of international cuisines and live cooking stations, including sushi, Thai soups, noodles, succulent roasts and plenty of curries and stews to sate the appetite. Kids' food is brought direct to the table, and rather than the usual deep fried, processed favourites, there’s a healthier selection of sweet potato chips and freshly made fish and chicken bites. On one Saturday of every month, the brunch becomes a themed ‘Generation Creation’ affair, where parents and kids can take the stage to test their skills in everything from cake decorating to napkin folding, and there are some great prizes to be won.
The venue? The large restaurant is split into two areas, which are divided by the bouncy castle and kids’ play zone. The livelier (and noisier) section near the buffet is where the ‘Generation Creation’ competition takes place. Well-staffed, there are always people on the door to make sure some of the younger guests don’t go AWOL.
What sort of crowd turn out? Families for the main part, as it can get a bit noisy if you don’t have youngsters in tow.
Room for improvement? Not if you’re a family – the food quality is good, and it’s a great place to take the little ones.
Standout dish? The roasts are particularly good – the meat is always tender and the gravy is thick and tasty.
In one sentence… It's the perfect family brunch, although probably not so much fun if you don't have children to take with you. Dhs220 (food only), half price (children aged seven-12), free (kids under six). Saturdays 12.30pm-3.30pm.
A severe hook away from the toils of the 18th fairway (seriously difficult, trust us) lies Nineteen, the restaurant at The Address Montgomerie Dubai that gazes out over a spectacular course. Get out on the terrace and by day the views are spectacular, while by night the sounds of the fountain deliver soothing sprinkles. Either way, it is atmospheric enough to make up for a somewhat limited menu that does, however, contain some nice surprises, delivered from the live cooking ‘show kitchen’. While what comes from the grill is of an excellent standard, the smaller touches are great too, from the delicate amuse-bouche to a stunning cream of porcini soup and the tiger prawns, served with a nice chilli and garlic kick and sprinkled, incongruously, with pomegranate. The latter actually fits the mood perfectly: classy, but with a little bit of unruliness not often found in restaurants at posh golf courses. That makes this a good bet for dinner with friends.
In our experience, the first thing service staff are likely to do when you arrive at pan-Asian eatery Toshi is introduce you to their generous daily eat and drink, all-in theme nights. Our advice: Ignore them. While those buffet packages are remarkable value – especially with accompanying beverages – it’s always the à la carte where things really shine. And shine they do – classics like a green curry are packed with zest, while more complicated dishes such as the steamed whole sea bass are particularly pleasing. Oddly, it’s the generic starters – typically the satisfyingly hard-to-mess-up bread and butter of any Asian joint – which feel comparatively underwhelming. However, despite pleasant 18th floor views of the Jumeirah sprawl, it’s the somewhat bland venue which might sour the taste. An odd lack of music, coupled with the threat of rowdy buffet diners, creates a sensation of sterility that is more suited to a business meeting than an anniversary dinner. Yet either way you will eat well.