Brunches aren’t just about the food – they’re about having a good time. We discover which of Dubai’s venues offer the most Friday fun
Ramadan is just around the corner, which means this Friday is one of your last opportunities to brunch and go wild. But with more than 450 hotels offering their own version of Dubai’s all-you-can-eat-and-drink tradition, it can be tricky to know which spots will offer the most memorable evening. And, let’s be honest, brunch is all about creating memories.
Like that time you and your boys started challenging other diners to one-handed push-ups, or when you jumped on the table and started dancing to oldies (you know, Green Day). Oh, wait… maybe that was us. You see, we wanted to make sure you have the best time possible this Friday, so we scoured every brunch in town to find the most exciting spots. While our memories are a little hazy, we think we succeeded.
The setup: A roast just like mama used to make (if mama is Gordon Ramsay). There are several meat stations with veggies and gravy, plus free-flowing bubbly and cocktails.
The crowd: Given the price and drink options, the vibe is surprisingly upmarket and sophisticated. Expect older couples that want a break from messy outings.
Memorable moment: Tucking into a particularly good batch of Yorkshire pudding. Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira (04 212 7551). Friday 12.30pm-3.30pm. Dhs200 with soft drinks, Dhs250 including selected beverages
The setup: Rock Bottom could well pass for a garage, it’s so dark and gloomy. Still, there’s not a bad selection of dishes in the buffet, and the price includes two drinks.
The crowd: A Spartan assembly of folks opting for a little hair of the dog.
Memorable moment: One of the chefs falling asleep in his chair while a downbeat man – dressed as a giant vegetable – tried to liven up the crowd. Regent Palace Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 396 3888). Friday 11.30am-3.30pm. Dhs79 with two drinks
The setup: Food is the focus here: the buffet is located within the kitchen, and every area is basically a live cooking station. A jazz band and unlimited drinks deal livens things up.
The crowd: Older and sophisticated, with an array of couples and families.
Memorable moment: The succulent leg of pork in a reduction sauce will be on our mind for months to come. Park Hyatt, Deira (04 317 2222). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs295 with soft drinks, Dhs425 with house beverages, Dhs550 with premium beverages and bubbly, Dhs1,500 with limo pick-up and a special gift. Closed until September 17
The setup: There’s an unlimited à la carte menu, though you have to buy drinks separately.
The crowd: Mango Tree’s once-rowdy scene is no more. Now, in place of young, twentysomething singles, you’re more likely to find Mrs Robinson fresh from her manicure session wearing killer heels, accompanied by a sleek Mr Braddock.
Memorable moment: Feeling decidedly underdressed as Mrs Robinson snubbed us for another diner. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Dubai (04 426 7313). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs175 with soft drinks Belgian Beer Café Lively rating: 4/10
The setup: There are free-flowing drinks on offer, plus a buffet and à la carte options, including several traditional mussel dishes and divine Belgian waffles for dessert.
The crowd: Mainly couples and small groups of friends.
Memorable moment: Watching the table fill up with brews as everyone in the group ordered as many drinks as they possibly could before last call. Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City (04 701 2222). Friday 1pm-4pm. Dhs150 with soft drinks, Dhs199 with unlimited selected beverages, Dhs75 for kids under 12 Zuma Lively rating: 4/10
The setup: The large expanse of Zuma’s main room looks airy when it’s not packed out. There are some buffet items as well as options from the à la carte menu, plus unlimited drinks.
The crowd: Men with popped collars and polo shirts, alongside women with impeccable make-up and blow-dries.
Memorable moment: A mere glimpse of rowdiness was seen when the family sat next to us had a nursery rhyme singalong with their toddlers. Dubai International Financial Centre (04 425 5660). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs285 with juices, Dhs385 with selected premium drinks (an additional 10 per cent surcharge is also added)
The setup: An Italian buffet full of cured meat, cheese and salad options, plus an excellent à la carte pizza and pasta menu and unlimited drinks.
The crowd: Like an Italian beach in August, the place is full of characters of all ages and sizes. The well heeled and those who couldn’t care less about their heels are all united by a love of good Italian food.
Memorable moment: The entire restaurant joining in a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ in three languages. Media Rotana, TECOM (04 435 0000). Friday 12.30pm-3pm. Dhs199 with soft drinks, Dhs249 with house beverages, Dhs700 per couple with bubbly Dubliners Lively rating: 6/10
The setup: A traditional Irish pub offering one course and three drinks. There’s also a live guitarist to add a musical vibe.
The crowd: The room gets packed with a mix of hardened regulars, families and young singles.
Memorable moment: Listening to the guitar player belt out some Bob Marley classics. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs65 with three drinks
The crowd: The liveliest spot is the ever-popular Bamboo Lagoon, where scantily-clad singers distract all the men in the room.
Memorable moment: The plate-spinning, prawn-throwing chefs at Bamboo Lagoon. Abu Baker Al Siddique Rd, Deira (04 262 4444). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs222 with soft drinks, Dhs333 with house beverages, Dhs444 with premium beverages, Dhs555 with bubbly, Dhs111 for kids
The setup: A small, but effective buffet, plus free-flowing drinks.
The crowd: Mainly older guests, some with children.
Memorable moment: Discovering the pork section at 3.31pm – it’s hidden away from the other stations. Sausages and bacon galore. Towers Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 312 2202). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs149 with unlimited drinks
The setup: It hasn’t taken long for Media One to gain a reputation for feisty fun. After getting your fill of free-flowing drinks and buffet fodder, head out to the pool to soak up the Ibiza-esque vibe.
The crowd: Girls and guys looking for a good time.
Memorable moment: A Royal Marine-cum-Ultimate Fighter talking us through a Halo (‘high-altitude, low-opening’) jump. Dubai Media City (04 427 1000). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs288 with unlimited house beverages. Two brunchers can book a night’s stay for an additional Dhs240 per couple
The setup: The buffet is spread decadently over three restaurants (wagyu foie gras burgers are a highlight). Sparkling wine is free-flowing, and there are also cocktail stations.
The crowd: Not as sophisticated as it used to be. Sadly, short skirts and jeans with trainers are increasingly popular.
Memorable moment: When two flamboyant male dancers started breakdancing to entertain the crowd on the terrace. It wasn’t impromptu – they’re paid to do it. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs395 with soft drinks, Dhs495 with unlimited house beverages
The setup: A dark, two-storey club offering live music, unlimited drinks and a decidedly so-so buffet.
The crowd: Large groups of merry twenty- and thirtysomething partiers, many of whom have come from celebratory brunches at other venues. Memorable moment: Spotting Mani from The Stone Roses filling his plate at the buffet. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000). Friday 4pm-7pm. Dhs149 with unlimited drinks Spice Island Lively rating: 8/10
The setup: This Dubai classic hasn’t changed since its inception. Expect the standard international buffet and unlimited drinks package.
The crowd: Loud, young adults and scattered families with small children.
Memorable moment: Listening to a merry reveller at the adjacent table sing along to the background music after sucking the helium out of a birthday balloon. Renaissance Dubai Hotel, Salah Al Din Road, Deira (04 262 5555). Friday noon-3pm. Dhs149 with soft drinks, Dhs199 with house beverages, Dhs269 with premium beverages
The setup: Like Al Qasr and the JW Marriott, every restaurant in the hotel contributes to make a massive buffet. For entertainment, the place can’t be beaten: there is live jazz, a petting zoo for kids and several Chinese entertainers (aka acrobats).
The crowd: A mix of families, hen dos and rich, cigar-smoking dudes.
Memorable moment: Watching an acrobat juggle a table with her feet. Talk about skills! Al Sufouh Road (04 511 7136). Friday 1pm-4pm. Dhs299 with soft drinks, Dhs450 with house beverages and bubbly
The setup: A budget all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch (though food is an afterthought). You can’t fault the lively atmosphere, however.
The crowd: Mostly cabin crew and young professionals who really should know better. Much better.
Memorable moment: We have hazy recollections of doing one-handed push-ups on stage, an air stewardess throwing our footwear over the wall, and wrestling a fat man with a beard. Al Murooj Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 321 1111). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs159 with unlimited drinks
The setup: Waxy’s brunch used to run right through from noon until the wee hours. Now, the infamous event has been divided in two with a rest period from 4pm until 6pm (the first half of the day has the fry-up, the second half has the carvery).
The crowd: Go before 8pm and you’ll face a dreary, near-empty room with a couple of surly men in football shirts and bored/scared-looking ladies. Come after 6pm and you’ll find a thick crowd of young revellers, many of whom come in fancy dress.
Memorable moment: Being pulled into a drinking contest alongside Spiderman and Batman (or at least two guys dressed in masks and capes). Ascot Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 352 0900). Friday noon-4pm, 6pm-10pm. Dhs85 with five drinks
The setup: A tepid salad bar accompanies unending barbecue eats and free-flowing drinks.
The crowd: A perky mix of expat brunchers, Lebanese partygoers and locals looking for a solid grilled lunch before beginning their evening ahead.
Memorable moment: When pop tunes from the ’80s through to the ’90s began blaring from the speakers, everyone jumped up from their chairs to begin a two-hour danceathon… on the tables. Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 4221). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs225 with soft drinks, Dhs295 with unlimited house beverages
The setup: The circular buffet perched at the top of the Harbour Hotel juggles a rowdy-but-upmarket crowd with an impressive seafood and steak à la carte menu, plus a pork station to make your eyes water. The crowd: A well-dressed group of professional partiers who prefer to stand and chat than actually sit and eat.
Memorable moment: The staff will generally let you do whatever you want, including a ‘dentist’s chair’, involving syringes full of various liquids fired down the throats of baying drinkers. They even cheered when someone’s face was pushed into a cake. How you actually get thrown out is anyone’s guess. Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel and Suites, Dubai Marina (04 319 4000). Friday noon-4pm. Dhs300 with soft drinks, Dhs400 with unlimited drinks
The setup: Hedonist heaven. Imagine all-you-can-drink bubbly, a massive international buffet and unlimited à la carte options.
The crowd: A boisterous mix ranging in age from early twenties to late sixties.
Memorable moment: Watching a geriatric dancing on the table, only to be pulled off by a member of staff. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000). Friday 12.30pm-3.30pm. Dhs449 with house beverages and bubbly.
Looking for a lively brunch for your tots? Try these
Andiamo! The setup: Diners are welcomed to an airy trattoria, where they can choose from an array of Italian dishes, including hot and cold antipasti and delicious made-to-order pizzas, pastas and risottos.
The crowd: Older couples, and families wondering where the kids’ entertainment is (clue: it’s in the Market Café).
Memorable moment: Watching one diner, disappointed with the relatively small dessert section, take a munch out of the rather tasty chocolate sculpture. Grand Hyatt, Oud Metha (04 317 1234). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs170 with soft drinks, Dhs260 with select beverages, Dhs85 for kids
Beachcombers The setup: A hefty international spread with a focus on Asian fare, plus drinks and splendid views for the adults and playrooms galore for the kiddies (they can spend hours on the PlayStation).
The crowd: Kids, kids, kids and a few adults.
Memorable moment: Seeing grown men pushing kids out of the way to gasp in amazement at simple magic tricks, balloon animals and ‘comedy whistling’. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs185 with soft drinks, Dhs285 with house beverages, half price for kids
Focaccia The setup: A surprisingly suave Italian/international brunch with 12 food stations set in a tasteful mock-villa interior. The crowd: Mainly couples, hotel guests and the odd family.
Memorable moment: The pervading calm of the place, plus the perfectly pan-roasted lamb cutlets and the cheese room. Hyatt Regency Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs189 with soft drinks, Dhs219 with unlimited house beverages. Kids half price
Legends The setup: There’s a range of buffets offering everything from a carvery to curries, as well as a kids’ station with French fries. Drinks, alas, are separate.
The crowd: A decidedly 40-plus crowd, decked out in immaculately pressed trousers.
Memorable moment: Watching just about every adult discreetly wander over to the kids’ station to grab a handful of fries. Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000). Friday 11.30am-3pm. Dhs115 with canned juices
Meydan The setup: The elaborate and intricate equine-themed venue offers an extensive array of international fare and free-flowing bubbly, plus entertainment for the kids.
The crowd: Families and moneyed locals.
Memorable moment: Being warned away from the sumo suits (they’re for kids only). Meydan Racecourse (04 381 3111). Friday 12.30pm-4pm. Dhs495 with unlimited drinks