'Lets do brunch' is a regular war cry in Dubai. Time Out eats its way through the best.
In Dubai, ‘let’s do brunch!’ rarely constitutes an empty threat. Whether it’s families out for a pleasant meal or clubbers continuing Thursday night’s excesses, Friday brunch is a pursuit that seems to get the whole city eating… and eating.
But choosing the right venue can be as bewildering as knowing whether to start with dim sum or donuts once you get there. We sent our merry band of munchers to give you the lowdown on the city’s best feasts, from the golf clubs to the night clubs. They have one thing in common: you won’t need an evening meal…
Our very favourites
Yalumba As anyone who has stomped the streets of Australia’s ultra cosmopolitan major cities will know, modern Oz is a multicultural mash up far from the hackneyed stereotypes of Crocodile Dundee. Yalumba offers compelling evidence of this diversity – its eclectic brunch covers a spread of continents while maintaining a laid-back Aussie ethos. The food is fantastic, as is endless Bollinger, the combination of buffet and à la carte works well (the main courses don’t get cold or congeal), and the setting is warm and sophisticated.
Vegetarians should be warned that there’s little for them to tuck into (the emphasis is on seafood) but desserts are a treat that all can enjoy: the crumbly pastry base of the rich chocolate tart provides a comforting counterpoint to a sleek fondant topping. The modern décor is the perfect setting for a leisurely – if sometimes boisterous – Friday afternoon with friends, and they get the price-versus-quality balance exactly right.
Yalumba, Le Meridien Dubai (04 282 4040). Brunch served Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm. Price Dhs399 per person including champagne and wine.
Al Qasr While we’re all in favour of the odd bit of understatement, brunch is not a time to hide your light under a bushel. Modesty is all well and good for a refined Thursday night, but come Friday morning we want to revel in excess – and nobody revels quite like Al Qasr. Occupying the entire ground floor of the chandelier-happy hotel, the AQB (as nobody is calling it) allows you to stumble between flambé stations in MJ’s, the Arboretum’s patisserie and Al Hambra’s table of tapas.
Highlights include a seafood table straining under the weight of its pink-hued wares, the Willy Wonkaesque make-your-own ice cream station and an entire suckling pig to boot. The drink offering shuns the champagne route (thus avoiding much of the bubble trouble that can mar other brunches) and instead offers prosecco, mojitos and sangria alongside the usual grape and grain staples. The price tag may mean Al Qasr should be reserved for a special occasion rather than a regular, but given the indulgence opportunities on offer that’s probably a good thing.
Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 8888) Brunch served Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Price Dhs495 per person including alcoholic drinks, children half price.
Spectrum On One This brunch institution comes with a fearsome reputation, and it takes a strong stomach and a long afternoon to get an overview of Spectrum On One’s cornucopia of global delights. The scale of ambition here is literally all-encompassing, with region-specific kitchens purveying specialties from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Europe, South East Asia and Japan. Orders at the various cooking stations are coordinated via strap-on headsets that wouldn’t be out of place at a boy-band’s stadium gig, so whether your dishes hail from the mountains of India, the shores of southern Thailand or the heart of rural France, the whole affair is carried off with miraculous harmony and dishes arrive within seconds of one another.
Juicy, rich king scallops are rendered even more decadent by an accompanying buttery cauliflower puree, large wicker baskets of dim sum are also a hit, and the Goan fish curry is substantial and flavoursome. A League of Nations-style selection of perfectly rendered mini-desserts finishes off the giddy, hands-across-the-world approach with aplomb, and the free-flowing Moët pretty much guarantees a bumper, not to mention buoyant, crowd every weekend.
Spectrum On OneFairmont Dubai (04 311 8316) Brunch served Fri 12noon-3.30pm. Price Dhs450 per person including champagne.
Best for… Families
Planet Hollywood The car key used by Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction… the fingerprint kit as handled by Morgan Freeman in Se7en… unless you’re from the Ozzy Osbourne school of parenting, it’s unlikely your little darlings will give two hoots about the majority of celluloid tat on show in Planet Hollywood’s display alcoves. The same shouldn’t apply to the delightful face-painter and host of motorised games on offer here, which will keep children entertained while adults get on with the serious business of stuffing themselves from a host of surprisingly tasty salads and mountainous meat platters.
The baseball hat-sporting staff are friendly without being overwhelmingly so. If you don’t want to contravene well-established Dubai brunch bylaws, it’s essential you round it all off with a selection of syrupy sweets, delicious pastries, cakes and mousses for the sugar rush to end all others. Forget about your figure for one weekend, and you’ll find that, right down to the children’s mini burgers and nuggets, few places cater for self-indulgence en famille like Planet Hollywood.
Planet Hollywood, Wafi (04 324 4777) Brunch served Fri 11.30-3pm. Price Dhs85 per person including soft drinks. Children 6-12 eat for Dhs45.
Mövenpick Forego the alcoholic option and concentrate on laying your hands on as much of the wide selection of global fare as possible. Once seated in the Fountain Restaurant – comfortable and relaxed despite looking like a converted lobby – you’ll find the food here is mostly excellent; in particular the seafood, which includes oysters, sushi and crab. The grills and cheese selections are also excellent, but Arabic dishes can falter and cold dim sum occasionally lets down the Chinese side.
The tremendous selection of desserts will have something for everyone, and we heartily recommend the mousses and ice creams, both of which are rich and delicious. Happily, the underperforming foods are in the minority, and if you select from the massive menu carefully, everything else is spot-on. The live jazz accompaniment is soothing, the children are well-controlled, the presentation is superb – the sugar sculptures in particular – and the staff are uniformly polite, quick off the mark and excellent with kids.
Mövenpick, Opp. American Hospital, nr. Lamcy Plaza (04 336 6000) Fri 12 noon-3pm. Price Dhs149 per person including one glass of sparkling wine. Dhs199 including wine and beer. Children 7-12 eat half price.
Beachcombers A roving magician and a kids’ den (Play- Stations, DVDs, books, toys) ensure this is a popular family spot. Arrive early to claim a table on the beachside terrace, which faces onto the Burj Al Arab. Indoors, the vibe’s a little confused, with Polynesian beach-shack décor, a band playing Latin sounds and cuisine hailing from South East Asia. Somehow, it all falls together. The nasi lemak, a traditional Malay breakfast, is authentic and excellent – fluffy rice boiled in coconut milk served up with a selection of condiments. There’s roti canai too (Malaysia’s favourite snack), along with satay, dim sum and a range of curries from Thailand and Indonesia.
Seafood items outshine the rest. The salad spread offers some tangy variations on the norm, including savoury-sweet rojak (veg and fruit salad), while the desserts are an equally varied mix of goodies, most of them served in shot-glasses – which makes a lot of sense after gorging on mains. In one corner, low-lying tables sport finger-size sandwiches, chicken nuggets, marshmallows, cookies, sweets and a self-service ice cream machine alongside bowls of hundreds and thousands – enough to spark epicurean leanings in the little ones.
Beachcombers, Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999) Brunch served Fri, Sat 12.30 noon-3.30pm. Price Dhs175 per person including tea and coffee. Dhs255 including a Pimm’s cocktail. Children eat for Dhs35.
Best for value
More Café Portions at this Dutch-style institution are absolutely gargantuan. If you fancy a civilised Friday with hunky, healthy fare and at least the option of spelt bread – although how revitalised you leave ultimately depends on your levels of self-control – you could do a lot worse than one of More’s three laid-back eateries. The Garhoud branch – all purple air vents, exposed concrete floors and back issues of National Geographic (don’t worry – they’ve got red tops too) is our favourite.
Dhs89 buys you a massive plate of fresh pastries, ridiculous quantities of sliced melon, unlimited soft drinks, tea or coffee and a freshly made breakfast (their ‘famous eggs’ can be cooked to any specification as long as you don’t want an egg white omelette), followed by a floating table buffet comprising all manner of protein: More Beef, More Chicken, More Lamb... Salads (hearty bacon and broccoli, for example) are available self-service from a top-loading fridge although, as one of the friendly waiters recently pointed out ‘we give the struggling short people a hand’. We’ve never had room for the Dutch pancakes.
More Café, Garhoud (04 283 0224). Other locations: Gold & Diamond Park (04 3234 350), Al Murooj (04 343 3779) Brunch served Fri 11am-4pm. Price Dhs89 per person.
Waxy O’Conner’s If budget’s what you want, then budget is what you’ll get at Waxy’s. Their brunch is legendary or notorious, depending on your point of view. Dhs65 buys you five drinks plus a full English breakfast buffet and a carvery to boot. Both are basic but do what you’d expect. If all you want to do on a Friday morning is pile your plate with bacon, beans and sausages and wash it down with a few pints, wait a couple of hours, then pile another plate with roast beef and Yorkshire spuds and follow it with a few more pints, you’re in business.
And the ‘fun’ doesn’t stop there. At around about 6.30pm, the lights suddenly dim, a DJ cranks the music up and a pub full of sozzled punters full of stodge and beer get up to dance on the tables to cheesy 80s music. Did we mention that it’s really smoky as well? We’ll let you decide whether this adds up to a great day out or is, in fact, a vision more grotesque than Hieronymus Bosch ever managed to depict in his darkest hours. Either way, at least you know it won’t break the bank.
Waxy O’Conner’s, Ascot Hotel, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Road (04 352 0900). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-7.30pm. Price Dhs65 per person including five alcoholic drinks.
JW Marriott The JW Marriott half-day brunch bonanza includes buffets from three venues: Hofbrauhaus, Bamboo Lagoon and Marketplace. Stick to the former two if you want to avoid the deafening patter of tiny feet, however – Marketplace is often overrun with nippers. Hofbrauhaus serves up a fine German feast; lots of creamy mashed potato, sausages, shredded red cabbage in a tangy vinegar sauce, sauerkraut and the like.
The room is all faux Germanic kitsch, with a Lederhosen- clad band singing German classics (that old Bavarian favourite ‘Sweet Home Alabama’) and when they’re on a break an ompa loompa-soundalike CD adds to the Willy Wonka theme park feeling of the day. Nearby Bamboo Lagoon, dishes out a variety of Asian food from Mongolian barbecue to Filipino salads. There’s little for vegetarians, who are far better served at Marketplace. The biggest venue of the three has an excellent seafood spread including oysters, plus yummy curries, pastas, Arabic salad bar and a huge selection of desserts.
JW Marriott, Deira (04 262 4444). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-12 midnight. Price Dhs195 per person excluding drinks. Dhs295 including unlimited house drinks.
Organic Foods & Café If you want to indulge without falling prey to the ravages of the infamous ‘Dubai stone’ weight gain then fret not, for over at the Organic Foods & Café you can gorge (almost) guilt free. The premise is much the same as any other brunch in the city; pile your plate high – only this time with healthy yet wholesome fare such as a satisfyingly spicy red cabbage salad, tangy tomato soup served with a slice of quinoa bread, comfortingly creamy vegetarian lasagne and crunchy tasting wild, brown rice. Said dishes work well when accompanied by a selection of salads – the asparagus and sun dried tomato gets our vote.
Only aspiring supermodels will be able to resist the dessert station, but actually upon closer inspection the sweet endings aren’t as sinful as one might expect. Gluten-free cookies, wheat free banana and cherry loaf cake, a surprisingly light summer pudding and a carrot cake capable of rivalling the Lime Tree’s legendary treat, are all present and correct. Other pluses? Heavenly cooking is complemented by competitive prices (at Dhs75 for adults, this is one brunch that won’t do damage to your waistline or your wallet) and friendly yet efficient service.
Organic Foods & Café, Mankhool Road, Satwa (04 398 9410). Brunch served Fri 11.30am-3.30pm. The Greens café (04 361 7974) also serves brunch on Saturday. Price Dhs75 per person. Children 6-12 eat for Dhs45.
Dante Sometimes, especially mid-morning on a Friday when you can still taste the toothpaste in your mouth, you just don’t want to be surrounded by people busy topping up last night’s alcohol levels. With that in mind we recommend the sleepy weekend charms of Dante, the lunch delivery service’s café at the Green Community. If you live anywhere up that end of town, grab a newspaper, turn off your phone and escape for a leisurely brunch. You’re unlikely to be bothered when you arrive. Most of the restaurants round the community lake are closed on Fridays, so you and the other Dante diners – mostly from the attached residences – will have the place to yourselves. Food wise, we heartily recommend the Big Breakfast, a hearty plate for two of free range eggs, turkey bacon, lamb sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, a pile of thick-cut farmhouse toast and bottomless tea or coffee.
Not only does it only cost Dhs75, the usual attention to healthy preparation – everything is grilled – means your waistline will thank you as much as your wallet. We’ve also tried the eggs Benedict and that gets a thumbs up, if only for the fact that unlike the usual cardboard toast, this one comes on a proper English muffin. And yes, before you ask, we are that easily pleased. Wash your meal down with strawberry lemonade, sit back and congratulate yourself on how smug you’ll feel on Saturday when you’re not suffering from indigestion and a spectacular hangover.
Dante, Green Community (04 885 3399/ www.dante.ae). Brunch served Fri 10am-2pm. Price Dhs75 per person.
Iranian Club Female diners are politely asked to cover up with headscarves upon passing through the proud white gates of the Iranian Club, hinting that this is no Yalumba-style Friday afternoon Facebook fest: the buffet here is a more sedate affair than many of Dubai’s notorious brunches. That said, with table after sprawling table of authentic Iranian dishes, an endless supply of soft drinks and more Persian hospitality than you can shake a kebab skewer at, you’re still in for an afternoon of enjoyable excess. The aash-e-joe – a creamy soup of pearl barley, fresh herbs, white rice and lentils – sets the agenda superbly, as do verdant salads with mint and parsley, bulbous olives and lashings of fresh natural yoghurt.
With so many steaming main course platters and pots lying in wait, it’s difficult to know where to start, but grab a plate and build a sturdy foundation of zereshk polow: saffron-infused rice bejewelled with bright red and a helping of khoresht ghormeh sabzi (tender beef, spinach, potatoes, fragrant herbs and thick red kidney beans in a piquant stew). Add a dollop of Persian chicken curry with yoghurt, a kabab koubideh – soft, juicy skewers of lamb or chicken – and don’t look back. The substantial lamb shanks fall from the bone with all the enthusiasm of an experienced skydiver, after which delicious frozen faloodeh dessert can be brought to your table, presumably in the event that you have eaten yourself immobile. Be warned, it can easily happen at the Iranian Club.
Iranian Club, Oud Metha Road (04 336 7700) Brunch served Fri 1pm-4pm. Price Dhs70 per person including soft drinks. Children under 7 eat for half price.
Best for tourists
Spice Island Spice Island should know a thing or two about laying on a brunch, since they practically invented the everything-you-can- possibly-consume concept back in the late 90s. Since then, Dubai has morphed into an altogether different beast and the brunch concept has evolved in ever more lavish directions. But while you won’t get fine dining at this Deira stalwart, it does the basics very well. Consistency is the key to success, and your biggest headache will be deciding which live cooking station to visit first. And the choice of food is vast.
As with most brunches, you can begin with a hearty British breakfast, but make sure you leave space for the Japanese, Italian and Arabic dishes, as well as the traditional roast, the salad bar, a huge spread of puddings and a cheese board. The range of curries and Mexican food is particularly good, and make sure you leave room for an Indian spread. The curries are to die for, and don’t leave without watching the chef make you up a Chinese stir fry on one of the hot plates. A Dubai classic to introduce your budget-conscious guests to.
Spice Island, Renaissance Dubai Hotel (04 262 5555). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-3pm. Price Dhs179 per person including alcoholic drinks. Dhs139 with soft drink. Children under 12 eat for Dhs69.
Traiteur When the gold and gaudy chandeliers of Dubai’s finest five-stars are about to send your tourist chums running for the boutique hotel hills, it’s time to book brunch at the relatively understated Park Hyatt. Marble floors, enormous white lampshades and the sort of sweeping staircase that makes you unsteady on your Jimmy Choos just looking at it: it’s a fitting setting for one of the finest Friday food-fests in Dubai. With free-flowing champagne and delicious but unbidden cocktails arriving at your table at what will appear to be 30 second intervals, it’s tempting to remain at your table for the duration. However, you’d be well advised to head to the impressive cheese and desert room before you even break your freshly-baked bread roll.
Just the sight of it will lead to waistband-widening, but at least you’ll know how much room to leave for the waffles, crepes and more mini cakes than a teddy bear’s picnic. That’s not to mention the obligatory chocolate fountain. Not that a Dubai brunch will ever be an exercise in restraint, but Traiteur’s selection – prepared in the open kitchen – is pure, butter-drenched decadence. Constantly-replenished oysters, king prawns and mussels sit atop a chipped ice mountain; lobster, fillet steak and rack of lamb are chargrilled in front of you. Carbo-loaders will be satisfied with pasta, risotto and truffle-laced gratin dauphinoise and there’s an omelette station if you fancy breakfast before you hit the lunchtime rush. Good luck getting back up those stairs.
Traiteur, Traiteur, Park Hyatt (04 602 1234). Brunch served 12-4pm Fridays, Price 450Dhs per person, including unlimited champagne.
Junsui As the first new restaurant to open at the Burj Al Arab in eight years, much was expected of Junsui, and few were surprised to see them enter the world of brunching, with a buffet restaurant. What was surprising is that they restricted themselves to purely Asian fare, with dishes from southeast Asia being cooked at 12 stations by an army of 40 chefs throughout the three-room eatery. Because many of the dishes are prepared at cooking stations right before your eyes, it avoids the stodgy stagnation that can blight other brunch buffets in our city.
Consequently, the wagyu steak (yes, wagyu at a buffet) is done to perfection, and the duck in pancake is rolled up like poultry cigars as you watch. The sushi includes a ham and pineapple flavour and another that’s created to taste like cheeseburger – there’s originality here that sets it apart from other brunches, and it’s rare to find a dish that’s anything other than excellent. Perhaps best of all, it makes Junsui the best deal in the hotel that’s top of most visitors’ check lists.
Junsui, Burj Al Arab (04 301 7600) Brunch served Fri 11.30am-4pm. Price Dhs450 per person including unlimited tea, coffee, water and juices. Children 4-12 eat for half price.
Nineteen In some realms, the word brunch has become synonymous with raucous behaviour, dancing on tables and partying like its 1999. That’s even before you hit the artery-clogging grub and free flowing bubbly. But Nineteen – stationed at the Montgomerie Golf Club – is a slightly more sophisticated affair. It’s for those who can differentiate Stinking Bishop (it’s a cheese) from Port Salut: a place for sniffy relatives to admire Dubai from afar, perhaps. It’s arguably the George Clooney of restaurants, but with a little less stubble. Debonair waiters spring to attention as you hit the crustacean- fuelled counters, offering to de-shell all manner of crabs limbs and lobster tails.
So often a Marie-Rose sauce can leave you feeling like world eating champion Takeru Kobayashi post scoff. Not so at Nineteen – it moistens the palate admirably, leaving just a hint of citrus and a sniff of seaside. The salad station is no less admirable. Caesar would no doubt applaud the crispy lettuce, plump anchovies and aged parmesan of his much-lauded dish. And that’s even before we hit the main event, which combines all manner of beef, fowl and fish in a glorious array of jus. But it’s the simple – yet utterly divine – sticky toffee pudding (in all its home-made custard glory) that’s the true winner. If ever there was a reason to ditch Chesney Hawkes and go easy on the Möet, Nineteen’s brunch is it.
Nineteen, Montgomerie Golf Club (04 390 5600). Brunch served Fri, Sat 12pm-3.30pm. Price Dhs295 per person including unlimited wine and beer plus one round of cocktails. Dhs180 including water, tea and coffee.
Four Seasons Golf Club If you’ve got the money for it, The Four Seasons offers what is easily one of the best brunching experiences in the city. Spread across two sizeable eateries (The Tea Lounge and Blades), everything from the 60s-influenced mod architecture to the helpful staff and the carefully spaced food stations, is spot-on. We particularly recommend the succulent, tender lamb from the carvery, the chicken curry and pretty much all of the Arabic dishes. But whatever you go for, you’re pretty much guaranteed quality food. It’s a family place, mind you – there’s even a children’s section hidden out of the way, with a face-painter and children’s DVDs to watch – so you might want to go light on the sauce.
And you’ll similarly want to go light on the desserts, which are incredibly rich. Some might say immobilisingly so. Our only gripe is that, thanks to the less-than-fantastic signage at Dubai Festival City, the area’s mazelike road system and the dreadful map on the website, this bruch can be difficult to track down. But if you can find it, you’ll be amply rewarded.
Four Seasons Golf Club, Four Seasons Golf Club, Dubai Festival City (04 601 0101). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-3pm. Price Dhs329 per person including house wines and beer. Dhs269 including water, juices, coffee and tea. Children 6-12 eat for Dhs165. Children under six eat for free.
MoJo Revival Session Brunch at Alpha, the newly-opened club at Meridien Village has several USPs that should make it a successful new contender in a crowded market. To begin with, it starts and finishes later than most of its rivals in a bid, presumably, to attract the sort of clientele that won’t be springing out of bed at 8am on a Friday after a quiet evening indoors. Secondly, for a nightclub, Alpha actually looks quite nice in the day time. It doesn't smell of stale smoke or last night’s clubbers, and it even has windows. Finally, it also has an eclectic soundtrack, courtesy of a roster of DJs and live musicians – Sean and Paul were strumming away on our visit – who gradually up the temperature from comatose to Friday night party territory.
There’s nowhere else in the city that will lay on the same mixture of Balearic beats and acoustic indie classics and make it work to such good effect. A good solid brunch and unlimited drinks also helps the proceedings tremendously. Start with a light salad then get stuck into a Thai curry or lamb burger when your stomach has re-adjusted to solids. And if your sweet tooth rears its calorifically-obsessed head, take a trip to the fondue station and finish things in style.
MoJo Revival Session, Le Meridien Dubai (04 217 0000) Brunch served Fri 4pm-7pm. Price Dhs250 per person including alcoholic drinks.