Saffron is probably not one of those places anyone intends to eat at. It’s more of a last resort kind of place, where you go if every other restaurant at the Atlantis has turned you away for lack of a reservation. This, essentially, is what happened to me. I was meaning to get into Levantine, assuming (based on the fact that Atlantis restaurants are always less packed than you expect) that if I plied them with a hooey story about it being my last night in town they might take pity on me.

‘Are you a guest of the hotel?’ the hostess asked.

‘Um, no,’ I said, my honesty sealing my fate (word of advice: never admit to not being a guest). Rejected and hungry, I headed to Saffron, the mega-hotel’s all-day buffet.

Though I could see that the dining room was barely a third full, I was still asked if I had a reservation.

‘Um no, but I’m a guest.’ I made up a room number and was let in.

In fairness, as last ditch efforts go, Saffron isn’t all that bad. The breadth of live cooking stations is repulsively massive. Anyone who is head over heels for buffets (I am not to be counted among that group) will think they have died and gone to heaven at Saffron. There is a station for sushi, curry, Thai salads, carved meat, Mongolian barbecue, pasta, puddings, and just about any other culinary category you could think of. If you’d like to know from the staff exactly what it is you’re putting on your plate, however, you’re out of luck.

‘Excuse me, does this salad have meat?’ I asked one of the chefs.

‘Thai salad,’ he responded.

‘Yes, but does it have meat?’

‘Thai salad’

‘But what type?’

‘Thai salad with seasoning.’

‘Ah, OK,’ and that’s the way it went at most stations. To add to the confusion, nothing is labelled. One station boasted a half-dozen or so types of smoked salmon, though the effort of including such a variety of choice was undermined by the fact there was no way to discern what differentiated one piece from the next. Finding out which of the dozen or so cheeses you were scoffing was a similarly impossible task.

Most of the grub hit the spot, in the same way that large portions of standard fare often do. The Thai and Chinese options were probably the most satisfying, exceeding the quality of dumplings offered by most take-away joints in town (and you could customise your food with toppings – I went for crispy onions). The Indian, by comparison, was the least interesting; in a town where so much great Subcontinental grub can be garnered for a mere Dhs10, why spend 20 times that on substandard curry?

The biggest disappointment, however, had to be the dessert station, which is a shame, because the assortment of tarts, crèmes and cakes certainly looked delicious. But the sweets were, by and large, saccharine and sickeningly creamy.

Saffron would be a spot-on choice for brunch; it just has that type of feel. Unfortunately, they don’t serve brunch. However, if you can’t wait until the weekend to enjoy gobs of pricy food a stone’s throw from a gimmicky aquarium, then by all means give up the pretence of caring about Michelin stars and let yourself be fed at Saffron.

The bill (for two)
2x Buffet dinners Dhs390
1x Large bottle Vittel water Dhs28
Total (including service) Dhs418