Dunes Café Brunch

Café-based brunch in the Shangri-La Hotel on Sheik Zayed Road

I have to admit I was a little dubious from the outset about the Shangri-La’s new brunch. It’s held in Dunes Café and, as far as I’m concerned, cafés are better suited to ordering tall lattes and using Wi-Fi than hosting a brunch. I want my brunches, big, over-the-top and opulent – could I get this at a café? Well, the only way I could find out was to visit, which I did.

It looked as though my initial misgivings were going to be justified – on arrival we were guided towards an innocuous corner of the lobby where the brunch was being held. A brunch in a café is one thing, but brunch in a hotel lobby? A lobby is for suitcases, a place to meet before dinner, a venue for disgruntled guests to complain about the bill. I wasn’t here to do any of these things; I was here to gorge myself with sushi, dim sum, roast beef, pizza… Happily, all these were available, so we found a seat tucked around the corner, as far away from the main lobby as we could get, and strategised our assault on the buffet.

My mood lightened once I started filling my plate. Though Dunes Café is by no means one of Dubai’s bigger brunches, its buffet stations are tightly packed with a vast array of cuisines. After scouting the options, I began (as I often do) with sushi. Tako, anago and unagi nigirizushi, rolls of every colour and content – you name it, it was there. I was impressed, as I was with the smoked mackerel, a dish I always forget how much I like. My date, meanwhile, was filling her plate with smoked salmon and capers, oysters, with a side of salad –roasted pumpkin and rocket.

Both of us were suitably pleased with our seafood-oriented starters and it wasn’t long before we were back at the buffet: lemongrass drumsticks for the lady, while I stayed with the Asian offerings, this time with Peking duck, served by a Chinese chef who spoke not a word of English. It turned out he didn’t need to; the duck spoke volumes and we were two courses down to the good.

After composing ourselves, we made yet another advance on the buffet, this time attempting to sample some heavier dishes – the roast beef was decent enough, if a little chewy, though the wood-fired pizza was rather stodgy and lifeless (though arguably anything would have tasted stodgy at this juncture in the meal). Still, this failed to detract from the fact that the food, on the whole, was pretty good.

However, as we sat and digested our third helpings, I couldn’t help but feel that this brunch was a bit of an afterthought – something the hotel almost feels obliged to do every Friday. Why? Because that’s what hotels in Dubai do. Though what we had sampled was good, it wasn’t enough to make the Dunes brunch a destination brunch, a brunch that you’d travel half the city for – whether it be for the food, or for revelry and high times. This was obvious from scanning the clientele: I’d say we were the only diners that weren’t guests at the hotel. Not that this is a criticism, just an observation – but a telling one nonetheless.


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