Silent brunch

Oliver Robinson likes to enjoy a brunch in absolute silence

Whatever the occasion – whether it’s a birthday celebration, a farewell party or entertaining a friend of a friend’s friend – there’s always an excuse for a brunch. These Friday institutions are the archetypical
Dubai social occasion. Yet when I attend one, I’m at my most antisocial.

You’d have thought that someone who eats for a living might have mastered some semblance of table etiquette by now, but I’m beginning to think that my job is one of the reasons I just can’t bring myself to talk to other people at brunch.

You see, when I review a restaurant I’m at my most gregarious – I’ll chatter away about the decor, ambience, the options on the menu, the drinks choices. And when the waiter takes my order and returns to the kitchen, I have a window of opportunity for more chit-chat (myself being the favourite topic of conversation).

Brunch, however, is a totally different ball game. It doesn’t have the structure of a normal meal, because the food’s already there waiting for me. It’s a culinary ambush: I’m surrounded, and I really don’t have time to talk. So long! Farewell!

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that I only have an allocated time period in which to get my money’s worth. Granted, this isn’t the most mature approach, but unless I’m there in the capacity of an anonymous reviewer (in which case I go about my brunching with the precision of a military strategist), I instantly forget my friends, grab a plate and gallop off. Admittedly, this hasty approach means I’ll often return to the table with some rather bizarre culinary combinations – yes, I know baked beans and brioche aren’t the best bedfellows, but the chef at the egg station was taking an age to prepare my omelette. He forced me into it.

After the first couple of courses, I’m rarely sat at the table at the same time as any of my dining companions, who usually return to the buffet stations far less frequently than I do. In fact, I can’t remember any conversation I’ve had at a brunch that lasted more than two minutes and didn’t involve the words ‘What are you eating next?’ (usually uttered through a mouthful of food).

But I’m unrepentant. Birthdays, farewells, a friend of a friend’s friend’s visit, I’ll be there – just don’t expect me to talk to you. My mouth is for eating, not for idle chatter.

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