People often say you should never meet your heroes. It invariably leads to crushing disappointment when you realise that they’re either incredibly dull, and not so heroic after all, or they’re a massive egomaniac and they tarnish your opinion of them forever. When Solo announced it was launching a brunch, we felt the same way. Last year, the restaurant won our Best Newcomer award and this year it landed the trophy in our Best Italian category.
We have our reasons for loving the place. The décor is cool and quirky, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming and the food coming from chef Corrado Pani’s kitchen is wholesome and tasty, but also artfully presented and clever.
We didn’t want to see it try and fail at brunch, a notoriously hard thing to get right. We’re sure plenty of Dubai’s restaurateurs realise the difficulty after trying to pull off a brunch of their own. There really aren’t that many places that get it right.
However, we’re happy to report that Solo has just about pulled it off perfectly.
First, it’s keenly priced, with the soft drinks package coming in at Dhs225 and the beverages packaging costing a cool Dhs350. The drinks are of a really good standard, too. Included is Italian sparkling grape, some top-notch mixed beverages, house grape and Italian hops.
On the food side, it’s à la carte, which is the way we like to brunch these days (probably something to do with all that walking around and balancing plates at a buffet). When we first saw the menu we thought we’d have to choose a selection of the dishes listed, but no, they were all coming out. All 21 of them. Between two of us.
To be honest, an introduction to the format wouldn’t have gone amiss as we took our seats, but it all became apparent soon enough. Another problem was trying to squeeze all of the dishes onto a table for two. At each course, everything came out together, and fitting everything in front of us was a jigsaw puzzle. We have to confess, we were at one of the first weeks of the brunch, so we’re sure this will be something that improves over time. Maybe staggering each course over a couple of waves of dishes would solve this not-really-that-much-of-a-problem problem.
As always, service is fantastic. Bar staff and waiters are genuinely lovely here, and Marina, who looks after the drinks side of things, is a great host.
You’ll see chef Pani popping out of the kitchen from time to time, too – he always seems to be keen to speak to his customers and check how they’re enjoying the food.
While we’re on the subject of the food, know this: it’s great.
The bread, all made in-house, is wonderful, but don’t fill up on it, as there are plenty of dishes coming your way. Starters ease you in, the pick of them are the calamari, burrata and foie gras terrine, and special mention must go to the tomato salad, prettily plated and bursting with freshness.
Mains are a little more heavy going, and really could do with being staggered, as they end up going a bit cold. The pesto lasagne is superb, though the duck gnocchi is a little bland – disappointing as it’s the one we were looking forward to most.
By dessert, we’re stuffed, but the light semi freddo is good enough to devour in its entirety, and the tiramisu is sublime.
Fri 1pm-5pm. Dhs225 (soft drinks), Dhs350 (house beverages and bubbly), Dhs120 (kids aged six to 11).
The bottom line
If good food and relaxed conversation is more your thing at brunch, this is the place for you.