DETAILS: Dhs149 (house beverages), Dhs199 (premium beverages). Fri noon-4pm. Citymax Hotel Al Barsha (04 409 8000).
We are big fans of The Huddle. For a place to unwind after work, grab a few drinks with pals and watch a game or two, it’s a welcoming, low-cost option.
The food available throughout the week is classic bar grub (think burgers, wings and deep-fried finger foods) and it’s pretty good for what it is.
So, when we heard that the sports bar was launching a brunch, we were intrigued. Initially, we thought it would feature endless troughs of chips, onion rings, shepherd’s pie and the like, and when we saw the most expensive package was Dhs199, our thoughts were seemingly confirmed. But how wrong we were.
While the vibe is as laid-back as you’d expect from such a venue, the kitchen have stepped things up a gear when it comes to the cuisine on offer every Friday. There’s a huge spread of cold tapas and pintxos – from small, one-bite skewers of prawns, peppers and pieces of fish to little bowls of tuna salad, marinated cheeses and olives, platters of cold cuts and bread topped with beef chorizo to cured fish and grilled vegetables.
So there’s a great selection before you even think about eating anything hot, but when it comes to the warm dishes, there’s a hearty oxtail stew and a lamb version, fried calamari, fish in tomato sauce and an excellent seafood paella. A chef is also on hand to explain what everything is and help you plate up if necessary, as well as serve portions from a huge salt-baked salmon. It’s all nicely done (though a few of the fried bites get a little rubbery the longer they’re out).
There’s a relatively small but satisfying array of cheeses and breads at one table, and from it, the goat’s cheese is our pick. Other dishes that make it onto our favourites list are the small glasses of chilled gazpacho with a skewered prawn, the roast beef tapas and the chicken wings (which might be out of place with the rest, but are a welcome addition from the main menu).
The cakes and desserts will satisfy those with a sweet tooth, but where this final section of the brunch really comes into its own is at the crêpe station. They’re so good we make a few return trips.
Aside from the food, which is a notch above what you might expect, there isn’t a whole lot more going on. There is music being pumped from the stereo (though nothing different to the bar’s usual soundtrack) and staff do a decent job of making sure the table is clear and the drinks flow.
This isn’t a brunch to knock the likes of Zuma off its perch, but you didn’t think it would be, did you? If you’re a fan of the venue already or have a few mates you want to catch up with on a Friday, The Huddle is seriously affordable and surprisingly appetising.
The Bottom Line
It’s not a gourmet brunch, but it is good value for money. And the food is tasty, too.