More than a modicum of suspicion was raised during the curious case of “Gorgeous George the Gorilla”, Barasti’s beloved jungle critter who found himself abducted on the opening night of the beach club’s summer tent: The Lost World of Barasti.
For 12 hours one Thursday, the internet became divided between conspiracy theorists claiming it was all just a PR stunt, and those who just wanted to see the primate statue return home safely. What really happened on that fateful day, we’ll never know, but suddenly, everyone was talking about the club, its Lost World and Jungle Brunch.
Not that you’d have known it 30 minutes into the first brunch of the season. On our visit (we arrive promptly at 2pm), there’s almost nobody else at the popular beach club. Sitting here feels reminiscent of the UK, dining at the local garden centre café during a weekend visit. It’s strange, to say the least.
As a result of this emptiness, waiting staff are only too keen to tend to the thin supply of customers, and the volume of the live band dominates proceedings due to a lack of bodies soaking up the sound.
But this quiet opening hour isn’t totally representative of the whole event. The remainder of the session, and in the hours immediately following, it’s quintessentially Barasti.
It gets busier. A lot busier. But expectations of a “wild” afternoon should be tempered by recognising that this is intended to be the diametric opposite of full-fat Barasti.
The live band at the front of the room play familiar tunes begging for the occasional hum or a jolly good foot tap, and there are lots of upbeat renditions of “Happy Birthday Dear [insert name here]”, on our visit, interspersed with Snow Patrol and Bob Marley classics. It becomes clear that this brunch is intended to be the antidote to a busy weekend.
At first glance the food seems reluctant; like the organisers were obliged to put on a perfunctory, anything-will-do spread.
But on closer inspection you’ll have the same realisation we do. This is brilliantly conspired grub perfectly designed for those seeking a chilled-out, yet social, Saturday afternoon retreat. It’s the sort of food we’d all order if we’re feeling a little bit lazy at the end of the weekend, and it’s done well enough without being spectacular. The Mexican pizza keeps us going back for more, and the vegetable curry is pretty moreish.
Don’t let intrigue tempt you in for a bowl of fried ice cream – it’s a staggeringly disappointing ball of stodge.
The food isn’t outstanding, but it gets the job done. And accompanied by a vast drinks menu, it represents superb value for money.
There are many worse ways of spending a Saturday. Oh, and, you’ll be pleased to hear, George found his way home.
Dhs175 for ladies (all-inclusive), Dhs250 for gents (all-inclusive). Sat 2pm-5pm. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (04 318 1313).
The bottom line
An oddly brilliant, relaxed Saturday brunch… in the jungle.