Fish and chips, roasts, pies. We love a bit of proper British grub here at Time Out Dubai, so the thought of an entire brunch dedicated to hearty dishes from the island is an appealing one.
We’re going to be honest, GBR is a huge space to fill (we haven’t even seen it close to busy before) and so we have low expectations of the atmosphere when we book.
How wrong we are. On arrival (30 minutes late, some of us take the best-dressed theme seriously) the place is completely packed out.
Despite the name of the event, it’s a pretty come-as-you-like affair, and you won’t be out of place whether you’re wearing a fancy frock or shorts (not beach ones, mind).
There’s a great vibe, with a pleasantly noisy buzz, which isn’t so loud you can’t hear your dining companion talk.
When it comes to diners, there’s a real mix. From couples to large tables of birthday parties and family groups, but while everyone’s here for a good time, it’s not a party brunch. The grandeur of the restaurant means this feels like a sophisticated lunch out, not an overly lively Friday feast. A wall of floor-to-ceiling windows also makes for a light, bright and airy feel, while buffet stations are decked out with cute, kitsh Union flag bunting. The colourful decorations are a nod to the hotel’s distinctly British background – GBR does, after all, stand for Great British Restaurant, and DUKES is the sister of the famous Mayfair hotel.
When it comes to food there’s a distinctly British feel, too. A prawn cocktail station sits next to a stand for typically British mixed drinks (again both stations are adorned with red, white and blue decorations). We opt for the former, a deliciously retro dish with plump prawns lightly coated in creamy pink Marie Rose sauce, all on a bed of shredded iceburg lettuce.
The salad station is the least appetising of the lot, but there’s plenty more on offer. So we dive straight in with a roast. Beef and lamb are carved in front you, with the meat perfectly cooked. Accompaniments are less so, with some slightly soggy veg and, surprisingly, given the name GBR, some under-par roasties. However, giant, pillowy, crispy Yorkshire puddings more than make up for the potatoes’ shortcomings.
Other stations boast mini fish and chips with minted peas and a whole host of curries. Both are nice enough but don’t have the wow-factor and we can’t help thinking that the restaurant would be better suited to an à la carte offering.
Also, given that it’s a buffet, the service could do with sharpening – a 25-minute wait for a drink is too long.
That’s not a deal breaker, though, and we love the live singer and approve of the lack of music festival-style wristbands. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Friday.
Dhs295 (soft drinks), Dhs395 (house beverages), Dhs445 (sparkling grape) Fri 1pm-4pm. Ongoing. DUKES Dubai, Palm Jumeirah (04 455 1101).
The bottom line
A British brunch that’s great in ways.