We love a bit of Latin American food and flair here at Time Out Dubai, and when we hear that The Crave Brunch at ZOCO is fully booked, we are thrilled. If we’re being honest, we’re also more than a little surprised, as eateries in Al Habtoor City aren’t usually known for being packed to the rafters, unless it’s a pre-La Perle dinner, that is.
ZOCO’s Friday offering however, is rammed – although we’re not entirely sure why as the package isn’t particularly competitive at Dhs350 for house beverages. The service is slick though, and we’re not left wanting for a drink at any point. We later discover there’s a voucher deal, which goes someway to explaining the larger than expected crowd.
When we arrive, ZOCO is already buzzing thanks to groups of diners and live music.
It’s a long room, with a buffet to the far end and a live band somewhere in the middle. The view looks out over Sheikh Zayed Road, so you won’t be clamouring for a window table here, but you’ll want to be sitting amid the party crowd anyway, so no matter.
Settled in, we peruse the buffet and kick off with some fresh guacamole. It’s a joy, with creamy avocado smashed perfectly with the right amount of onion and tomato, and delightfully crisp, yet not at all greasy, homemade tortilla chips. It’s a strong start. Sadly, things soon slide.
A petite buffet houses a range of salads, from Asian noodles to tomato and mozzarella. Some are nice enough, but none blow us away.
Meanwhile, some hot appetisers (chicken arrancini, croquettes and, oddly, some French fries) are anything but appetising and our plates head straight back to the kitchen.
Our advice? Skip the buffet main courses all together and wait for the plates of freshly grilled meats and seafood to arrive at your table. You’ll have to have patience for this one (they arrive around 2pm on our visit), but you’ll be rewarded, as they’re fresh, tasty and hot. The thin cuts of steak and juicy prawns are snapped up eagerly.
And you’ll thank us for not filling up on the stodgy, tepid chicken enchiladas and dried-out sliders from the buffet. The taco station is best avoided, too, being far below the standard we’ve had on previous visits to ZOCO.
Things pick up again for dessert, with freshly cooked churros (if you can resist their hot, sugary, stodgy lure you’re stronger than us) drenched in rich chocolate sauce.
A live singer wanders around belting out Latino tunes and the party vibe continues. ZOCO’s fun, it’s upbeat and people seem to be having a good time. So although the food is hit and miss, if you’re after a fiesta rather than a feast, you’ll be happy enough.
The bottom line
Party vibes, but you’ll find better Mexican grub elsewhere.