Walking into Picnic Pantry is like strolling into your favourite pub garden. You won’t find any glimmering crystal glasses or gold-plated fixings, candlesticks or goblets – and that’s what we love about it.
Situated on the lawns of the Crowne Plaza Festival City, the brunch overlooks Dubai Creek, and is laid out like a picnic. It’s super relaxed, without any of the “look-at-me strutting around the seafood station” nonsense, so there’s no need to wear your posh frocks or skyscraper heels at this Friday outing, ladies.
Fellow diners are dressed casually and we find it refreshing to be able to kick off our shoes without any noses wrinkling or eyebrows raising.
There are huge cushions and beanbags surrounding low tables, or a picnic bench area if you’re not one for lazing on the grass. That’s right – grass – a fairly rare sight here in Dubai, but present at this brunch in absolute abundance.
We’re provided with a picnic basket (which is delightfully kitsch), to fill to our heart’s content with all manner of goodies from the salad station. And when we say salad station, we don’t mean your soggy chicken Caesar or limp iceberg lettuce leaves.
Cute jars of green bean and potato salad sit next to homemade hummus and dips, fresh juices, mounds of soft bread and sushi platters.
A lone singer with a guitar strums out feel-good classics like Stand By Me and Lovely Day. We are completely enamoured, and happily tap our feet as we stretch out like cats in the sunshine.
If the salads haven’t filled you up (and this is brunch, so we’re expecting the answer is not quite) food stations include a barbeque, featuring huge juicy prawns (our favourite), salmon fillets, lamb kofta, chicken, corn-on-the-cob and piping hot, fluffy potatoes.
There’s also a smoked beef station, which is deliciously moreish, and a bar offering a range of mixed drinks.
And then there are the desserts. A wealth of cakes, pies and tarts distract us from our five-a-day foraging, but this is Friday, and anything goes.
The food is super-fresh and never-ending, and we can’t help but go back for more. Plus, there’s also pool access included if you fancy a dip, and plenty of shaded areas for when you’ve had enough of that glorious Dubai winter sun.
There are a fair few kids running around, though not intrusively, making this an ideal brunch for families (it’s definitely not a party spot).
If you’re after good barbeque food and a laid-back atmosphere, Picnic Pantry ticks all the boxes.
Dhs245 (soft drinks); Dhs345 (mixed drinks); free (children under 12). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).
The bottom line
Good smoky barbecue food with laid-back pub garden vibes.