Credit crunch brunches in Dubai

Sick of dropping Dhs400 on your favourite Friday pastime? Us too! Time Out’s uncovers 32 bargain brunches to try

Fibber Magee's
Fibber Magee's
Almaz by Momo
Almaz by Momo
China Club
China Club
Organic Foods & Café
Organic Foods & Café
The Cellar
The Cellar
Belgian Beer Café
Belgian Beer Café
Player's Lounge
Player's Lounge
Mango Tree
Mango Tree
Under Dhs100

Fibber Magee’s: Less of a brunch and more a meal and a pint, Fibbers is perfect for post-Thursday-night hair of the dog. Hidden behind Fairmont Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road, this Irish-themed pub offers the choice of a fry-up and an all-day roast every Friday. The fry-up is a guilt-inducing greasy affair with black pudding, beans, fried bread and hash browns as well as the essentials. But the best thing is the price, which clocks in cheaper than a pint in some other bars.
Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 2400). Fri 11am-4pm. Dhs35 with a pint of beer

Dante: This café is a great alcohol-free option if you’re in the area. It’s also one of the very best value Friday feasts in town. Choose a seat on the shaded terrace by the lake if it’s cool enough and tuck in to the ‘Big Breakfast’, a hearty plate for two consisting of free-range eggs, turkey bacon, lamb sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, a pile of thick-cut farmhouse toast and bottomless tea or coffee. Everything is grilled so it’s kind on your cholesterol levels. How many more reasons do you need to visit?
Green Community (04 885 3399). Fri 10am-2pm. Dhs100 for two with bottomless coffee

Dakshin: How many brunches in Dubai have a cross-legged Ravi Shankar-style sitar player plucking away? As far as we’re concerned, too few. The live music is the selling point of Dakshin’s Indian brunch, as the curries and dosas on offer don’t always strike the right note. The buffet – a mixture of popadums, lamb bone rogan josh and crumbly basmati rice – feels like it has been squeezed into a corridor, because ‘everyone else in Dubai has one’. A tepid aloo tikka and, yes, creamy mashed potato are the highlights. Still, you can’t argue with the price.
Lotus Hotel, Deira (04 227 8888). Fri 11am-4pm. Dhs59 with one bottle of beer

The Locker Room: There is very little you can’t find at this brunch, as pretty much every food item is stashed away somewhere on their buffet. That said, this isn’t a place you go to for fancy fare: you won’t find salmon en croute. What you will find, however, is a room heaving with young party people in search of a good spirited place to while away the hours before hitting Chi for their night out. While it isn’t gourmet, it’s not bad for the price.
Golden Tulip (04 501 6189). Sat 12 noon-4pm. Dhs75 with four drinks

Iranian Club: This venue may be unlicensed, and somewhat austere on the inside, but the food – strictly Persian – is unbeatable. Some women might be put off by the traditional dress code (long skirts or trousers and mandatory head scarf), but you’re unlikely to find a better kebab in town. And definitely don’t miss out on the zereshk polow, fluffly saffron-infused rice, or the khoresht ghormeh sabzi, a stew with tender morsels of beef. A good spot for families.
Oud Metha Road (04 336 7700). Fri 1pm-4.30pm. Dhs77 with soft drinks, children half price

Waxy O’Conners: Some people love the Waxy’s brunch. Others can’t stand it. Still, if it’s an all-out binge you’re after, Waxy’s is definitely your place. Get there at noon for the breakfast buffet (all the usuals: sausage, bacon, eggs, hash browns, baked beans) and stay through the evening for a traditional roast. But it’s not the food that draws people to Waxy’s on a Friday, it’s the cheap price of drinks.
The Ascot Hotel (04 352 0900). Fri 12 noon-7.30pm. Dhs85 with five drinks

China Club: Ask any Chinese expat and they’ll likely tell you China Club has the best dim sum. Dim sum here is done sort of like a set menu. All the fried and steamed dim-sum classics are available, including steamed beef buns and pots of custard. While dim sum, or yum cha, is served daily, the convivial Friday vibe really helps make the experience. Booking ahead is highly recommended.
Radisson Blu Deira (04 205 7333). 12.30pm-3pm daily. Dhs95 food only

More Café: While a lot of brunches involve little more than queuing at endless troughs of international cuisine, More delivers something different. The breakfast part of its Friday brunch is superb, with some of the best eggs Benedict in town. Other than that you can customise your cooked breakfast and drink as much coffee and juice as you can handle. However, the lunchier items impress less, with a small selection of pretty unremarkable fare.
Garhoud (04 283 0224). Fri 11am-4pm. Dhs95 with soft drinks. Other locations: Al Murooj Rotana (04 343 3779), Gold & Diamond Park (04 323 4350), The Dubai Mall. Unlicensed

Organic Foods & Café: This is one of the few options in town that promises additive-free food. But don’t mistake this for something cheap and nasty, because you’ll have a great tasting meal. The salads are crunchy and wholesome, soups are inventive and the mains are substantial without being heavy. We especially like the free-range chicken. Finish off with pumpkin pie and congratulate yourself on finding a brunch that doesn’t damage your wallet or waistline.
The Dubai Mall (04 434 0577) The Greens café (04 361 7974) Fri 11am-3.30pm. Dhs95 per person. Free for children below six, children six-13, Dhs65

Almaz by Momo:
It may not be licensed, but frankly that’s refreshing. As is the quality Moroccan fare. Berber pancakes come out sweet, fluffy and soaked in honey. The Tunisian brick is a flaky mille-feuille with alternating layers of tuna, capers and pastry. And, while you can’t order a beer, you can fill up on sweet mint tea and Moroccan pastries. Plus, the restaurant has a sleek decor that, while a little dark, adds class to Dubai’s brunch scene.
Harvey Nichols, Mall of the Emirates (04 409 8877). Fri  11am-4pm. Dhs75. Unlicensed

The Cellar: A favourite among those in the know, The Cellar is refreshing in that there isn’t a buffet station in sight, so you can consign fly-ridden desserts and congealed risottos to the darkest recesses of your mind. Everything is ordered à la carte, although you can still have as much as you like (we’d recommend the crab fish cakes and the lamb shank). Because the food is cooked fresh to order, service can be a little slow, but the staff are friendly and willing.
Aviation Club (04 282 4122). Fri-Sun 12 noon-4pm. Dhs135 with one drink

Under Dhs200

The Conservatory: With Chef Francois Porte (of La Classique) directing proceedings, quality control is more of a priority here than at other budget brunches across town. Service trays are regularly topped up and the emphasis is on keeping things simple (roast beef, pasta station, curries), though there are some quirkier options, too: pumpkin and coconut soup on our visit and around 20 interesting salads. A good cheese board and tasty crepes round things off nicely. Quite an intimate, clubby affair.
Emirates Golf Club (04 380 2222). Fri 11am-3pm. Dhs115, Dhs55 children five and over

Legends: The setting is the main draw here, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Creek and a golf course on one side, and the blue domes of the Park Hyatt on the other. The quiet, muted atmosphere is matched by a conservative brunch spread. All the usual international offerings make an appearance, from traditional roast beef and full English breakfast, to sushi, dim sum and Indian curries. A good solid brunch for the money, but the emphasis here is on quantity rather than quality.
Dubai Creek Club (04 295 6000). Fri 11.30am-3pm. Dhs115 with drinks, Dhs55 children five and over

Lotus One: Lotus One calls its Friday feast ‘Dubai’s laziest brunch’. We’re not sure what this means, but, thankfully, it’s not very apt. The menu is vast and pretty much everything on it is a winner. Calamari comes out light, and blueberry and caramelised banana pancakes are as decadent as they sound. Although the place could use a bit more atmosphere Lotus One has proved to be one of our favourite spots for a lazy Friday. OK, maybe the moniker does work.
Convention Tower, Dubai World Trade Centre (04 329 3200). Fri from 12 noon-3pm. Dhs125 with drinks

Certo: This venue offers an authentic Italian five-course menu. Sumptuously soft artichoke cakes and tangy bruschetta start things off as you progress to the amazing mushroom risotto. Servers can explain exactly where your perfectly crispy deep-fried mushrooms were grown. With fluffy meringue tarts and creamy tiramisu for dessert, Certo cements its Italian credentials.
Radisson Blu Media City (04 3669111). Fri 12 noon-4pm. Dhs140 with soft drinks, Dhs190 with alcohol, Dhs210 with sparkling wine, Dhs95 kids six-12, kids under six free

The Fountain: The Mövenpick’s brunch has as wide buffet selection, with varying degrees of success. The seafood, salads, grills and cheese selection sing, while the dim sum and Arabic staples are a bit of a let-down. Still, what this brunch does best is look out for the kids, who get a whole hall to themselves, complete with games, videos, beanbags and a bouncy castle. The dessert section is a favourite with children and adults alike, offering up the famous Mövenpick ice cream.
Mövenpick Hotel (04 336 6000). Fri 12 noon-3pm. Dhs169 food only, Dhs229 with alcohol, Dhs85 kids seven-12, kids under seven free.

Nelson’s Bar: A Friday brunch at Nelson’s Bar screams ‘no frills’. Step inside and you’re transported to a London pub. Still, everything works to create a convivial atmosphere. The buffet boasts an array of standard pub grub, with fish pie and roast lamb. However, it’s not the food that brings in the crowds. With wide-screen TVs dotted about the place showing men doing sporty things and a DJ that pumps out old-school hits from around 3pm, Nelson’s offers a unique break from Dubai’s glitz and glamour.
Media Rotana (04 435 0000). Fri 12 noon-4pm. Dhs149 with house beverages

Spice Island: Spice Island is Dubai’s quintessential brunch. It has a multinational buffet encompassing everything from pot roast to Thai dumplings and proves popular with red-faced expats, who love to stuff themselves before heading to Double Decker’s for karaoke. But it’s not bad on the price front, which is no doubt what makes it such a popular Friday hangout.
Renaissance Dubai Hotel (04 262 5555). Fri 12 noon-3pm. Dhs149 with soft drinks, Dhs219 with alcohol

Sezzam: The five-star Kempinski brunch buffet is strictly a family affair aimed at creating a spot of magic in a far-off corner of the Mall of the Emirates. Succulent sweet-and-sour chicken, Thai beef salads and spiced salmon sushi from the Asian counter complement a standard platter of Arabic and Italian delights. Still, Sezzam’s real trick is in keeping the kids entertained: there are cookies, marshmallows, fizzy snakes, jelly rings and a juice bar straight out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It even has a bouncy castle.
Kempinski Hotel (04 341 0000), Mall of the Emirates. Fri-Sat 12 noon-5pm. Dhs150 with soft drinks, Dhs250 with alcohol

Double Decker: Double Decker regulars know not to expect fine cuisine at its Friday brunch. Rather, the pub’s tactic is to get the customers in out of the sun and line their stomachs with basic British grub to set them up for the festivities ahead. Once the brunch ends, the karaoke begins, and the space fills up with brunchers from all over the city who come to top off their debauchery by belting out heinous renditions of Guns N’ Roses.
Al Murooj Rotana (04 321 1111). Fri 12 noon-4pm. Dhs159 with unlimited drinks

Belgian Beer Café: The city’s brunches often seem to fall in one of two categories: alcoholic and glutinous, or delicious and unlicensed. Belgian Beer Café, however, seems to straddle the two extremes, offering unlimited drafts and some pretty decent grub. Granted, it is a buffet brunch, but the selection sticks mainly to dishes from Belgium. Our only qualm is that the service here can be slow. Still, we like it for its low-key atmosphere.
Crowne Plaza Festival City (04 701 1111). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-3pm. Dhs165 food only, Dhs270 with alcohol.

Elia: Determined to be different, Elia – Dubai’s premiere Greek restaurant – offers its own take on Friday brunch, but only every other weekend, and only through the summer. It’s not à la carte or buffet. Rather, you sit at the table with you family or a group of friends and the waiters just pile on the dishes, family-style. Out favourite is the seafood yiouvetsi, which they bring out in unlimited supply.
The Majestic Hotel (04 501 2690). Brunch served every other Friday from noon to 3.30pm. Dhs170 with two alcoholic drinks. Kids uner nine free. Next brunch June 26

Thai Kitchen: Thai Kitchen is à la carte, but show up with a large group and the waiters will just skip the formality of the menu and instead bring you out everything. We love practically every Thai dish this place serves up, from the braised duck noodle soup to the fish cakes. The outdoor setting is idyllic, and the creekside view is second only to the quality of food.
The Park Hyatt, Garhoud (04 602 1234). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-4pm. Dhs175 with soft drinks, Dhs225 with alcohol

Aquara: This is one of the loveliest brunch venues in town, with vast windows overlooking a collection of yachts most of us could only dream of owning. The name of the game here is seafood, with masses of oysters, lobster, prawns and crab vying for your attention. Meat lovers are less well catered for, with a small carvery and stir-fry station providing little reprieve. Service is not great but, if it’s all a matter of location to you, the Yacht Club can’t be beaten.
Dubai Marina Yacht Club (04 362 7900). Brunch served Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm. Dhs180 with soft drinks, Dhs250 with wine

Choices: Come Friday the restaurant really lives up to its name. The set-up is standard brunch, with Indian curries and naans served up alongside Mexican fajitas and sushi. There are also six live cooking stations, and a special kids’ table. The dessert station even has a cold stone where you can make your own ice cream flavours. This is a brunch with breadth, which means it’s important to pace yourself, otherwise you might fill up after the first plate (we know, we’ve done it).
Al Bustan Rotana, Garhoud (04 282 0000). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-3.30pm. Dhs180 with soft drinks, Dhs199 with alcohol

This impressive buffet is regaled more for its kiddie entertainment than its food. The buffet and live cooking stations themselves are pretty standard: fresh roti and curries, lots of dim sum, sushi and a hefty dessert table (the food mainly focuses on Asian fare). What isn’t standard is the in-house magician and a kids’ area boasting PlayStations. Definitely a good deal for parents.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 248 0000). Brunch served Fri-Sat 12.30pm-4.30pm. Dhs185 with soft drinks, Dhs285 with alcohol. Kids’ buffet Dhs45

Momotaro: Momotaro’s Friday brunch (which, maddeningly, is dubbed ‘Frunch’) makes for a nice alternative to the usual international weekend spread. Instead the menu is purely Japanese and the pickings are à la carte. As a result, the dishes are freshly made and you can taste it. In addition to standard Japanese options, such as miso soup and sashimi, there are more creative dishes, such as spicy duck and leek maki rolls. Ginger and peach ice creams make a dazzling end to a lovely, calming meal.
Souk Al Bahar (04 425 7976). Brunch served Fri noon-4pm. Dhs185, Dhs225 with alcohol

Oceana: What Oceana’s brunch has going for it is seafood, and lots of it. Like with all buffets, it’s easy to go utterly nuts with the starters, perhaps even more so here because of the piles of fresh lobster tails, prawns, scallops and crayfish on offer. It’s not a bad idea to fill up on the starters, because the mains are pretty unimaginative. You’ll find meat and fish swamped in standard sauces, and a pasta station that gives you a choice of three accompaniments – tomato, bolognaise or cream. The two dessert tables, however, will seriously seduce the sweet-toothed – especially the build-your-own-ice-cream-cone bit.
Hilton Dubai Jumeirah (04 399 1111). Brunch served Fri 1pm-3.30pm. Dhs185 with one glass of sparkling wine and unlimited juices. Water costs extra

Nineteen: Quality, not over-the-top quantity, decorates this buffet table with undeniable style and elegance, while the restaurant itself is both sleek and welcoming. We truly appreciate the crisp salad bar, array of dim sum, and the bite-sized portions of eggs Benedict. The seafood and meat stations are also lovingly tended and well executed. For dessert skip over the passé chocolate fountain and scoop up the sticky toffee pudding for a gooey finish over the 18th hole.
Montgomerie Golf Club (04 390 5600). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-3.30pm. Dhs190 food only, Dhs255 with drinks

Come Fridays the Crowne Plaza’s international-themed restaurant turns Arabic, dishing out kebabs and the like until the evening. Unfortunately, the authentic atmosphere is not matched by the food. It seems that no matter what you spoon out of the moisture-sapping vats, it fails to thrill. The kofta is greasy, the hammour too pungent, the hummus too creamy, the um ali watery. While the food fails to excite, the staff are very helpful, and it’s not bad value considering you can eat until the wee hours. Plus, there’s shisha and a live oud player, which both make for a festive time.
Crown Plaza Festival City (04 701 1111). Brunch served Fri from 1pm-12 midnight. Dhs195 with Arabic juices

Alpha: For some brunchers, noon is too early to start a regimen of noshing and drinking. For those that would rather jump straight from brunching to clubbing, Alpha has a buffet that starts at 4pm. The buffet itself is fairly simple (though it does include freshly grilled meats), but what Alpha lacks in culinary prowess, it makes up for with an unlimited drinks package and live music. One for the night owls.
Le Méridien Dubai (04 217 0000). Fri-Sat 4pm-7pm. Dhs195 with alcohol

Mango Tree: This bright, buzzy Thai restaurant has put some mean picks in their brunch menu. It’s à la carte and all-you-can-eat, which appeals to us more than your standard stale buffet. The welcome platter, which comes with fat, crisp spring rolls, tender beef satay, moist shrimp cakes and a devilishly spicy papaya salad. There are a large number of vegetarian options as well. Be warned, though, many dishes are mouth-burningly hot, so you might want to ask your waiter to tell the kitchen to lay off the chillies. If you can handle the heat, though, opt for their crab.
Souk Al Bahar (04 426 7313). Brunch served Fri 12 noon-4pm. Dhs175 with soft drinks, Dhs250 with free flowing drinks, including Prosecco

Keeping it light

You may think of brunch as an exercise in excess, but it needn’t be. Time Out learns how to keep it healthy.
Laura Holland, a Dubai- and Abu Dhabi-based nutritionist, admits that she loves brunch. She just doesn’t use it as an excuse to overeat.

‘Brunch is not unhealthy by nature. When I eat brunch, I never leave thinking: Oh my God, I just ate so much food. It doesn’t have to be like that.’ Holland says that, when choosing a brunch, go for à la carte over buffet.

‘Studies have shown that when you have a lot of different foods, your tastebuds are overstimulated, and when they’re overstimulated, you tend to eat more.’ Also, ordering à la carte makes it easier to pace yourself.

Holland says, ‘When you’re eating it takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you’re full. Somebody who eats quickly will eat more than they need to, because they won’t know they’re full until they’re really uncomfortable.’ Since à la carte doesn’t have the immediate gratification that buffets do, it’s more likely you’ll eat less. Finally, Holland says to eat breakfast before you eat brunch, even if it’s just a slice of toast.

‘Eating breakfast will speed up your metabolism, which you need if you’re going to embark on a large meal.’

Oldies but goodies

These guys were serving brunch long before it was cool. They still are, and they still know how to please.
Player’s Lounge: A reliable brunch buffet dishing out all the English breakfast classics.
The Country Club Hotel (04 398 8840). Fri 11.30am-4pm. Dhs69 with two drinks, kids six to 12 half price

Dubliners: Long home to some of the city’s best fry-ups.
Le Méridien Dubai (04 702 2508). Fri 11am-6pm. Dhs65, includes one dish off the à la carte menu and three drinks

The Aquarium: Dig into a massive seafood buffet.
Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club (04 295 6000). Dhs180 food only. Dhs90 for kids

Following the trend

Are buffets passe? Time Out investigates the latest Dubai brunch trends.
This year has seen the birth of several new brunch menus, and many of them share attributes. Most are à la carte, inexpensive and, sometimes, they prefer not to call themselves a brunch. The new Warehouse brunch, for instance, isn’t a brunch… it’s a ‘drunch’. And at Momotatro, Friday afternoon service is a ‘frunch’.

‘We call it a frunch because we do not serve breakfast items,’ explains Marek Maitland-Walker, the head of marketing at Momotaro’s parent company, Hot Brands International. It seems more likely that Momotaro is working to distance itself from the standard brunch stereotypes of excess and extravagance. ‘Our brunch is about getting back to what’s important to customers: quality and value,’ says Maitland-Walker.

Stuart Dunn, the manager at Mango Tree, which also recently launched a Thai brunch, says that while value is the most important thing to customers, restaurants are thinking of new ways to scale back.

‘From an industry point of view, businesses can no longer use brunches as a loss leader,’ says Dunn. ‘As a result, you are seeing more reduced menus, reduced drinking hours and a reduction in the amount of drinks given per person.’ On the up, restaurants are figuring out new ways to bring in the customers. In the case of Mango Tree, that means serving an array of small portioned Thai food. Momotaro has cornered a section of the market by offering one of the few Japanese brunches in town. At the Cellar, the management has started up a Sunday brunch in addition to the popular Friday and Saturday offerings. Dave Cattanach, the food and beverage manager at the Aviation Club, says the Sunday brunch is ‘aimed mainly at people in the service sector, who have Sundays off’. Still, he echoes Maitland-Walker, adding that, these days, ‘the restaurants that are still busy are the ones that are giving value and quality for money’.

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