Messy Business

Brunch without booze is just a sad late breakfast.Unknown

Friday Brunch here in the UAE can be summed up in one word ‘Indulgent’ or should it be two words ‘Ridiculously Indulgent’ or just ‘Over Indulgent’ needless to say whatever word or combination of words you deem most fitting, it can most definitely be described as ‘messy’.

Friday Brunch is a  phenomenon that western expats have fully embraced. Diners are spoilt for choice when it comes to where to brunch as most hotels and more recently other establishments have jumped on the bandwagon offering a variety of themes and packages. Now just to clarify, we are not talking about the old-fashioned combination of breakfast and lunch eaten in-between the two meal times but a full on three to four hours of unadulterated feasting on cuisines from across the globe complimented by free-flowing champagne, cocktails, wine, beer, shots and so on…..you get the idea  where ‘messy business’ comes from!

Joined by friends, we took the in-laws and even the teenager to the stunning St Regis Hotel located on Saadiyat Island to enjoy brunch at the Olea restaurant. The classy Meditaranean-inspired brunch offered everything from curries and traditional roasts to seafood, paella, every kind of meat and vegetable you can imagine as well as an array of desserts and a selection of gourmet cheeses. And alcohol. Lots of alcohol. We were seated on the fabulous outdoor terrace where we enjoyed a spot of al fresco dining and the live Jazz band (lady vocalist/saxophonist was amazing, we were rather jealous of her musical ability) making the most of the great weather while taking in panoramic views of the pools and the beach, before the in-laws headed off back to the rainy UK.

Now last Fridays brunch was a more relaxed and civilised affair than previous experiences as we just enjoyed the ambience and the company (managed not to embarrass the teenager too much but there was a little eye roll when the vodka shots came round on a trolley). I think it’s fair to say that our visitors enjoyed their AD ‘brunch’ experience but to be honest it’s really hard not to with all you can eat five-star food, drink and facilities at an all-inclusive price. It may seem extravagant but Brunch is good value for money considering the cost of alcohol here and the amount of top quality food on offer, a Friday favourite in this house but not great for the figure! The best way to do the brunch justice is to share my photos below……

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Whilst living here in Abu Dhabi we have experienced a few brunches including Bubbalicious at The Westin, Cuiscence at The Fairmont, Rosebuds at the Beach Rotana, Sofra Bid at the Shangri La, Ingredients at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel and soon to be tried Nahaam at Etihad Towers which won ‘Best Brunch’ in TimeOut Abu Dhabi Restaurant Awards 2013. However in my brunching experience (and I am no connoisseur more of a strange vegetarian) to date the Dubai hotels are out in front of those here in the capital, with a wider selection of themes, quality of food and the overall atmosphere.

Here are my favourite Dubai brunch experiences……….

TRAITEUR – Probably my best brunch so far has been at the high-end Traiteur restaurant located in the Park Hyatt Hotel on the Dubai Creek. It has a resplendent buffet with live cooking stations and exotic beverages including free-flowing Veuve Clicquot. Unbelievable levels of decadence and it’s not cheap! It was described in TimeOut Dubai as “This is a well-heeled foodie’s dream. A brilliantly executed menu with everything from oysters, lobster and eggs Benedict to sushi and desserts to kill for, a brunch at Traiteur is more of an event than most of its rivals.” No surprise then that it has won the ‘Best Brunch’ at the TimeOut Restaurant Awards in 2010 and 2011, and highly commended at the 2012 awards saying “we couldn’t recommend Traiteur more highly.”

AL QASR – The brunch at Al Qasr is impressive and has the air of an upscale banquet due to its sheer size. The plus side is it’s a great way to sample an array of international cuisine from Spanish, Mexican, Thai, Arabic to name a few as well as live cooking stations where you select your meat and watch the chefs cook it in the steakhouse. The huge selection of desserts include chocolate fountains (standard at a brunch it seems) and drinks stations are literally everywhere so you can pick up drink as you negotiate your way back to your seat (dangerous). Located at beautiful Madinat Jumeriah, Al Qasr’s main dining room is so vast that you do a lot of walking and it’s easy to miss stuff across the open-plan area of the hotel’s sixteen restaurants and to be honest the more alcohol you consume the less inclined you are to go on a mission to find more food.

SPECTRUM on ONE  – Friday brunch at Spectrum on One in the Fairmont Hotel ‘pushes the culinary envelope‘ according to TimeOut Dubai. The exquisite array of food is a combination of two hundred odd dishes from all corners of the globe. Famous for its cheese room, which is amazing if a little pungent. It has a fun and lively atmosphere but it doesn’t compare to Traiteur and Al Qasr in my opinion, for overall experience.

SAFFRON – Oh dear! Oh dear! That’s my description of my two experiences at Saffron Brunch at the Atlantis Hotel. Located in a separate building in the hotel with its own entrance, the dedicated space is a rowdy party atmosphere and just downright debauchery! So much alcohol of all varieties that it takes people down! From Pina Coladas served in coconut shells, Sambuca in sachets, lethal fruit punch served in hollowed out watermelon, vodka shots in pipettes to every other cocktail you possibility imagine as well as the usual bubbly, vino and beer. I can’t even remember the food to be honest! The aftermath and the hangover is legendary!

In the words of Alanis Morissette ‘Isn’t it ironic. Don’t you think?’ that on Fridays which is Islamic holy day in this muslim country it’s also the day that western expats worship at the altar of a five-star establishment while overindulging in calorific food and ply themselves with copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, cheers!! Only in the UAE.