Elegant Friday Brunch at Imperium, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

Living in the UAE we are beyond spoiled when it comes to the world’s finest hotels and brunches. There’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Al Arab, the only seven-star hotel on the planet, and JW Marriott Marquis, the world’s tallest hotel, all with their own fabulous Friday epicurean offerings. But located on one of Dubai’s most prestigious addresses is the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, a rare gem of a hotel with one of the best brunches going.

The five-star property has already starred in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, posing as the Mumbai ballroom where Tom Cruise and Paula Patton gave Anil Kapoor a brutal lesson in flirtation. But there’s no Indian palace inside the luxurious Palm Crescent hotel – instead it’s decadent with a design inspired by the Ottoman Empire. There’s the obligatory marble, gold, fountains, enormous crystal chandeliers – all echoed in Imperium, where marble pillars are reminiscent of a neo-baroque style from a very particular period (1843-1956) in Istanbul. The crisp white tablecloths and a jazz singer only add to the sense of opulence.

If F Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby had held brunches instead of extravagant parties, he would have created this one. With a luxurious Long Island mansion feel, complete with impeccable waiters in gold waistcoats and mountains of seafood on ice, this is a decadent feast par excellence.

After being seated at a table with sea views, we dined on salads, oysters and foie gras, while eyeing up mains from around the world. There’s all the usual suspects – British roast, Indian curries and a terrace with a barbecue. We piled our plates with an array of meats, sweetcorn, and grilled lobsters, then went back for more. We listened to the performer – all velvety voice just as Gatsby would have liked – and sipped iced drinks before dessert.

There was an entire sweet station with gorgeous miniature creations but not having a sweet tooth, I plumped for cheese. There was a plethora of options from around the world. I took back a big platter for the family to share, which I promptly ate. Like all good things the brunch came to an end, but with a Roaring Twenties glamorous vibe this is not a brunch. It’s the Great brunch.

TO BOOK

Price: Dh310 to Dh550

Timings: Friday 1pm to 4pm

Contact: Call 04 453 0444 or email JZSRestaurants@jumeirah.com or visit

www.jumeirah.com 

Friday Brunch at Yalumba, Le Méridien Dubai

Since I’ve been in Dubai, I’ve been lucky that many of my friends from the UK have either visited me or stopped over on the way to some other exotic part of the world, and we have made time to meet up. But that does involve choosing places to go to that will wow newcomers. So when I try a brunch for the first time I always ask myself “Would I take my friends here?”. As I entered the cavernous hotel lobby, I immediately knew the answer was a resounding yes.

“Welcome to Le Méridien,” the doorman said, as we were taken over to the brunch area and shown to our table. It was hard to miss the dessert counter, and my friend Alan whispered “I’ll be over there for first, seconds and thirds!” Too right.

Our table, which overlooked a terrace and pool area, was decorated with flowered garlands and party hats, so I knew I was in for a fun afternoon.

Our smiley waiter Vishnu poured us an iced mineral water, explaining that the brunch was a help-yourself buffet and à la carte menu. This was going to be a belt-loosening afternoon, I realised.

The menu is vast, offering a myriad dishes such as seafood platter, lobster thermidor, Olympian breakfast (a huge English breakfast with fried eggs, baked beans, hash browns, sausages and mushrooms), eggs Benedict as well as salmon and creamy mashed potato and king crab legs.

We opted for the seafood platter to share, then I chose scallops served with thinly sliced beetroot, followed by curried crab that arrived perched on a pile of steamed rice.

My friend, who loves cheese, spotted the giant – and I mean giant, it was the size of a tyre – baked Camembert, bubbling away under a heat lamp and surrounded by neat heaps of mini roast potatoes. “Hmm, that looks delicious,” Alan said, taking his eyes off the desserts for a few moments.

The Yalumba brunch is in its ninth year and has grown in popularity to become a Dubai institution. All around us were groups of cheery friends, colleagues, and families, happily celebrating birthdays or experiencing their first Dubai brunch, and the party atmosphere means it’s bursting with a hard-to-beat feel-good Friday vibe.

The menu and buffet just add to this and it was probably the first place to offer hearty traditional English roasts alongside beautifully presented fresh sushi and tiny cherry tomatoes with mini mozzarella served in delicate glasses almost a decade ago.

I went for a wander around the buffet, and it seemed with every step the room was livening up – volumes rising from the DJ booth and chatter ramping up as the brunchers relaxed and enjoyed Abba hits.

My plate piled high with goodies, I almost felt myself dancing back to my seat, the atmosphere was that infectious.

As soon as we cleared our plates Vishnu whisked them away to present us with the menu, signalling it was time to try something new.

My cheese-loving friend eagerly sliced off some of the Camembert, but I was feeling fuller by the minute. So I sat back and enjoyed the party that happens at Yalumba every Friday.

TO BOOK

Price: Dh499

Timings: Friday 12.30pm to 3.30pm

Contact: Call 04 702 2455 or email yalumba.lmdubai@lemeridien.com or visit

www.yalumba-dubai.com

Friday Brunch at Mazina, The Address, Dubai Marina

What are the key ingredients of a brilliant brunch? Good food is an absolute must, of course, so is chic decor, fabulous service and a lively, sophisticated ambience. Throw in a live band for the adults and a bouncy castle for the children and you’re on to a sure-fire winner.

The Friday Brunch at Mazina, The Address Dubai Marina, has got everything right. After all, this is the team behind the hugely successful Generation Creation brunch, which brings brunch and fun together for all the family as parents and children learn new skills such as pumpkin carving, Easter egg decorating or even towel art. “Where’s the bouncy castle?” my daughter wanted to know, and luckily there was one in the quieter side of the restaurant along with the children’s buffet. So as she and her brother went off to play in the supervised area, we could enjoy Fridge, the band who play every Friday, while eyeing up the food.

And there was our first dilemma – should we go for seafood or sushi (or both) for starters, or opt for the healthy salad option? In the end we piled our plates high with fresh prawns, Caesar salad with strawberry coulis dressing (delicious!) and sumptuous sushi. The children came running back, having tasted the kids’ buffet – steamed chicken, pasta as well as the usual nuggets and fish goujons – and were soon stealing prawns and sushi off our plates.

There was a Far Eastern live station with noodles, dim sum, satay and spring rolls, a separate vegetarian section including cheese cannelloni and fried eggplant, and an entire carvery. Roast turkey, lamb ouzi, and salmon looked amazing with all the trimmings – vegetables, roast potatoes, stuffing and Yorkshire pudding. My husband piled his plate high and poured gravy over the top. “It’s just like Christmas,” he grinned.

The children feasted on the lamb and then explored the vast dessert station. Home-made chocolates, macaroons, crêpes, pancakes, and ice cream kept them happy while us adults went for mini strawberry fools, crème brûlées, umm ali, and apple cobbler. There was just room for a selection of cheeses – Muenster, Brie, Camembert and a strong blue, which rounded off the brunch nicely. We had a fabulous time, and now my husband wants to go back all the time – then, for him, it can be Christmas every Friday!

TO BOOK

Price: From Dh280 to Dh395

Timings: Friday 12.30pm to 3.30pm

Contact: Call 04 888 3444 or email dine@theaddress.com or visit www.theaddress.com 

Pranzo Italiano at Roberto’s, DIFC



The table was cloaked in pristine white linen with polished glasses glistening in the sunlight streaming in through the wraparound windows. “We’ve got the perfect view,” my friend Hannah said, nodding towards the tall elegant structure in front of us. Roberto’s Italian restaurant in DIFC is already well-known for its picture-perfect views of the Burj Khalifa. “We sure do,” I said, nodding. Then we burst out laughing. Yes, we could see the Burj, but right now something else was stealing the show. “That has to be the tallest pepper grinder I’ve ever seen,” Hannah giggled, as a waiter picked it up with both hands and heaved it over to a neighbouring table to season plates.

Views aside, my friend and I had chosen to spend a leisurely Friday afternoon trying the restaurant’s brand new brunch menu or ‘Pranzo Italiano’ as they call it here, which translates as Italian lunch. With a five-course à la carte meal ahead this was shaping up to be just that – a laid-back decadent lunch, as opposed to the more lively brunches kicking off across town at the same time.

In a restaurant that combines “Roman passion for food, Riccione hospitality, and Milanese style,” you aren’t going to see anyone piling their plate high with slices of roast beef, dollops of hot curry and California rolls. This was to be much more refined, but I’d known that from the tablecloths.

The impressive Seafood Oyster Tower came first. A huge silver show stopper standing high and heaped with not only fresh oysters, but mussels, king prawns, crab meat and lobster all on a bed of crushed ice.

“Buon Appetito,” our waiter said, adding: “Remember our oysters are unlimited,” just as I tipped my head back and felt a taste of the ocean slide to the back of my mouth. Gulp. Gone. On to the next. The only reminder I needed was to pace myself.

Next up came an array of starters including Carpaccio di manzo (beef carpaccio with wild rocket and Parmesan cheese), Rucola (a simple rocket salad) and fresh, salty calamari, deep-fried and delicious.

The Burratina was a highlight though. Slicing into the mozzarella pouch with heavy silver cutlery, a flow of creamy mousse oozing out over fresh basil and sweet cherry tomatoes. Yum!

Plates clean, our waiter reappeared. “You now have the choice of two pasta dishes,” he said. We immediately opted to order both and share the flavours. My first à la carte brunch already felt like a refreshing change to the up-and-down, back-and-forth food marathon of traditional buffet brunches.

The first pasta dish arrived – a bowl of melt-in-your-mouth home-made pappardelle (very broad, flat pasta noodles) with beef ragout and creamy wild mushroom sauce. Swiftly followed by piping hot ravioli, also home-made, and stuffed with sweet onions in brown butter sauce. Incredible. In fact, I would have quite happily scoffed six plates.

To balance out the seafood feast so far, next I plumped for the slow-braised baby lamb, served with mashed potatoes and garden veg. It had been a close call between this and the slow braised beef cheek served with polenta and green asparagus.

“I wish I wasn’t so full,” I breathed, forcing down a final fork full of the buttery mash. But, surprise surprise, I managed to find my dessert stomach and enjoyed an oozing chocolate fondant with raspberry lemon thyme sorbet and yuzu jelly.

“I can’t move,” I groaned, leaning back in my chair just as a waiter placed the pepper grinder back on the table in front of us. The food was so good, I’d completely forgotten about seasoning. Maybe that’s why the grinder is so big!

TO BOOK

Price: Dh350 to 495 per person and children under six go free. Kids menu is available.

Timings: 12.30pm to 4.30pm

Contact: Call 04 386 0066 or email reservations@robertos.ae or visit www.robertos.ae

Revolving Brunch at Al Dawaar, Hyatt Regency, Dubai

What more could you want than the finest international buffet in one of the city’s most trusted restaurants?

A brunch with a view – and a 360 degree view at that. That’s why we ventured over to Deira’s Hyatt Regency to sample its revolving brunch – the only one in Dubai.

“Will we feel it move?” My daughter asked. “And will it make me dizzy?” On the 25th floor we could feel it move, and it was definitely head-spinning, but only because the views were so amazing.

We could see way out across the city and the Arabian Gulf, knowing that it would take 90 minutes before we were back at the beginning. With such wonderful views you might think they would have skimped on the brunch, but not so. As well as offering a fabulous view, they also take diners on a culinary journey across the world, featuring Middle Eastern, Asian and European dishes, so there’s something for everyone.

My husband headed straight for the seafood station, while I filled my plate with sushi and salads, and the children went for a British roast beef main with all the trimmings. “Mmmm,’ my little girl said, tucking in and craning her neck to see all around. Then she was off to inspect the dessert station – complete with strawberry cheesecake, chocolate mousse, fruit salads, black forest gateau and every flavour of ice cream a little girl could want.

We were still tackling main courses of baked hammour, tandoori chicken, fillet steak and prime rib, which were all delicious. Stuffed, we sat back and watched the view constantly changing while we found some room for those mouth-watering desserts. Crème brûlée – a firm favourite – was perfectly crispy on top and creamy once we’d broken through that yummy topping.

The afternoon – as well as the views of the Corniche and Deira – sped by and we left with only one regret. We’d seen the view in the day – now we needed to return to see the shimmering night time scene. We’re sure it will be as amazing as the brunch – spectacular.

TO BOOK

Price: Dh225 to Dh450

Timings: Friday 12:30pm to 4pm

Contact: Call 04 317 2222 or email restaurants.dubai@hyatt.com or visit www.facebook.com/hyattregencydubai 

Friday Brunch at Koi Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

With one of the most prestigious addresses in Abu Dhabi, a Californian brand that is a favourite with Hollywood’s finest, and food that is so pretty it seems a scandal to actually eat it, it’s no wonder Koi has quickly become the Japanese go to for foodies and fashionable folk alike.

I happen to love Japan – the country, the people and especially the cuisine. I’ve eaten Michelin-star chef’s award-winning dishes in the centre of Kyoto, after having an audience with a Geisha, and thought my taste buds would never stop sulking after being offered mere mortal’s food ever since. So, Koi had a lot to live up to. Nestled in The Collection, opposite one of my favourite hotels, The St Regis Saadiyat Island, its à la carte brunch is already a must-do on the Abu Dhabi social calendar. And I can see why.

The chic dark décor has a cool, contemporary vibe, and seats 60-plus diners, so it’s an intimate affair, suitable for families and couples as well as groups of friends.

There’s music playing in the background, but this is a sophisticated brunch where you can order as many dishes from the menu as you’d like without having to leave your seat. No live stations here, this is service with a smile – and they can afford to smile knowing their menu is mouth-wateringly good.

First we tried the edamame, served simply with salt, and delicious – the children loved popping the beans out of the pods – followed by sashimi and sushi platters for sharing.

Next up was a melt-in-your-mouth miso cod, Chilean sea bass with shiso-pea coulis, and salmon and tuna carpaccio. While the children went for pan-roasted chicken breast, with mushroom soy on the side, we feasted on rock shrimp tempura, lobster tacos and wagyu beef carpaccio. Each dish looked prettier and tasted better than the last. Stuffed, we begged the staff for a rest while we took in the ambience – laughing families fighting over the last taco or piece of sushi and couples and friends relaxing to the laid-back dance music, some even venturing out on to the terrace now the weather is cooler.

And then it was time for dessert and we all plumped for what my daughter calls the ‘chewy ice cream’ – mochi –which is pounded sticky rice filled with ice cream. It is amazing and as good as any I tasted in Japan.

The brunch is a little taste of Japan fused with California – and is a refreshing change to the sometimes overwhelming elbows-at-the-ready offerings. But that doesn’t mean you have to be Koi when it comes to lining your stomach.

TO BOOK

Price: Dh295 to Dh495

Timings: Friday 12.30pm to 4pm Contact: Call 02 678 3334 or email reservations@koirestaurant.ae or visit www.koirestaurant.com