Friday Brunches in Abu Dhabi

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I keep mentioning the Friday Brunches and, as we intend sampling as many as possible, I thought they deserved a sort of review page in their own right for visitors to the blog who are in AD or thinking of coming.
These meals are something of an institution here in Abu Dhabi. They are usually all-you-can-eat buffets that most of the hotels do at lunch time on a Friday (which is the weekend here, of course). They only really get going once the low summer season is over and and are quite something. There tends to be three price ranges, the cheapest usually includes unlimited soft drinks, the second unlimited house wines, beers and maybe selected cocktails and the most expensive will include unlimited champagne.
As you would probably expect, they can become cause for excessive alcohol consumption. (What us? Never!) They are always an excuse for eating far too much.
I intend this page to be a work in progress, adding different brunches as we try them. Consequently, they are in the order in which we visited them. I may go back to an entry if on subsequent visits something changes or there is something I want to add. Please let me know by leaving a comment if you find this page helpful or you have anything to add.
I must stress that this is solely our opinion and others may well think differently. We are not paid in any way to visit any establishment and none of the staff are aware of this blog (as if they’d care!) Any adverts that may appear have nothing to do with us.

So, to date, these brunches are at:

September 2014

Aqua at The Rosewood Hotel, Al Maryiah Island (by the Cleveland Clinic/ Galleria Mall) – (revisited and updated May 2015)
Porto Bello at The Grand Millennium Hotel, Al Whada (adjacent to the mall) (revisited and updated March 2015) January 2016 – This brunch is no longer available.

The Ritz Carlton, Khor Al Maqta’a (near the Grand Mosque)
Revisited February 2016

October 2014

Biscotti at The Millenium Hotel, Corniche

November 2014

The Westin, Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Revisited April 2015

December 2014

Sofra BLD, Shangri La Hotel
Revisited January 2016

January 2015

Ingredients, Eastern Mangroves Hotel

February 2015

Cooper’s, Park Rotana, near Khalifa Park
Revisited February 2016

April 2015

18° at Hyatt Capital Gate (the “bendy” building), by the Exhibition Centre (ADNEC)

May 2015

C-Taste at Centro Capital Centre (near ADNEC)

Picas, Picas Brunch at P&C, Shangri La Hotel, Khor Al Maqta’a (Formerly Pearls and Caviar)
Revisited April 2016

October 2015

Selections Saturday Seafood Brunch, Intercontinental Hotel (Emirates Palace end of Corniche)

November 2015

Flooka, Eastern Mangroves Promenade (by Anantara Hotel)

December 2015

Marina Brunch, Intercontinental Hotel
Revisited April 2016

February 2016

Olea, St Regis Hotel, Saadiyat Island

April 2016

Bravo Saturday Tapas Brunch, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort, Corniche

SEPTEMBER 2014

Aqua at The Rosewood Hotel, Al Maryiah Island

This was the first Friday Brunch we went to in Abu Dhabi and really set the standard. It was early in the season which may account for the fact that it was not as busy as some of the others we have subsequently been to or it may be because this is a relatively new hotel (opened May 2013) and may not have had long enough to really build up its reputation. It’s also a little off the main island and away from the expat suburbs.
Whatever the reason it meant that we had a superb window table overlooking the main island and beach along with impeccable, friendly service. Our glasses were never empty yet the waiting staff was never intrusive or ‘hovering’. Clean cutlery and crisp, white napkins appeared as if by magic.
We went for a delicious Prosecco to accompany our meal (included in the house wine option), a real cut above a lot of fizz. And that sums up the whole meal, really. Not the biggest array of food, particularly of main course options, we have subsequently discovered but the emphasis is definitely on quality. As we prefer to try a little of as much as possible this worked out well for us. The desert selection is probably our favourite to date with a station making freshly prepared crêpes for Neil and masses of different items featuring chocolate for me!

                
Summary: Excellent quality food and service. Perfect Prosseco included. Limited meat main courses but lighter for it. Superb range of desserts including lots of chocolate and crepe/waffles made to order. No entertainment. Window seat has waterside view.

Revisited May 2015
Although much busier than when we first visited back in September the Rosewood’s brunch remains a small and sedate affair. We again had a window seat, the view somewhat spoiled this time, though, by the building work underway for a new bridge to the main island. I wouldn’t have thought this will be a problem once completed but it does rather change the outlook.
This is one of the more expensive brunches in Abu Dhabi and the smaller scale may make it seem less value for money compared to, say, the Westin. However, the quality is superb. You know from the first sip of Prosecco that it’s going to be something special.
The chefs at the various cooking stations are eager to help and more than willing to prepare something that might not be obviously on offer. I was also encouraged to be a little more adventurous with a selection of sushi and sashimi (I’ve always been nervous about the idea of raw fish) by the chef showing me how to mix the dipping sauce and preparing small amounts for me to try. It was a revelation and I’m a definite convert. Special mention must also go to the mushroom risotto, again prepared to order, the most perfectly seasoned and creamy version I’ve ever had.
A choice of cocktails is also included in the mid-range price although getting one was a bit of a challenge when the waiting staff all seemed to disappear halfway through the meal! This was the only discordant note on an otherwise perfect and luxurious experience.

Porto Bello at The Grand Millennium Hotel, Al Whada
(Not available January 2016 – see update at end of entry)

The Porto Bello is the Grand Millennium’s Italian but the food for the Friday brunch features a selection from all the hotel’s restaurants. This is a popular choice with both hotel guests and visitors. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, the staff helpful and efficient.
The house wines in the mid-range price are nothing special but are still very quaffable and there’s an Aussy fizz and mojitos included.
The food was delicious and lots of it. As you might expect, they do fantastic pizzas and pasta which are made to order as part of the buffet, but the range of other main courses is also excellent. Indeed, so are the starters and desserts.
We enjoyed the entertainment provided. A decent band was followed by a couple of guys with a guitar and a double bass strolling around playing pretty much anything you cared to request. This may sound a little embarrassing or awkward but surprisingly it’s not. Diners were trying to catch them out with something they couldn’t play and my request for something from American punk band Green Day was accomplished effortlessly. Good fun.

Summary: Cheaper than many Abu Dhabi Friday options, this is a popular and fun brunch serving a good range of tasty and varied food with drinkable wine.

Update March 2015: The Porto Bello appeared fully booked when we revisited and the outside tables were in use. It remains a popular brunch so booking in advance is definitely advisable. Despite this there wasn’t a problem with queuing and the waiting staff seemed to be coping pretty well with keeping the drinks topped up. The food remains excellent although some of the main dishes were getting cold later on. Still highly recommended and Neil’s favourite brunch.

Update January 2016: We tried to book another brunch at Porto Bello but were told they no longer do them. Word has it that the hotel is under new management and they are trying to shake things up. I suspect they’ll come to their senses in the not too distant future so I’ll leave this entry for the time being.

The Ritz Carlton, Khor Al Ma qta’a

This was the choice for our anniversary celebration, the mid-range price being only in our special occasion budget. It is definitely something special and is on a huge scale. They even give you a pop-up map to find your way around all the different food stations – a bit of a gimmick but fun anyway. It’s impossible to take any pictures that will give an impression of what it’s like.
The only disappointment was the house wines. Nothing fizzy was included and the white was not to either of our tastes. The red is the best option with strawberry mojitos for the sweet course. You get something orange and sweet, slightly alcoholic – a mimosa, maybe – on arrival, which doesn’t help when it comes to tasting the wine.
The food, though, is amazing. If you can imagine it you’ll probably be able to get it here. In fact the entire leg of roast beef that featured was something it had never occurred to me to imagine! Much of the food is freshly prepared in front of you and presented exquisitely, each dish a taste sensation. Obviously there is no way you are going to try it all so it is worth keeping the portions small and pacing yourself. Save room for desserts, too, as with some 70 odd to choose from it would be a real shame to miss out. To be picky, the Rosewood had more chocolatey ones if, like me, that is your taste.
Also in comparison to the Rosewood, the table service left a bit to be desired. Sometimes it was a struggle to get our glasses refilled but it was always done with a smile and the waiter was friendly and informative. He seemed very busy so it was probably more of an issue of there not being enough staff for the number of tables.
The only entertainment was a pianist who we were seated quite close to (a good location for people watching and in natural light, so we were well pleased). All very classy but you probably wouldn’t hear him at most of the tables.
Would we go again? Definitely.

Summary: Mostly what you would expect with the Ritz label but the house wines were a disappointment and no fizz unless you pay for champagne. Still very classy and to be recommended.

Update February 2016: Much as we remembered but the house wine does seem to have improved. Still no fizz, though, and they no longer provide the pop-up maps. Extra to what we noticed last time, however, was the extensive cheese room complete with port and several cocktail stations including one doing chocolate martinis which we’d never come across before. We’ve obviously lived very sheltered lives.

OCTOBER 2014

Biscotti at The Millennium Hotel, Corniche

This was our only brunch in October due to other weekend activities (maybe I should do a page for them, too?) and we chose Biscotti as we had a 2 for 1 voucher. So did everyone else it seemed. The current ready availability of these offers is probably because the restaurant has recently been refurbished and renamed, although the old name (Sevilo) is still everywhere.
As the sister hotel to the Grand Millenium, we were expecting something similar so were at first a bit disappointed. Also our most recent previous brunch had been at The Ritz Carlton, remember, and that would colour any subsequent experience. The comparison is really unfair, though. This is brunch on a much smaller scale and budget.
The drinks choice was simply red, white or Fosters, no fizz or cocktails. The wines were pleasant enough, although nothing to rave about, and Neil stuck with the lager.
We enjoyed the food. Although the selection is not huge there is certainly enough to choose from and individual dishes seemed to be regularly replenished so they weren’t left drying out. Probably the highlight is the pizza, though. Made fresh to order from a small choice, it was one of the best we’ve eaten here in AD, which is saying something. Of course, a pizza is a meal in itself and the idea of these brunches for us is to try small portions of as much as possible. I was never going to do it justice. However, the staff happily boxed up my leftovers to take home so I had room for desserts. All I have to say about those is “Chocolate Fountain”. Need I say more? We left very happy.

Summary: Brunch on a relatively small scale but great value for money even without a voucher. Friendly staff but no entertainment.

NOVEMBER 2014

The Westin, Abu Dhabi Golf Club

We went to the Westin Hotel as part of a group of eight friends, all arriving at slightly different times. This may have contributed to our initial impression that the reception formalities were rather shambolic. For a start it’s the only brunch we’ve had to stand in a long queue for. The idea seems to have been that you pay for your meal in advance and get a coloured armband to wear appropriate for the drinks package chosen.
The first of our group to arrive were seated in the bar with a drink after paying. We were initially told to wait there with them (although not offered a drink) but as we were paying separately we were told to rejoin the, now much longer, queue. This moved incredibly slowly and it was clear the system wasn’t coping. Eventually we were shown to our table which meant more confusion as the group was now in different locations and queues. We were eventually given an arm band at the table and told to pay at the end.
Thereafter, everything was superb. The mid-range drinks package included spirits as well as a good selection of hops and grapes beverages. And, yes, there was fizz – an enjoyable Italian that slipped down very well, thank you, and was constantly refilled without having to ask. It is also worth noting that when the brunch ended it was accepted that you take any drinks you had ordered beforehand with you to the bar or garden area if you chose to linger.
The range of food was excellent and coped easily with the large numbers being served. I never got any impression of dishes either drying up or running out which can sometimes be a problem. Our party included a six year old. As I don’t usually dwell on what is available for children I will just mention that he seemed to be well catered for.

Summary: Once past the initial chaos the brunch was excellent, the service friendly and faultless. The ambience is very pleasant and to be able to sit in the extensive grounds overlooking the golf course afterwards a definite plus.

Revisited April 2015
The Westin now seems to have sorted out the previous difficulties with getting everyone seated. We arrived a little early in case there was a problem but on confirmation of booking were immediately offered drinks which we were allowed to take into the adjacent bar area or outside until they had finished setting up the buffet. Once they officially opened we merely approached a waiter who checked where our table was before rapidly seating us. He explained the options and gave us the appropriately coloured wrist band. Everyone seemed to pay at the end.
Yet again the brunch itself was superb and the range of drinks on the house option excellent. Being able to take your last orders outside afterwards encourages you to stay longer and the sheer pleasure of kicking off your shoes to dance on the grass to the DJ makes it difficult to leave! A definite winner and probably my favourite brunch so far.

DECEMBER 2014

Sofra BLD, Shangri La Hotel, Khor Al Maqta’a

This is where we went for lunch on Christmas Day and it was superb. Very much a Friday-brunch-style meal but costing rather more than usual it may not be a fair comparison. Certainly I wouldn’t expect the Philippine Choir to perform on the staircase every week! However, I thought it worth mentioning here as they do have a weekly brunch and I’m confident the standard would be high. Certainly the superb views across the canal towards the Grand Mosque will be the same. I’ll keep you posted if, hopefully when, we go back.

Update: Revisited January 2016

Well it took over a year for us return to the Shangri La’s main brunch (there’s another smaller affair at their Pearls and Caviar restaurant). The difference was unbelievable. From being packed out for the Christmas meal it became astonishingly quiet on an ordinary January Friday lunch time. They said it was normal for the time of year, which makes sense, and that things would start to pick up again by February but as we didn’t do any brunches last year at this time I can’t really compare.
Having said that, the food and service was still excellent. The fizz flowed unhindered and a small selection of mixed drinks were included (vodka and Red Bull, gin and tonic and Sea Breeze cocktails). Interestingly, though, there was only one beer and that was an Indian one we’d never heard of, which takes some doing.
I did wonder if the food was a bit restricted because it was so quiet but there was certainly enough for us. Special praise goes to the cooking station preparing a delicious selection of fish as well as lobster and huge scampi, definitely the high light. So the atmosphere left a lot to be desired but sitting outside overlooking the pool and beach with view of the Grand Mosque, sipping a final drink still takes some beating.

JANUARY 2015

Ingredients, Anatara Eastern Mangroves Hotel

This is the same hotel that does the Thursday night barbeque at the Pool Bar. The brunch is held in their all day dining restaurant, Ingredients. We went as part of a large group and chose to sit at tables on the shady terrace overlooking the Mangroves. During the winter months this is a delightful experience although a jacket or wrap is advisable and may not be so great if the wind gets up.
We were all handed a glass of fizz on arrival and I chose to stick with this for most of the brunch. I was lured away, though, by a rather good Argentinian Malbec which accompanied the rare roast beef delightfully. The lamb looked just as good.
Also worth a special mention is the sushi station and the individually chosen fish, cooked to order and brought to you at the table which we shared.
The service was excellent and friendly – there was very little queuing at the different stations and nobody’s glass seemed to empty.

Summary: Worth it for the location alone but also excellent food with some unusual dishes and really good wines. A good range of cocktails is also included in the mid range price. A relaxed but quality brunch with great service.

FEBRUARY 2015

Cooper’s, Park Rotana, near Khalifa Park

This is brunch with a difference. Served in the Park Rotana’s large and popular British-style pub, it specialises in the Sunday Roast but on a Friday, of course. With this element having more than a passing resemblance to a carvery back home there the comparison ends – it is far better than any I have been to in the UK. Mind you, I don’t tend to go to Sunday lunch in a 5 star hotel when I’m there!
This is not brunch on a huge scale, either. The starters are limited to a selection of salads or soup, all nicely done, though. This isn’t a problem because, well, you don’t come here for the starters. The roast meat station is excellent with lots of choice (not pork) and all the traditional accompaniments. We both opted for the beef (choice of rare to well done) although Neil also had the turkey. The good sized traditional Yorkshire pudding cooked just how we like it and mustard gravy were perfect with it. There was also a decent choice of other mains so we also treated ourselves to a fish course before the roast.
The deserts looked spectacular so I had to try a selection but found that they tasted mostly just sweet which was a disappointment. Drinks for the mid price range were limited to a red, a white, Fosters and some spirits which were ok. A price upgrade will get you a bigger assortment of spirits but not wine or beer. Neither deal includes fizz.

Summary: An excellent brunch for a roast dinner at a very reasonable price. Desserts look better than they taste. Booking essential as not huge. A few outside tables. No fizz but some spirits included and staff good at keeping drinks topped up. If you have a spirit mixer it will be very strong!

Update February 2016:
Still an excellent roast dinner /carvery but now the top option includes premium beers and Fizz as well as spirits for an extra Dhs30 which strikes me as very good value. The house option has a reasonable Sauvignon Blanc chilled to perfection, though.

APRIL 2015

18° at Hyatt Capital Gate (the “bendy” building), by the Exhibition Centre

With probably the best view of any restaurant in Abu Dhabi, the brunch at 18° is understandably popular without having to try too hard. Throw in a money off voucher and every table was booked. This is not a huge hotel dining room either, curving around the edge of the building to make the most of those views. Most tables have window seats and there is also a terrace outside if you have a good head for heights.
Space is limited so the buffet selection isn’t huge and doesn’t really stand out among all the brunches in Abu Dhabi. The food cooked to order, however, is superb. We sampled the beef, lamb and fish dishes, sharing them between us, and savoured every mouthful. Save room for the desserts, though, as these are also something special even tempting Neil who isn’t a big sweet fan to sample a few. I indulged, of course!
Any brunch that has the sense to include some fizz in their house beverages always gets an extra star in my book and 18° had a very pleasant Prosecco which I stuck with until desserts when we both swapped to a rum and coke which was also included. The beer was Carlsberg which suited Neil so we didn’t try the other wines but the beef and lamb deserved a red.
Probably because the brunch starts later than most at 1pm, everyone seemed to arrive at once which stretched the service a bit initially, although we were immediately given water and nibbles to tide us over until our drinks order could be taken. After that our glasses were kept topped up efficiently and the staff were consistently friendly and attentive to just the right degree.

Summary: A great setting with stunning views. Buffet is limited but makes up for it with small plates prepared to order. A decent fizz is included and the staff are delightful. Outside seating available.

MAY 2015

C-Taste at Centro Capital Centre (near ADNEC)

A money-off voucher lured us to brunch at this hotel, one we’d not previously heard of. Costing less than a bottle of wine at some places we’ve dined at it seemed we had nothing to lose and having difficulty booking at our first attempt suggested it definitely seemed worth a try.
The hotel is a 4 rather than the 5 star of other brunch hotels we’ve been to and, being close to the exhibition centre, is probably aimed at the business visitor rather than tourists or expats. The restaurant itself appears to be the one used as part of a package by the hotel’s guests and it seemed likely we were the only ones there on a brunch basis. As such we were rather out of place ordering alcohol and were still lingering over our starters when most other guests were on desserts.
First impressions aren’t great. It is a measure of the way we have been spoiled out here that my first reaction was “uh, disposable napkins!” while the ambiance is of a cafe or even a fast food outlet. As for views, well, there isn’t one.
Now, having said all that, the brunch does include a very drinkable fizz although I have no idea what I was drinking as I never saw the bottle and each glass had to be requested, brought to the table individually. Neil enjoyed the Budweiser that was also included. Inevitably, the drinks were a little slow in arriving as the waiters obviously had to go to the bar across the lobby to fetch them. We felt like a right couple of alchies each time we asked for a refill.
On to the food. This is not the place to come to if you’re looking for lobster and fois gras. We weren’t and what was on offer was very decent if not a huge range. Staters were basically an assortment of actually quite imaginative salads and a tasty lentil soup. Mains were aimed at the hotels mostly eastern clientele and had some authentic and rather classy flavours going on. A nice touch was the shwarma station with wraps cooked fresh to order although an unadventurous cheeseboard and some uninspiring desserts rounded off the meal.
The service was actually very good although we didn’t risk letting our original knife and fork be taken away with each plate. Having said that, dessert cutlery was readily available, something that can be a bit of a pain at even the best brunches. Entertainment was inaudable piped muzak.

Summary: Probably not a brunch we would rush to go to again but food and drink-wise very good value for money even without a voucher. Totally lacks the brunch atmosphere but the food, drink and service is reasonably good. May be better if going as a large group to create your own buzz. Dress down.

Picas, Picas Brunch at P&C, Shangri La Hotel, Khor Al Maqta’a (Formerly Pearls and Caviar)

Not to be confused with the brunch in the main dining area of the Shangri La, this is a newish event held at the restaurant probably better known in Abu Dhabi (and still referred to by the staff) as Pearls and Caviar. Rebranded as P&C by Sergei Arola, a Spanish Michelin-starred chef, the new name marks a move away from a seafood restaurant to modern tapas.
Situated a short walk from the main hotel and raised away from the land edge, it makes the most of its views of the beach, marina and particularly the stunning vista of the Grand Mosque over the water. Come here when the weather is cooler and dining at a table on the terrace would be delightful.
Guests are greeted with a choice of mock or cocktails including both red and white sangia which set the Spanish tone. We chose a delicious Bellini, though, and it was tempting to indulge in more of these as they were available throughout the meal. I was hoping for a Cava, though, so was disappointed when the fizz turned out to be an Australian Chardonnay and not at all to my taste. That was the only downside for me of what turned out to be a rather different brunch experience. Neil happily quaffed this, however, so, as always, this is largely a matter of personal taste.
You’ll still find a decent buffet selection of seafood and sushi as well as good roast beef and accompaniments which seem to be a required feature of the best brunches and are certainly not to be sniffed at here. What makes this experience different, however, are the selection of tapas brought to each table. The first of these was presented as an assortment of delectable canapés, a dish of potatas bravas, and a bread basket accompanied by a range of dips. The canapés are definitely not to be missed but as fresh and tempting as the different breads are it would be a mistake to fill up on these as the aromas from the paella pans nearby warned us. Of these there was both a meat and a separate seafood version, both of which had the authentic flavours of a genuine Spanish paella and even a little of the singed crust that restaurants outside Spain seem reluctant to allow to develop.
When it came to dessert there was a very respectable buffet range including a chocolate fountain with imaginative dipping ingredients. The highlight, however, was the assortment of freshly prepared sweet tapas brought to the table on request. These were a taste sensation!

Summary: Although managing to keep most of the expected brunch elements this is still a bit different. The tapas brought to the table are what makes this new brunch special and the paellas are a great touch. Don’t go expecting the traditional Spanish tapas experience, however, but it caters well to Abu Dhabi tastes. It really does cry out for Spanish wines to accompany the food although the white sangria went well with the sweet course. The service was friendly and efficient for a full restaurant.

Update: Revisited April 2016
Almost a year later and what a difference. Without wanting to be dismissive – the food here is still excellent – what made this brunch stand out has gone.
Firstly, the Bellinis have been replaced with Pimms or gin and tonic, not necessarily a bad thing admittedly, although the white and red sangrias remain and the sparkling wine is a mixed grape Hardy’s which was more to my taste, to be honest, but still not a Spanish wine to be had.
The canapés and bread basket brought to the table have stopped to be replaced by a sheet of paper and a pencil where you can request certain tapas to be cooked to order. There was nothing wrong with that in theory but somehow the authentic feel of the original concept is no more. The paellas have disappeared. Again you can order an assortment of rice dishes which nominally includes paella but bears no resemblance to the real thing.
The biggest loss, however, is the dessert tapas brought to the table of which there was no trace.
The service remains efficiently friendly and the views stunning, of course, but everything that made this brunch so different has been lost.

OCTOBER 2015

Selections Saturday Seafood Brunch, Intercontinental Hotel (Emirates Palace end of Corniche)

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After the long, hot summer here it’s starting to cool down and the brunches are in full swing again. We’ve long fancied trying the Friday Brunch at the Intercontinental as it is a great spot to sit outside overlooking the marina. However, shade is quite limited so we’re keeping that one for when it cools down still further. Spotting an advert for a Saturday brunch in the hotel’s main buffet restaurant we thought we’d give that a try instead.
The restaurant overlooks the marina so we were pleased to be allocated a window table. However, the curtains were all closed to keep out the sun and when we opened the one next to us a fraction the waiter was most insistent that it be kept shut. Fair enough, I suppose, as he has to think of the comfort of all the guests (although we were careful not to let the light fall on anyone else) but still a shame. Otherwise, it’s a pleasant area and not too impersonal as many large hotel dining rooms can be.
Billed as a Seafood Brunch, there was still plenty of choice for those preferring meat dishes including what looked like a good joint of roast beef. The seafood station itself had plenty of variety but perhaps was not as extensive as you might expect from the billing. Still there was enough for me to decide to stick with that along with a delicious roast hamoor fish. Also worth a mention is the large salad bar which had some great choices, mostly with an Arabic trend as were the desserts.
The house drinks option included a fizz which, although not as dry as I would personally prefer, went well with the seafood and also mojitos, the strawberry version of which accompanied sweet course nicely. Neil was happy to start with a couple of Fosters before joining me on the fizz which was very much to his taste.

Summary: A very civilised, good value brunch and great to have the choice of a Saturday version. The expensive mega-brunches may well have a greater selection of seafood but there is still enough here to keep most people happy and meat eaters are well served, too. Just a shame you can’t actually see the view which would otherwise be a major attraction for us.

Update: We went for a second visit just a few weeks later during November and what a difference! The day was just as sunny but, presumably, the sun was lower in the sky so the curtains were open and the room still at a comfortable temperature. Delightful.

NOVEMBER 2015

Flooka, Eastern Mangroves Promenade (by Anantara Hotel)

This is another Saturday Brunch situated in a lovely location right on the waterfront. We chose a table on the shaded terrace and felt like we were actually over the water with views over the Mangroves to Reem Island and beyond.
While it describes itself on its website as a Mediterranean seafood restaurant, the brunch is, in fact, much more Arabic than anything else and this is reflected in the clientele as well. This is not a buffet meal, all dishes being served directly to the table, and there is very little choice about what you have. That being said, there was certainly far more food piled onto the table than we could ever have eaten.
The meal starts with some 10 dishes of Arabic meze which would have been more than enough for the rest of the day. Special mention must go to the calamar provençal and the kibba which were among the best we’ve eaten.
Unfortunately, these arrive all at the same time so it is impossible to linger over them as the hot dishes cooled rapidly and spoiled. The sense of feeling a bit rushed was increased by having to choose our main course in advance despite repeated assurances that there wasn’t any hurry. This is basically a choice of three types of fish and you have to agree as a couple which you want as it is again a sharing course. We put it off as long as we could but even so were not ready to eat when it arrived, delicious though it was. It came served with seafood “paella” or rather yellow rice with a couple of mussels on top, again tasty but not really what would be recognised in Spain. Dessert was a small selection of tiny Arabic pastries which were probably very good but we just couldn’t face.
The drinks in the alcohol option included draught Peroni beer and a reasonable fizz brought rapidly to the table by the glass rather than topped up. Strangely, we were automatically served a pomegranate mojito with the starter for some reason, delicious but much too sweet to drink with the meal.
Throughout, the service was efficient, friendly and encouraging with dishes being explained to us in some detail.

Summary: Great location and good service.
The food is well cooked and there is plenty of it but we felt we were unable to appreciate it. With everything arriving at once hot dishes go cold before you can eat them.
You may feel a little awkward consuming alcohol when everyone else around you is on soft drinks.
Probably a better place to eat a-la-carte rather than brunch.

DECEMBER 2015

Marina Brunch, Intercontinental Hotel

Having thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday seafood brunch upstairs we couldn’t wait to try the Friday one at the Intercontinental with tables outside overlooking the marina. We felt disappointed straight away. We would have loved to sit outside but there was almost no shade and even in December it can get a bit uncomfortable to eat in the midday sun. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem for some but most people chose to sit inside which felt dark and not at all what we wanted.
The buffet is spread over two interconnected restaurants, Chamas and The Yacht Club. We picked the former as it definitely has the most comfortable seating but found we were tending to select our food from next door. This is obviously going to be personal taste and really wasn’t a problem. However, the best seats with a view outside are allocated for smokers so the lure of the marina for us was negated completely.
The service was efficient and friendly, drinks filled up, cutlery changed and even napkins folded as soon as our backs were turned. The house drinks option includes a selection of cocktails and an unasked for Mojito “Welcome Drink” was brought to the table right at the beginning of the meal. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the cocktail, well made and plenty of spirit but too sweet for us at the start of a meal. Again this is a personal preference and others were obviously pleased to drink it. Instead, the waiter brought Neil a bucket of chilled beers and kept filling my glass with fizz so both happy there. The cocktail list came into its own for dessert.
The food reflected the restaurants it was served in – meat in Chamas, sushi and seafood in the Yacht Club. However, a rapidly refilled plate of pizza slices and a station literally just poaching eggs to add to your choice of breads and sauces was a nice touch, particularly the fresh truffle grated over my hollandaise. The desserts were fine but didn’t really stand out.

Summary: An efficient and popular brunch with some nice touches but could be so much better in the winter if they just sorted some shade for dining outside during the day. Not sure it’s one we would rush back to.

Update Revisited April 2016
It was a two-for-one offer that tempted us back to the Marina Brunch. With our expectations lowered and not paying full wack, our experience felt very different this time round. Knowing what to expect and that we wouldn’t be sitting outside gave us a different perspective. The service was excellent with drinks being topped up frequently without the need to ask and barbeque items brought to the table when cooked to order so we weren’t standing around in the heat. The food was very good if still not as extensive as as other brunches in the same (full price) range. That is perhaps the rub here as without the special offer I’m not sure it would feel like value for money.

FEBRUARY 2016

Olea, St Regis Hotel, Saadiyat Island

This is one of the finest hotels in Abu Dhabi and we went expecting a lot from their brunch especially as the price is definitely in our “special occasion only” range. So did it live up to expectations?
The location is beautiful. A light and airy restaurant opens up on to a terrace with views to a turquoise sea. The seating is comfortable but they really do pack you in. We were in a group of 14 adults on one long table with the upholstered arms of the chairs touching each other. This made getting to and from the table something of a performance and far from ideal for a self service buffet.
The staff were friendly and attentive while an excellent band performed on the terrace.
The food really was exceptionally good with some dishes you don’t normally get at brunches and all beautifully presented. For drinks the house beverages option revolves around cocktails, with several stations each specialising in a particular spirit plus a beer station so you weren’t waiting to be served. This worked very well except for the hassle of getting out from the table which meant you tended to “stock up” each time. Where the system fell down was with wine which was served at the table, an awkward procedure due to the lack of space, and didn’t include any fizz unless you paid for the champagne option. It does feel a bit ungracious to be picky about this but several of us would have preferred this to accompany the meal rather than sweet cocktails. I have to forgive them, though, as a room dedicated to a superb selection of cheese also had port to accompany it, something we have not seen at any other brunch.

Summary: Undoubtedly one of the best large brunches we have been to, particularly if you enjoy your cocktails and spirits. The entertainment is probably the best we’ve experienced, too. A bit overcrowded, though, and no fizz included in the house option.

APRIL 2016

Bravo Saturday Tapas Brunch, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Corniche

This Spanish restaurant is not one we had visited before but the introduction of a Saturday Brunch (this was their second week) attracted us. We loved it. Spanish food is a firm favourite of ours and the bar was set high. Our recent return to P&C at the Shangri La (see above) had disappointed us by not living up to an earlier experience. As the only other Spanish restaurant in Abu Dhabi (to our knowledge), Bravo has filled the void.
The salads and starters are arranged buffet style as are the desserts. In the middle is a large dish of Valencian style paella and was the best we had eaten in the UAE. Understandably it proved to be popular and so was perhaps not big enough for the occasion but as the head waiter explained they were still getting a feel for the whole brunch concept and how much to prepare.
Two courses of tapas dishes were then served at the table when requested and again would not disappoint a Spaniard seeking a taste of home although these were largely seafood based with the meatballs being lamb rather than the more traditional pork which suited us just fine. Lovers of the offal tapas would be frustrated but I think the chef knows his customers.
I was delighted to hear that the wines included with the brunch were also Spanish but I’m afraid these were the only disappointment. With so many wonderful, and cheap, wines to choose from I don’t know how they went wrong. The sangria, both red and white, were delicious, though, potent and not too sweet. Beers were the usual ones available everywhere.
With, among others, Crema Catalan and churros complete with chocolate sauce (tip them onto the plate and fill the glass they come in with the sauce to dip rather than pouring it over like me – messy if finger-licking good!) and a small selection of international cheeses back on the buffet tables to finish, well, what’s not to like?

Summary: A delightful, different brunch and a welcome addition to the growing number being held on a Saturday. Food is authentic and good quality although the wines could definitely be better. Service is friendly and efficient although staff are still finding their way a bit with the concept. It’s early days and they are definitely doing a lot right. We’ll be recommending friends give it a try but sadly we won’t be back as our time in Abu Dhabi is up.

This concludes our experiences of the UAE brunch. It is obviously a very personal account. They are evolving all the time and there are many more we haven’t tried but I hope this page has proved useful to somebody.

2 Responses to “Friday Brunches in Abu Dhabi”

  1. vinneve February 28, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    Wow you’ve been to a lot!

    • lamputts February 28, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

      Haha, we do rather like them.

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