The last brunch before Ramadan
With Ramadan kicking off next week, the regional institution that is the weekend brunch is put on hold for a month. To help you pick where you should have this last hurrah before the 30 day abstinence, here’s some Esquire recommendations that we’ve enjoyed recently. Be quick though, everyone will have the same idea so booking asap is advised…
The Okku Disco Brunch
Banishing the ‘line-up at the feeding trough’ approach adopted by most brunch spots, following a sophisticated welcome with some French bubbly, Okku serves a bespoke, twelve course menu throughout the afternoon. With signature classics like the Miso Black Cod and Wasabi Rock Shrimp all included in the 12-piece- feast, the only concern you should really have is pacing yourself well enough to enjoy each plate.
Don’t let this refined menu lure you into a expecting a similarly low-key, sophisticated vibe however, Okku’s brunch can more than hold its own in the post-dining party stakes. From 3pm (if not earlier) the music is cranked up, and what was a moodily lit restaurant space transforms into an 80s disco. Complete with red, green and orange hues lighting up the en-masse erratic dancing to an era of classic tracks from Prince to Abba. Sure, it’s a simple ploy to entice, but hey – it seems to work surprisingly well.
Fridays – 12.30pm to 5pm, Dhs399 with soft drinks
The Mass Mass Maya Brunch
For those brave enough to sit outside still, the Mas Mas Maya brunch at Le Royal Meridien gives its patrons access to the hotel’s expansive pool and beach area, both before, during and after brunch – though it’s worth noting that you can’t take any food or drink ordered during this time, out of the restaurant. That’s of relatively little concern anyway, Maya’s outside seating stretches out into the sun soaked gardens – so you’re still situated in a prime spot to spend the afternoon. And if it does prove a trifle balmy still, there’s a large restaurant indoors.
The menu is a-la-carte and essentially a smorgasbord of Maya’s finest Mexican offerings. The BBQ chicken salad is the pick of the starters, and the main event of rib-eye steak and marinated chicken fajitas is bolstered superbly with the option of Caribbean lobster tails and seasoned lamb chops.
After the bell tolls at five pm, your options are two-fold. Watch the sunset at the beach while you try and swim off the stone you’ve probably just put on, or, congregate with the emerging evening crowd at Maya’s outside bar, where the atmosphere is cranked up a notch and Dubai’s nightlife is your oyster…
Fridays – 1-5pm, Dhs350 with soft drinks, Dhs500 with selected alcoholic beverages
Maya, Le Royal Meridien, Dubai, maya-dubai.com
Far from the combined hen night and stag do atmosphere of many other brunches, this is a civilized affair in convivial surroundings. It also avoids the eternal disappointment of the buffet, surely the low point in social dining and little more than one step away from gathering around feeding troughs. Wolfgang Puck, on the other hand, does things correctly… and so should you.
Here you pay Dhs250 and choose a starter, main and dessert – just like a grown up. Because it runs from midday until 3pm there are still a lot late-breakfast options (such as blueberry pancakes) for those who enjoyed a lie in, and there are lots of vegetarian options so don’t let the fact it’s a steakhouse put you or your meat-avoiding friends off. In fact, the pumpkin ravioli here is one of the best things we’ve eaten anywhere this year – a real must-try dish.
Friday from 12-to-3pm,Dhs250 food only. Dhs550 including selected drinks
CUT, The Address Downtwon, address.comcut-by-wolfgang-puck.aspx
Pranzo Italiano at Roberto’s
Italian specific brunches are in seemingly short supply in Dubai, and while you’ll certainly find stereotypical dishes synonymous with this brand of European cuisine (think lukewarm spaghetti bolognese or various unimaginative lasagnes) at most brunch spots around the city, it’s more a case of there simply being lots of it, without any of it done particularly well.
Pranzo Italiano however, champions a quite superb à la carte menu, offering a select few dishes redolent of the street side eateries in Milan or Rome as opposed to the buffet cart at Spaghetti House. As with all à la carte offerings, the menu is short, clean and to the point, and while you’re bound to order everything on offer be careful not to miss out on the arrabiata soaked calamari starter, Grigliata di pesce or, quite frankly, any of the pasta dishes.
If you’re after a brunch that takes significant pride in its food, as opposed to colourful drinks concoctions drunk out of watermelons, you’d do well to find a better placed option than this DIFC delight.
Friday from 12.30-4.30pm, Dhs350 including soft drinks, Dhs450 including selected alcoholic drinks
Robertos, DIFC, Dubai, robertos.ae/home.html
Sass Cafe Brunch
The Monaco restaurant transferred well to DIFC largely because the south Mediterranean menu is so good. A greatest hits of food for hot weather, it’s all beef carpaccio with sundried peppers, burrata with cherry tomatoes and olive oil, glasses of crisp white wine then onto mains like lamb cutlets with braised balsamic onions and thyme jus and a beef fillet with smoked garlic and tomato relish. Of all the places we’ve eaten in the last year, Sass Cafe is right up there when it comes to the number of things that are great on the menu. There’s no dish that isn’t good and because this brunch works a la carte you know it’s going to turn up at your table in the best possible state, rather than some other brunches where you’re required to scoop things out of a tureen. This is the civilized and classy option for Saturday lunchtime.
Sass Brunch – Saturday from 1 pm to 6 pm
Sass Café Dubai, Al Fattan Currency House, Tower 2, Podium Level, DIFC, Dubai. sasscafe-dubai.ae
The Green Spices & Red Grill Thursday Evening Brunch
While ‘fusion’ cuisine has been done practically to death on the restaurant circuit here in Dubai, the Sofitel Downtown adopts a somewhat different strategy to the marrying of two different food types for it’s Thursday brunch offering. Held in the Red Grill restaurant – the hotel’s flagship steakhouse adorned with purple faux cow print seats and grand tables that spill out on to the terrace – the premise is once more, eat and drink as much as you like, but centered around an a-la-carte menu that includes the best dishes from both the Red Grill and the neighbouring Thai restaurant, Green Spices.
While you probably wouldn’t consider these two cuisines a particularly natural match, somehow it works. All the dishes are uniformly enjoyable – with the Australian Angus rib eye and Talay Pad Prink Pao warranting special mention – and the manageable portion sizes mean that ordering en-masse is all to easily encouraged. Service is efficient, staff are attentive, patient and never need to be asked twice. A rarity in the majority of restaurants in Dubai, particularly on the brunch scene.
So if you don’t fancy giving up your Friday to the all you can eat and drink cause this weekend, this is an ideal post-week wind down where a bit of light indulgence is the order of the day.
Dhs220 including softdrinks, Dhs290 including alcoholic beverages
The Red Grill, Sofitel Downtown, Dubai.
And if you fancy getting out of Dubai…
Tiki Brunch at Mai Tai Lounge
We’re into what we call the ‘destination brunch’ here at Esquire. And the Tiki Brunch at Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Lounge at the Hilton Al Hamra Beach & Golf Resort in the recently refurbished resort in Ras al-Khaimah, is a particularly fine example. You can leave the city, check into a suite overlooking the ocean, wander downstairs to a palm-fringed, sun-dappled terrace and enjoy a long, lazy lunch and an array of skin-tingling cocktails.
The Tiki Brunch concept ditches the over-tried-and-over-tested buffet and instead supplies diners with a succession of small tasting dishes, each sublimely cooked and imaginatively presented, which present an overview of the restaurant’s menu. Any dish can, at any time, be reordered, providing an appealing stick-or-twist approach to the experience.
Served side by side, the jalapeno popper and the wonton in sweet chili sauce were perhaps unusual bedfellows, but things soon got interesting with the chicken masala skewers and, in particular, the succulent beef skewers in a barbecue and peanut sauce, both of which were served on flame-heated, Aladdin’s lamp style trays. The joy of this kind of meal was immediately apparent: it’s about savouring each dish in turn, eating just enough to leave sufficient anticipation for its successor instead of crowding your plate with a pot pourri of clashing foods and styles..
Dhs220 including soft drinks, Dhs270 including selected alcoholic beverages
Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Lounge, Hilton Al Hamra Beach & Golf Resort, Ras al-Khaimah