Get the weekend off to a good start with a decadent brunch, writes Janine Kelso
Forget eggs and orange juice – brunch in the United Arab Emirates is a seriously lavish affair with epic buffets, exotic cooking stations, oyster bars and unlimited bubbly.
Traditionally held on Friday afternoons – the beginning of the weekend in the UAE – many all-inclusive brunches are now also available on Saturdays.
Most brunch blowouts start around 12pm and end at 4pm, with prices ranging from £40 to £450 per person; rates are hiked up considerably when the package includes free-flowing booze.
Competition is fierce among the top hotels to deliver the best brunch, so while prices might seem steep, standards are high.Carolina Svensson, product and purchasing manager at Travel 2, says: “I’d recommend arriving early and eating slowly, to be able to sample as many of the dishes as possible.”
Brunch is a long-established tradition in the UAE and a must-do experience for any visitor to the region. Just be certain to remind clients to loosen their belts before tucking in.
1. Best for a brunch with a difference: Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
“Begin the weekend on a high note at one of the city’s most extravagant Friday brunches,” suggests Carrier reservations manager Vicky Holding.
Fans of Heston Blumenthal’s madcap cooking will go bonkers for this brunch’s new liquid nitrogen station, which serves up chilled treats including ice creams and sorbets.
Clearly a brunch that doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s also a Mad Scientist cocktail station and a Do Nut Judge stand, offering sweet and savoury doughnuts.
Diners eat alfresco on a sun-splashed terrace overlooking the resort’s pretty lagoon, while kids enjoy turtle-feeding sessions nearby.
Cost: From £76 including soft drinks to £94 with alcohol. jumeirah.com
2. Best for Peruvian food: Tesoro at Taj Dubai, Dubai
For those in search of a healthier dining option, point them in the direction of the Taj Dubai’s Tesoro restaurant for its fresh Peruvian brunch, where a raw bar is heaped with sushi and ceviche, Peru’s refreshing national dish of fresh fish marinated in citrus juices.
When the temperature cools, the brunch extends outside with surf and turf barbecue stations, while there’s chocolate fondue for those with a sweet tooth.
The feel-good factor is enhanced by the sweeping city views and the funky soundtrack provided by a DJ, who combines spinning records with playing the saxophone and Peruvian cajón drum.
Cost: From £45 with soft drinks to £89 with bubbly. tajhotels.com
3. Best for kids: The Market Place, JW Marriott Dubai, Deira, Dubai
Children are well catered for at this family-friendly Friday brunch, where a huge kids’ area houses a bouncy castle, colouring corner and giant flat-screen TV.
As well as face painting and cake decorating, there’s a candy buffet with vampire teeth, gummy worms and marshmallows.
Tell clients to turn up hungry because four restaurants take part in this mega-meal, where counters groan with Bavarian-style treats and Asian delights.
Cost: From £49 for adults, including soft drinks, and £67 with alcoholic drinks; £11 for kids aged from six to 12, while under-sixes go free. marriottdiningatjw.ae
4. Best for Grand Prix fans: Origins Restaurant, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi
Petrol-heads can soak up the F1 atmosphere at the recently launched Refuel at Our Pit Stop Brunch at Yas Viceroy’s Origins restaurant, where staff are kitted out in race overalls and guests are treated to knockout views of the Abu Dhabi race track.
Cooking stations offer cuisines from the world’s most famous race courses: think paella from Spain, sushi from Japan and wiener schnitzel from Austria.
Diners can finish up with traffic-light cake pops and mini racing cars made out of chocolate.
Cost: From £40 for a Mocktail Brunch to £176 for a Cristal Champagne Brunch. viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
5. Best for big appetites: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi
Dine like a king at the opulent Ritz-Carlton, where last year brunchers sipped 13,200 mojitos and devoured 3,800kg of lobster.
Worthy of the hype, this award-winning brunch has more than 30 cooking stations that serve up everything from Wagyu beef to succulent oysters.
For children, there’s a dedicated kids’ station, as well as 50 tempting puddings, including candy floss, popcorn, waffles and chocolate fountains. There’s even a welcome pack to keep younger guests entertained. The fun continues with an after-party at Sorso Bar.
Cost: £72 for the house beverages package and £54 for the soft drinks package. ritzcarlton.com
6. Best for Japanese food: Nobu, Atlantis the Palm, Dubai
For those craving a Zen brunch option, recommend this swish yet laid-back Japanese restaurant, where diners can graze on sushi, sashimi and miso soup, as well as an array of pimped-up western favourites, such as blueberry and yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) pancakes, topped with whipped cream and maple butter.
Those plumping for the boozy brunch can wash it all down in style with Japanese bloody marys, Perrier-Jouët Champagne, Asahi beer and sake.
Cost: Brunch costs £103 with alcohol or £68 with non-alcoholic drinks. atlantisthepalm.com
7. Best for adults: Saffron, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
Clients looking to let their hair down will love this award-winning brunch, which has a strict over-21s policy.
There’s a sumptuous selection of dishes, from Chinese dumplings to massive roast dinners, while fresh seafood is the restaurant’s speciality.
With drinks varying from cans of hops to mini bottles of bubbly, the party vibe is heightened by a DJ blaring out classic tunes.
Cost: £87 including soft drinks and house beverages. atlantisthepalm.com
8. Best for bubbly: The Chedi Muscat, Oman
Champagne flows freely at this indulgent Friday brunch. With a lofty chandelier-lit dining room and live piano music, the sophisticated ambience makes this a plum spot to while away an afternoon.
Four show kitchens serve up a tempting mix of Western, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian fare, followed by a huge array of heavenly desserts, all of which can be washed down with limitless bubbly.
It’s closed from July to mid-September.
Cost: £79 including Louis Roederer Champagne, wine and soft drinks. ghmhotels.com
9. Best for splashing out: Imperium, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai
Dripping with opulence, the regal setting of this French-themed dining room is ideal for those for whom money is no object. With live musical performances setting the scene, Dubai’s most expensive and exclusive brunch offers flavoursome gourmet fare prepared using the finest ingredients from around the world.
The ultra-wealthy can ramp up the wow-factor by splashing out on the priciest option – the aptly named Royale Brunch – which includes vintage Dom Perignon, beluga caviar and butler service.
Travel 2’s Carolina Svensson says: “The oysters, foie gras and beef wellington are my personal favourites. The presentation of the desserts is divine.”
Cost: From £59 for the Classic Brunch, including soft drinks, to £450 for the Royale Brunch. jumeirah.com
10. Best for desserts: Bubbalicious at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, Dubai
Spanning The Westin’s three main restaurants, this famous brunch features 10 cooking stations, with an eye-popping range of global cuisine, from a French Village with foie gras and crepes to an American Diner with sliders and doughnuts.
But it’s the decadent pudding section that really dazzles: cakes, tarts and gateaux are like pieces of art, and there’s even a dedicated chocolate table with chocolate buttons from across the globe and a chocolate fondue.
Glitzy entertainment is provided by Chinese acrobats and live bands, and there’s even a petting zoo for kids.
Cost: From £81 with soft drinks to £122 with free-flowing bubbly. westinminaseyahi.com
Make a reservation as early as possible, as the most popular brunch spots fill up quickly with locals, as well as visitors.
Fill up on the starters – pacing yourself is key to an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet, or you risk missing out on the decadent desserts.
How to sell
Turn a weekend break to Dubai into a more lucrative four or five-night stay by encouraging clients not to miss the traditional Friday brunch. If they fly on a Wednesday or Thursday, they’ll be over any jet lag by the time their all-you-can-eat brunch rolls around.
Ask the expert
Ian Scott, director, Dubai Tourism UK and Ireland:
“Brunches in Dubai are renowned worldwide and showcase a culinary scene influenced by 200 nationalities, offering an eclectic mix of local and international mouth-watering cuisine. Experience a unique take on the typical brunch at Vida Downtown Dubai’s Urban Picnic, while family-friendly options include The Market Place at JW Marriott Dubai, in Deira, and the super-luxurious offerings such as the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s, Royale Brunch. Brunch is an institution in Dubai and no visit is complete without experiencing it.”
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