Top 10 brunches in Dubai

Vida Downtown picnic brunch

Vida Downtown Dubai’s picnic brunch

Believe it or not, Dubai has its very own Wikipedia entry under brunch – alongside you’d think New York perhaps, but no rather bizarrely, Canada. No other country or city features. Why is brunch here in Dubai such an institution, more so than anywhere else in the world?

It was Fairmont’s Spectrum on One that launched the first champagne brunch in Dubai nine years ago, a successful model many have since copied. I have friends who religiously book a brunch deal every Friday, and am talking the all-singing-and-dancing, free-flowing champagne variety, not your cheap and cheerful slap-up meal at a neighbourhood café. Some have their favourites. Others pick a different hotel or restaurant every week. If the requests I receive for brunch recommendations are anything to go by, this top-of-the-bucket-list experience is not just confined to residents, but holidaymakers and business travellers.

Aside from the obvious breakfast meets lunch combo, where did brunch originate? There are many online references, but it appears the term brunch was first coined in Great Britain in 1895 by writer Guy Beringer who described it as, “Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savoury pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” Brunch was initially championed by hotels since many independent restaurants closed on Sundays – and in the West many still do.

Despite the name combining breakfast and lunch, most brunches here don’t actually dish out brekkie (apart from the odd eggs benedict) and don’t start serving until noon at the earliest. Friday aside, we’re seeing brunches now on Saturday – either all-you-can-eat buffet spreads, or more refined à la carte options served sharing style.

So Spectrum on One aside, here are FooDiva’s top 10 picks for brunch in Dubai (in alphabetical order) – all tried and tasted – and unlike some of my friends, I don’t brunch frequently, so you can just imagine how many months it’s taken me to eat my way through this round-up

  1. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirahso huge, at one point they handed out a map to guide you through the food stalls spread across the terrace and the three restaurants on the ground floor. My vote goes for the Spanish cheese and charcuterie selection, jamon Iberico included in Al Hambra. Friday 12.30-4pm. AED 450 with soft drinks, AED 550 with sparkling wine, wine and cocktails, AED 250 for kids aged 4 to 12. No champagne option. T; +971 4 3666730. E;
  2. Blades, Al Badia Golf Club, Festival City – soon it will be picnic time on the lawn overlooking Intercontinental golf course. Picnic basket aside, there’s a grill station, pork haven, candy land and cheese display. If you’re averse to kicking off your sandals and sprawling over the grass with a low level Japanese tatami table, regular seating is available. Saturday 12-4pm. AED 265 with soft drinks, AED 365 with house beverages. Sadly they have removed the champagne option. T; +971 4 7011127. E;
  3. The Palace Downtown - Ewaan brunch

    The Palace Downtown’s Ewaan brunch

    Ewaan, The Palace Downtown – a little bit of a Dubai secret , this intimate buffet-style brunch at the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant serves a small selection but with high quality ingredients. The Russian caviar rye bread ‘blinis’ prepared on the spot are FooDiva’s top pick, as is the Argentinian meat from sister restaurant Asado. Save room for deep-fried ice cream. Friday 12.30-4pm. AED 245 with soft drinks, AED 390 with house beverages, AED 450 with Laurent Perrier champagne. T; +971 4 4287806. E;

  4. Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen, Le Royal Meridien Dubai – if you love soaking up rays with a margarita in hand, then this brunch seals the deal. Tex-Mex dishes are served at the table along with unlimited pitchers of your favourite cocktail. The price includes beach and pool access for the day so head across in the morning and stay as long as you like. Friday 1-4pm. AED 350 with soft drinks, AED 450 with cocktails or wine. T; +971 4 3165550.
  5. Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel – spread across the hotel’s four restaurants with Chinese, Italian, Arabic and Indian food stations decking the hallway…and wait for this…separate rooms with pork charcuterie, cheese and dessert. Out of all the brunches hand-picked here, this one is probably the most family friendly with a play area and magician on hand to keep kids entertained. Friday 12-4pm. AED 295 with soft drinks, AED 395 with alcoholic beverages, AED 495 with Laurent Perrier. AED 95 for children between 6 and 12 years old, and under sixes eat for free. T; +971 4 4440000, E;
  6. Nasimi beach brunch

    Atlantis’ Nasimi beach brunch

    Nasimi Beach, Atlantis The Palm it was bloody steaming when I tried this newbie beach brunch earlier this month but thankfully the humidity levels have dropped and weather is blissful. So if you fancy lounging on plush all-white loungers, whilst waiters bring over never-ending tapas to the tune of a saxophonist then this one’s for you. Saturday 1-4pm. AED 250 including one Absolut vodka cocktail carafe of your choice. T; +971 4 4262626, E; 

  7. Rare, Desert Palm by Per Aquum Dubai – you may think this spot is out in the sticks but it’s only a 20-25 minute drive. An intimate buffet set up in the steakhouse Rare, but with the weather cooling down its terrace is my pick for serene views across the polo field. Good news the new chef at the stove has upped the ante and the food is top notch. Friday 12.30-4pm. AED 395 including six different wine pairings and unlimited Taittinger champagne. If you book through Lime & Tonic, they will throw in an additional half-bottle of Taittinger Cuvee per person. T; +971 4 3238888. If you’ve not yet registered with Lime & Tonic, this link will throw in an AED 50 credit.
  8. Traiteur, Park Hyatt Dubai – French all the way here. Think individual ramekins of foie gras crème brulee and garlic infused escargots served from the open-plan kitchen. Meander through to hand-pick your fare. Seating both inside and on the terrace with full view of a spit-roasted suckling pig. Friday 12.30-4pm. AED 450 with soft drinks, AED 550 with wine, beer, sparkling wine and a pricey AED 670 for free-flowing Veuve Clicquot champagne. T; +971 4 3172221.
  9. Zuma, DIFC – start off buffet-style with the robata grill, sushi and sashimi, followed by one main course from a brunch menu and back to the buffet for desserts. Small selection but high on quality. Friday 12.30-3pm. AED 315 with soft beverages and freshly made juice concoctions, AED 425 with wine, sake tasters and sparkling wine, AED 550 with Taittinger. T; +971 4 4255660, E;
  10. 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai – only in Dubai do we head to a hotel for a picnic. This sexy newbie has taken the picnic brunch one step further with a quirky urban take of serving brunch in cabanas by the pool. Grab your hamper and fare from the carb-filling wholesome buffet. Seafood platters and barbequed meats are served at the table. Friday 1-5pm. AED 225 with soft drinks, AED 295 inclusive of booze but not bubbles. I hope they will add a champagne option. T; +971 4 4286823.

So have I missed any of your favourite brunch spots? Are you a brunch person? Or do you head elsewhere for a less raucous weekend lunch? Next up, a round-up of alternative weekend lunch spots so do drop me a line with your preferences.

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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24 Responses to “Top 10 brunches in Dubai”

  1. Dave Reeder October 21, 2013 at 9:20 am

    A reasoned assessment of this strange Dubai phenomenon. Personally, I prefer the US style with a champagne cocktail or two, an egg dish, some patisserie and a good selection of Sunday papers, but… The only brunch I ever truly enjoyed in Dubai was at the late lamented Cellar in the Aviation Club, where food was unlimited but cooked to order from a small menu. Talking to chefs, I’m seeing a push back against the massive brunch spread with new hotels like Oberoi deliberately going the tapas route. A panel I moderated at The Hotel Show with chefs revealed their horror about the waste of food at these affairs – even when people are full, they explained, they still expected the buffet to be constantly replenished because it had “been paid for”. This is food as conspicuous consumption not food as pleasure! Lastly, is Le Meridien still doing that ridiculous Thursday evening ‘brunch’? Do words not have meaning any more.

    • FooDiva October 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      Agh yes the Cellar, brilliant a la carte brunch agreed Dave. I adored that restaurant and as much as Jumeirah’s Creekside hotel has a a stunning boutique feel, its replacement restaurant Nomad is so disappointing. I believe the reason Oberoi has gone down the tapas route is both the kitchen and the restaurant don’t have the capacity for more…good marketing spin though! Which Meridien are you referring to? The Airport with Yalumba? Yhey have a Friday brunch, not Thursday night, or at least not any more.

      • Dave Reeder October 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

        It was Le Meridien at the Airport and not in Yalumba. Can’t remember the timing but in was in Warehouse in the year that opened. Given some dreadful name… Hamm – ah, yes – Dunch! Dinner and lunch, gettit? Oberoi’s kitchen is pretty spacious for the number of covers they’d see at a traditional brunch. Having spoken to him at some length, I do think Executive Chef Dirk really doesn’t want to walk a traditional route.

        • FooDiva October 22, 2013 at 8:44 am

          The Warehouse brunch runs on a Friday day…but it does continue into the night. It’s a small a la carte menu but the quality of the food is not that great. The drinking does continue into the night though! I think you are referring to Spectrum on One’s drunch on Thursday evening. That’s relatively new and I’ve not tried it yet.

  2. Sally - My Custard Pie October 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Fantastic round up. I get a bit overwhelmed with some brunches. I haven’t been to Carters for years for brunch but used to be a great option with breakfast choices (egg benedict, pork bacon etc) and a roast.

    • FooDiva October 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Thanks Sally. Gosh I used to frequent the Carter’s brunch when I first arrived here many moons ago…used to be 65Dhs if I remember correctly for as you said the classic breakfast dishes and carvery too. Great delicious memories 🙂

  3. GA October 21, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I am with Sally brunches totally overwhelm me and as a family we never go for the alcohol options ever. There are very view non alcohol ones around that I feel are good value for money especially when you can dine at somewhere like Fraiche for well below the 100 AED a head mark. I did think the Thai Chi lunch deal for 119 dhs was good though as the food choices were amazing (avail on Fridays). We recently did the Radisson Blu Deira brunch (PR invite) 149 AED pp which entitled us to dine in all their outlets. My favourite though non because of its outstanding food selection or the price (39 AED pp) is my local Iranian Caspian. Relaxed, informal and I know all the staff.

  4. FooDiva October 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I am with you GA too…some brunches are so daunting but I think we’re in the minority here. Your recommendations sound great, I’ll check them out as many peeps want to avoid the booze-fuelled options. There are so many weekday business lunch deals, but not that many on weekends from my research so far.

  5. Mrs Bubbly October 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Which one are we going to? Or any others that u havent had the time to try yet? Dont lpm do one?!

    • FooDiva October 22, 2013 at 8:50 am

      LPM certainly does not do one, and neither does La Serre. Not quite the image they want to portray! But we can easily do lunch at the latter as you wanted to go anyway. Or else just pick one of these…needless to say champagne will be the deciding factor 😉 We also have our day at Al Maha to squeeze in. Itinerary will be planned 😉

  6. Amanda October 23, 2013 at 1:51 am

    What happened to Westin with Laurent Perrier that was impressive to me! that doesn’t make top 10 then I can’t wait to try some of these places in my next visit!!! X

    • FooDiva October 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      It was number 11 Amanda 😉 I had to draw the line somewhere and whilst Bubbalicious is very decadent I think it’s way too large and spread out to fully appreciate all the food. Next time plan to be free on Friday 🙂 xx

  7. Zeena October 29, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I thought the brunch at Meydan was pretty good. Amazing view as well! Way too pricey though.

  8. FooDiva October 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I’ve not tried and tasted that one Zeena. What’s the deal there? Thanks.

  9. Chris January 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    If you want brunches that are less intensive, you can go to the smaller hotels, and the brunches are more affordable as they lack the entertainment, like C.Taste at Centro hotel in Barsha.

    • FooDiva January 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      Thanks Chris. I’ll keep that one in mind 🙂

  10. Shawn January 26, 2014 at 11:23 am

    The Lodge Friday Brunch in Al Nasr Leisureland was , in my humble opinion, the first brunch available in DXB back in the early 90s. Real english breakfast and a roast dinner in the afternoon, oh the memories! yep…thats how I grew up! :o)

    • FooDiva January 26, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      You’re probably right it did beat the Fairmont Shawn…gosh the good old days when Dubai was a little village. I do miss it 🙂

  11. Hanan February 16, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I would like to draw your attention that I remember having a champagne brunch on a Friday at Al Muntaha in Burj Al Arab late 2000 or early 2001. That would make much earlier than Fairmont’s brunch which is still my favorite.

    • FooDiva February 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Thanks for the heads up Hanan. I’ll look into this for a future brunch round-up 🙂

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