Top 10 brunches in Abu Dhabi
One of the greatest pleasures in the UAE is Friday brunch. Brunch is what you want it to be. For some, it is a chance to have some wonderful dishes in a relaxed environment. For others, it is all about free-flowing wine as they try to challenge Bacchus, and in many cases that vino is champagne. In the three years I have lived in Abu Dhabi, I have seen a change in the brunch concept. Discerning and seasoned brunchers (my word) are tiring of the usual ‘live’ stations and are yearning for something new. The last year has seen the concept shift from all-buffet, to half buffet and half a la carte, and in some cases to solely a la carte. Whatever you want, it is here.
With this round-up of top 10 brunches in Abu Dhabi, I have balanced location, ambiance, quality of dishes, drinks, service, value for money, and as I am a father, how child friendly it is. So here we go, in alphabetical order:
- Aqua – set in the gorgeous Rosewood hotel, Aqua is a smaller and cosier brunch showcasing dishes from its Catalan and Spice Mela restaurants. You have to try the wagyu and foie gras sliders. Aqua also offers the best kids’ brunch in the city, with a superb separate area for them. They will not want to leave. NV Veuve Cliquot Brut is the champagne of choice. The staff here bring something special to the brunch – you will know their names before leaving and they will remember you on your return.
- Fairways – following its Dubai sister, the Westin’s brunch is also Bubbalicious and is set in one of the most gorgeous all-day dining restaurants in the city. Natural earthy tones, the sound of flowing water and large windows with views across the lawn are a major draw card. While catering for 350 guests, various pockets of seating means you never feel it is a mammoth brunch. The seafood station is one of the most impressive in the city, with Canadian lobster, Atlantic crab and Fine de Claire oysters the highlights. Plus, there is a cheese station overflowing with 35 varieties. Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial makes your afternoon even better. The post brunch party continues on the lawns with a tent selling reasonably priced drinks. Kids are able to run freely.
- Koi – this Japanese brunch at The St Regis Collection on Saadiyat island is set in a smaller venue so you are not intimidated by streams of diners. It’s one of the few brunches in Abu Dhabi to offer a la carte, going against the stream, pun intended. In a brunch culture where big is best, Koi is intimate with a very impressive menu. Make sure to try the Chilean seabass tofu salad prepared by Koi’s young executive chef. His adventurous spirit from his time spent in California translates into the dishes. Duval Leroy Brut champagne flows.
- Market Kitchen – this Jean-Georges Vongerichten inspired restaurant concept at the Royal Meridien is new on the Abu Dhabi dining scene but has already carved a niche for itself as a restaurant where ingredients are paramount. Another one whose brunch is a la carte – look out for signature Jean-Georges dishes like the black truffle and fontina cheese pizza. Laid back, but also classy and sophisticated. The drinks options include 15 wines by the glass, and of course champagne, in this case Taittinger Brut.
- Nahaam – set in the iconic Jumeirah Etihad Towers, this is the only brunch that offers not one but two pork stations, with cold cuts inside and a BBQ on the terrace. It’s one of the very few brunches in Abu Dhabi to offer a choice of champagne – Veuve Cliquot Brut and its Brut Rosé sister. Post-brunch, go up to Ray’s Bar on the 62nd floor and continue the party with sweeping views of the city and one of the most extensive cocktail lists I have ever come across.
- Olea – as you arrive at St Regis on Saadiyat island and look through the floor to ceiling windows, the turquoise sea cannot be missed. It is a large, jazz themed brunch with terrace seating. Some outstanding elements are the Wagyu beef trolley that makes its rounds, and the quality selection of cheeses. There are not many brunches in Abu Dhabi that have a sommelier, as well as a head mixologist on the floor. In addition to Louis Roederer Brut champagne, premium drinkers can enjoy a choice of around eight fine wines. With five cocktail stations, this is clearly a brunch with some of the best drinks options. Faithful to the spirit of the St. Regis, guests are treated to some jazzy tunes by a very dynamic performer.
- Pearls & Caviar – this stylish and perennial seafood favourite at the Shangri-La is one of the smaller and more intimate brunches, even though it’s a buffet. If you cannot find anything to your liking from the seafood dishes (unlikely though), the roaming chefs will be more than happy to prepare a dish for you. I highly recommend the seabass risotto – a perfect accompaniment to the Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royal Brut champagne. The gorgeous location on the Maqta canal has stunning views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The brunch party moves on to Pearls Bar and continues late into the night. Be sure to dress chic.
- Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Canal – this brunch is so big it has its own map of all the buffet stations. It is the only brunch to boast a dedicated cheese room, as well as a stand-alone dessert outlet – the latter would make Willy Wonka proud! With many chefs on the floor, the dishes are worthy of an a la carte menu – the burrata, foie gras and scallops in particular. The champagne on offer is a smaller brand, Henri Abelé Brut.
- Safina – Saadiyat Beach Club (previously Monte Carlo Beach Club) boasts a new addition to the Abu Dhabi brunch scene. Set on a natural stretch of beach on Saadiyat island, the buffet brunch affords breathtaking sea views. Despite the seafood focus, one of the highlights is the live al fresco Wagyu grill. There’s even Dom Perignon 2004 champagne for the pricier package, making it the only brunch in Abu Dhabi to offer a vintage champagne. And if that is too decadent you can go for NV Louis Roederer.
- Zuma – one of the brunches to be seen at in Abu Dhabi. Part buffet, part a la carte, particular care is given to sourcing the best products. I am hard pressed to find dishes to recommend because of the general high standard, but try the wrapped yellow tail in ponzu sauce and the spicy beef tenderloin with grade 9+ Wagyu. And just for good measure, Taittinger champagne is served. A live DJ makes for a vibrant atmosphere.
So do you have any brunch favourites from this round-up, or any more worthy of a mention?
Who’s FooDiva’s new guest reviewer? Brandon Stoltenkamp seeks to show a strong connection between food, drink and words from his base in Abu Dhabi. He is an F&B consultant, who is also passionate about writing. He writes for the UK’s champagne magazine, Glass of Bubbly, as well as a blog Mitsukiemma, inspired by his daughter. He believes restaurants are in the wrong business if they are serving just food – they should be serving emotions and memories.