Ah, the glorious Dubai feast that is the Friday – or the slightly rarer beast, Saturday – brunch. Here are some fresh-to-the-city options for those of you tired of the old classics.
Play: Friday 12pm to 4pm
We LOVE the food at Play – the elegant restaurant run by What’s On Awards chef of the year Reif Othman is an intelligent ‘play’ on the flavours of East Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The brunch here feels like the kind of party a millennial Gatsby would throw – there are performers (only occasionally, so you won’t always be interrupted), a great lounge singer and plenty of beautiful people milling about. This is definitely one to put your ‘Friday best’ on for.
Food wise you’ll be served multiple little dishes – no soggy buffets here. The items served change all of the time – but when we went the sushi was perfection, we asked for seconds (well, thirds) of the crispy duck salad and the ‘mushroom pot’ was a glutinous bowl of umami goodness.
Great for: Special occasions – the food is excellent and the crowds are glamorous.
Best bit: The food and the singer (brunch entertainment isn’t usually that great – but the the man that turned up to sing an Adele rendition when we were there had truly world class pipes).
Worst bit: The brunch is quite performative and glitzy – it’s definitely an ‘experience’ – so not one to visit when you’re in the mood for a chilled meal with mates.
The H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Friday 12pm to 4pm, Dhs340 non alcoholic, Dhs440 with house drinks. Tel: (04) 336 4444. More info on website.
Morah: 12pm to 4pm
The pastel-hued Morah dining room looks particularly elegant during the day – and there are far worse places to spend a Friday afternoon than on the 71st floor of the JW Marriott Marquis, sipping interesting cocktails and eating Turkish eggs.
The brunch is a buffet/a la carte hybrid, and the food is excellent. From Turkish manti dumplings to fried chicken with za’atar and quail egg shakshouka, the dishes are far more interesting than your average brunch fare. The cocktails are pretty fancy too (and come as part of the Dhs350 house beverage package).
One caveat – there’s a DJ at this brunch, and they play the music loudly (which feels somewhat disparate to the dining room and the elegant food), so if you’re after deep and meaningfuls with mates, either try somewhere else or ask to sit in the downstairs portion of the restaurant.
Great for: A party vibe with city views and top-notch food.
Best bit: When the belly dancer comes out – she’s amazing, and it’s infectious.
Worst bit: The levels of the music – we usually don’t like a side of blaring EDM with our Turkish eggs (but this is subjective, and some people will love the buzz it lends).
JW Marriott Marquis, Business Bay, Dubai, 12pm to 4pm, Friday, Dhs250 non-alcoholic, Dhs350 with house beverages, Dhs450 with bubbly. Tel: (04) 560 1799. More info on website.
Prime68: Friday 1pm to 4pm
This high-end steakhouse on the 68th floor of the world’s tallest hotel recently launched a James Bond-themed “068 Brunch” (licence to grill… geddit?). It’s not hard to imagine the secret agent himself enjoying a tipple (shaken, not stirred) in this classy space with its deadly skyline views, as a live singer belts out Bond classics like “Goldfinger” and “Live and Let Die”. The a la carte brunch consists of seven courses, starting with a selection of creative amuse-bouches like beef tartar served in a tiny ice cream cone, and foie gras lollipops wrapped in cotton candy. Be sure to save as much room as possible for the main event, however – a platter of mouth-watering steaks, including Australian rib-eye and US prime short ribs, braised overnight. This is followed by an array of delicious sweet morsels, as well as a “top secret” dessert service (spoiler alert: it involves a chocolate ferris wheel). On a diet? Well, you only live twice…
Great for: As far as brunches go, this one is pretty sedate, and seems to attract an older crowd. You could safely take your parents along.
Best bit: Getting to “choose your own weapon”, aka steak knife, was a novel touch.
Worst bit: We weren’t asked how we wanted our steaks done. Luckily, they were cooked to (medium) perfection.
JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Business Bay, Dubai, Fri 1pm to 4pm, Dhs495 with house beverages, Dhs595 with sparkling, and Dhs695 with Champagne. Tel: (04) 414 6755. Metro: Business Bay. jwmarriottmarquisdubailife.com
Okku: Friday 12.30pm to 4pm
It’s one of the best Japanese restaurants in Dubai, and Okku’s new Friday brunch offering takes things to the next level. Start with a cocktail in the bar, helping yourself to fresh crab and shucked oysters as a tank full of neon jellyfish dance before your eyes. You’ll then be whisked down to the dining area, and served a beautiful platter of sushi. From here, you can choose from the menu of unlimited small plates, which include chicken karaage, seaweed salad, gyoza, calamari and (our favourite) ginger salmon sashimi. It’s tempting to fill up on these, but be sure to save room, because each diner then gets one choice from the large plates menu – we recommend the melt-in-your-mouth dynamite kani, a whole king crab leg coated in spicy mayonnaise. To finish, there’s a decadent platter of desserts to choose from, including green tea tiramisu, a Fuji apple tart, and chocolate brownies.
Great for: Big groups are best for sharing the dishes, Japanese-style, though we dined as a duo and still had no trouble getting through the menu.
Best bit: The atmosphere. The masterful DJ went from strength to strength with his 80s playlist, culminating in a restaurant-wide singalong of A-ha’s Take On Me. Glorious.
Worst bit: We were the last ones to be seated, which made for a slightly awkward wait in the bar area, worrying we were missing out on valuable brunching time.
The H Hotel Dubai, One Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Fri 12.30pm to 4pm, Dhs299 with soft drinks, Dhs399 with wines and spirits, Dhs449 for sparkling and cocktails. Children under 7 dine free, under 12 dine half price. Tel: (04) 501 8777. Metro: World Trade Centre. okku.com
Downtown Toko: Friday 12pm to 4pm
Toko’s secluded garden is a total gem, which is why we were excited to hear they’d launched a Garden Brunch to make the most of the space. The izakaya-style eatery offers a comprehensive set menu of Japanese and Chinese-inspired dishes, designed for sharing (we think the menu works best for two). There are a few surprises – think sweet corn tempura and sushi with cream cheese – as well as some smash hits, like a refreshing salmon sashimi salad and tasty BBQ hoisin chicken. There’s also a dim sum selection, which seemed slightly out of place, but was fun to sample nonetheless, and a dessert platter of delicious little morsels. Pacing was just right, and we never found ourselves feeling bored or over-committed as our food was brought to the table.
Great for: Chilled out chats in a tranquil setting.
Best bit: The crispy duck salad with pomegranate seeds and hoisin dressing was divine, as was the mochi ice cream.
Worst bit: There was a dust storm when we visited, so we weren’t able to enjoy the garden at all (though the restaurant interior is also lovely).
Vida Downtown, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, Fri 12pm to 4pm, Dhs190 for soft package or Dhs325 for house sparkling package. Tel: (04) 4428383. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. downtowntoko.com.
Bazxar: Friday 1pm to 4pm
With a theme of the Roaring Twenties, this Great Gatsby-inspired Friday brunch starts with an unlimited supply of starters and entrées that include shrimp popcorn, mac and cheese, and burrata pizza. Then select one main from a list that includes wagyu cheeseburgers, buttermilk fried chicken burgers and mushroom linguini. To end, there’s a dessert platter. It’s not really a brunch for those looking for high-end dining, but on the plus side, there’s a post-brunch ‘Happier Hour’, offering two for one on selected drinks until 8pm.
Great for: Fans of American diner food.
Best bit: The Get Your Freakshake On dessert with pretzels, crunchy KitKat and Nutella ice cream is comfort food at its best.
Worst bit: For some seasoned brunchers the dishes, although good, might be a bit too casual dining.
Gate Precinct Building 4, DIFC, Dubai, Fri 1pm to 4pm, Dhs295 with soft drinks, Dhs395 with house drinks, Dhs495 with sparkling rosé wine. Tel: (04) 3551111. Metro: DIFC. bazxar.com
La Cala: Friday & Saturday 1pm to 6pm
The food comes from the team behind The Scene by Simon Rimmer, while the music comes straight out of the Balearics. The whitewashed décor with alfresco loungers and tables on the edge of the water make it feel very different to the average brunch, while the Mediterranean food, pizzas and drinks don’t overcomplicate things. It also feels a long way from Dubai and hotel lobbies. Dog owners will be happy to hear that La Cala is pet-friendly, too.
Great for: Those who can’t wait to get back to Ibiza next summer and need something to tide them over.
Best bit: It all feels a lot more laidback than the average carnage of a weekend brunch.
Worst bit: Unless you live at the marina, it’s a bit of a cab fare there and back.
Villa 1, Ghantoot Marina & Resort, Ghantoot, Dubai, Fri and Sat 1 to 6pm, Dhs295 to Dhs349. Tel: (050) 1518407. Taxi: Ghantoot Marina & Resort. lacalabeach.com
360º: Friday 1pm to 4pm
It was once the place to go for sundowner drinks, and made something of a comeback this year with its Friday brunch. The deal includes unlimited house drinks and sharing plates of pan-Asian snacks including sushi, dim sum, Chinese black pepper Angus beef and seared marinated salmon.
Great for: People more interested in a relaxed setting rather than a full Bacchanalian feast.
Best bit: The setting here really makes it and knowing your drinks are included and unlimited saves the usual “how much for vodka and cranberry?!” outbursts often heard at 360°.
Worst bit: Sometimes it feels a bit like canapés rather than a full brunch.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, Fri 1pm to 4pm, Dhs295 to Dhs345. Tel: (04) 4068741. Taxi: Jumeirah Beach Hotel. jumeirah.com
La Cantine du Faubourg: Saturday 12pm to 4pm
La Cantine du Faubourg has brought Parisian food to the medium of long, lazy, Gallic lunches. French spécialités include croissants and pains au chocolat, specialty breads, waffles, crêpes, homemade jams, a diverse selection of eggs, croque-monsieur, burrata and asparagus risotto. Now the weather’s cooler, the best place to sit is outdoors on the stunning garden terrace for this classy slice of French lunch living.
Great for: Long civilised lunches focused on all-you-can-talk rather than all-you-can-eat-and-drink.
Best bit: The standard of food is excellent and the pergola setting is lovely.
Worst bit: A lot of the best dishes are breakfast food so it would have been nice to start a bit earlier.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai, Sat noon to 4pm, Dhs250 with soft drinks, Dhs380 with house drinks and Dhs495 with champagne. Tel: (04) 3527105. Metro: Emirates Towers. lacantine.ae
Ruya: Friday and Saturday 11am to 4pm
It’s double trouble at Ruya, the hottest new restaurant to open with chef Colin Clague at the helm. Fridays are dedicated to Dubai’s party brunch crowd while Saturdays are a more family-friendly affair. No matter which day you go, the food is all about classic Anatolian cuisine. Half buffet and half a la carte, you’ll find live food stations with starters and desserts, filled with Anatolian classics with a contemporary and fresh twist. Don’t forget to head outside where more food stations fill out onto the stunning terrace.
Great for: A sophisticated but lively brunch with smashing food – perfect for impressing guests.
Best bit: The dishes are thoughtful – from the outstanding oysters dripping in pomegranate jus to the beautifully prepared sashimi seabass. Many unique dishes are also brought to your table to try allowing you to sample more than you bargained for.
Worst bit: We’re clutching at straws to find fault here, but the lounge seating is very low and a little uncomfortable, making it that much harder to stuff your face.
Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina, Fri and Sat 11am to 4pm, Dhs225 with soft drinks, Dhs425 with house drinks, Dhs525 with sparkling Italian wine, Dhs625 with champagne. Tel: (04) 39988123. Taxi: Grosvenor House. facebook.com/ruyadubai