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Gentleman’s guide to Dubai brunches

Make the most of your weekend at these Friday and Saturday brunches that take your palate around the world

It’s easy, and that’s exactly how weekends should be.

The idea of brunch might have originated in England and been popularised in the US, but Dubai has perfected it. Clever people on our sandy shores took the idea of a lazy midday meal and threw everything but the kitchen sink at it — although, I’m sure an intensive search might reveal at least one outlet incorporating that feature.

Be that as it may, the Dubai brunch is an institution. Heck, you could even say Dubai is brunch. Generally featuring mountains of food and oceans of beverages, some focus on a theme, others highlight a geographic region, yet more have even moved it to nighttime — and unironically kept the portmanteau of breakfast and lunch.

But with so much choice, it could be challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff (or the chavs, if you will). After all, we could all be more socially responsible in our consumption; avoiding the buffet, and instead opting for table service brunches, is an easy way of limiting food wastage.

Here, then, is Debonair’s pick of some of our favourites incorporating international flavours.

It’s easy, and that’s exactly how weekends should be.

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#1. Hotel Cartagena

We love a great grown-up brunch, and that’s what Hotel Cartagena promised. But when our waiter introduced herself as Tequila, it could have gone either way. Thankfully, the tipple she recommends is the Muestra No.8, produced from 100 per cent pure agave, so this doesn’t turn into a drunken party.

The venue is a tropical wonderland — literally. There are plants and greenery everywhere, even dangling from the ceiling, adding an escapist quality to the Friday brunch. From its perch at the top of the JW Marriott Marquis, the venue boasts 360-degree views of the city, but the jungle décor is enough to entice you inwards. Bohemian and flamboyant, the interiors come Instagram-ready.

The music is upbeat, but never so loud that you can’t carry a conversation.

Food wise, it offers an à la carte sharing concept through South American and Caribbean cuisine. Our table was split equally between meat eaters and vegetarians, and impressively neither group ever felt they were missing out.

Nachos with an inspired guacamole, salsa and black bean paste make for a great start, built on by warm empanada. The standout among the starters is definitely red snapper ceviche, served with an unusual avo sorbet that somehow highlights the sweet notes in the fish.

Meat-eaters can’t go wrong with the red meat offering. Although we found the braised Wagyu short rib a tad dry, we could appreciate the Puerto Rican flavours. The lamb chops are nice and fatty with slightly sweet tones. The fat retained those great flame-grilled flavours, and goes perfectly with the chimichurri.

End on a sweet note with a desert tower — the passion fruit tres leche is a must-have.

#2. Café Belge

This Friday brunch at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC comes with a healthy dose of vintage glamour, but takes a contemporary approach with the food. Inspired by 1920s Brussels, it’s one of the biggest on our list but also one of the most stylish — champagne flows freely, and live musicians add to the upbeat vibe.

Centred around 17 live cooking stations, this one’s perfect for groups and even families. We have a penchant for foie gras, and that buttery treat is pan-fried fresh and served on lightly toasted bread. The oyster bar is a standout and always popular — time your visit well.

Of course, few things are as Belgian as mussels, so be sure to stop at this station. Other regions and cuisines are represented at stations dedicated to everything from barbeque at an outdoor pit to a dim sum and Turkish delicacies.

The restaurant also has a Saturday brunch, which follows a Retro theme.

#3. Little Miss India

As with the brunch above, no points for guessing where this one takes you.

Little Miss India at the Fairmont The Palm takes a casual approach to Indian cuisine on Saturdays. The focus is on families and groups, which fits the sharing concept of the cuisine. Although it’s focused on relaxation, the venue is always high on energy, which comes through in its vibrant interiors.

Based around three courses served to the table, the curries are standouts. Concerned more with flavour than bite, this is spice done right.

Stay on for sundowners overlooking the Dubai Marina skyline.

#4. Traiteur Brunch

The restaurant that gives this brunch its name was one of the highlights of Dubai’s culinary scene for years, and this concept upholds that tradition.

Set on the banks of the Dubai Creek, The Promenade offers a chic and relaxed environment for a stylish afternoon out. About as French as it gets, highlights include freshly shucked Fine de Claire oysters, pan-seared foie gras and Burgundy snails. There are more cheese varieties than you could wish to sample, or you could eat your weight in buttery lobster.

We’ve previously written about our approval of the joint-concept venue; you can read our full review here.

#5. The Lion by Nick & Scott

We’ve been fans of Nick Alvis and Scott Price since they left Gordon Ramsay to set up their own restaurant in the white-tablecloth Table 9. Folly is one of our favourite sundowner spots (with possibly the best cocktail barman in the city), and we appreciate how unpretentious its take on fine dining is.

With The Lion, however, the two take a very different approach — a laid-back everyman’s pub, but with slightly better food than at your local watering hole.

Yes, it’s British pub grub, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Sausage rolls — on point. Chicken wings — order extra. Burger — don’t even think of sharing. The menu, served to the table, also has some delicate flourishes such as a superior chicken pate and a deconstructed apple crumble.

The best thing about this venue is that it’s very low key, so perfect for those Fridays when you want to go incognito. And the three-hour packages start whenever you get there, so you don’t have to fight the rest of the city for a taxi to get to brunch.

It’s easy, and that’s exactly how weekends should be.

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