Friday brunch - The Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi

The Ritz Carlton is grand. It is one of the largest Ritz properties in the world with more than 500 rooms, suites and villas. As you walk in through the magnificent lobby with its high ceiling, you feel the grandness, so to speak. Staff everywhere, in a variety of dress. I wonder what the staff to guest ratio is here. The grand piano takes its place prominent place too. The Ritz is opulent, large and ultra luxurious. And this was even before I was close to Giornotte, their all-day dining restaurant and venue for the highly regarded Friday brunch.

The pianist ensures that the mood is lively, yet cultured. 
As I approach Giornotte, I see staff offering some soft drinks in elegant flutes. We are met by one of the hostesses and shown to our table. The first impression is exactly the impression that the hotel lobby creates:  opulent, large and ultra luxurious. Again though, I see a lot of staff, or ladies and gentlemen waiting on ladies and gentlemen, as the Ritz prefers to call them. As we are seated, my waitress for the day, Charina, offers a map of the brunch. No, this is not a mistake. Why a map you might be wondering? Well, there are 23 stations! It is quite a spread. I am daunted, but armed with my map, I think it will be ok. However, I have an overwhelming sense of discomfort. It just feels too big. Will this feeling persist?

I enjoyed the brand of  Champagne
Nonetheless, as I sip on a glass of Henri Abele Champagne, I forget this concern. I enjoy the light bubbles, the pale golden colour and as I sip it, I love the full taste. Emboldened by this, I declare to all and sundry that I will not be lead to the delights around me by a map. I will follow my senses. I discard the map.

Pat of the rich oyster station.
I start off at the oyster station, and am surprised to see 3 types of Oysters - Irish, French and Scottish. I start with the Irish and am surprised again. The taste of the sea was very profound, and remarkably, no sediment. It all makes sense. Ashley, who is doing the shucking, does not believe in 'rinsing' the oysters which is customary at many other places. This means the oysters taste so fresh. I follow this up with Scottish and French oysters and enjoy all of them. My compliments to the shucker.

To to it all off, I was offered a finger bowl. Very nice indeed.

Next up is the foie gras station. There is one dish, and it it was so good I had two servings. The foie gras was sautéed and was beautifully presented on a bed of caramelized zucchini and pears. It is a slick operation. Delicious too.

Foie gras

Next up I decide to try the mozzarella salad. Again, a live station and the chef prepares it from scratch., well almost. He uses burratta. Wow! on the side he puts a slice of toasted bread with olive paste. Delicious. At this point a thought pops into my head: these dishes so far are all a la carte-worthy. The attention to preparation makes you feel the dish is prepared just for you. So, while I am one of 300 diners, it feels personal. 

The burratta would make it on to the a la carte menu at any high end restaurant.
In the meantime the Champagne keeps flowing. Our waitress is very alert as she tends to our table and three others in the area. I have a chat with Christian, the head chef at Giornotte, and learn so much about the philosophy behind serving quality dishes here - to be the best. He believes in the product on offer, and this is not just sales talk. He genuinely strives to ensure that he is team is producing the best dishes from the freshest ingredients. Christian is easy going, accessible and warm. I thank him, and continue my brunch. 

The presentation and quality of the dishes.

The pianist keeps things light and lively with a selection of tunes from classical to contemporary pop. I make a request for my daughter, but he has not played it before and does not have the sheet music. You know the song, the ever popular "Let it go" from Frozen. My daughter's heart sinks. However, a lull in the music reveals that the pianist has gone online and found the music. The piece makes its debut right there and then. This afternoon gets even better. I am grateful. It is the little things that matter.

Freshly made scallops 
After the mozzarella salad I  try the scallops. The plates are prepared on the side with pea puree and beetroot reduction. The chef then cooks the scallops and adds them to the plate -  the scallops are light with a firm but soft texture. Again, I am pleased. 

The presentation and quality of the dishes.

Just before dessert, I decide on the Wagyu, which I understand slow  cooks for 48 hours. Masterful, because when the chef cuts it, there is a rich  and deep pink colour. I enjoy it with some Hollandaise. Perfect.

Raclette with potatoes - something different from the cheese station. 

Lively, colourful and rich - the Dolce dessert station
Finally, I make a trip to the cheese station, or should I say Cheese room. Impressive - easily the widest selection of cheese I have encountered at a brunch. Next door is the colourful Dolce, where my daughter has a blast of a time picking her dessert. This is clever by Giornotte - with an established stand-alone outlet like Dolce, you are bound to have a marvelous dessert experience. It is bright, cheerful and so inviting. Not just for kids!

The presentation and quality of the dishes. 

Thus ended my brunch. I looked at my discarded map again, and realized how few stations we actually visited. My daughter had not even been to the kids' station. This is when I realised that a brunch of this magnitude can be what you want it to be. It is possible to escape a lot of the people traffic if that is  a turn off. The sheer quality on display here will stay in memory, as will the staff to guest ratio. Outstanding.

 The brunch at Giornotte is excellent because while covering a  large space, it was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be. If any restaurant wants to see what a live cooking station is, a visit to this brunch will do. It is not just carving beef or putting food on your plate. This is one of the things this bunch does so well. Coupled to this is the sensitive and thought out presentation of top quality food food on your plate, and you forget the size of the brunch. 

Nice. Very nice indeed. Very very nice. 

The bottom line

Friday Brunch
Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 818 8282

AED 490 ++ Bubbly package 
AED 340 ++ House beverages and soft drinks package AED 240 ++ Food only package 
Price for children: AED 45++ (below 12 years) AED 190++ (13 to 16 years) Children under 4 years eat for free.