The Jazzy Brunch at Olea - St. Regis Resort Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

The St. Regis and jazz have a long history, going as far back as the legendary rooftop ballroom at the iconic St. Regis  New York. In hospitality, you cannot think of one without the other. Abu Dhabi and Friday brunch, similarly, are so closely linked. Just move around the hotels on a Friday afternoon, and you will see what I mean. So, when I attended Friday brunch at the St. Regis Resort on Saadiyat island at their Mediterranean inspired all day dining restaurant, Olea, I was intrigued. Any hotel can offer jazz as a part of the entertainment, but jazz is in the fabric of The St. Regis. Did it all gel together in the end? 

Terrace seating
An eternal problem at brunches is the inability of people just to hold a line while the hostesses try their best to seat guests. You would think with 3 hours of eating that lies ahead people would be more patient and polite. That is an issue for me again this time, but I feel the hostesses do well in staying calm and simply doing the best they can. I need a follow up to an earlier blog in which I looked at brunch etiquette:

Anita and the band really connected with the guests.
We are seated close to the jazz ensemble. Perfect. The brunch accommodates up to around 300, with a substantial number of seats available on the terrace. Oh what a pleasure it will be in the weeks ahead when the temperature drops even more - the arresting site of the turquoise sea will make these seats enviable!

One of 4 live cocktails stations. There is also a  Sangria station.
It is a well-heeled crowd and people are dressed well, notwithstanding it is a resort hotel - a clear sign that this brunch attracts a lot of walk-in guests. For a brunch of this size there is a high staff to guest ratio. Very encouraging. Our waitress comes over and shows us the menu with the packages available. I like this. I cannot tell you how frustrating I find it when I have to hear staff stumble through introducing the packages. This, however, works brilliantly. She leaves the menu and offers us water in the meantime. No pressure. I can have a look at what is on offer and then make a choice. Impressed. A look at the Diamond package intrigues - It says 'A selection of premium wines recommended by our sommelier'. I also see a digestive trolley which includes Cognac and grappa. I opt for this, although I must say the quality in the other options look very inviting too!
Premium Champagne
Not long after, Aurelie, a very knowledgeable and passionate sommelier I had the pleasure of encountering at 55&5th  a couple months ago ( ). Now I know for sure that there will be a fine selection of wines. She pours Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV - they use the 1.5l bottle. It speaks of abundance, decadence and lest I forget, class. I like it. Complex and elegant and lively. For the next 15 minutes I simply take it all in. The jazz band starts getting into their stride. Staff move around topping up drinks and clearing plates. Pauline and Kimberley, in particularly, already stand out as I watch them interact so naturally and effortlessly with guests. 

I go to the Seafood cum cold mezze station. I like the idea of this dedicated area, but the enclosure does not work. It is cluttered and space to move inside is limited. I see a typical selection of seafood that you would expect at a top brunch. Highlights though are the sashimi that, based on the colour,  shout out freshness and large crabs. However, I choose some oysters. 

Bubbly, oysters and caviar - how indulgent!

At this time, the jazz band is really in the swing of things. The ensemble with guest performer Anita Williams produce a number of classic jazz pieces with a bit of a twist. Anita oozes sensuality and  a zest for what she does. I am not the only one that thinks so and applause comes from an appreciative number of guests. While a live band at a brunch is certainly nothing innovative, it works so well here because of that connection between the St. Regis and jazz. 

Live foie gras station available
 I then  visit the Foie gras station. A real 'live' station and I don't mind waiting. I watch the chef as he gets  a chunk of foie gras and adds it to the pan with with what looks like pieces of stewed apple and mushrooms. He then puts this on brown lightly toasted bread. While I find the foie gras slightly overwhelmed by the sweetness of the apple, I do enjoy it. 
Banana shallots on display
Wagyu prepared and trolleyed by Chef Uditha and his team. 
Chef de Cuisine Uditha comes around with the wagyu beef trolley. Nice concept. It allows him a chance to engage the guest actively through offering a slice of this fine beef. In addition to the peppercorn sauce, there is also a sauce from the jus of the beef with caramelized banana onions.

My daughter, meanwhile, is over at the dessert area (yes, that early!). Candy has been tastefully and interactively displayed on a wire tree. I see her jumping to get a bag. She gets it and a broad smile washes over her face. Next, I watch her as she tries to 'fish' out a  dessert. This is something nice for the kids. Small portions of  desserts enclosed in plastic balls bobbing on water. Again,a  different way of getting kids excited. Not every brunch needs  a candy floss machine! It makes one foget there is no kids area as such, but I over-hear a waitress offering a child some fries and nuggets. However, my daughter was quite happy with the pasta she enjoyed earlier. 

Kudos to the team for the top class cheese station.

A walk around the brunch reveals the usual stations, but extra special stations catch the eye - the Moroccan and Asian stations. But it is the cheese station that brings the biggest gasp from me. Charles de Gaulle reputedly once asked, 'How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?' Well there are not that many here, but around 26 is not too bad. Not bad at all! It is not just that the selection is noteworthy, it is the quality of the cheese as well as the presentation. Rightly, French cheese dominate and I enjoy Brillat savarin, Crottin, Neufchatel and Fourme D'ambert are just some of the cheeses on offer. Perfectly chosen jams and pureés make this one of the best - by far - cheese spreads in Abu Dhabi. 

Vergelegen at a brunch? Yes. 
I enjoy a plate of cheese with a South African wine, Vergelegen Cabernet Merlot 2010. This Bordeaux blend is richly coloured, intense and spicy. It is part of a selection of premium wines on offer - rare in Abu Dhabi at a brunch. I also note my favourite wine of this past Summer, an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and a Chateau de L'Aumerade 2012. All in all, there are around 8-10 choices. Finally, there is a digestive trolley that boasting Cognac, port, grappa and and whisky. Unparalleled. 

 It was quite an amazing brunch with a number of features which puts it in my top 5 brunches I have been to in the city - an outstanding range of dishes, service that checks absolutely all the criteria and easily the best drinks options of any brunch in Abu Dhabi. That word 'quality' comes to mind. The sommelier and Head mixologist on the floor ensured that the drinks on offer were without equal. Finally, the jazz, the jazz, oh the jazz.  The afternoon continued a rich tradition that is synonymous with St. Regis and the ensemble made sure those elements in the brunch were held together by the keys of the keyboard, the strings of the bass, the beats of the drums and of course the sensuality of the vocals. Now that was fabulous way to spend an afternoon in Abu Dhabi. A shame it had to end. 

The low down

The Jazz Brunch at Olea.
St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Abu Dhabi
971 2 498 8888

Silk Package 300Dhs
Juices and Mocktails
Pearl Package 395 Dhs
Prosecco and Spanish House wines
A range of cocktails
Diamond Package 495 Dhs
Louis Roederer Champagne
Premium Wine and Beers

Brandon Stoltenkamp



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