Friday brunch @PizzaExpress - The Hub, World Trade Centre Mall, Abu Dhabi

Finally! A place where I can enjoy pizza with a glass of wine without going to a hotel or high-end establishment. PizzaExpress at World Trade Centre Mall in Abu Dhabi  breaks the mould by offering some Italian fare in a venue that also allows some bubbly.

Abu Dhabi likes new things

I recently tried their brunch. It is housed in The Hub, a venue with licenced restaurants in one corner of the mall. This is really an exciting venue not just in the mall, but in the context of Abu Dhabi as a Food & Beverage destination. It is the oft-expressed view that not everyone wants to have a drink in a hotel. The restaurant is bright and colourful, nicely sized, while a terrace adds another dimension. Take note though that the terrace is unlicensed but plans are afoot to ensure that not before long you will have your beer or wine on the terrace. 

Finally, a genuine jazz experience

You have read my posts I am sure in which I talk ad nausea about how tired jazz is getting at brunches. Thankfully, PizzaExpress has come up with something unique - a genuine jazz offering by a 6 piece band, Downtown. They put the jazz in Jazz@Pizzaexpress. You can see that these are seasoned musos who own the stage with confidence. They know who they are, and are at ease with their identity. That somehow releases and frees them to enjoy themselves and to belt out some classic jazz tunes. But more Diana Krall than Nina Simone. Nice!

The food

The first thing that struck me about the brunch was that not everyone was there for brunch. A couple came in and ordered from the a la carte menu - a pizza and a couple beers. Brilliant. This makes the restaurant very accessible. Amazing as this sounds to brunch loyalists, not everyone likes brunch. This allowed me to order a dish from the a la carte menu to complement the rest of the brunch menu. The burrata is a must on the a la carte menu!

In terms of starters, I recommend you as for a selection of starters. The brunch offers a lot of carb-heavy dishes like pizza and pasta, so pace yourself. The shared starter platter is a must for a group of 2 or 4. Have it customised by saying what you want to have included. Expect portions of Bruschetta, Mini fungotto, the latter being mushrooms stuffed with goats' cheese, Meat balls and some delightful peppadews and olives. You will be tempted to have starter after starter, which in itself will make brunch complete as long as the Prosecco is flowing. 

When it comes to main courses, you can have a couple salads, 2 pasta dishes and 4 pizzas. That is a lot of food. We had the Beetroot & Goats' Cheese salad which was disappointing because the balance of ingredients was not there - very little beetroot for example. Next,  I had the Quinoa & chicken salad but it was a bit bland. However, these were the only downers in an otherwise nice selection of dishes. On the pizza side, I recommend the Pollo Forza which was deliciously spicy. 

You will be spoiled with drinks. There is a nice selection of easy drinking wines as well as Prosecco, cocktails, house spirits and beers complete the alcohol selection. But don't forget there are also some really good mocktails for those on the softer package. 

Family friendly

This is one of the most family-friendly brunches in the city. The kids' menu offers 4 types of pasta, 4 pizzas and 3 desserts. The choice is fantastic. While my daughter was not with me at this brunch, I know she would have loved the variety. There are little things that reflect how much thought has gone into making it family friendly. For example, there is a baby room where parents can change their baby's diapers. See, family friendly has nothing to do with clowns and face painting. 

The Verdict

While I see a great deal of room for improvement in service, the issues I encountered are easily fixed with a bit of back to basics stuff. The PizzaExpress brunch is something fresh and exciting and should make parents with kids feel they may have found a brunch that really caters to their kids while not costing the proverbial arm and a leg. At 229 AED net, the value is obvious, especially if you look at the menu. As an a la carte brunch it enters that space that has so far been the domain of a handful high-end dining establishments. For me, it was a refreshing change from hotels. Finally, as I sat there, I kept thinking I wish my daughter had been there with me because I knew she would have loved it!

The Essentials

The Hub,
World Trade CentreMall,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 444 7752

Soft drinks package 129AED net
House Beverages 229AED net

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I was invited to try Jazz@PizzaExpress by the restaurant.