Friday Brunch at Crust - Four Seasons Hotel, Abu Dhabi

The Four Seasons Hotel, Abu Dhabi. It is probably, in my mind, three of the most anticipated hotel openings over the last 5 years. The brand carries something special for many, be it an Afternoon tea experience in Hong Kong or a sundowner at the stunning property in Johannesburg. With brunch such a key institution in Abu Dhabi, I have naturally been keen to try it. I was indeed lucky to try their opening brunch at Crust, a quite simply beautiful venue that contrasts with a brand that can be intimidating - the restaurant's soft, earthy tones and low ceiling immediately set me at ease as I walked in. What was foremost in my mind was how Crust would be able to offer something different from what is already found at brunches in the city. At the end of brunch, four key thoughts emerged. 



1. Trolleys and more Trolleys

The brunch caters for  a maximum of 132 guests, with 22 of those on the terrace when the weather allows. It is a number that allows for a buffet to be the driving concept but at the same time, it is a manageable size which calls for a more personalised brunch experience. How is the latter achieved? A menu that allows a main course to be served a la carte? An a la carte dessert offering? No, trolleys. Could this be the new trend at brunches of this size? I recently tried a brunch where trolleys were introduced. I like it. At the Four Seasons brunch, the trolley concept works really well. Why? There are two reasons. Firstly. the restaurant is spacious, so trolleys move around effortlessly. 


Some of the trolley dishes
Secondly, and this I liked a lot, the chefs, who move around with the trolleys serving guests, are very articulate and I get the feeling that they really enjoy it too. Executive Chef Giancarlo has assembled an excellent team of young chefs who brought around an array of perfectly sized dishes of Quinoa salad, Caesar salad, Crab leg nicely prepared in olive oil, parsley and garlic, a selection of Dim sum and numerous others. Having trolleys go around is not enough - you need chefs who are also knowledgable, something achieved with aplomb at this brunch!

























2. Something new, something unique, something old done differently. 

Guests were treated to a once-off sharing plate of Northern House Caviar, as a treat to initiate the new brunch - a classy way to get the brunch started. There were also some other dishes that were either new to the brunch scene or done in an original manner. One of those was Foie gras, with its own dedicated station. Seared foie gras sat atop an egg custard, while on the side there was a choice of coulis or chutney - one of my top 3 foie gras experiences at a brunch. 



Excellent oysters, perfectly shucked - and with some intriguing flavours added.

I am seldom one to have a sushi at a brunch because, frankly, it has all become a  bit predictable - but today I tried it and was immensely pleased. Executive Sous Chef Toshikazu brought a refined quality to the sashimi I had, and it was extra special because it is not often that your chief ingredients are flown in from Japan. 


Foie gras
Finally, and this for me was one the brilliant aspects of the brunch - there is a dedicated kids' brunch. I am not talking a clown and hotdogs. Parents will be impressed. There is an extensive menu for kids, from Creamy corn soup, Grilled cheese sandwiches, Fried rice to Fish sticks. They also have a generous play area, large screen for movies and when I was there, I counted 5 staff on hand to entertain and mind the kids. 


3. Drinks

Yes, it is becoming common place nowadays to have a Gin and Tonic trolley. And this brings me to a  point I am very emphatic about - we do not return to restaurants because of ingredients - we go back because of the people who prepare those ingredients. Crust Restaurant manager Andrea Mana possesses a charm that comes with experience. He knows how to connect with guests, and when he donned an apron, I knew we were in for something special. He prepared a choice of three G&Ts, and I ended up trying  a Mediterranean one and my favourite, Elderflower. 

The charismatic Andrea who takes leading by example to a welcome level. 
Interestingly, Four Seasons Abu Dhabi does not offer a champagne package. Instead it offers Prosecco, a red, white and a rosé. I am a firm believer in giving guests the option of the French stuff, but I understand that it is available for purchase, hopefully at a rate below the usual price - it is brunch after all! I would also like to see additional options among the red and white.






4. Post-Brunch

The post-brunch time is becoming more and more important to hotels as they try and create brand loyalty. Many guests want to a place they can go to afterwards to continue the festive feeling that a brunch creates - it is almost anticlimactic to go home after brunch. While Four Seasons Abu Dhabi offers two options, including  a poolside venue at Eclipse Terrace Lounge (one for the cooler months for sure), it was Zsa Zsa that I went to. The latter is  a chic cocktail bar and lounge inspired by eccentric actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. The views of the Arabian Gulf are enough reason to visit. Moreover, is elegant, classy but uber relaxed, and when the weather cools down, will entice you to try the superb terrace as well. 

The view from Zsa Zsa
Verdict

An impressive addition to the brunching scene in Abu Dhabi. Crust offers a balance between  a visually enticing brunch with a  buffet area and  amore relaxed and sophisticated 'sit down' concept in which dishes are brought to guests. It is a genuinely interactive brunch with chefs playing a  key part in that interaction. With only a few minor tweaks needed here and there, the brunch at Crust is virtually ready to offer an utterly memorable brunch experience, and chances are that by the end of the year, it is a brunch you will not have forgotten!

Essentials

Crust at Four Seasons Hotel,
Al Maryah Island,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 3332600
12-4pm on Fridays

Prices
AED275++ Soft package
AED375++ House Beverages
AED75++ Kids

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I was invited to try Crust's brunch courtesy of the hotel. 

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