The Brunch in the Clouds - St Regis Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi

Friday Brunch. I have been fortunate to attend virtually every high-end end brunch in the city. I have seen brunches follow  a set formula, pandering to the basic needs of most guests. I have experienced others where restaurants try to reinvent the concept by foregoing the traditional buffet and making it a  table brunch. Then there have been brunches in which elements have been combined to give the guest a part buffet and part a la carte experience. Then, there have been a couple brunches who have managed to take the big brunch and infuse it with a quality hard to imagine for that size of brunch. So, when I heard of the Brunch in the Clouds at St Regis Abu Dhabi (on the corniche), I was naturally intrigued. Talk around town suggested it could be a totally new brunch experience. When I tried it out for myself...Well, have a read. 

Brunch is held in the St Regis Abu Dhabi Presidential Suite. This is brilliant on so many levels. It captures the idea of luxury and makes it real - no longer an idea. It allows a guest to feel like a prince or a princess for a few hours. The suite, suspended between the two Nation towers on the 48th and 49th floor, allows a capped total of 50 diners to experience luxury in the heart of Abu Dhabi. So in addition to offering a luxurious afternoon, it is also an exclusive one. Exclusive? Yes, in addition to the controlled number, it is held only the last Friday of every month. 

The table setting is exquisite. Crystal glasses, Arthur Price cutlery, Wedgewood china and  a tasteful flower arrangement. Our table, next to the window, offers stunning views of the gulf. Laurent Perrier NV is the champagne for the afternoon, itself a fine choice. This Chardonnay-dominant champagne is elegant and fresh, and a lot more complex than many of the champagnes on offer at brunches. There is something hypnotic and surreal about sitting here on the 48th floor of this brunch, sipping on bubbly - removed from yesterday and tomorrow. Just nowness, a pocket of peace and tranquility. It is easy to fall in love with these trappings and over look other aspects of the brunch, but I must say, it is a pretty impressive start to the afternoon. 

A walk around reveals the signature St Regis cold starter station. This is reprised from the Terrace on the Corniche brunch, with a few variations and extras. But this is one of the great successes of the downstairs brunch, so I am glad to see it here. The Beetroot hummus is still a favourite! Immediately I am struck by something - the buffet element is not over the top. While there is the visual wow factor, it does not feel like some of the normal brunches with their emphasis on quantity.

The seafood station is nicely presented in a small room with a  couple chefs on hand to answer questions and in my case, to shuck me some oysters. It has been a  good month for me with oyster shuckers - again the 6 I have today are perfectly shucked. 

So, where is the feeling of luxe, you might wonder? Well, the brunch offers a caviar station featuring Yasir caviar. The thought of champagne, oysters and caviar has something special to it, does it not? There is a feeling though, as I walk around the brunch, that people are not here for food. There is undeniably an air of sophistication as I look around and see women kitted out in their brunch best. It is clear that many of the guests here are here for an experience; a wow experience where food, though not to be ignored, is secondary. 

But if you are interested in food, you will not be disappointed. When I heard about the concept three months ago, I was concerned that St Regis would trade on the view, exclusivity and newness of the brunch to wow people. Based on the dishes that are brought to our table today, I am really pleased that dishes are highly valued. Watching Executive Sous Chef Stefano on the floor- if you have dined at Villa Toscana you would have met him -  fills me with a sense of relief almost. I trust him absoloutely!

Brunch in the Clouds is much more than a buffet. Some very good dishes are brought to the table - so a great balance between the visual aspect of a buffet and the fresh qualitative dishes that are brought to the table. In the course of the afternoon, we have RisottoScallops in a gorgeous pea puree, Pan fried Sea bass, Duck and foie gras and Lobster. Finally, we are also served Beef ribs with a wine jus.  Really good dishes. 

One of the ways in which a brunch can differentiate itself from others is by looking at what everyone is offering and ask: Can we do even more to ensure that our brunch stands head and shoulders above the rest. The Brunch in the Clouds creates added value moments that do exactly that. I take a lazy walk up the spiraling staircase. On my way, I pass the cheese station. My guest comments that it is a small station, but I remind her that this is a brunch where the whole 'less is more' concept is taken t the nth degree. She nods in agreement. 

On the 49th floor  of the hotel and second floor of the suite, is small private bar - a little haven if you need to escape from brunch, while continuing to sip on bubbly. It is also the place where you can have  a manicure done. I heard a few people commenting that brunch and manicures do not go together. My response is that this is a brunch that is rewriting the brunch story, firstly, and furthermore, because there is a spa in the suite, it is a natural flow from place to another. Finally, it is about a wow experience, is it not? Is it not that theme of tasteful indulgence and  luxury that is emphasized again? 

The same can be said of the shoulder massages that are available to guests. My therapist, part of the St Regis Rem├Ęde Spa, adds another dimension to my brunch. It is something different. Something that I will remember. That is how a brunch creates an experience. Let;s face it, you will not remember the name of the oysters you had last week at a brunch, but you are likely to remember the name of your brunch therapist. Creating an experience. A memory that will ensure long after you have left Abu Dhabi. 

As I leave to go back downstairs, bubbly in hand, I pass by the 'cinema'. I have  a chat with two guests who have sought out the suite cinema to watch a movie. Jelly beans and popcorn, the latter freshly popped, is in the room. A smile escapes me - only at a  brunch like this, is this possible. 

The entertainment, in the meantime, continues in full swing as I go down the stairs. The jazz duo continues to belt out jazzy interpretations of hits. They are in sync with their guests and have a clear connection as they chat to guests. They are sophisticated without being pretentious. 

In keeping with offering an experience, a brunch with people and stories adds to the experience. Ivan, the hotel sommelier comes around and  makes some of his signature cocktails, using Hendricks gin, tea and Prosecco, amongst  other ingredients. Good as his creations are, it's the human element he brings to brunch. Fancy as the brunch is, I look for something that cannot be served on a plate or in a glass, and that is soul. Ivan brings that to brunch. He is real. Down to earth. Creative. Passionate - Ivan takes a trolley and brings it to life. 

What a  pleasure to be engaged by someone who understands people as well as he does. Added value! While I see staff engagement at some stations to be an area that needs to improve, Ivan sets the standard for what you want from staff at a brunch. 

As brunch reaches its conclusion, my guest and I make our way to the dessert station. This desert room is rich and a feast for the eyes. The pastry chef is on hand again to connect with guests by making recommendations. The human element again. It is beautifully presented, and as I stand in front of the selection, I look at my guest and my usual policy of having one or two desserts at a brunch is thrown out the window - a highlight of an otherwise highlight-laden brunch. 

It was not easy to write about the Brunch in the Clouds, and I deliberately waited a short while before writing, to ensure that my words were not sourced from the emotion of a brunch like this. It was by no means perfect, and there are a few operational issues that need to be looked at, but it came pretty close to a  perfect brunch experience. But it is the concept and its general execution on the day that impressed me. As someone who attends around 35 brunches a year, I am quite familiar with all the tricks used to entice diners. However, The Brunch in the Clouds is truly  a unique experience. It is well thought out and manages to give guests an afternoon that will be remembered for a long time. At 900AED net for the Laurent Perrier package, it is expensive if you consider that a quality champagne brunch is usually around 600AED for 3 hours or so. But if you add up all the extras and remember that the brunch, while officially from 12-4, ended with the last pouring of bubbly at 5, it is, dare I say, value for money. But it is more than about value, isn't it?

As I looked around brunch and saw the faces, not a visible care in the world, like me immersing themselves in nowness for 5 hours, I realized that is the value in this. Unashamed luxury and exclusivity are what this brunch is all about, and this is not available anywhere else in the city. 

The Brunch in the Clouds  at St Regis Abu Dhabi offers you the best brunch experience in the city. It is a concept that will find a place with people seeking something above the ordinary, above the mundane -  something perhaps, in the clouds?  The Brunch in the Clouds is not a brunch - It is an experience. 

The low down

The Brunch in the Clouds
St Regis Hotel, 
Abu Dhabi
Brunch in the Clouds
971 2 6944444

Soft Drinks 600 AED net
Laurent Perrier 900 AED net.

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I am currently working on a review of the top brunches in Abu Dhabi. As with other brunches,  I visited St Regis Abu Dhabi as a guest of the hotel.