The Friday Brunch At St Regis Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

There is an old cliche to the effect that 'if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it'. It is very appropriate when thinking about the St Regis Saadiyat Island Friday Brunch, a brunch that has won every award since its relaunch about a year ago - you know the one. The brunch that everyone was talking about? When I was invited to try the new brunch for this season, the cliche was foremost on my mind. How do you take a brunch with few weaknesses and make it better without changing too many things? The truth though is in the year it's been around, as is often the case in this small city, there were already several imitators, and that is why one has to revisit one's product. It is about staying ahead all the time. It is with this in mind that brunches are relaunched for the new season.




There is something special about going to the brunch. Its location on Saadiyat Island fills one with a sense that one is going somewhere. It is an occasion. And as you pull up at the hotel, you have a sense that you have indeed arrived somewhere. It would be easy to hang around in the gorgeous lobby and stare at the turquoise coloured ocean, but the sound of laughter, glasses clinking and happiness will lure you downstairs in a heartbeat.

The concept of a brunch that covers a hotel's outlets in one space is not  a new one, and St Regis has people seated in the family-friendly Olea and the more elegant 55&5th, The Grill. What St Regis succeeds at in having these two polar restaurants used for brunch is that the movement from one to the other is seamless and believable. In other words, it is not contrived - you feel you are still at one brunch. Olea is airy, full of natural light while 55&5th, The Grill is darker and sophisticated, and houses of course, the legendary cheese room with its own dedicated cheese afficionado. 


This is nowhere more epitomised than by the 'Under the sea' dessert display and the welcome drinks at the 55&5th Bar. One of the things that holds the brunch together is the music. A top class sound system ensures that the music level is the same throughout the venues. Kudos to the technical staff! On that note, an excellent, professional outfit that makes a nice change to some of the entertainment out there.




The brunch itself is massive, and with some smart logistical planning, capacity will reach around 500 in the cooler months.



Food

Last year I enjoyed the 'pass arounds' at the brunch, as they are called. Basically, chefs come to tables and serve guests some special dishes that are not on display. Yes, this is becoming a new trend, but let's not forget they were one of the first brunches to introduce this. It continued with a fantastic amuse bouche! Soft crab, guacamole, goat's cheese and passion fruit foam had me having a second. Beautiful flavours!




Something I enjoyed immensely the last time I was at this brunch was the oysters. It is undoubtedly the best oyster station in the city, and now they have added Cumbre, a Scottish oyster that will wow you with its size - and yes, size does matter with oysters - and fleshiness. The sauces offer variety, but I tell you, the fennel and yuzu  combination - superb! Again, several trips were made to the oyster station. 


Chef Ran doing his rounds - the attention to detail together with the flavour combinations - outstanding. 
There is an extensive seafood area that features French crab and when they have the right tools for guests to enjoy these, it will be like a new dish for guests to experience. On that note, one wants to see oyster forks too!

But is it is not all high or fancy food, though. There are also some 'fun foods' done very well. Wagyu sliders and tacos ensure that kids especially will be more than satisfied. 







Foie gras, of course, is a personal favourite of mine and again it did not disappoint. Chocolate foie gras terrine and pan seared foie gras take centre stage, while poached apple, onion marmalade and ...praline puree complete an immense dish. It is sophisticated with none of the sickening sweetness that one often gets on a foie gras plate. 









Drinks

When I tried the brunch last year I waxed on about the drinks selection. What is great about  a hands-on sommelier who goes around, like a chef does with his/her dishes, he chats to guests and gets a feel for what they like. Like last year, the drinks options are miles ahead of any brunch in Abu Dhabi. With two alcohol packages available, guests can choose between some basic wines that are available in the mid-range package, including the ever reliable Chilean offering, Frontera Sauvignon Blanc and the Argentinian Malbec. In addition, cocktails are a major strength, with stations spread around the brunch. It is not just that they have, for example, a gin, Asian and vodka station among others, it is the way the station looks. There is an aesthetic element in everything at the brunch, and they have the right people behind the bar, something often overlooked. 






But for those who want to have their bubbly and try some premium wines, the upgrade to the Diamond package is a no brainer. Firstly, Louis Roederer NV Brut is a classy champagne that you will not find at many other brunches. Remember, some champagnes are more equal than others! Then, wines from the Torres label are offered, with the Torres Ibericos and the delightful Vina Esmerelda available. Finally, a fine selection of digestives including JW Double Black and Hennessy Cognac complete what is the best selection of drinks by a mile. It must be noted, and I need to emphasise this, it is not a 'drinking' brunch. Family-friendliness and class are retained throughout. As a father, this is important to me. 





Verdict

How can you not but sing the praises of this brunch? There are so many elements that come together perfectly.  They have once again raised the bar in Abu Dhabi with a  brunch that has innovated on numerous levels. Every week, for example, they give away prizes like a Diamond brunch on your next visit or a special vintage Louis Roederer Cristal bottle of champagne- and until March you have the chance to win a trip to Champagne! One talks about added value and unique facets -this brunch abounds in them. Two brunches in one, located in two distinct venues, that are held together nicely makes it a special place in that regard. Young and old can genuinely feel comfortable in what is simply a stunning brunch!

All directions point to another excellent season as it wins more and more plaudits. 


The Essentials


St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Abu Dhabi
971 2 498 8888
St Regis Saadiyat Brunch


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


Disclaimer: Brandon Stoltenkamp is a  hotel and restaurant writer based in Abu Dhabi. He was at the restaurant by invitation. 
















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