Friday Brunch at Giardino - Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai

"I wish people would look beyond the name of the hotel and realise how uber relaxed the brunch is", I say to my guest as we are seated on the terrace of Giardino for Friday Brunch, while I look at a guest in a  pair of smart knee length shorts, sipping on a glass of champagne. It is an image that immediately demystifies the hotel that has taken Dubai by storm as the place to be seen. I am of course talking about Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai. On my recent stay at the hotel, I tried the said brunch, and after brunch, a  few talking points emerged.

No need to renew your wardrobe before coming

Make no mistake, the hotel is impressive, and as I walked through it, I saw so many die hard slaves to fashion, that I really had to remind myself that I still fitted in. But the brunch at Giardino really is the great leveller. With three lagoon pools and gloriously landscaped gardens around the hotel, you can expect guests to feel super relaxed. Also, with terrace seats alluring guests to the outside, I really get the feeling of a relaxed brunch, which is important. While I understand the requirement to dress up for a brunch, I ultimately want to go to a  brunch where I can sit back and sip bubbly without a care in the world. 

Less is more

I was surprised that the buffet was not oversized. No, this is not  a weakness in the brunch. It is, in fact, a  strength. While I concede that we are in a brunch culture of excess, I think hotels need to be more sensible in terms of wastage, and I feel the brunch at Giardino is heading in the right direction. My mantra as always: How much food can one really eat at a  brunch? So, the less is more concept can also apply at a buffet and not only at a  table brunch. There are enough overly indulgent brunches where half of the food ends up in the trash. Stations are nicely organised, making it easy to navigate and plan your brunch experience - Cold starters featuring Terrine of Foie gras, Salmon roulade and Salmon tartare are must haves. They are also served in amuse bouche-like portions, meaning you can really indulge yourself. 

Some champagnes are indeed more equal than others - I am sure George Orwell is turning in his grave at the bastardisation of Animal Farm here, but the point is valid.

The Carving station featured quite a smorgasbord of cuts, with my favourite being the striploin.  Try the lamb shank too. Oh, do not overlook the grilled vegetables, by the way. The highlight of the seafood station was the deep fleshy oysters which were quite well shucked. 

My dishes of the day though, were courtesy of the 'almost easy to overlook' Sous Vide station where I made two trips. If only we had eggs done this way in Abu Dhabi, my home base! The other favourites on the day came from the Asian station, I had probably the nicest kimchi I have had at a  brunch, where Chef did not hold back on the heat. Also, his Soto ayam, a traditional Indonesian soup, stood out. Finally, the Beijing duck checked all the clich├ęs - crispy skin and tender inside. Recommended. 

The buffet was well complemented by a couple trolleys that made the rounds. An Italian trolley made the rounds, with chefs serving a safe and brunch-friendly Spaghetti carbonara with veal bacon. There was also a  trolley later that was popular with young and old - an ice cream trolley. 

Finally, the Dessert station excited. It just brought out the sweet tooth in me, but if I were to choose one offering it would be the magnum style strawberry yoghurt ice cream covered in white chocolate and pistachio - delish! 

Jazz at a brunch has never sounded so good!

I have a love-hate relationship with the genre! For some reason it has become the staple at brunches and in a month of brunches, I often do not remember the musicians. This is not because they were terrible. It is just that they were not memorable. However, Chapter 2 has that wow factor that is missing in so many brunch performers. For only the second time this year, out of 30 brunches, I have the pleasure of listening to  a duo that I would pay money to see. They own their little corner of the brunch, ably supported by an excellent sound engineer who has ensured that anywhere at the brunch, the music is clear. Their interpretations of Outkast's Hey ya and Lenny Kravitz' 'It aint over till it's over' are just sublime! Vocalist Florentina Matei oozes a Marilyn Monroe-esque sensuality, still being so focused on every note she belts out, while saxophonist paul Spaccavento embodies Cool. Together, they are sophisticated and sassy, bringing sexy back to brunch. 

Champgane  - yes, it matters! 

Some champagnes are indeed more equal than others - I am sure George Orwell is turning in his grave at the bastardisation of Animal Farm here, but the point is valid.

 Your average brunch attendee is quite happy with any bubbles. Then, there is a smaller percentage who want it to say champgane on the bottle and then proceeed to finish four bottles. Finally, there will be those at brunch who will hopefully appreciate the fine champagne on offer - the 'Ruinart R de Ruinart' Brut champagne in this case. It is of course a question of whether this fine label is sustainable, but for now, I can only say you will be hard pressed to find a superior champagne at a brunch in the UAE. 

Looking ahead

Considering the hotel was been in soft opening when I tried the brunch, they have done very well. They have got most elements in place to be competing with some big brunches, but there are quite a few tweaks that can be made. I would like to see kids accommodated by giving them a  dedicated space, very doable considering how spacious the inside is. I would also like to see all waiting staff introduce the brunch options right at the beginning of brunch without prompting. 


A classy and elegant brunch that is surprisingly very relaxed and laid back. It is quite an intimate brunch, with a full brunch under around 200 guests. There are some strong stations, complemented by live cooking. A brunch at one of the most desired hotel addresses in the city makes it a must do on anyone's list!

The Essentials

Giardino Friday Brunch

Palazzo Versace
+971 4 556 8888
Friday Brunch at Giardino
Brunch 1-4pm

Non-alcoholic package 350AED
Prosecco package 550AED
French champagne package 650AED

Disclaimer: I tried the brunch by invitation of the hotel. All views are my own. 
Brandon Stoltenkamp