The iconic brunch in Abu Dhabi - Giornotte, The Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi

When you talk iconic brunches in Abu Dhabi , the Brunch at the Ritz Carlton is surely the first one that people mention. While there are 3 or 4 brunches that have emerged in the last couple years as outstanding, they cannot be described as iconic. It is about the brand. Tell anyone you are having brunch at The Ritz Carlton and there is a 'Oh, so fancy' comment. It is always a pleasure to visit The Ritz Carlton as part of my annual round up of the best brunches in the city, and on this visit, I wanted to see how they managed without their former Chef de Cuisine, Christian Antoine who has moved on to other things in Macau.

Talking points from the brunch at Giornotte

1. A more relaxed brunch

It was interesting for me that they started letting guests in to the brunch from around 12h50. It may seem insignificant, but it was a very symbolic gesture. It would set the tone for showing a brunch that has become much more laid back and less intimidating. I think they should consider starting at 12h30 anyway. This would do justice to all the food prepared by the chefs. 

2. The best selection of live stations in the city

This has always been a strength of the brunch,  and while they have fewer live stations than in previous years ( I miss the black cod station!), it is still the best in the city.  It remains the only big brunch that genuinely understands the value of catering for up to 500 guests on a good day and still giving a very personalized experience. The latter is achieved through its live stations and plating of dishes. As usual, I limited myself to 6 dishes - oysters, scallops, foie gras, Peruvian BBQ, Salmon and the Ayam Betutu, a brilliant Indonesian chicken dish. Each of the last 5 dishes mentioned have an a la carte quality about them. The salmon, not pictured here, will wow you with its dramatic presentation that revolves around dry ice.  

Each of the dishes I had were top class, and there were times I forgot I was at a brunch. The dishes have an individual virtue that speaks for itself, but the Ayama Betutu is just beautiful in every way. I never have chicken at a brunch and after this I will continue not to because I will now forever expect it to be like this! The Peruvian BBQ, nicely marbled, was cooked just perfectly. Incidentally, there was also a 60 hour cooked Australian wagyu leg!  

3. Entertainment

The classically trained pianist who used to bring a high end feel to the brunch with his wonderful playing is now a distant memory I am afraid. I do miss his playing. Then, the jazz band that replaced him never quite hit the notes for me, but the latest entertainment, a coupe dancers who moved to 60s rock n roll, did so much to aid the brunch in becoming more relaxed. Their joie de vivre was infectious and it was hard to sway or tap my feet as they made use of the brunch floor and found a dance space in every nook and cranny. 

No other brunch is doing this in the city and that is why I was so excited to watch them perform. You know what I mean - the jazz duo or trio is a standard feature in the city.  Conservatives will yearn for the old days when there was a pianist, but I think the dancers are in sync with the movement that the brunch is making towards being more accessible and fun! 

4. Drinks

Although the champagne and wine selection is largely unchanged from a year ago, it is in the area of live drinks stations where the greatest improvement has been made. There were more than 12 different types of cocktails and I think I am being conservative in my estimate: If you fancy an Old fashioned, negroni , variety of gin cocktails and others, you will be happy with what they have done here. They have really upped the game with their live drinks stations. 

However, I still feel that wines are disappointing for the high end package customer. I would like to see  a wine selection that will take guests away from champagne - I wanted a very good red for my BBQ but in the end stayed with bubbly. As a South African, I am very familiar with the Lyngrove wines which offer great value. I can say the same about the Dante Robino Malbec on offer. Nevertheless, I think a  couple more wines, exclusively for the high end package, will not be a bad idea at all. 

5. Dessert 

The original cheese room at a brunch in Abu Dhabi is very much still alive. No matter what, Giornotte will always have the distinction of being the first brunch to initiate this indulgent room. Cheese, a wide selection, what is not to love? I think a chef to be based in the room and address questions will be a great addition. In fairness, I went to the room on only two occasions and there was no one there. Also, they used to have the port in the same room. I want to see it back there because it is a one stop experience, isn't it? But, it is great to see that this part of brunch remains intact. It is a real talking point that only two other brunches can compete with. 

But for a more traditional dessert awash with fine French pastries, cotton candy machine and chocolate fountains, ice cream and enough options to make the Dessert room a brunch on its own, Dolce, the hotel's sinfully decadent Italian style cafĂ©, does not disappoint. This room is about allowing children to to remain children and for adults to become children once more. 


The brunch at Giornotte remains a brunch to be reckoned with. New Chef de Cuisine, Gerardo Recabarren who moved over from The Forge, has in many ways  continued the tradition of the brunch by having his team roam the brunch to ensure guests needs are met,  immaculately plated dishes serving as the vehicle for  a fine selection of food. I have to say that it is such a pleasure watching the team of chefs work together. I believe the brunch offers immense dishes, something that Chef Gerardo and his team should be proud of. As far as drinks go, the  live cocktail stations are a winner, with variety the buzz word. However, I maintain that they need to offer a couple of premium wines for the champagne package. In terms of the atmosphere, I cannot believe I am going to say this, but the brunch was more fun than it has ever been. The fresh entertainment worked really well as the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi brunch becomes  a brunch for the people, if you will. Nonetheless, make sure you kit yourself out because you will still find of the most well dressed people here. Friday brunch at Giornotte, truly iconic. 

Giornotte at Ritz Carlton,
Abu Dhabi
+971 28188282
1-4pm on Fridays

AED 295++ soft drinks package 
AED 395++ wine, cocktails and beers
AED 495++ with Henri Abele Champagne