The Martini Brunch returns for the new season - The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa

This remains one of the most significant brunches in Abu Dhabi after its launch around 16 months ago. It has defined what Saturday brunches are all about, and with its Martini concept it has really stuck its neck out, something refreshing in a city where brunches play it safe to placate the masses. I was curious to see how the Martini Brunch was getting on and to see whether or not it had compromised its martini soul to please most people. 

It is interesting that the food is concentrated in the centre of Lemon & Lime, the lounge and bar that hosts the brunch. An elevated platform is the hive of activity as chefs do all their dishes from this point. I like it. There is a lot of action here. They have kept the food sensible - this is so important to me who sees so much wastage going on at hotels. I am thrilled to see one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Abu Dhabi given a prominent role in the brunch, with new Chef de Cuisine from Sacci, Chef Leonardo, pulling the strings. He has a wonderful team of chefs charged with shucking 3 or 4 types of oysters, making ceviches, sushi, etc. Hang around the 'food stage' and feel the energy. 

The Martini motif or theme is not limited to drinks. Marinated scallops are served martini style, while the Spicy shrimp lobster is presented in a cognac glass - very clever connection between drinks and food. This connection reaches its zenith with Chef Leonardo using both martini and cognac in some of his dishes. It is perhaps a pity that this connection does not continue to dessert? But nonetheless,  a nice touch. 

Dessert marks a departure from the previous edition of the Martini Brunch which was characterised by the Wall of Chocolate, or 'Death by Chocolate' as I christened it. The new dessert station features a lot more traditional brunch treats, excellent I must say, including their new flagship dessert, a hollowed out chocolate ball stuffed with mango, raspberry, crumble and cream. I think guests who were too overwhelmed by the excess chocolate in previous brunches will be relieved, while those like me who saw it as a sophisticated dessert station, will miss it dearly. Oh that Chocolate souffle from the old brunch - please come back!

If there is a  picture that really captures the tone of the brunch and indeed the service, it is the one below in which Elvire, one of the waitresses, burst into spontaneous laughter when I surprised her with the camera - the service is relaxed, friendly and chatty. And this is all the way from the top where the assistant bar manager Morena manages to infuse her staff with a quicker step than most waiting staff would have - happy staff deliver great service. What I would like to see are uniforms that reflect the cool nature of the brunch. I find the masculine black polo shirts too conservative. 

The Martini Brunch has shown again the value of a concept that works. While I see this brunch as very much a work in progress, the product as it is now is worthy of any top 10 brunch review of Abu Dhabi. It runs against the very notion of brunch in the city - there is no large buffet with most of the food prepared live, it accommodates only 50 people and music that continues a welcome change from jazz that has been done to death. It is never easy to please everyone, but the new DJ seems comfortable playing his set. I see the strength in the brunch being one of evolution. If I were to go in a month's time, I would be surprised to see all the same dishes. That makes it the kind of brunch you want to go back to again and again because you will not be bored. 

I think, though, that people still get confused about brunch. They expect to feed at the trough. The Martini Brunch is not that kind of brunch. And no, it does mean you will leave hungry - between the fabulous Italian station serving up carbs and the Beef Wellington that is also served, you will be more than satisfied. The brunch continues, instead, to change people's perception of what brunch is and what it is becoming. The Martini brunch, which I believe has room for improvement, offers something unique in a city that is running out of ideas when it comes to brunch. It remains one of the essential brunches in Abu Dhabi.

The Essentials
Lemon & Lime Martini Brunch
The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa,

+971 2 616 9999

AED 305+++/person - Martinis, sparkling, red, white wine, spirits
AED 495+++/person - Martinis and Bubbly

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I am hotel and restaurant writer based in Abu Dhabi. I was at the restaurant by invitation.