Top Brunches in Abu Dhabi 2016

Brunch. We all know what a big part of expat culture it is in Abu Dhabi. Last year I had the opportunity to try a lot of brunches with the aim of honing in on the top brunches in the city. People ask how one judges a brunch because they are so diverse and it is impossible to compare a family brunch to one that is more geared towards adults. That is true to some extent, but not entirely because there are certain criteria which cross all concepts. Nowadays, value for money is a very important factor. This doe snot mean a brunch has to be cheap though! Excellent Service is one of those things that you want at a  brunch regardless of the concept. Also, remember that a brunch without atmosphere is just a lunch -  a big difference. Quality of ingredients and dishes and drinks are crucial too. Finally, the most important factor for me is the concept. With so many brunches morphing into one another, I looked for a brunch that will be memorable; a brunch where the concept tries to break the mould. 

Of course, I cannot deny my personal preference for more intimate table brunches, but these brunches can run the risk of being lunches, as alluded to above. They need to have that bubbliness or effervescence and life that your traditional brunch has. I think that successful brunches are those that can combine elements of a big brunch with that of a more intimate experience. However, a hotel must work with the space it has.

In my top brunches review this year, I have broken from the way I did it for Foodiva in the past - this time I am ranking the brunches - yes, a great risk in such a small city, but here goes. A shout out to Foodiva for the inspiration. Incidentally, I have also added a few brunches that one should look out for in 2017. 

10. Crust at Four Seasons Hotel, Maryah Island
This new kid on the block made a stunning debut in 2016, offering us a balance between a buffet and table experience with its pass around concept . The latter, not unique by any stretch of the imagination, but an aspect of their brunch that works well for them. Their dedicated kids' area is a big draw card, and second only to one other hotel in the city in this regard. Service is slick and notwithstanding it is The Four Seasons, it is a very relaxed brunch. 

The strengths of the brunch lie in some charismatic key staff who show that food is not just food, but an experience. Also, you have one of the best sushi and sashimi stations in Abu Dhabi at this brunch. Overall, Crust shows that you do not have to be big to be excellent.

Crust at Four Seasons Hotel,
Al Maryah Island,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 333 2600
12-4pm on Fridays

AED275++ Soft package
AED375++ House Beverages including Prosecco
AED75++ Kids

9. Sambusek, Rosewood Hotel, Maryah Island.
A foodie's brunch without a doubt. Chef Emad, with a no compromise attitude to quality, serves some fabulous Lebanese dishes with a Beirut street market setting. As one of two Lebanese brunches in the city that are worth a look-in, you can expect all your traditional favourite dishes. The brunch features one of the most hands-on Chef de Cuisine at a brunch, ensuring consistency of quality during your 3-hour stay. The Baba ghanoush and Moutabel will make you realise that these dishes, while common in the region, have varying levels of subtle flavours and that what you get here is of the best in Abu Dhabi. 

With so many brunches serving international dishes, I like that Sambusek sticks it neck out there and caters for those with a Middle Eastern palate - it is after all where we live.

Sambusek at Rosewood Hotel,
Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 813 5550
1-4pm on Fridays

AED199++ Food only
AED349++ Beer, Wine, Prosecco and Arak. 

8. Koi, Saadiyat Island

This table brunch serves some great Japanese dishes. A set menu allows guests to order what they want, which means they can order their favourites over and over again - nice. Koi has been my favourite Japanese restaurant in Abu Dhabi since opening and their brunch continues to offer something different. Its location in The Collection on Saadiyat Island is another draw card as it is a stand alone restaurant. Make sure you have the Seabass with jalapeno sauce, Creamy shrimp tempura and for your main course, the Braised wagyu short ribs. Oh, and if you have not yet, have the sparkling sake!

Koi attracts diners looking for that something left of cenre. It is an intimate brunch with an emphasis on quality dishes which are, needless to say, beautifully served in that inimitable Japanese way. 

The Collection,
Within the St Regis Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 6783334

AED295++ brunch with Soft Beverages
AED395++ brunch with Selected House Beverages
AED495++ brunch with Selected House Beverages and Taittinger Champagne

8. Sky Brunch at Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel

Making its debut in my top 10, I have fond memories of this brunch when I tried it four years ago. It was one of my first experiences of the less is more concept at a brunch and it made quite an impression on me. It has continued to work to its strengths. The Sky brunch is an elegant affair, housed at it is in Eighteen Degrees, the signature restaurant of Hyatt Capital Gate. The brunch, though, is more than just the view. Talented Chef de Cuisine Abudallah Hussein leads a team of young and passionate chefs to create some fine fair. The Foie gras terrine and cherries is a must, as are the scallops. 

Those guests seeking refinement without breaking out the credit card will find this brunch has tremendous appeal. Furthermore, it has great aesthetic appeal as a venue. Oh, it of course, has a very eclectic staff, something only a handful of brunches can claim. 

Sky Brunch at Hyatt Capital Gate,
near ADNEC, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 596 1440
1-4pm on Fridays

320AED net Soft drinks package
395AED net Sparkling wine, wine and cocktails. 

7. Zuma, Al Maryah Island

Now in its third year, the Zuma brunch is a must-experience on anyone's list. Zuma boasts, along with one other restaurant, the best service in the city with staff able to transcend training manuals and simply express themselves. This makes for an ultra relaxed brunch experience. Highlights include the Foie gras and Japanese plum compote, the Tuna tartar and of course for a main, you can't go wrong with the legendary miso glazed cod. 

The strength at Zuma is its consistency and is the only brunch in the top 10 with a noticeable presence of locals at a Friday brunch. Zuma is an institution. A must try.

Zuma at Al Maryah Island,
Abu Dhabi 
+971 2 401 5900

345 AED  soft drinks and Zuma cleansers
445 AED  Prosecco, sommelier’s selection of wines and beer
555 AED  Taittinger champagne, sake tasters, sommelier’s selection of wines and beer
150 AED  for children aged 4-12

7. Friday Marina Brunch, Intercontinental Hotel 

One of the biggest relaunches of 2016. The Intercontinental's brunch has always been fun and much loved and now under new Director of F&B Dany Katar, the brunch has entered a new era with clever use of outdoor space, while giving a greater role to Circo, Chamas and Belgian Cafe in the new brunch. It is a big brunch in terms of dishes, but there are seating options aplenty, with each restaurant giving your brunch a unique feeling. Make sure to try the risotto at Circo and the beef sliders at Belgian Cafe.

The strength of the brunch lies in the sheer variety of dishes and super chilled atmosphere with staff walking around in relaxed t-shirts. The brunch also boasts one of the most seasoned and professional entertainers around, Los Hildagos! 

Friday Marina Brunch at Intercontinental Hotel,
Abu Dhabi
+971 02 666 6888
12h30-4pm on Fridays

AED275++ including soft drinks
AED345++ including soft drinks, cocktails& bubbly

AED495++ including  cocktails, Mumm Champagne & soft drinks

6. Martini Brunch at The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa

One of my favourite brunches from 2015 is back in the top 10 for 2016. It is the only Saturday brunch which makes the cut among the other Friday brunches. This is is still one of the coolest brunches around with its choice of Saturday perfect for ending the weekend on a  high. With martinis the highlight - they offer to make any martini within reason - there is nothing like it. A DJ spins tunes that ensure an uber laid back atmosphere while an excellent choice of oysters, ceviches and sushi are served. For the hungrier lot, dishes from Sacci, the Italian restaurant at the hotel, are served. 

The brunch appeals to those who eschew large crowds as the brunch caters for around 50. Its setting in Lemon & Lime Bar and Lounge adds to the feeling of easing with a bang into Saturday night. 

The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa,
Abu Dhabi
+971 616 9999
1-4pm on Saturdays

AED305++  Martinis, sparkling, red, white wine, spirits
AED495++ Martinis and Moet Chandon bubbly

5. BOA steakhouse, Eastern Mangroves

A very classy and elegant brunch that is also the only steakhouse that makes the top 10. Don't expect a  buffet at this brunch as there is a set menu featuring high-quality dishes with Chef de Cuisine Marco Lucentini adding his special touch to each dish. The highlight is a stunning seafood course, exquisitely presented as well as full-size main course steaks prepared to your preferred temperature. Highly recommended is the Black Angus striploin. Add to this that signature service that one expects from BOA and you have a very classy 3 hours!

The brunch appeals to people who prefer dishes that are freshly prepared rather than the ubiquitous buffet. Furthermore, it is not located in a hotel, something that certainly appeals to many diners. 

BOA Steakhouse,
Eastern Mangroves Promenade,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 641 1500
12h30-4pm on Fridays

AED295+ brunch with Soft Beverages
AED395+ brunch with Selected House Beverages
AED495+ brunch with Selected House Beverages and Taittinger Champagne

5. Brunch at Frangipani on Zaya Nurai Island

Two years ago this made my top 10 when it was much still a  work in progress and it returns more assured of itself, embracing the less is more concept with greater emphasis on healthy options. In keeping with the concept of the hotel, it is very much a boutique style brunch. Set around 40 m from the sea, surely no other brunch can compete with it in terms of location. Make sure you have the Nicoise salad, some items from the outdoor tandoor and for dessert, look no further than the cheesecake lollipops. 

But it is hard not to divorce the brunch experience from the whole experience which involves a speedboat from a pier on Saadiyat Island. Or the pool and beach access that is part of the brunch. It is now my daughter's favourite brunch in the city!

Frangipani on Zaya Nurai Island, 
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 506 6212
1-4pm on Fridays.

550AED++ Soft Drinks
650AED++Wines, Cocktails and Prosecco
750AED++ Wines, Cocktails and Laurent Perrier Champagne

4. Terrace on the Corniche, St Regis Abu Dhabi

Innovative. Creative. Respecting the brunch culture in Abu Dhabi. These are all accomplished by the brunch here on the corniche. Brunch starts with a 30-minute welcome drink or two in the hotel bar - a nice way to ease oneself into the 3 hours that lie ahead. A chocolate room. Sophisticated and classy. A selection of the best cold starters in Abu Dhabi. A champagne sabering - this weekly tradition at their brunch is unique in the city. A selection of drinks that place it in the top 2 in Abu Dhabi. And it is still a brunch that caters for only 150-200 people.

Terrace on the Corniche Friday brunch will strike a cord with guests looking fort a fairly traditional brunch set up with a buffet but with numerous innovative touches in the sumptuous setting of the St Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Dress up - its is swanky!

Terrace on the Corniche
St Regis Hotel, Abu Dhabi
971 2 6944444

1-4pm on Fridays

275AED++ Soft drinks
385AED++ Cocktails, wine and beer
525AED++ Laurent Perrier Champagne, cocktails, wine and beer. 

3. Giornotte, Ritz Carlton

There is an aura that surrounds the brunch at the Ritz. It is perhaps one of only two brunches where people consistently and en masse feel a need to dress up - there is something stirring about the name The Ritz. There is no other brunch with the quality and presentation of dishes as the Ritz, where 'live station' lives up to its name - around 30 of them. Its foie gras station is still the best in the city, while the addition of champagne after a one-year absence is a welcome return. The Ritz also has one of the highest staff to guest ratio ensuring that despite its size, the brunch is fairly personal. 

The brunch at The Ritz has a home with guests who want something elegant and stylish where children are welcomed too. It is a big family brunch with incredible food. 

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

2. St Regis Saadiyat Island
With its stunning location, it would be tempting to offer an average product but Executive Chef Malcolm Webster and his team continue to take the brunch to a level that matches its idyllic setting, with the turquoise coloured waters as a backdrop. It is a sprawling brunch that takes in Olea, the terrace and of course the sumptuous 55&5th, The Grill. In addition to the best oyster station in Abu Dhabi, the brunch also offers a Cheese Room without par. Finally, it is also the brunch to experience for premium wines for its top tier package buyers. 
The brunch appeals to anyone who has heard the words St Regis Saadiyat Island Friday Brunch. 

Olea at St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, 
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 498 8443/8762, 
1-4pm on Fridays
AED 300++ soft drinks package 
AED 395++ wine, cocktails and beers
AED 495++ with Louis Roederer Champagne, premium wines and spirits

1. St Regis Abu Dhabi Brunch in the Clouds
I am sure this will generate a lot of debate. Brunches should be inclusive, right? They should be accessible, right? And of course, affordable? But brunches can also be about rewriting the rules. Not since the Martini Brunch launched two years ago and Rhodes 44  before that, has Abu Dhabi been shaken up like this by a  concept that has been so well executed. The brunch is about luxury and exclusivity - it is set in the hotel's Presidential Suite and the number of over-21 guests is capped at 50. The success lies in how well it lives up to its vision and concept. An exclusive elevator carries guests to the top floor of the hotel, there is a live caviar station, stunning dishes served at your table, a dessert room and of course on the top floor of the suite, a private bar and two spa therapists providing head and shoulder massages and manicures. At 750AED++ it is the joint priciest brunch in the city and yes it is not cheap, but for 4-5 hours, that makes great value. 
This brunch appeals to guests looking for that wow factor in a Friday brunch while suspended 200m above the ground. It is a truly unique brunch experience. 

The Brunch in the Clouds
St Regis Hotel, 
Abu Dhabi
971 2 694 4444,12pm-4pm 
500AED++ Soft Drinks 
750AED++ Package includes Laurent Perrier Champagne 

Thus ends an exciting brunch season and I look to 2017 excited, with more brunches about to challenge for the crown of the best in Abu Dhabi. Look out for BU! Asia de Cuba, a revitalised Emirates Palace and my tips for the new year, Bubbalicious at The Westin and Bar Fly by Buddha Bar. In the meantime, keep it bubbly and find me on my dedicated brunch channel, So Let's Brunch 

Remember, if it's not brunch, it's just lunch. 
Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: In compiling this top 10, I visited brunches around the city by invitation.