Aqua brunch returns to its roots - Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi

When my Top brunches in Abu Dhabi round-up came out in January, it pained me that Aqua was not on there. Aqua, you see, was one those first brunches I experienced where, along with one other hotel, the less is more idea, was in full swing. Sophisticated. Wonderful staff. The best kids brunch in the city. When I tried it last November,  it was still a  good brunch, but I think I became more demanding - like a lover expecting too much from his beloved. 

However, I had the chance to visit Aqua recently, wondering how, if at all, it had developed since that last experience. Some thoughts emerged after my experience.

 The value of an outdoor setting

Aqua's terrace area was revamped with cooking stations reflecting the hotel's restaurants. In many ways, it was a return to the old days. I have always felt that brunch is nothing more than an advertisement for the restaurants at the hotel. Well, and of course champagne. Live stations outside featured Dai Pai Dong and Sambusek, two of Rosewood Hotel's popular restaurants. However, old favourites like Catalan and Spice Mela are very alive. There was a cold cut pork station recalling Catalan while a beautiful tandoor set up took me back to Spice Mela. Finally, drinks stations, as well as a full bar ensured that the terrace was once again alive. 

Sambusek represented.

I loved the iconography rather than labels for stations. 

Rosewood's Aqua brunch has the distinction of being the only brunch to alternate champagnes. They serve Moet Chandon NV and Veuve Cliquot NV. The thing I like about this is that regulars can experience something different on consecutive visits. It is this area, though, where I saw the biggest improvement. The welcome drink is based on a theme that changes every week. On this day, drinks reflecting the bar at Dai Pia Dong were served. Regulars would not have missed the Dai Pai Dong iconography where the bar was stationed. Finally, a choice of 6 wines meant that the brunch offered a drinks selection that places it in the top 4 in the city. 


This has always been the major strength at the brunch and this visit was no different. There are still familiar many faces, indicative of loyalty among staff. As for the new staff who have joined, they have fitted in seamlessly. Well spoken, groomed and intelligent staff ensure that guests have everything they want in great brunch service, including something that guests really care about - regular, almost instinctual topping up of drinks.


Despite the extended outdoor terrace, there was no sense of being overwhelmed by dishes. It has  been a signature concept at Aqua to focus on fewer dishes made very well. I have always enjoyed oysters prepared by Chef Francisco, Aqua's chef de cuisine. Today again - simple but beautifully shucked. On request and for a very fair price, you can also have a serving of Yasa caviar, with blini and all. I followed these up with the marinated scallops. Delicious.

I also tried the cold cuts and sausages from the pork station where there was also a selection of sauces. There are not many places in Abu Dhabi where you can enjoy these out on the terrace. Inside, fresh tuna, sliced in front of you means sashimi is a must. Also, the outside grill station again has a very sensible selection of grill options from both sea and land highly recommended. Finally, I enjoyed the Tapas station where I could have foie gras, served tapas style. Nice! My dish of the day though was the tandoor lamb and naan. I could count on one hand the brunches with an outdoor tandoor. It really is something you must have. So, the dish, in the end, was tasty - simple lamb and bread really - but perfectly marinated and cooked. 


In many ways, the brunch is back. There are key elements that people want at a  brunch, regardless of the typical demographic a brunch usually attracts. It makes for a livelier experience. While my last experience was similar to a lunch, there was energy today, and although the music was still too civilised for my liking, it felt like a brunch today. Secondly, as for kids, Aqua is my daughter's favourite brunch because of the privacy she has a ten-year-old in the Rosebud's brunch. It is in itself a quality place for children. Also, drinks are a vital part of a brunch and the variety that is finally on offer fills a void that has existed for a few years now. Finally, and this may be a bit obscure if you have never been to the hotel, but the brunch felt like Rosewood Hotel again. And seeing that identity again filled me with a sense of joy. 

Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 813 5550

Gourmet | Food & Soft drinks      250 Dhs++                       
Connoisseur | Food, Wine & Bubbly       350 Dhs++               
Gastronome | Food, Wine & French Bubbly      500Dhs++
Rosebuds Brunch | 3-12 years      125 Dhs++