Dubai is a city of extremes. It can be quite difficult to get one’s head around the contrasts, which are glaring. Walking along the Marina, you may be struck by the juxtaposition of a fully-clad Emirati family eating a sobrietous dinner, with a rowdy bunch of self-tanned English girls falling-about in microscopic dresses – as lacking in decorum as they are in clothing. It was with these first impressions, and on an absolutely beautiful day, that I joined the well-heeled flock of expats making their weekly pilgrimage to “Brunch”. Brunch is an institution in Dubai, and takes place on Friday. Ironically, and in another extraordinary contrast, Friday is the sacred day for most local Emirati people, who generally practice Islam and pass this time with reflection and group prayer (Salaat-ul-Jumma).1 For everyone else, it is the start of the Weekend Baby!
We were fortunate to have a booking at the Best Brunch in Dubai2, Bubbalicious at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina (One of many international, super-luxury hotels). We descended – slowly, in a queue which snaked down the gleaming staircase – into the exquisite marbled brunch area, where we had to make the first of many difficult consumption decisions. Was it going to be a) the bottomless Champagne option (as much Möet et Chandon / Laurent Perrier as one can drink), or b) the marginally cheaper bottomless Prosecco and Cava option, or c) the bottomless soft-drink option? We opted for the first, as it was someone’s birthday, and were provided with bright red wristbands so that everyone would know about it. I didn’t spot a single brunch guest sporting the light blue ‘Softdrink’ wristband, with all things non-alcoholic eschewed as the weekend festivities got underway. We were then guided betwixt and between a very large number of tables into the garden, where we had pride-of-place at a white-draped round table in the shade with views of the sea.
Glasses filled with ice-cold Möet, we ventured back inside to get the first of many courses we were to eat that day. Everything is self-service, and you can eat as much or as little as you please. We hoped to sample a bit of everything, but when confronted with such an extraordinary quantity of the finest foodstuffs in the world, it was difficult (though most pleasing) to figure out where to start. I can’t possibly describe all the edible wares in this review, so I’ll give you my “5 of the Best”.
- Foie gras and Charcuterie. But not any old foie gras and Prosciutto di Parma. This was a 5 metre long counter, a la Parisian market, with several preparations of foie gras. Plain, fried, pȃte du, enhanced with red berries, various alcoholic infusions and a selection of ‘lesser’ delectables like chicken and goose liver pates. As for the charcuterie, the star was an entire, aged Jamon Iberico, wafer-thin slices of which were cut for you by the obliging chef in starched whites. There was also an endless selection of saucisson, coppa, prosciutto crudo, salami, chorizo and, and, and…..
- Three Types of Oysters. An abundance of the luscious delights from far-flung climes, with any number of fabulous accompaniments from lemon and lime wedges to weird and wonderful sauces, or served in shot-glasses with very strong alcohol.
- Sushi and Caviar. An exquisite, and massive, spread of every type of sushi one can think of. Prepared sashimi, tartare, ceviche, maki, California rolls, futomaki and if none of these were to your liking, chefs on hand to handle special requests. Otherwise, you can always pass-over the sushi in favour of a whole tin of caviar from the selection.
- The 40 meter cheese bench. It extended down the length of the two brunch halls and physically separated them in half. Here, there was a vast selection of every cheese you have heard of, and many of whose existence you were blissfully unaware. From the runniest, smelliest and mouldiest to the hardest, milkiest and most colourful, it was the stuff that dreams are made of – literally.
- Shellfish. A three meter glass-fronted display of fleshy lobsters, huge langoustines, several types of crab, lesser-known bugs, selections of prawns and other bright-orange crustaceans, with an array of mouth-watering sauces. It was all claws, tentacles and pincers, something akin to a prawny-pin-cushion.
And so much more, oh so much more (pictured at the end of this review).
Needless to say, this is not only about quantity, and the quality of the food was simply fabulous. Everything was prepared to perfection, and many edible items like meats and pastas could be cooked to order. The service was also charming, and our Champagne glasses were always full. The atmosphere grew progressively more festive, no doubt fuelled by the large range of tropical cocktails and craft beer on offer (did I forget to mention, more booze? And all part of the buffet…).
So, final impressions through a haze of Champagne… This brunch was utterly spectacular; not only for the wonderful food, but the sheer, unfathomable luxury, quantity and seemingly endless over-indulgence. Looking back on it now, it all seems rather like a dream, and a bit hard to believe that one was actually there, especially as I write from my Johannesburg flat. I would recommend that when visiting Dubai one should make the most of this opportunity. It is expensive, a real guilty pleasure, and anyone with a strong social conscience who has witnessed some of the poverty the world has to offer may find it somewhat overwhelming. However, for the foodie, the big drinker, the international adventurer, a trip to Dubai -the capital of excess- would be incomplete without it.
1. Ahmadiyya Muslin Community. Salat Friday Prayer (Jumma). www.alislam.org/books/salat/10.html
2. Time Out Dubai. 10 Best Dubai Brunches. www.timeoutdubai.com/mobile/gallery/30979-10-best-dubai-brunches
You can contact Bubbalicious on: + 971 (4) 399 4141