Visiting the brunch at Abu Dhabi’s Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, marked our eighth consecutive Friday brunch this season. Not that we’re complaining or anything – we absolutely LOVE brunch! The Friday Fairmont Brunch is the only one of the big five Abu Dhabi brunches that we’ve yet to try (the others being the Intercontinental, Emirates Palace, Ritz Carlton and St. Regis Saadiyat) and with guests in town for the weekend, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to spend the afternoon.
Recently we’ve been deterred from the big buffet brunches which, despite offering food a plenty, tend to vary in quality drastically. Instead we’ve slowly been gravitating towards table brunches for their lack of buffet lines and focus on great quality food and exceptional service. We’ll say this from the outset. The Friday Fairmont Brunch has restored our faith in the big buffet while more than surpassing our high expectations.
Brunch begins with welcome drinks (as all good brunches should). Yet the ones offered by the Fairmont have a distinctive twist, as cocktails are presented inside carved out tropical fruits. Pineapple pina colada, check! Exotic coconut punch, check! Though there’s nothing quite like carrying a watermelon filled with a litre of alcohol to scream “brunch excess!”
Much like the cocktails, the brunch goes all out in it’s food choices. Offering diners a mixture of extensive buffet counters and a number of live-cooking stations. All spread throughout four of the Fairmont’s signature restaurants.
CuiScene, the family friendly all day dining restaurant (where we happened to be seated) offers the vast majority of the food. Expect plenty of immaculately plated sushi, Chinese and Indian favourites. CuiScene is also where you’ll find the desserts (but more on that later).
From CuiScene, the food expands out into a narrow corridor of cheeses, cold cuts and the live-cooking stations. It’s immediately evident that a brunch of this quality and scale needs to be tackled tactically to ensure you have enough room for all the good stuff – so pick wisely and eat little and often!
Much like the Ritz Carlton, the brunch at the Fairmont requires a lot of walking and guests are likely to spend a good amount of time going to and from the endless food counters. A lot of walking has its upside though and at least you can convince yourself that you’re burning some calories (probably no where near as many as your consuming though!) Unfortunately, as the brunch gets going, the central corridor becomes a bit of a bottle kneck between the various dining areas and makes it difficult (at times) to access the food.
With so much food on offer, it’s likely that you’ll need to be selective in what you choose to eat. Highlights for us included the roast beef carvery from Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse & Grill. Alongside the fresh pastas and beautiful fish and chips from Frankie’s Italian Restaurant. From the extensive buffet, we recommend the crispy duck pancakes, dim sum, fresh caprese salads and of course… the sushi.
As we’ve said in previous reviews, each branch needs to have it’s own unique selling point and aside from the quality, the Fairmont offers a complimentary shisha room in Cedar Lounge as part of the brunch experience. We believe that they’re the first to offer this in the capital and the option of a post-brunch shisha was certainly appreciated.
In terms of showmanship and live cooking. Diners can select from freshly shucked oysters, beautifully seared scallops, caviar, pan fried foie gras and sliced cured meats. All of which are freshly prepared by the team of competent chefs and are visually striking on the plate. The delicate scallops upon a bed of pea puree and a tangy mixed salsa are the unmissable choice from the live-cookery stations.
A mixture of live band and DJ keeps things energetic and the atmosphere throughout the brunch is light hearted and fun. The Fairmont recognises that brunch is a family affair and offer a kids room inside Frankie’s. Although skewed more towards older children (the predominant feature of the room is a games console), there’s a kids buffet (with excellent mac n cheese), face painting, a clown and balloons for younger guests. With kids happily occupied, parents are able to unwind and enjoy the food without the need to worry about the little ones getting bored.
With a big brunch like this, quality tends to vary. Yet the Fairmont has somehow managed to pull off a vast undertaking, while remaining consistent and not compromising on quality or taste. This even extends to the desserts, which are the downfall of many similar brunches, with the sweet treats often looking the part but ultimately lacking in flavour. Much like the savory offerings, desserts are in abundance! Piled up in a secluded corner of Cuisine. Diners will find everything from huge colored meringues to patisserie favorites like the Mont Blanc – a dessert of creamed peaks said to resemble a mountain.
Navigating through the endless eclairs, blackcurrant opera cakes and chocolate milkshakes, our highlights from the dessert counters were the chocolate shawarma. Now this is something that we’ve seen in various malls throughout the city but never actually tried. Taking the basic rotisserie concept of a shawarma, the meat is instead replaced with a skewered chunk of milk and white chocolate. Carved into a freshly prepared crepe and topped with fresh strawberries and Nutella. A guilty pleasure that represents another unique selling point of the Fairmont’s brunch.
If this doesn’t quite satisfied your dessert cravings, there’s an additional crepe station and live-cooking for flambé bannanas – just watch our for those flames!
The party continues after brunch at Chameleon Bar, with the promise of discounted drinks for brunchers who aren’t ready to go home and slip into the inevitable food coma.
Despite the high quality of food, we had a few issues regarding the drinks. Number one, for a brunch that runs from 12pm – 4pm, why does the cocktail bar stop serving at 3pm? A full hour before the end of the brunch?
Secondly why limit guests to just two drink orders at a time and then not allow them to return for a ten minute window? At our table, the gentleman were getting up to order the ladies drinks (and save them schlepping up to the far end of the corridor in their heels), only to be turned away over some silly drinks rules.
Finally, despite being informed that the cocktail bar would take last orders at 3pm, the bartender outright refused to accept anyone new at the bar from 2:45pm, Presumably to ensure that no queue would develop! Perhaps it’s a bid to kerb binge drinking (though you don’t see this policy at any other brunches) but in all honesty we felt cheated having to switch to beers and wines three quarters of the way through brunch.
Cocktail mishaps aside, the Friday brunch at the Fairmont is an excellent choice. Boasting a large selection of high quality food with lots to keep the little ones entertained. The Fairmont has an exceptionally strong reputation in the capital and having now experienced it firsthand, it’s obvious as to the reasons why! With the Fairmont going all out with a gargantuan feast.
This is a brunch to impress and will astound even the most regular of brunchers. Although it’s doubtful that we’ll ever be able to stifle our weekly brunch cravings. With an offering like this on the table, Out & About UAE’s brunch obsession is reconfirmed… yet again!
349 AED++ (selected hops, grapes and cocktails)
519 AED++ (bubbly)
Location: Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Al Maqtaa, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Hours: 12pm – 4pm
Phone: 02 654 3238
All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Cover image used courtesy of Fairmont Hotels.