The 2016 brunch season has got to best yet! This year our brunch expectations have been surpassed time and again, week after week in a trend that doesn’t seem to let up. We believe the reason for this stems from the fact that restaurants are beginning to embrace their own uniqueness, moving away from the mega-buffets of international cuisine and into their own comfortable niche. One such brunch is the newly launched Sambusek ‘Beirut Market Brunch’ at Abu Dhabi’s glorious Rosewood Hotel.
The Rosewood hotel was the first to be constructed on the luxurious Al Maryah Island. A vibrant and diverse business and lifestyle destination that is changing the preconceptions of Abu Dhabi and offering the city at it’s most dynamic. The Rosewood is a perfect fit for such an upmarket location, offering a personalized luxurious lifestyle experience in the heart of the capital and amidst the 154 guest rooms, you’ll find one of the best Lebanese restaurants in the city, Sambusek.
Sambusek (the word for Lebanese pastries) is overseen by the watchful eyes of Chef Emad Zalloum, who himself hails from the Southern Lebanese town of Hasbaya. Presenting a relaxed brunch that is quit unlike anything else in the city. The set-up is that of a buffet, displaying the freshest seasonal produce in wooden carts to create a market-like feel. With a focus on organic ingredients and a number of live-cooking stations, Sambusek may not be the biggest brunch around but certainly makes up for the fact in quality.
Bypassing the chic Beirut styled interiors, we head for the outside terrace. With the weather cooling with each passing day, we’re unable to resist the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf and the downtown view from Sambusek’s terrace. Dotted with white umbrellas and a scattering of wooden tables, the al fresco area may not be as comfortable as the lounge inside but with a view this spectacular, there’s nowhere else we’d rather spend our Friday afternoon.
Perusing the wooden carts stuffed full of freshly baked breads, shiny olives and seasonal vegetables, it’s certainly colorful a colorful affair. Mistakenly thinking that the brunch is entirely buffet oriented, dishes soon began to arrive on the table via the team of knowledgeable waiters. As seemingly endless Lebanese favorites appear one by one, we only wished that the table were a little bigger to accommodate all of the food.
Hummus, falafel, fattoush, muttabal and stuffed vine leaves made for a beautiful cold mezze selection on a Friday afternoon. Soujouk (spicy sausage in tomato sauce), kibbeh and the chicken livers in pomegranate molasses, were likely our favorite of the hot mezze. Though the real star of the show was the artichoke.
The artichoke heart is presented like an opening flower. It’s rustic and sharing style as we tear off each of the ‘petals’ and savourthe taste of their flesh (pulled through the teeth, before discarding the remainder) with a hint of Arabic spices and butter. We’ve had artichoke like this before (but never in the UAE) and had seemingly forgotten how good it was.
In fact, at no point did we have to leave our seats. As the chef (who was actually more attentive than the waiters) continued to bring small plated selections from the buffet and live-cooking stations. One of the deterrents of brunch in general, can be the fact that conversation becomes disjointed as members of the party inevitably head to the buffet in search of food. The beauty of Sambusek (and table brunches in general) is that this factor doesn’t come into play, instead friends and families can venture deep into conversation without interruption and spend their afternoons enjoying great food, drinks and company.
Feeling slightly stuffed from all the mezze (we suggest you skip breakfast, as you’re likely to eat A LOT at this brunch). One of our favorite Levantine dishes appeared, the warm arayess. A mince meat stuffed flatbread sandwich prepared fresh for diners and followed in quick succession by a selection of grilled meats that Lebanese cuisine is famed for.
Moist turkey breast with mashed potato, chicken shawarma in an edible bowl and skewers of shish kebab, shish taouk and kofta began to pile up on the table. As the meat dishes continued to arrive, it was the traditional ouzi (whole lamb on a bed of Arabic rice) that impressed the most. With such a variety of meats, it’s pleasing to note that all were nicely flavored with a mixture of Arabic spices and better still, despite the various cookery methods used, all meats were moist and tender. It’s such a common occurrence to come across a dry mixed grill when dining in Arabic restaurants but at Sambusek the meat is certainly succulent.
Being more than a little full, we still couldn’t resist the desserts that were immaculately presented on one of the buffet carts. Shiny luqaimat, neat rows of baklava and of course the sambusek itself. Aside from the buffet selection, we over-indulged on artisan ice cream (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate) and some freshly prepared pancakes (or chebab as they are known in Emirati culture),complete with lashings of syrup and fresh fruits.
Not quite ready to leave the glorious sun trap on the terrace, we settled in with Arabic coffee, shisha and a small glass of Arak. A Levantine speciality of anise distilled alcohol, which although colourless in appearance, certainly packs a punch on the palette.
The shisha is of note and an integral part of Middle Eastern culture. At Sambusek the various flavors are presented to guests in small jars within a wooden box. Feel free to peruse this ‘shisha menu’ by smelling the tobacco and selecting your desired flavor – watermelon, orange, mint or cherry. Though Out and About’s recommendation would be for the tropical flavour, that veers just on the right side of sweetness and isn’t as harsh as some of the other flavors available.
Having only launched at the end of October. Brunch at Sambusek is a leisurely affair and with the brunch finished, the team are happy to move you into the adjoining lounge area to continue your drinks, shisha and any food you may have left. This may sound like a minor bonus but too often have we been forced out of a brunch at 4pm by unruly security guards ready to turn over the restaurant for dinner service (we’re looking at you Al Qasr)! Allowing guests the opportunity to stay on, not only makes them feel valued but also means that they’re likely to spend more money, therefore making both parties a winner at the end of the day.
Sambusek is one of nine award-winning restaurants (having just scooped ‘Favorite Middle Eastern Restaurant’ at the 2016 What’s On Abu Dhabi awards) at the Rosewood offering a number of authentic world wide cuisines and dining experience. From the excellent family friendly brunch at Aqua to the dim sum delights of Dai Pai Dong. Since opening in May 2013, the Rosewood has cemented its reputation as a fine dining destination and with the expansion of Al Maryah Island, long may this continue.
With a wonderful shisha ‘happy hour’ running daily from 12pm – 5:30pm in which all shisha’s are 50% off. Why not stay awhile and linger on the terrace. We promise that you won’t regret it…
Sambusek’s Beirut Market Brunch takes place each Friday from 1pm – 4pm:
199 AED++ (food only)
349 AED++ (hops, grapes, sparkling and arak)
We were invited to dine at Sambusek. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.