The regal St. Regis Dubai appears to be the ideal place for a brunch called Versailles Evolution. From the outside, this Al Habtoor City property looks somewhat palatial and even more so during the festive season with the arrival of a gigantic Christmas tree out front adding to the opulence. A collection of nutcracker soldiers stand guard over the entrance doors like palace guards straight out of a winter fairytale.
Approaching the lobby we’re immediately surprised by how similar in design the interiors are to the St. Regis property on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, with a sweeping marble staircase rising upwards towards a striking crystal cut chandelier. The first floor is home to the majority of the St. Regis Dubai’s food and beverage outlets with J&G Steakhouse, Sidra and the Champagne Lounge fanning out from the staircase landing. Our brunch destination is Brasserie Quartier (abbreviated to BQ) an all-day-dining restaurant with a distinctly Parisian twist.
Based on our previous experiences with the St. Regis brand in the region, we were genuinely excited to try the brunch at Brasserie Quartier but the concept appears to have had somewhat of a chequered past, re-inventing itself almost seasonally in a bid to find something that gels with discerning Dubai diners. What is now the Versailles Evolution Brunch began as a decadent and lavish feast, before being scaled back into a more niche affair in which staff were dressed in corsets in replication of the courts of Louis XIV. From September 2017 the brunch has transitioned into the ‘Versailles Evolution’ and looks to modernise the concept with a slant towards fashion, hence the mannequins emblazoned with Chanel logos that litter the dining room.
For us, this was part of the problem. Nothing regarding Versailles seems to have remained with the new concept other than the name. With Friday brunch being such a lavish affair, it would seem a decadent buffet spread of French favourites would be an easy sell and tie in nicely to the historical theme. Unfortunately, the concept has segued into something far more generic with an international buffet of roast beef, quesadillas, pasta, and fresh seafood looking to capture diners attention.
Brasserie Quartier has the feeling of a French Brasserie and it’s pleasing to note the restaurant doesn’t have the soulless feel of an all-day-dining space when it comes to atmosphere. Green velvet chairs, a monochrome tiled floor and crisp white linens imply a sophisticated space with a Parisian cafe feel. Yet, aside from a live-station of pan-fried foie gras and a good selection of cheese, the food offering is particularly unimaginative and does little to stand out from the hundreds of other Dubai Friday brunches.
Quality isn’t the issue here (although consistent temperatures are a problem), for the St. Regis has a reputation for offering an excellent product with a focus on high-quality ingredients. The problems relate more to how uninspired everything feels. We have friends who raved about the Brasserie Quartier brunch under its previous guise, but for us the ‘evolution’ fell entirely flat, unhelped by the fact that the concept is never truly explained.
Aside from the ample buffet which is immaculately presented and offers a pleasingly health conscious offering with salads aplenty, the Versaille Evolution brunch can’t quite decide what it wants to be. There’s a table service element present, with a fairly bland quinoa tabouleh arriving in a small metal bucket followed by a delightful French onion bread stuffed with cheese (the only other French element we see during the three-hour brunch). A selection of pass-around canapes appears only once before never being seen again, marking a missed opportunity that could’ve been utilised to showcase some of Brasserie Quartiers a la carte offerings to encourage return visits.
Although a number of live-stations are available the main courses are actually selected from the menu (a choice of three) and are presented to the table upon request. We opt for the Slow Cooked Salmon with fennel and cucumber and Braised Beef Cheeks with winter vegetables, horseradish and crispy onions. Beautifully plated, both dishes mark the highlights of this brunch, with the beef cheek of particular note, boasting rich flavours and delightfully tender meat. Indicative that perhaps Versaille Evolution should be a full table brunch and forget the buffet altogether.
With French patisserie taking such prominence in the UAE marketplace the dessert selection is disappointing! What should be a showcase of the finest pastries and cakes, instead offers the usual brunch drudgery and aside from a scattering of macaroons offer little French fancy. Resorting to the obligatory brunch chocolate fountain and sticky toffee pudding.
The Versaille Evolution brunch still feels like a work in progress and one requiring further refinement. The service is all over the place with staff appearing as confused as the concept and the band (while particularly good) are loud to a point that it becomes difficult to hold a conversation. With such a large space on offer, it’s a bizarre choice to cram all guests into one central area. Sure, it may be easier in terms of service, but it feels more like a ploy to make the restaurant look busy. When in actual fact the close proximity of diners really detracts from the overall guest experience.
We really wanted to like the Versaille Evolution brunch, but when you see the St. Regis’ Abu Dhabi properties offering innovative brunch concepts like Brunch In The Clouds or the Epicurean Brunch, redefining the very nature of what it means to brunch, this feels like a squandered opportunity.
Brasserie Quartier does just enough to pique our interest regarding a future visit for the a la carte offerings. Would we visit this brunch again? It’s unlikely, unless they fully embrace the Versaille concept that offers so much potential for an all-out debaucherous feast.
The Versaille Evolution Brunch at Brasserie Quartier takes place each Friday from 12:30pm – 3:30pm: AED 350 ++ (Haute Package) / AED 550++ (Coutre Package) / AED 659++ (Versailles Package).
Location: The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor City, Business Bay, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 6:30am – 10:30am / 12pm – 3pm / 6:30pm – midnight PM to 12 Midnight
Phone: 04 435 5577
We were invited to dine at Brasserie Quartier. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.