Market Kitchen has a distinct professionalism about it. A restaurant renowned for offering high quality produce and an exemplary guest experience, Market Kitchen was also the first in the capital to deliver a table service Friday brunch.
That was two years ago and the competitive fine dining scene demands for reinvention to avoid stagnation and keep regular customers returning for more. With the festive season out of the way and the beginning of a new year in which health conscious customers are looking to balance value for money with food that’s actually good for you. The team at Market Kitchen has launched the De’Vine’ Brunch. A concept that offers market freshness from the farm straight to the table and inspired the classic cuisine of 3-starred Michelin Chef, Jean-George Vongerichten and the seasonal ingredients of street markets worldwide.
A return to Market Kitchen is always a welcome one but the restaurant appears smaller than we remember. There’s little doubt that the space is a beautiful one combining the farmhouse kitchen (see the trinkets of rolling pins and milkshake glasses scattered across shelves) with distinct modern touches. A collection of lamps are suspended from the ceiling, while the glass atrium gives the illusion of dining outside. A lone tree is the prominent feature of the dining room. Meandering skywards as if trying to break free from the interior. Upstairs, a mezzanine ‘attic’ features a small bar, providing an ideal place to linger over an after-dinner cocktail.
Cocktails are one of the key features when it comes to our brunch selection (if there’s no cocktails we aren’t coming) and the ones at Market Kitchen are full of botanicals. Think Ginger Margaritas and Passion Sangrias or our favourites, the fruity Kumquat Mojito (a wonderful twist on a classic) and the delightfully refreshing Vodka Thyme Lemonade. For those not drinking alcohol, the same drinks are available sans booze and taste just as spectacular.
With the food promising a delectable menu of the freshest vegetables, meat and fish the dining experience boasts plenty of rustic charm to complement the wonderful service. Each time we dine at Market Kitchen we’re welcomed back like old friends and this is in no small part thanks to restaurant manager Juliet Vidal whose friendly demeanor is one of the star attractions of this popular brunch.
The De’Vine’ table brunch encompasses many courses and we truly appreciated the fresh nature of the produce and the interactivity of the experience. Even though it’s a table brunch, there’s plenty of action going on in the open kitchen. Pizzas are hand prepared before being cooked in the wood fired oven and salads are compiled with total transparency in regards to processes and the construction behind these dishes.
The first course revolves around raw seafood and is an absolute delight. An array of dishes are brought in one after another to provide a visual spectacle of colour and immaculate plating. The selection includes a thick cut Tuna Carpaccio with hints of Szechuan chili and the glorious Smoked Salmon with a refreshing lime zeet.
A Tuna Sashimi is prepared live at the table to add an element of interactivity to proceedings. The dish is constructed with a dollop of chipotle mayonnaise and scallion, before the tuna is placed on top of the compounded rice. Yet Market Kitchen’s sashimi presents the rice as a crisp block to add an extra dimension to the texture of the plate.
Our favorite item of the raw course and perhaps the entire brunch is the Black Pepper Octopus. Tender, sweet and charred are all words that spring to mind but none can quite sum up how special this plate is. Complete with a tarragon puree this is the one dish at the brunch that shouldn’t be missed.
Next to arrive is a Butternut Soup indicating the only weak link in a chain of strong dishes. We’ve always been fans of butternut squash (especially in soup form) but the version here is slightly underwhelming and overly salty – perhaps some tweaks are required.
Brunch soon redeems itself with the arrival of the Mushroom Pizza straight from the oven. Layers of mushrooms and four different cheeses sit atop a thin crust, the predominant flavour is goats cheese with a subtle earthiness from the fungi. Meanwhile a Heart Of Romaine Caesar Salad boasts large croutons and punches of lemon and chilli, though was drenched in perhaps a tad too much dressing.
The interactive nature of the brunch returns with the arrival of the Salt Baked Sea Bream. Cooked for twenty minutes with seaweed and soft herbs. The salted crust is removed at the table and the fish filleted in front of diners. Seeing the fish prepared this way is a nice touch, especially for those with children. With little ones seemingly intrigued by the ability to see how their food is prepared and eager to sample something potentially new. If this interaction doesn’t hold their attention there’s also a kids club, complete with bouncy castle, face painting and crafts.
The main course also brings a Steak Au Poirve crusted in Szechuan spices and pink peppercorns. The meat literally melts at the sight of our knife and arrives with three side dishes – mac and cheese, fries and steamed broccoli. With more than enough food on offer we did wish the portion of mac n cheese was bigger but thankfully you can re-order as many times as you like.
The dessert course will change weekly and for the brunch launch we were treated to Shortcakes With Rhubarb And Whipped Cream. A simple display of good home cooking but one that left us wishing that Market Kitchen’s signature salted caramel sundae was still a part of the brunch. It’s a dish that has long been a talking point in the city (and an Instagrammers favourite) and it’s absence is strongly noted.
Our second dessert was the Mango Upside Down Cake. A dish we’re glad to see didn’t stick to the usual formula or ingredients. You see, we have an aversion to cooked pineapple. In fresh form we love it, but cooked (especially on a pizza) it’s a big no no for us! Substituting the pineapple for mango is a great idea, as the fruit retains the same tropical sweetness but has an altogether more pleasant texture. Add in a basil ice cream and we were in heaven.
Brunch is accompanied by live music from former X Factor Australia contestant Jaymie Deboucherville. Whose largely acoustic set defies genre and provides unique versions of songs by popular artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran. Unexpectedly we found ourselves completely enamoured by Jaymie’s beguiling tone which amounts to more than just background music.
Market Kitchen provides a beguiling background for an innovative brunch. One that continues to up the ante when it comes to customer satisfaction. To see a menu that focuses on freshness and seasonal produce and not use an abundance of truffle oil is also extremely refreshing, as are the cocktail samplers that circulate the room during the course of this leisurely Friday afternoon soiree (don’t miss the rum sour or the vodka and chamomile concoction). We often forget just how good the food is at Market Kitchen and this brunch certainly makes an impact.
The De ‘Vine’ Brunch at Market Kitchen takes place each Friday from 12:30pm – 4pm:
AED 199 ++ (soft drinks)
AED 299++ (house beverages and cocktails)
AED 399++ (bubbly)
Location: Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street, Al Markaziya, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Hours: 12pm – 11:30pm (midnight on weekends)
Phone: 02 304 8375
We were invited to dine at Market Kitchen. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Cover image used courtesy of Market Kitchen.