How many times are we going to hear the phrase “Friday brunch is a UAE institution?” As annoying as it may be to hear this terminology thrown out time and again when it comes to discussing brunch. The inevitable fact remains that it’s true.
In the expat community, Friday’s often revolve around the gathering of family and friends to indulge in a culinary feast of excessive eating and (sometimes) drinking. While other countries claim to do ‘brunch’ – a small meal that is not quite breakfast and not quite lunch. The UAE, who aren’t really associated with doing things by halves, ramp up the excess and deliver diners an all out sensory feast.
The Hilton hotel on Abu Dhabi’s spectacular corniche is the newest contender to throw their hat into the brunch ring. Offering a ‘dine around the world’ concept from three of the hotels signature restaurants – Bocca, La Terrazza and Jade.
Starting in La Terrazza, we find ourselves in a typical hotel all day dining restaurant. A bright space, which though slightly lacking in personality, more than makes up for this with an abundance of food. Here, diners will find the standard brunch staples, ensuring seafood, salads and cold cuts are all accounted for. More interestingly, are the offerings of succulent veal leg with caramelized onions and the impressive salted sea bass. Literally needing to be chipped out of its salty casing.
Traversing to the Middle East via a bakery of freshly baked loaves. Diners have the option of a large ouzi, that’s certainly one of the focal features of the room. There’s nothing like a whole lamb on a bed of rice to let diners know they’re at brunch! La Terrazza is where we happened to be seated (you can sit in any of the three restaurants) and we especially appreciated the elevated booths that provided good views of the buzzing activity on the corniche below.
As with any brunch there are certain elements that work exceedingly well and others that fall a little flat. It may be a case of personal preference but we were most impressed by the cheese room – that’s right, an entire room dedicated to cheese – offering a variety of European favorites and a good selection of crackers, dried fruits, nuts and other nibbles. The cheese room also contains some hidden surprises, including a number of desserts and a tiramisu, but more on that later…
Our journey around the world continued into Asia, as we delighted in offerings from Jade (formally Royal Orchid), with dim sum and a variety of other Asian favorites. Our highlights here were without a doubt the Peking duck pancakes in rich hoi sin sauce and the sticky and sweet honeyed orange chicken. A mango filled maki roll was our pick from the sushi selection for it’s light and refreshing nature, though the remaining sashimi and ceviche options were also very good.
Saving the best until last, we concluded our journey in Italy with Bocca. The nicest space of the three to dine it, Bocca presents a more modern and upmarket feel and is home to (in our opinion) the best dishes of the brunch. Freshly prepared pastas (the veal ravioli is a must), meatballs and some gorgeous wood-fired pizzas are all made to order. We especially appreciated the pizzas for the fact that they weren’t afraid to use a more pungent cheese to create interesting flavor profiles upon those thin and crisp bases that we all love.
Having circumnavigated the (culinary) world, we felt more than a little stuffed…
When it comes to desserts, the team at Hilton know what they’re doing. Having been disappointed with too many tiramisu’s of late, the one from Bocca comes served in a tiny teacup and has just the right balance of creamy layers, bitter coffee and a small hint of sweet chocolate. Finally it would appear that our bad run of tiramisu’s has been broken!
Aside from the tiramisu, diners can expect a number of miniature picture perfect gateaux, tarts, pastries, baklava and the obligatory brunch chocolate fountain (complete with cakes, fruits and marshmallows for dipping).
If you’ve only saved a little room for dessert, ensured you sample the lemon tart and Umm Ali as we believe them to be the best of the bunch.
Brunch at the Hilton is a more subdued expereince than that of the bigger, more lavish brunches offered in the city. The team at Hilton are aware that they cannot necessarily compete with these grand feasts of excess. Instead focusing on a more causal brunch fit for families and friends to celebrate the weekend.
It’s neither raucus nor lacking in atmosphere. Settling on a fine balancing somewhere in the middle, thanks to the help of a live band churning out hit after hit of popular music.
For families, there’s a kids corner. Complete with a friendly clown, face painting, balloons and a children buffet (featuring burgers, fries, cupcakes and a popcorn machine). It would’ve been nice to have a little something more for the kids and we understand that the kids corner could soon turn into a kids room with a bouncy castle and other fun surprises which would be a welcome improvement.
Though unlikely to set the capitals brunch scene ablaze. Dine Around The World at the Hilton provides an all round affair that’s competitively priced and offers something for everyone. A good choice for families with kids and the perfect spot for hitting the beach for a post-brunch nap and spot of relaxation.
Brunch around the world takes place each Friday from 12:30pm – 4pm:
225 AED++ (soft drinks)
325 AED++ (hops and grapes)
Location: Hilton Hotel, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Hours: 12pm – 4pm
Phone: 02 6924170
We were invited to dine at Hilton Abu Dhabi Corniche. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.