Lets just get one thing out of the way – we here at Out & About UAE absolutely love a good Friday brunch!
Brunch is a pastime that we don’t really have in the United Kingdom. So we were super excited to discover the all you can eat/all you can drink mayhem of this legendary UAE tradition upon our arrival on these shores. Having worked our way through a fair number of these brunches over the past two years, we are calling it now… Olea at the St. Regis Saadiyat currently has the best Friday brunch in the capital!
To be honest we had not heard much about Olea the all day dining restaurant with a distinctly Mediterranean vibe, before our brunch last Friday. We had seen a few enticing photos on the resorts Facebook page, but it was the buy one get one free voucher in this months Entertainer that prompted us to reserve our space. The occasion was a friends birthday who had just arrived from the UK and had never experienced brunch before – so we were hoping for the best.
The resort is beautifully situated on the sandy beaches of Saadiyat Island and is everything you would expect from a five star hotel. We were warmly greeted at the valet and directed into the opulent hotel lobby, though to be honest we didn’t take in much of the decor, as our gaze was immediately directed out through the large glass windows, to the glittering turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf. There were plenty of staff on hand to direct us towards the brunch, which is located on the lower level of the hotel via a beautiful spiral staircase with magnificent glass chandeliers running the whole length of the descent. These abstract glass structures looking like exploding bursts of sunlight really helped set the tone for the decadent, innovative, glutinous experience that was about to commence…
We arrived right on time for our 1pm reservation, which is the exact time at which this brunch starts. There was a short queue of a few minutes to be shown to our table, and we were served shot glasses of Bloody Mary and canapés to compensate us whilst we waited – all accompanied by jazzy piano music. The restaurant itself if a lovely space, featuring a glass atrium that really maximises the sea front location. A sculpted wave pattern runs the length of the ceiling and is complemented by striking turquoise light fixtures – the combination of which really help to enhance the ocean theme of the venue.
Once seated our lovely waitress explained to us the brunch and the packages available. Our decision was made entirely for us, once she explained that the ‘pearl package’ contained drinks from one of the brunches nine bars! Our mouths literally dropped to the floor and the waitress kindly re-emphaised the point for us to indicate that we had not mis-heard her!
We were suitably impressed by the drinks selection on offer – soft drinks, beers and wines are ordered to the table, but cocktails are obtained from the bars. It was nice to see the inclusion of cocktails on the basic package (as this is not always the case in these establishments), and each bar had a different theme and choice of drinks. We were especially enamoured with the tiramisu margarita, sangria, berry daiquiri and tropicoco (a variation on the pina colada). There are also individual bars specifically for gin, vodka and rum based drinks – and we found a collection of beverages had accumulated on our table before we had even had a chance to look at the food on display.
Once our excitement over drink choices had subsided, we took a walk around the buffet and live stations to peruse exactly what was available. The food is spread over a large area encompassing both the Olea and 55th & 5th restaurants & the items on offer hit us with a complete sensory overload, from not only the striking colours, and sheer amount of food – but the fact that each and every item is meticulously presented and looks more like a work of art than something that you are about to devour! The chefs who work at the St. Regis should be commended for their vision and skill at providing such high quality food in such large quantities, all under the watchful eyes of executive chef Malcolm Webster.
As we browsed the seemingly endless food options, including everything from cold cuts, to an extensive salad bar and sushi counter – something caught our eye. Across the room was a foie gras station, something that we had never sampled before but were very keen to try.
Foie gras (for those who don’t know) is duck liver which has been fattened to give it a distinct rich and buttery flavour, and is a delicacy of French cuisine. The chef on the food station talked us through the dish and offered us the choice of trying it hot or cold. We opted for the hot option and the liver was lightly pan fried in front of us, before being served with a small piece of bread, fig and crumble. Foie gras is not something that we would normally eat, but the sample we tried was absolutely delicious.
Next we headed to the salad bar which contains something for every possible taste – from octopus salad, to olive puree, sea food terrine, serrano ham and sumptuous sushi. If salad is not really your thing then there are other options such as bread and poultry or oysters. The cuisines on offer vary from Indian all the way through to British, French and Japanese D.spite the large selection, each and every item that we tried were absolute perfection and the ingredients used are beautifully fresh and of the highest quality. We guarantee that this brunch will cater to even the fussiest of eaters.
The more we explored the more we were astounded. From the fresh seafood selection containing piles of crab, shrimp, razor clams and more. To the star of show in the form of crab croquettes – which were literally to die for! The abundance of food at Olea literally has to be seen to be believed.
As we casually explored further we were intrigued to see a sign pointing upstairs to the ‘cheese room’ and were surprised by what we found…
The stairway up to the cheese room is lined with stacks of wine bottles which gives the area a great ambiance and upon reaching the top our eyes widened at the sheer choices of cheese on offer. Staff were on hand to guide us through the cheeses and will help find exactly what you are looking for – one side of the table contains French cheeses and the other side English. There is also a selection of crackers, bread sticks and breads to choose from to accompany your chosen cheeses. At no other brunch that we have visited has there been such an abundance of cheese, let alone a whole room dedicated to this dairy product!
But wait… there is still more…
Entering 55th & 5th, the second restaurant included within this Friday brunch, we stumbled upon the roast dinner station. Being four British expats we knew that this would be a firm favourite and upon sampling the melt-in-the mouth beef and lamb we were officially sold. One of our group also declared the St. Regis to have the best Yorkshire pudding in the entire Emirates!
Venturing outside we were surprised to find even more food is available in the form of a BBQ featuring peppered beef steak, lamb chops, chicken drumsticks and corn-on-the-cob. Once again everything we sampled was delicious and could not be faulted. We polished off the savoury portion of our brunch with some sliders, mini hot dogs and deep fried oysters. The only thing that was missing (which we did enquire about) was dim sum – which is unfortunately not on offer at this brunch, though this is really not a big deal due to all of the other choices available.
As the brunch continued throughout the afternoon the piano music was replaced with a live band, who were really good, though the music was so loud (at times) that we struggled to hear the conversation on our table of four people. The staff were attentive throughout, without being intrusive, and ensured that we were well catered for at all times. Despite being a high-end establishment we really appreciated the fact that is was not at all pretentious and was in fact a very friendly affair with a great atmosphere. We also like the fact that due to the size of the brunch none of the stations or buffet areas got particularly busy, so you never found yourself queuing for food. Our only negative comment was that staff asked us to pay the bill within the first hour or so of us being seated, which we found to be truly bizarre, but did not detract from our overall dining experience.
Being seated next to the dessert station we were truly captivated throughout the entirety of our brunch – it can only really be described as something out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with the abundance of tasty treats on offer. The whole area is a candy land filled with innovation and unique touches that we haven’t witnessed elsewhere – everything from the glass bottles containing ‘mystery potions’ (delicious fresh fruit smoothies) to the pink chocolate fountain. The dessert station is great fun for the whole family and a perfect end to the brunch.
The desserts really are a sumptuous feast for the eyes, as thousands of coloured cakes and pastries are laid out in perfect lines ready for the taking. Our particular favourites were the gold leaf topped mini pavlovas and the chocolate mouse with peanut brittle – neither of which were to rich or heavy, which is exactly what we were looking for after consuming so much savoury food.
The pinnacle of the desert area (and possibly the entire brunch) is the option to fish for your desert using a bamboo pole… that’s right we said fishing! Small desert dishes enclosed in plastic are floated around a pond, and you must use a bamboo fishing line to ‘catch’ your chosen sweet treat:
The whole area is reminiscent of a mad scientists lab and this really adds some quirky fun to your brunch. The presentation and concept of this crazed candy land is awe-inspiring and definitely one for those with a sweet tooth – all of which comes from the mind of head pastry chef Christophe Sapy.
Finally there is a place to create your own s’more with a variety of toppings, and even a flame to toast the marshmallows on!
We finished our brunch with a stroll around the hotels grounds and down to the beach, where we found ourselves once again gazing out at that perfect sea – a great end to a great brunch.
We honestly believe that there is a big foodie revolution currently happening in Abu Dhabi (and throughout the Emirates) and the culinary scene is improving at a rapid speed. In just the past few weeks we have eaten in a number of quality establishments, yet nothing has quite matched the innovation, quality and experience that we had at Olea. That is why we currently believe that this is the best Friday brunch currently being offered in Abu Dhabi.
Silk Package AED 300 inclusive of non-alcoholic beverages
Pearl Package AED 395 inclusive of house beverages
Diamond Package AED 495 inclusive of bubbly
Location: Olea, St. Regis Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.