During the notoriously quiet period between Christmas and New Year we tried another Italian brunch in a five-star hotel on Abu Dhabi’s upmarket Al Maryah Island. Following on from the impression set by the Cafe Milano brunch at the Four Seasons a number of weeks earlier, we were intrigued as to how Roberto’s at the Rosewood were defining their brand through the concept of brunch.
With two Italian fine-dining restaurants in such close proximity on the Al Maryah Island promenade, we weren’t entirely sure how Roberto’s would differentiate themselves from the abundance of Italian eateries in the capital, but having spent a relaxing Friday at the Andiamo brunch we soon realised that team Out & About have been sleeping on what is quite possibly one of the best brunches in town.
Following Michelin stars in Italy and a Dubai opening in 2012, Roberto’s Abu Dhabi makes quite the mark in its interpretation of Italian dining. Split into a bar and lounge, the space is designed by award-winning interior designer Paul Bishop and offers crisp white table linens, set against grey upholstery, a crudo (raw) bar, open show-kitchen and a charming waterfront terrace, Roberto’s makes quite the first impression, which is only heightened by the lively and charismatic restaurant manager David.
We begin (as all brunches should) with a trolley of freshly baked breads straight from Roberto’s in-house bakery. The selection is extensive and includes focaccia, walnut and tomato variants — you name it, it’s there! With all dishes served to the table, diners share the antipasti course from which you can opt for mare (from the sea), terra (from the land) or misti (a mixture of the two). We opt for the latter and are immediately surprised by the finesse on display in even the most classic of Italian dishes. Two variations of tartare are offered, with tuna and avocado version offering delicate cubes of tuna, yet it’s the Wagyu tartare prepared at the table which leaves a lasting impression.
The small plates offer much variety and work to incapsulate the very best in Italian dining, though there are literally too many dishes to note! We adored the beautifully presented creamy buratta with tomatoes, and the modernist take on shrimp cocktail (served upon a bed of shredded lettuce and coated in just the right amount of sauce). Speaking of cocktails, the Roberto’s brunch offers some of the best we’ve experienced as part of a brunch package with the Italian Job, Smoked Negroni and Old Fashioned all highly recommended.
Back to the food and a Margherita Pizza appears as if from nowhere! It’s an entirely unnecessary addition to the plethora of food but its inclusion as part of the brunch is entirely understandable. Unfortunately the pizza doesn’t make its mark, not because it’s bad but because the other dishes are of much more interest (with the exception of the beetroot dyed quinoa salad which gets lost in the mix). The biggest surprises for us were the oysters! While not usually a fan, the raw oysters with their pomegranate accompaniment, and the large poached oyster made quite the impression on team Out & About. The highlight of entire brunch transpired to be the Polpo (slow-cooked roasted octopus, artichoke and cacio e pepe sauce) which is a dish we would 100% return to Roberto’s for and are pleased to note on the a la carte menu.
A small ‘comfort’ course of pasta is prepared in a parmesan wheel as a means to create engagement via the interplay between diners and the Roberto’s team. This display also does just enough to showcase the pasta and entice diners back for a future visit. As is the case with most table-brunches, diners are asked to select one main course from a selection of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. We enjoy a beautiful fillet of Seabream plated with piped mashed potato and a delightfully tender veal with charred leeks and hazelnut, both of which represent dishes we would happily order again.
When it comes to dessert the Roberto’s team have a surprise up their sleeves for diners and a lighter way to end the meal. The presentation of a Fruit Galaxy upon a sheet of glass makes for a visual masterpiece, but one that may disappoint those in search of more traditional offerings such as the classic tiramisu. The Fruit Galaxy offers more than meets the eye, with a vortex of coloured sources and the fruits themselves acting as an illusion. Break open the coconut of the kiwi fruit and you’ll discover things are not as they seem! We’ve already said to much and will let you discover the true nature of this dessert for yourself…
It may be unfair to draw comparisons with the Cafe Milano brunch, but it’s the inevitable question that Out & About readers are going to ask and while we believe the food is marginally better at Roberto’s, the service requires some work. The Roberto’s service is inconsistent with some staff offering exemplary levels of service, while others lack confidence and basic knowledge of the menu. Thankfully the restaurant manager is on hand to hold it all together, showing genuine interest in his guests and keeping things thoroughly engaging throughout.
The Roberto’s brunch is one with a firm focus on food and the offerings (especially in the antipasti) makes for one of the most enjoyable brunches in the capital. It’s a sophisticated and laid back affair, one to be savoured and enjoyed with a glass of wine or an enjoyable cocktail. With Andiamo translating from Italian as “let’s go” we can’t think of a better suggestion when it comes to this particular brunch – book your spot now!
Out & About UAE were guests of Roberto’s. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.