Waldorf Astoria is a property synonymous with grandeur and luxury. The inaugural property in New York was possibly the greatest hotel at the time of its construction and has left a lasting legacy for the brand to “be the standard by which others are measured.” This Quality and consistency remains in place over a century later and the most recent example comes from the Friday brunch at Dubai’s Palm Jumeriah property.
The brunch at the Waldorf Dubai dares to be different and while the concept of an all you can eat buffet remains in tact, the dishes come with a distinctive twist. A focus on sustainability, organic produce and seasonal ingredients is what differentiates this brunch from the crowd, with the majority of ingredients produced on site in the Waldorf’s own garden. It’s from this green haven to nature that the name of this brunch derives – The Secret Garden.
The central clock is a fixture of Waldorf Astoria lobbies worldwide and the presence of a timepiece is no different in the Dubai property. The clock takes prominence over a sweeping staircase of gleaming marble, at the bottom is Mezzerie Restaurant and the entrance to the Secret Garden. Potted trees and shrubbery adorn the entranceway and a carpet of grass winds it’s way between tables, towards the enticing buffet. Wreaths of ivy are placed upon table tops to complete the indoor garden theme.
Brunch begins with a number of items served to the table. A smorgasbord of meats, cheeses and breads, fresh crisp salad and a range of floral cocktails, of which the basil mojito takes our preference. This is not a table service brunch and after these initial items are delivered, guests are free to roam the buffet.
The buffet display at the Waldorf is not as gargantuan as some of its competitors but retains a firm focus on the quality of dishes over the sheer quantity. Brunch favourites like sushi, fresh baked breads and salads are all present and correct but it’s worth seeking out some of the more unusual items like the potted rabbit (an ingredient you rarely find in Dubai, let alone at a brunch). We’re immediately drawn to the pork station with its Jamón ibérico carved straight from the pigs limb and the beautifully light flat bread pizzas. The signature Waldorf Salad (apples, celery, walnuts) makes a welcome appearance, dating back over 100 years to its initial conception at the aforementioned New York property in 1893.
Numerous rounds of the buffet reveal more suprises. A delightfully cheesey potted mac n cheese, a flaky Cornish pastry and (our favourite choice of the day) the carvery station, offering roasted beef or rack of lamb alongside perfectly textured Yorkshite puddings and a selection of roasted vegetables. Though why gravy is always to be decanted with a tea spoon is beyond us (not just at The Waldorf)!
The Secret Garden brunch veers more towards the health conncious and this is certainly part of the appeal. Look out for the pickled vegetables, grilled seafood and the water bar with creative combinations such as rosemary and peach.
While the Waldorf may not project a family friendly image, this is a misconception. Children have their own buffet and aside from the usual clown, balloons, face painting and colouring. Executive Chef Jens Muenchenbach and his team will help children discover the garden itself and allow them the opportunity to touch and taste the various produce there.
Desserts include a dual chocolate fountain with plenty of cake pops, tropical fruits and candies for dipping and the addition of sugar coated churros is a wise move from the Waldorf team. Again quality prevails and rather than the usual small dessert plates, its larger portions of Red Velvet Cake, Cherry Pie and cheesecake that are offered. Throw is some delicious ice cream and you’re onto a winner.
We’ve been purposefully trying to avoid the big buffet brunches of late but The Secret Garden has reinvigorated our interest. It all stems from the levels of service from the Waldorf team, with staff personally catering the service towards our table and the needs of the guests. Drinks were constantly replenished (as were the cutlery and plates) without the need to ask.
The Secret Garden offers diners two locations to dine and while we opted to sit inside, this may have been a mistake on our part. While the interiors provide a pleasant blend of western character and subtle Arabesque details, they’re relatively nondescript and Mezzerie lacks atmosphere and character, a common trait of all day dining restaurants. Outside by the pool the seating may not be as comfortable but the beachfront views and live musical performances make for a more lively brunch experience.
The Secret Garden is definitely a more sophisticated brunch reflective of the Waldorfs distinguised brand identity. A small basil pot is offered to guests as a parting gift, allowing them to bring a little piece of the Secret Garden into their homes.
One minor issue we experienced was the lack of taxis on the East Crescent and the disruption to traffic due to on-going construction on at the Atlantis which resulted in delays of over an hour just to get off the Palm last Friday.
The Waldorf Astoria Brunch is available every Friday from 1pm – 4pm:
AED 345 per person (inclusive of soft drinks)
AED 425 per person (inclusive of house beverages)
AED 725 per person (inclusive of French bubbly)
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE with the exception of one image provided by Waldorf Astoria.