Fit for a king, the ‘Friday Feast brunch’

No one venue can claim the coveted spot of ‘Dubai’s number one brunch’ any more. They would have to settle for either best open air brunch, best seaside brunch, best party brunch, best afternoon party brunch, best foodie brunch, best seafood brunch, best family brunch, best screaming toddlers brunch or best sparkling evening brunch etc.

Feast - Sheraton Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Celebratory weekend banquets which are popularly known as Friday Brunches have become an integral part of life in Dubai. These feasts become  even more popular during the short winter season. So much so that an element of  specialization has crept in amongst Dubai’s brunches.

No one venue can claim the coveted spot of ‘Dubai’s number one brunch’ any more. They would have to settle for either best open air brunch, best seaside brunch, best party brunch, best afternoon party brunch, best foodie brunch, best seafood brunch, best family brunch, best screaming toddlers brunch or best  sparkling evening brunch etc.

The most important category among all of these spectacular themes is the ‘Feel Good brunch’. All brunches are supposed to make you feel good, that’s the whole idea right? You forget about your credit card payment, your evil boss, your nosy neighbor or whatever it is that you need to escape from for a couple of hours and then you brunch. But can one brunch really make you feel better than the other? I believe it can and I also have the winner in mind.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the winner of the ‘Eat Sleep Travel Repeat’ award in the ‘Feel Good brunch’ category for 2019 is the Friday Feast brunch at the Grand Sheraton Dubai.

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A restaurant is like a large industrial machine  that needs to work with the precision of a Swiss watch. Every single moving part needs to be perfectly aligned in order to deliver the experience that differentiates the leaders from the followers. This synergy becomes yet more vital during a banquet or a feast because all your guests expect consistent and efficient service coupled with personal attention. Throw 7 live cooking stations into the mix and it becomes  beguiling to the point where you have as much interest in watching the place run as you do in the food. It is a bit like a live musical where one instrument out of sync could make the whole show come down. Everyone may be performing at the their peak but one person out of line would stand out like a stain on a crisp white sheet.

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I had asked to be seated near the window and it took the hostess half a second to find my name on the list and escort us towards our table. The area was awash with natural light that was flooding in through the expansive windows. It was just like brunching al fresco but within the controlled serenity of a tastefully decorated dining hall. The 7 live cooking stations were placed within a central island which was accessible from all four sides. The dessert station was strategically placed near the exit so we didn’t really make it all the way there before almost bursting at the seams. For that thoughtful gesture, I say thank you to the Feast management. I may not have been able to taste all the fantastic food, had I seen the homemade ice cream, mud cake, brownies and chocolate sculptures earlier.

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There was something for everyone at this brunch. There was an elaborate selection of cheeses and breads. There were oysters, mussels and sushi if you preferred. The kids play area had a chocolate fountain that was adjusted for height so no adult intervention was required. There was a live band that encouraged guests to sing along, thus contributing to the family friendly vibe. There was a mixology lab where you could learn to make a Mojito or perhaps create your own cocktail. The service was top notch and the staff were at hand to talk about any dish that you wanted to know more about. While watching the roast duck being carved, I jokingly asked the chef if they had any goose liver products and within two minutes, a generous helping of the luxurious French delicacy – Fois Gras, appeared at our table. There was too much food there to talk about every dish individually but I highly recommend the Prime Rib, 12 spiced cured salmon and my discovery of the day, the Tamarind and Pomegranate chicken which was absolutely brilliant.

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I guess you may be starting to understand why this brunch made me feel so good. I probably feel good at the end of all brunches but this brunch had something more. It ticked every single box. There was nothing left to be desired. We walked out with huge smiles on our faces. The kind of smiles guests leaving a King’s banquet would probably have had. I could not have thought of a better name for this brunch myself. It truly was a Friday Feast.

El Sur Tapas brunch

GUEST REVIEW

We met up at El Sur at the Westin Mina Seyahi for a Spanish brunch. El Sur, meaning “The South”  is beautifully overlooking the garden and the ocean and you really get that southern vibe that we northern people love. With a backdrop of palmtrees and blue ocean you get a tapas brunch which is a set menu of selected small dishes, a chioce of seefood or chicken paella and dessert.

Have you ever heard of TAPAS? Who hasn’t right? Nobody ever thinks of Spanish food without tapas, but what are they really?

Traditionally they are small dishes served hot or cold and made to eat with your hands while you sip on a glass of wine. It can be as easy as a piece of bread smeared with tomatoes, a bunch of olives, fried potatoes, a slice of cheese or slices of spanish cured ham or small fried peppers.

At El Sur you get it all served up on a board and in small dishes for you to sample and share. The most important thing about tapas is to eat a bunch of different dishes, socialise and drink your wine. I think the concept includes a lot of talk too because in the mediterranean countries you just don’t eat in silence. If you want your dinner party to be lively and fun and full of conversation the best way to do it is to put a big plate of small dishes, cold cuts and finger food in front of the guests and you are done. The concept is easy and practised all over the world, but the mediterranean people have made an artform out of it, tapas, meze and anti pasti beeing the famous ones.

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Papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) are originally from the Canary Islands. They are basically small or medium sized potatoes boiled in very salty water and left to boil until the skin is all wrinkly and salty. They are said to be boiled in seawater originally because both fresh water and salt were scarce, so if you can imagine how salty seawater is then you know how salty your boiling water should be. They are served with a red sauce called mojo rojo and a green sauce called mojo verde. The red sauce is made from red peppers and the green is made from green peppers.  The best way to eat them is to dip (dunk) your potatoe in the sauce and take big bites and enjoy. Or you can serve the potates and sauce with meat (mojo rojo) or fish (mojo verde). I think that this must be the origin of chips and dip for sure. Salty potatoes and something to dip it in!

One of the tapas you will always find in Spain is Croquetas, that is a ball of dough with ham or cheese that is deep fried. It’s origin is actually in France, but the Spanish have really taken it over. It is a savory simple little treat and everyone loves it. Almost like a tater tot. They should be small, savory and really crispy, but at El Sur they were huge balls and surprisingly sweet. It was so sweet that it didn’t fit in with the rest, but if you like sweet fritters then you’re good of course.

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At El Sur you get a choice of paella with chicken or seafood. Paella is simply described as rice cooked with vegetables, meat and saffron. The word paella is thought to come from the word used for ”pan”, that is the pan that it is cooked in. Paella can be cooked with chicken, seafood or a mix of it. It was the arabic Moors that introduced rice to Spain and the custom of eating rice as a family meal with vegetables and/or meat. But then the Spanish developed that into the paella many centruries later by adding saffron, rabbit, duck, snails and all kinds of seafood. Just as any Arabic or Iranian person knows, the best bit of rice is always the burnt crispy bit at the bottom. A really good paella should have a nice crispy crust of rice with saffron on the bottom of the pan, which means the paella has been  properly cooked in the pan that it is served in. At El Sur they kind of forgot that, there was no crust at the bottom I am sad to say.

If you want to experience a bit of Spain you can go to El Sur and try their dishes. The setting on the terrace is excellent for that medditerrainean vibe and the sangria is cold and easy to sip on hot days. Sangria is also a genious invention from Spain by the way. If you take wine that is not good to drink as it is, mix it with fruit, sugar, orange juice, water and ice, you will get a really nice summer drink. A drink that goes well with your tapas or just on it’s own and gives you the key to open the conversation.

I had a great time at El Sur. It was ofcourse due to the great company, the sunshine and the location but I have had better paella in Dubai. I still recommend that you go there because of the gorgeous view, Croquetas, wrinkly potatoes and free flowing sangria!

El Sur - The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Brunch @ Fusion

Fusion - Ghaya Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

With so many brunches around town every Friday, it is getting increasingly difficult to choose one that stands out unless something new and absolutely unheard of is going down in terms of the theme or the food. One thing that makes it easier to make a choice is the value proposition.

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Dim Sum at the Ghaya Grand hotel Friday brunch

With the Fusion restaurant’s Friday brunch at the relatively new Ghaya Grand hotel it becomes easy to make a choice because at 149 AED per head, it is an absolute steal; especially if you take into account all the variety they have to offer. At this price, I would have been happy to settle for one or two different types of cuisine but this place had pretty much everything covered. There was an Italian counter with a live cooking station, an Arabic counter with a full lamb roast, an Indian counter, Dim Sum, a variety of seafood including a lavish sushi selection, and even a selection of Thai dishes.

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Sushi selection at the Ghaya Grand hotel Friday brunch

I have had fish in garlic butter sauce before but the Garlic, Butter and Honey Salmon was unlike anything I had tried before. The subtle honey flavour gave my palate something completely new to work with. It was salty of course but also just a little bit sweet. That, paired along with the unmistakable salmon flavour and rich butter sauce was enough to make me return for seconds.

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Salmon in garlic, honey and butter at the Ghaya Grand hotel Friday brunch

I also loved the spicy, Crab in Thai green curry. I know Thai food is supposed to be hot but I don’t remember it ever being this spicy, even in Thailand! It may not work for everyone but I just couldn’t have enough of it. I remember having spicy crabs in Colombo some years ago and thinking that ‘this is the only way to eat crab’ at the time. There is something about hot chili that goes down so well with the soft and tender crab meat. I had to stop myself to from going for seconds otherwise I may have missed out on all the other wonderful food that was on display.

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Crab in Thai green curry at Ghaya Grand hotel

One trend that has caught on so well in Dubai is the ‘make your own pasta’ option that is available at many restaurants and brunches across the city. I think this is great because it gives you control over how you want your pasta to be. Unless it is a signature dish or a special creation by the chef, I am all about transferring control back to the customer. I call it eating out 2.0. This is where you decide the ingredients for your dish and if it doesn’t turn out the way you had expected, you have nobody else to blame but yourself. Chef Raheem at the live pasta station at Fusion ensured that we did not completely burn the boat. He was available on site and gently nudged us in the right direction if we appeared to be lost or got too carried away!

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Make your own noodles at the Ghaya Grand Hotel Friday Brunch

The best thing is that all these options come at an unbelievable price. In my opinion, this truly is the best value brunch in Dubai.

Brunch at Todd English’s Olives.

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The opportunity to explore Yas Island had presented itself recently. From teeing off at the crack of dawn at the Yas Links Golf club and splashing about at Yas Waterworld to a relaxing spa experience at the Crowne Plaza, my long weekend has been absolutely Yastastic!

I wanted to end it all on a high note before rejoining the rat race in Dubai. I wanted to dine at one of the best eating establishments in the capital. I wanted to have an experience that would transcend the boundaries of every fine dining experience of my life. I wanted to have a meal that would help us form memories that would last a lifetime.

There are many restaurants on the island and we did have the pleasure of dining at a couple of amazing places but unfortunately, none of the restaurants at Yas seemed to make the cut. We were after all, looking to have the best meal of our lives so we decided to go deeper into the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The choices were endless and we were just about to toss a coin when one name jumped at us from the search results. I remembered watching reruns of the show ‘cooking under fire’ where Todd English was a judge. I was also familiar with the ‘Olives’ restaurant at Union Square in New York City. I did not dare to venture inside at the time but I did hear later that the restaurant shut down in 2015. Not only was this a chance to join the table of one of the most famous chefs in the world but also an occasion to redeem missed opportunities.

So in a heartbeat, our reservations for the brunch at Todd English’s Olives at the Venetian Village were done. Not exactly ‘in the vicinity’ but the drive down to the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi from Yas Island was definitely worth taking.

We arrived at the venue after a 40-minute long drive from Yas. Just like the traditional sofas that were made modern by the size variation, the burnt orange seating and the dark mahogany ceiling set the tone for the meal. The entire brunch was a contemporary take on a classic Mediterranean menu. None of that stand in line with your plate in your hand business. This was a proper sit-down meal where the food came to you, just the way the best chefs in the world intended it to. We had arrived at the right place.

The charming staff explained the menu to us and ensured that all we needed to do to get their attention, was to look at them. They were discreet yet attentive. Never intrusive but always available. This was paradise for service junkies like me. They could have served instant noodles and I would have taken it down with a smile. I am not sure I remember the last time I experienced service like this in the UAE.

We were started off with cream of broccoli soup which was accompanied by herbed croutons and chili oil. If broccoli is your thing, you have got to try this soup to understand what it was all about. If however, broccoli is not your thing, you need to stop whatever you are doing right now and drive down to the Venetian Village at the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi. This was the kind of soup that could change your life and make you see broccoli in a completely different light.  I don’t usually stuff my face with carbs at the start of a brunch. It makes me full and I have a hard time making it to the last round. The crusted softness of the bread drenched in chili oil was making my brain send only one message to my hands and eyes – EAT.

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The appetizers consisted of grilled shrimp salad, beef pepperoni flat-bread, sweet potato bravas and beef carpaccio. I have had carpaccio about 3 times in my life prior to this occasion. Besides the fascination with the fact that somebody had spent a lot of effort in slicing the beef paper thin before pounding it some more to get the desired thickness/texture, I never really understood the whole point of it. I mean why undertake such a production when you could simply toss a steak on a grill and eat six times the amount of meat in half the time? OK sorry, I may have come across as a bit uncultured there maybe all I needed was to eat at a restaurant like this where I could really get sold on the idea. The beef, which was drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, was resting on a Gorgonzola rosti cake. For those of you, who like me couldn’t make head or tails of this, let me explain further. Rosti cakes consist of coarsely grated, parboiled potatoes. Gorgonzola is one of the world’s oldest blue-veined cheeses which has a soft texture and a nutty aroma. The sauce in question here is made by adding this cheese to Parmesan, salt, pepper and parsley.  Now imagine a soft, grated potato cake drenched in this sauce before being veiled by a paper thin slice of beef covered in olive oil and lemon juice. There was also scallion aioli, more Parmesan, balsamic glazed onions and a bed of mix greens to divert your attention if all this awesomeness got too much for you to handle.

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Beef Carpaccio at Todd English’s Olives

Patatas bravas, also called patatas a la brava or papas bravas, is a dish native to Spain. It is often served as a tapa and was one of my staples in Barcelona and Ibiza simply because it was always served halal! The sweet potatoes were a good twist on this dish and they were given the Todd English treatment with the honey jalapeno dressing, avocado aioli and feta cheese. By the time I was done with this dish, a warning bell went off in my head as my stomach was nearing capacity and was dangerously close to not having any space for the main course. I still did try all the appetisers but the two I have described above were my favourite.

Sweet potato bravas as at Olives
Sweet Potato bravas at Todd English’s Olives

For the mains, we ordered a pan seared sea bass filet and slow braised short rib. The fish had a gorgeous sear and was covered in a lemon butter sauce. It was sitting on a bed of orzo pasta which had an uncanny resemblance to risotto. This pasta was dotted with tangy sundried tomatoes and on top of the fish rested a crown made of green squash. The short rib was unlike anything I have ever seen before and I have seen a lot of ribs. For starters, the bones had been removed. Not much of a rib, I thought. I changed my mind as soon as some of the meat went into my mouth. Remember, the phrase ‘fall off the bone’? In this case, the meat was so tender that it literally had fallen of the bone at some point. You could tell that a lot of effort had gone into this. These ribs had been cooked on a very low heat, for a very long time. I remember closing my eyes and gradually working my way through each strand of meat as I savoured every single bite. That would go on for a while before I would be interrupted by a change of texture courtesy of the candied carrots or the creamy, spring onion whipped potato.

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Slow braised rib at Todd English’s Olives

The drinks were bottomless and my personal favourite was the blackberry mojito, even though the passion fruit mojito was a tough contender. The assorted platter of desserts was really cute and should get full marks for presentation but let’s just say that the earlier courses had set the bar so high that it was hard to keep up.

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Overall, it was an amazing experience. Everything from the service to the food was top notch but the best thing about this brunch was the price. For 290++ with house beverages, this seemed like an absolute bargain. For 190++ you could also opt for the soft drinks package or for 390++, you could go for the bubbly.

Todd English's Olives Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Be a star at Lucky Voice!

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It’s not that I can’t sing. I’ve done it for most of my life and my ability does transcend genres, artists and even languages.  It’s just that my friends and family have not been too receptive to my unique talent. So, the idea of a karaoke brunch didn’t really excite me too much or it had not done so until I experienced  the Lucky Voice brunch over the weekend.

Not knowing what to expect, I walked into a huge room with neon lights covering most of the ceiling and quirky pieces like a random bath tub strategically strewn about. There was a DJ booth that looked like an old school tape stereo and also Christmas decorations all around. The moment I saw the tub, I knew I was in the right place. All that singing that I’ve been doing for all these years has usually been in the vicinity of a bath tub.

Not just the décor but the whole concept itself was unlike any karaoke bar or any brunch for that matter. They didn’t just throw you to the mercy of the DJ nor did we have to endure 3 hours of painful singing by people who had no job doing such things. There was a whole talent show on stage and the participants were the guests themselves! Yes, every table had nominated some guests to perform a karaoke battle style dance off. Spread over several rounds, with knockouts based on applause this was by far the most entertaining thing I have ever done at a Brunch!

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Sharing some Holiday Cheer with Chef Rob from Intersect by Lexus

At the end of the brunch, we were granted free access to one of the private rooms that came with a karaoke machine just so we could shamelessly torture our friends without being embarrassed in public. Don’t get me wrong, a few of us can sing remember? Fortunately, nobody really gave a hoot about who could or could not. The bottom line is that everybody was doing it and nobody seemed to care. If that was not a fabulous moment, I don’t what was. Think of it like the after party before the after party.

Oh yes and they did have food as well. I saw some tacos and wings floating around on a platter somewhere. The cranberry juice, company and the talent show took up most of my time though. I remember singing the few words of lose yourself that I knew while holding a lint roller like a mic.

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy

 …………………………………….already, mom’s spaghetti

Which incidentally was the song that the winner of the dance off performed on. Oh, and I also had a beef slider but lets just say that I would be going back only for the karaoke and all that fun!

Lucky Voice - Grand Millennium Dubai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Iftar at Lapita Hotel, Dubai Parks and Resorts.

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I have been doing the Tiki Puka Puka way before Prince Harry and his friends went all Polynesian and much before the London club Mahiki opened up in Dubai. So imagine my excitement when not just one club or restaurant but a whole Polynesian themed resort opened up here. Nestled in the centre of the sprawling Dubai Parks and Resorts and sitting right next to the upcoming six flags theme park is this huge clustered resort complete with tropical landscapes, 2 pools and a lazy river.

Lapita Hotel, Dubai Parks and Resorts
The Polynesian theme extended all the way outside as well.

Our first weekend iftar was supposed to be somewhere else but the AED 150 price tag plus the 2 for 1 offer at http://www.ramadanwithmarriott.com/ was almost too good to be true so in the name of research but mostly because I love to save a buck wherever I can, we headed down to Kalea restaurant at Lapita Hotel to see what a five star 150 AED Iftar buffet looks like.

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The resort was made up of not one gigantic structure but a number of huge Polynesian hut styled buildings connected by thick island foliage and walkways. Both the exteriors and the interiors were covered with dark wood and there was an abundant display of island totems standing proud between the straw ceilings and cane walls. This truly looked like a themed destination where you could unplug from the outside world and laze away a whole weekend like it was 1979. I would not mind going back just to check out the resort. Every little detail had been looked into and Kalea, like the rest of the hotel was no exception.

Iftar at Lapita Hotel
Despite the low price, the restaurant had not really cut corners on the variety of food on display. I did not even bat an eyelid on the absence of seafood. Call me whatever but I will happily trade in the ceviche and sushi for a meat carving station on any day plus I know seafood is always the biggest price factor in a menu and this iftar was price sensitive. With a dedicated Indian corner, Thai corner, Arabic corner, continental dishes, live Saj station and all the salads, desserts and cheeses you could not eat in one day, it was still one of the best value Iftars I have ever been to.

Iftar at Lapita
There were plenty of salads to go around

Not everything however was as good as the tasteful interiors or as abundant as the mounds of food on display. There were 2 things that bothered me quite a bit and it would not be right to not mention them. The first batch of the mixed grill was probably done in a hurry to meet the 7 pm start time consequently reducing the lamb tikkas to burnt charcoal; like the ones you can probably find in the deepest throes of a feral abyss. Black as the night itself but I could tell that they once burned bright, these tikkas. I like my meat a little charred but these were beyond redemption. This kind of set the tone for the rest of the night.

Condiments at the Lapita Iftar
The condiments and chutneys were spot on – the biryani, not so much.

The biryani was seriously under spiced. For some restaurants, biryani is almost an afterthought. An unsophisticated dish of rice and chicken hurriedly put together at the last minute just to check another box. To the other hundreds of thousands of die hard biryani fans all over the world, that is nothing less than an insult. Now that I think of it there was nothing spectacular about the rest of the food either. It was just food, a lot of it.

Saj at the Lapita Iftar
The live Saj station

My most memorable food experience that day was at the live saj station where the gentleman in charge of the shawarmas and saj created a spicy cheese and labneh saj without the customary cucumbers and tomatoes, on my insistence. He accommodated me with a smile despite not having any red chili paste at his station. I think he went to the kitchen or pantry and smuggled some in just for me. The result of course was like a gulp of Fiji while gasping for water in the middle of the Atlantic. Not just this particular gentleman, but the entire service staff on duty that day were holding the place together in the absence of a five star chef in the kitchen.

desserts at the Lapita Iftar
When all fails, there is Sugar!

I have always found staff at resorts to be more chatty than staff at hotels. I don’t know if this is done on purpose to create a particular vibe or if it has just always been a coincidence. The staff at Kalea were no different. Almost every person we interacted with that day went out of his or her way to answer our question/crack a joke/comment on something/help us out. Our waitress for the evening, Janice deserves special mention for ensuring there was a glass of diet coke with a lemon wedge in it every time our drinks were about to finish. We did not even have to look at her; there would just be another diet coke sitting on the table as soon we got done with the first one.

Lapita Dubai Parks and resorts
The Turkish delight was a pretty good way to end the Iftar.

The two things at this iftar that we were thankful for were the kids buffet and the desserts section. There was a separate little area for the fussy eaters which our 8 month old loved. Dua couldn’t have enough of the smiley faced potato cutlets while Mishal and I loved the Umm Ali (Arabic bread pudding). The Gulab Jaman (deep fried spongy balls soaked in rose scented syrup) were kept in a hot dish and I created my own dessert by topping them with soft serve ice cream. So what could have been a lacklustre experience ended up being a 900 word review thanks to the awesome staff and lots of sugar. I recommend that you do visit this restaurant for Iftar. The food may not be way up there yet but the value proposition, service excellence, exotic interiors and plenty of sugar may just make it worth your while.

Kalea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ultimate Family brunch at Flow Kitchen. Fairmont, Palm Jumeirah.

we were greeted by Spider Man and a Green dude who looked like he was going to get his ass kicked by Spider Man pretty soon. There was also this other dude who looked like he could be the star of his own comic book but I couldn’t quite remember who he was.

View my food journey on Zomato!

We hardly went to restaurants as kids. My father’s idea of a big meal out was to prepare a bigger meal at home. He would bring the chefs home and we would watch them as they prepared a Pakistani feast for the same 30 or 40 people that always showed up. Besides the stuffed lamb and the usual partridge masala, there would be a breakfast counter with halwa (sweet dish made of semolina, almonds and cardamom) chana (chickpea) masala and a guy serving piping hot puris (deep fried flaky bread) straight from the gigantic karrahi (wok).

Well, all that happened in Pakistan at my dad’s old country house and it was in another time. Now Mishal and I can barely fit ourselves into our tiny kitchen (or into any of our old jeans for that matter but that is a completely different subject)  and honestly I am not sure if I even know 30 or 40 people. Even if I did, the thought of 10 kids tearing down my living room and doing jumping jacks on my sofa is a bit concerning to say the least. Thankfully though, that would never be a problem now because I have discovered a magical place where kids can be kids and adults can be kids too; or they can just remain adults. Nobody would judge them.

As we got out of the elevator and turned the corner towards Flow Kitchen, we were greeted by Spider Man and a Green dude who looked like he was going to get his ass kicked by Spider Man pretty soon. There was also this other dude who looked like he could be the star of his own comic book but I couldn’t quite remember who he was. “Welcome to Flow Kitchen” said the usher standing next to the green dude as I snapped back to reality. “Is this your first time here?” “Yes” I said while the kid in the corner did a Skywalker maneuver with his light sabre. “Mr and Mrs Chaudhry, please follow me” she said and we walked into a large hall which was flooded by the light coming in from the gigantic window that looked into the ocean.

Most people seemed like they had either just been to or were about to head out to the beach but there were a couple of people with jackets who seemed just as content and at ease as the guy in yellow flip flops. I without my flip flops and jacket also felt quiet comfortable in the hustle and bustle of what increasingly seemed to resemble a dining room of a Market Hall. There was a cart serving steamed dumplings next to a stand with every possible kind of bread on display.

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Dumplings at Flow Kitchen

Pre cut and pre tossed salads are so old school, so there was a cart that had the most beautiful vegetables on display. You would choose what you want and this lady would peel, chop, toss and season your salad before you could say organic. PS Did you know that rock salts come in 5 flavors including charcoal and vanilla?

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Have your salad cut, chopped, tossed and seasoned in front of your eyes

Some places have totally excluded the breakfast element from their brunches which is quiet sad because brunch is traditionally supposed to be between breakfast and lunch so you should have items from both meals on the menu. Flow Kitchen is as big on breakfast as it is on family. There were sausages, hash browns and beans but the best thing were the eggs. There was a separate stand serving eggs benedict and you could add spinach, chicken, turkey or even roasted pine nuts if you wanted. The yolk was nice and runny just as it should be. There is nothing that offends me more than an overcooked egg.

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Spinach Eggs Benedict with roasted pine nuts
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Tomato Salsa and cheese on garlic bread at the Ultimate Family Brunch

I am still not a fan of the ‘serve a dish from every country’ doctrine that the brunches seem to have adopted in Dubai but I guess it makes sense if they can make it a part of the theme. A family brunch caters to the whole family so it would only be fair to serve all kinds of cuisine. There is always one dish or type of cuisine that stands out at every brunch. It could be a pasta or a sheesh kebab or even the entire seafood menu. I could not find that one dish at the Ultimate family brunch. The Morrocan lamb tagine was as divine as the Italian margarita pizza and the pesto on the baked salmon was as fine as the wasabi in the soy sauce. This was a foodie’s paradise and I did not want to go back home.

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Baked Salmon with pesto crust
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Sushi at Flow Kitchen

Not everyone in the family enjoys the complications of a sophisticated meal and sometimes all you crave is a good burger with lots of ketchup and some mayonnaise. For those fussy eaters, there was a special kids menu which I would have gladly read out to my seven month old milk junkie had she not been so fascinated with the colorful cakes and gummy bears on display. Despite there being so many kids at the restaurant, it was nothing like my father’s old house. There was no one diving head first off the tables, nobody drawing their parent’s faces on the walls and no one following them around and telling them to behave. The chaos had been allowed to flourish in an organised way albeit confined to the perimeter of the adjoining hall. There were two hours worth of activities which included face painting, balloon twisting, a magic show and arts and crafts. Heck there was even a PlayStation for older kids and for adults who refuse to grow up.

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Macaroons, meringue cookies and gummy bears at the Ultimate Family Brunch

Among the countless dessert options there was a red velvet cake and a decadent chocolate cake that stood out for me but the most popular sweet thing seemed to be the white cupcakes with inverted test tubes stuck on them. The tubes had a raspberry filling which you poured on to the cake. I had to save some room for coconut ice cream (which I had later with warm apple pie) so didn’t really get around to trying it but the theatrics of the tube and the raspberry syrup kept us from slipping into a food coma before we got to the ice cream.

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The tubes have a raspberry filling!

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There are so many things I have not described or spoken about like the warm flaky crust of the Moroccon chicken pie or the fresh Irish oysters on ice but I can’t do it because then this review would never end. What I would like to say is that I had not thought of my father’s old house for a long time. Even less of the 30 or 40 familiar faces that kept showing up at all his grand feasts. That changed yesterday. I thought of my family again and any restaurant that can make you do that has got to be special.

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Fresh Oysters on ice at Flow Kitchen

Flow Kitchen - Fairmont The Palm Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato