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.

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