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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Cheese Room at Flow Kitchen
Cheese room at flow kitchen
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
..having driven past this replica of an Italian palace earlier, I felt that the fashion powerhouse had thrown all its might behind the Palazzo.
This brunch did not need a theme or ‘creative’ name to stand out in the clutter – It had us at Friday. It was after all being held at one of the only two Versace hotels in the world and having driven past this replica of an Italian palace earlier, I felt that the fashion powerhouse had thrown all its might behind the Palazzo. If only they had chosen a location which was a little less off the beaten track, this restaurant would have been packed – in fact it would have been bursting at it’s seam. The Palazzo Versace truly is a neoclassical masterpiece and it’s majestic architecture draws inspiration from 16th century Italia. For a moment, the high ceilings, marble floors, mosaic walls, designer furnishings and gold accents made me feel like I was a guest at Tony Montana’s mansion. I am pretty sure I heard Al Pacino saying “First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman” in his unmistakable Tony Montana accent somewhere in the hallways. It could just as easily have been Casa Casuarina, the Miami mansion outside which Gianni Versace was shot but this over the top, opulent, Versace wonderland would not be at home as it is in Dubai in any other city in the world.
We were greeted upon arrival with a fresh ginger and apple drink with fizz and surprisingly, nobody asked us for any money. I agree that I have not been to every one of the two thousand seven hundred & fifty three Friday brunches that Dubai has to offer but I am also pretty sure that there has never been a brunch where I have not been asked to pay before I eat. I do not know how many people had skipped paying the bill before this became the norm in Dubai but considering the amount of liquor that is consumed at these brunches I think I understand why this had to be done. The Giardino brunch at the Palazzo Versace though, is all about class. Nobody runs away without paying the bill here. It is a classy joint that welcomes classy guests. The rest line up to choose and pay for their packages at the other Friday brunches. An original Versace print adorned the uniforms, table mats and everywhere else possible. It was a bright vivid green which along with the white walls and ample sunlight flooding through the alfresco terrace recreated the atmosphere of Palazzos, where the bright internal court was the informal space to meet, dine and enjoy the weather. One thing that really stood out was the service. We requested to move to a bigger table and it was taken care of within 2 minutes. The waiter even helped carry some of our stuff (Yes we Pakistanis don’t travel light…even to a brunch) and before I knew it one of the chefs at the live cooking stations was teaching me the correct pronunciation for gnocchi. If you do not know, gnocchi are soft dough dumplings which in this case were stuffed with pesto and paired with aubergine and mozzarella. Not sure about Gianni (high calories and all), but Tony would absolutely have killed for this dish.
It had far too many dishes for me to mention but the oysters, live lobster and dessert selection were truly worthy of an Italian palace. I did wonder why they had an Indian food station but realized that this was marketed as an international brunch and that’s what it was trying to be. I only wish it had not. I only wish it had stuck to its Italian roots and seafood but most of the other top 10 brunches want to include a little bit of everything too.. it is the land of excess after all. I don’t think it matters if they all end up having the same menu anyway, Tony Montana only roams the hallways outside Giardino.