A Fishmarket Brunch at Al Raha Beach Hotel, Abu Dhabi

I attend quite a few brunches every year and in all that time, I never thought of trying the Friday brunch at Al Raha Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Actually, I had been to the hotel once, almost 4 years ago and just never felt a connection. However, a couple weeks ago I was invited by the hotel's executive Chef, Chef Sinju, whom I had met year earlier at the Westin in Abu Dhabi, to try the brunch and give him my thoughts. Never one to say no to a Chef, I obliged and tried the Fish Market brunch. A few thoughts emerged after my experience.


The Fish market concept.

It is simple enough. Walk along the spread of fresh fish. Choose what you want and ask for it to be grilled. If you have ever been to the fish market in Mena, you will understand this. I counted more than 20 different types of fresh fish on offer including sea bream, red snapper, sultan ibrahim and sea bass. Conceptually, there is no other brunch that does this. There might be a few brunches who grill fish for guests, but not on the scale seen here. 




Seafood and more seafood

While the concept of a fish market is backbone of this brunch, seafood dishes make up a large chunk of the brunch, ensuring that the fish market idea lingers in many stations. There is salmon done two ways, smoked and cured. There are three rice based seafood offerings including paella. Then there is the usual shrimp, mussels, sashimi, sashimi and of course oysters. Honestly, I was not expecting much in terms of oysters, but I was surprised by the size of the oysters: nice and fleshy and perfectly shucked. As far as the sushi goes, here too I was surprised. Too many brunches take rice, add nori and call it sushi. The chef who oversees the sushi station has been recruited from the Maldives - he knows what he is doing. 





Value for money

These remain challenging times for consumers and everyone is out looking for the best deal. The price point at this brunch is designed to meet that need in people. While it is a family brunch, there is no shortage of drinks. Prosecco, red and white wine as well as 5-6 different types of beer are part of the drinks package. Between the variety of fresh fish available and drinks alone, it is clear that this is a brunch that offers amazing value. 





Kids Rule

This is a family brunch, not just in name, but it is clear from the emphasis placed on kids. There is a big area dedicated to children, with  a very generous 5 dishes for them to choose from as well as their own chocolate fountain. Included in the dishes is pizza, where kids can add their own toppings. It is fun and interactive. Face painting, a clown and TV character Barney contribute to kids' pleasure. In addition to these, pool access ensures that children really do feel like they rule at this brunch. 



The way forward

A bit of work needs to be done crating a brunch vibe. I think the music has a lot to do with it. More uptempo music will make it livelier, and no, just because music is uptempo does not mean it detracts from the family focus of the brunch.  Furthermore, quality sound speakers around the dining area will carry the music everywhere, helping to create a brunch feel. Finally, the brand is looking a bit tired. Finally, a refresher as far as uniforms go will bring the brunch  a more up to date feel, with staff conveying a greater sense of youth and vibrancy. 


It was a brunch that surprised on so many levels, challenging whatever preconceived ideas I had. Executive Chef Sinju has been the force behind a concept change that works. Other nice touches like a fairly extensive cheese station complemented by cold cuts, his signature slow cooked beef, Yorkshire pudding to name a few, take the brunch to a level it has probably not known before. I think you will be pleasantly  surprised by what the brunch has to offer, backed by a lovely setting that offers views of the pool and gardens. It may not be an obvious choice, but I believe you will get tremendous value for your Dirham while feasting on one the biggest fresh seafood selections in the city. 

Essentials

Al Raha Beach Hotel, Abu Dhabi
Friday Brunch
+971 2 5080555
195AED+ soft drinks 
290AED+ house beverages
Dhs117 (kids aged six-12), free (kids under five). 
Fri 1pm-4pm. 

Disclaimer: I was invited by the Executive Chef to try the brunch. All views are my own.

Comments

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