House wine is poured. A test of the establishment. Fortunately this one is not serving cheap Argentinian swill, and a Muscadet appears in my glass. Unfortunately it is very good, and will require much care in the drinking. Careful not to gulp. Conversation leaps to another level. Seats are swapped, and soon the girls are all down one end giggling, and the men quietly talk shop at the other. It doesn’t last long – the men start guffawing soon enough.
The wine is going down well. One hour in, two drinks down. Time for mains. Restraint flees as I help myself to a slab of rare beef on croute. And a smidgen more of the fois gras terrine from the entree stand. Vegetables are for paupers. The spiralled tower of peeled prawns is dishevelled. A commis chef rushes out with more, but the tender morsels are removed faster than they are stacked, and soon the chef stands with the tray while people help themselves like five-year-olds in a candy store with a swiped five dollar bill.
Third drink is poured. They have changed the wine to a non-descript French white, but my appetite has picked up steam. The wine is gone before the main. The room is buzzing. Laughs are loud, and sound like wild animals – chimps, hyenas, kookaburras have moved in and replaced the ladies who were there before. Suddenly I find I know everyone at the table very, very well. Confessions, inner thoughts, profound moments are shared over Chardonnay.
By the time I return with my dainty plate of assorted miniature desserts, everything is funny, hilarious even. We shift back to Kir to partner the sweets, and tuck into macaron and mini mousses, gigling like little girls – male and female alike. The smokers have given up on food, and despite the shamal on the terrace, chain smoke with likewise chuggers, drawing back particles of the Omani dessert with their nicotine hit.
The call of last drinks is like Mr Hyde’s elixir, and we turn into ravenous monsters, demanding three drinks per person, raiding the petit fours and cheese displays in an attempt to line the stomach. The table is akin to the Mad-hatter’s tea party. Clothing is skewed, shoes kicked off under the table. Someone is singing, and it’s not the paid entertainment. Busboys and girls duck the fragments of maelstrom expertly – red wine, chocolate and spittle fly. Large gents stagger and leer. The few children there either look on bored and disgusted or tear around toppling drunkards.
It reminds me of Derby Day, Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne. The morning brings sunshine, tailored pastel suits, hats and coiffed hair. By the afternoon, the bellies are full, the wallets empty, the clothing mussed and stilletos discarded in preference of rubber flipflops for the way home. The singles hook up with undesirables, the partnered fight with their spouses. The train carrage home is like sweaty dolmades stuffed into a jar. Friends are lost. There’s tears. There’s laughter. It’s ugly after 3:30, just as it is at a Dubai Brunch. Those with beer goggles on don’t notice the difference, but those who have abstained quickly skuttle before they are sucked into the drunken debaucherous mire that is the after-brunch.
Is it reasonable to be both disgusted with oneself and yet more than willing to recommit the crime? Dorian Gray could hide his multitude of sins in a picture in the attic. The rest of us have to look in the mirror at the end of the day, and it’s not pretty. Brunch is disgraceful example of western expats dragging a city down to its own level, but it’s an institution here in Dubai, and a hellova lot of fun. I’ll pretend if you like though, that I won’t do it again….
There are different standards of Brunch in Dubai. Everyone has their favourites, but these are mine:
Beachcombers, Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
ph. +971 4 406 8999
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 12:30-4pm
How much: 250 AED including soft drinks, 360 AED wine and beer, 525 Champagne, wine and beer, kids 115, under 5s free
Go For: the kids. Jumping castle, beachside, clowns, magic, band, juggling, kids room with minders, toys and play stations.
Bubblicious, Westin Mina Seyahi.
ph. +971 4 399 4141
When: Fridays 12:30-4pm
How much: 350 AED including soft drinks, 500 AED Champagne, wine and beer, kids 190, under 6 free
Go For: the bubbles. Free-flowing Laurent Perrier, plus heaps of stuff for the kids including a petting zoo!
Imperium, Zabeel Saray.
ph. +971 4 453 0444
When: Fridays 1-4pm
How much: 275 AED including soft drinks, 395 AED house wine, beer, and spirits 550 Champagne etc, kids half price, under 4 free
Go For: the whole package. This is the brunch described above. Food is great and the beverage package is generous. Setting is opulent. Don’t take the kids.
Yalumba, Le Meridien Dubai.
ph. +971 4 702 2455
When: Fridays 12:30-3:30pm (then happy hour after)
How much: 499 AED Champagne, wine and beer
Go For: The trash. Silliest, drunkest, rowdiest brunch. Dancing after lunch. Saturday will be awful.
There are also plenty of great non-alcoholic brunches, but that’s not really what I’m talking about here. If that’s more your thing, lucky you – they’re much cheaper. Best I’ve found are at Almaz by Momo, Abshar Iranian Restaurant, Organic Cafe and More Cafe.