Top 5 family-friendly Friday Brunch options in the capital (including the runners-up & best for adults only too!)
I always understood brunch to be a meal somewhere between breakfast and lunch. Something foot-loose-and-fancy-free people did on a Sunday because they’d slept in too late really to call it breakfast, but you could find a swish looking street cafe and have your eggs still done any which way you like until 3pm.
My outlook on brunch has been completely overturned since moving to the UAE (the sleeping into half way through Sunday thing changed years ago …). You see not only is Friday our weekend, brunch is really a fancy way of saying gastronomically amazing 4-hour lunch – at some of the most prestige hotels in the world.
For some, it’s the highlight of the week’s social calendar. Be it the dressing up or the endless free-pour drinks that get you excited, don’t be mistaken this is an adults only game; with a little preparation and flexibility brunching can most definitely be a family occasion.
We are slowly but surely making our way around the best there is in Abu Dhabi, but if you are a novice to the brunching scene and want to get started – with kids – here are 5 that have been tried, tested and meet the Globetrotters tick of approval.
Yas Viceroy Pit Stop Brunch at Origins
The sleek, glossy image of the Yas Viceroy is sure to impress. A very modern looking hotel that straddles the Yas Marina Grand Prix Circuit on Yas Island is certainly a novel experience. Pit Stop Brunch is held every Friday in Origins restaurant from 12.30pm. I’ll be honest, I don’t think it has the widest range of food but comes top of my list today for its kid’s room.
Fully supervised with its own kid’s buffet, for those kids who’d rather be playing than sitting at a table for four hours while mum and dad let their hair down, this one is definitely for you. Kids are set up with colouring, crafts, a giant TV and computer games. Christmas day they also had a bouncy castle on the balcony and a resident Santa in a sports car doing laps. In the cooler months balcony dining is an option with a spectacular view over Yas Marina.
Yas Viceroy – Origins Restaurant, Yas Island, 12.30 – 4pm Fridays. Starting from 225AED+++
If first impressions count, then this is the one for you. What a grand entrance with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as your neighbour you can’t really go wrong for the atmosphere.The views from the other side are equally stunning, overlooking the Abu Dhabi Grand Canal (the bit of water that separates Abu Dhabi island from ‘off-island’).
The range of food and seating seems to go on forever, with over 30 live stations…. But wait there’s more! The most magnificent pastry room awaits at the end, ‘Dolce’ – far enough away and beyond the toilets to keep kids waiting and not jump straight to dessert but what a selection! The fairy floss is sure to be a winner.
Once the kids are suitably sweetened up, send them off to the free playroom beside the pool. Now I had my reservations on booking here; some of our party were under 4-years- old and they have a strict ‘over 4’s policy’; somehow Mr Globetrotter sweet talked our 2-year-old in so don’t dismiss it for this reason (but don’t be upset if you get knocked back!). The room is colourful, well supervised and full of activities for kids up to 12.
The grown-ups were also well looked after with a humongous cheese room and chocolate martinis for dessert, yes you read that right! With generous serving and no rush to move you on post-brunch, always a winning formula. The also offer an after party at Sorso Bar for those that like to keep things going.
Ritz-Carlton – Giornotte Restaurant, Khor Al Maqta’a, 12.30-4pm Friday. House package 395AED+++
Shangri-La Sofra Bld
Again this one probably wouldn’t make it top of my list on its food alone. Of course, the food is lovely – I am yet to find one that has disappointed – and they do have some great ‘order to your table’ dishes as well as the main self-serve buffet.
A huge selection of ice creams helps to keep the kids amused, but what I love most about this one, the kid’s activity area is actually in the restaurant. Those of you without kids might, therefore, want to steer clear! Or at least, ask to be seated away from this area, but for families who prefer brunching together, it is perfect. They had staff on hand doing some of the most amazing face painting I’ve ever seen and they were good at rounding the kids up and keeping them attracted back with balloons, colouring, games and a TV.
From the comfort of our own lazy parenting table we were able to keep an eye on what the munchkins were doing and they felt included in the meal as well. A downside is the big staircase, the under three crowd simply cannot resist giving this a go, over and over, and over. As a plus, they also run a Saturday version which not many hotels do.
Shangri-La Hotel – Sofra Bld Restaurant, Qaryat Al Beri (Between the Bridges) 12.30 – 4pm Friday. House beverages 365AED+++
Olea, St Regis Saadiyat Island
This is another one that wins points from the moment you enter with its wow factor! Incredibly modern and incredibly classy, a huge range of international cuisines with some of the most beautiful presentation. Live entertainment really kicks the afternoon off before the kids head into one of the most eloquently presented dessert bars!
This is one where the kids dine in with the adults, no separate buffet but there is access only a short distance away to the hotel’s kids playroom where kids can be signed in. The rooms not huge but cosy and the staff are caring, they will see children back to their table when they miss mum and dad and engage them in activities like colouring and face painting. Don’t forget to walk out to the beach front here and catch a glimpse of the spectacular azure waters of the Gulf.
St Regis Saadiyat Island, Olea, 1pm-4pm Fridays. Pearl package house beverages 395AED+++
A relative newcomer to the Abu Dhabi brunching scene, Aqua has made its mark as an outstanding contender for families. Again probably not as extensive a food range as some, but the setting and the room are the real selling point. From almost everywhere in the restaurant, you have spectacular views over Al Maryah Island and back to Abu Dhabi city centre. The restaurant is really bright, sleek and inviting with the kitchen itself taking centre stage.
For the kids, this one can be a real treat. Rather than dining with the parents, Aqua have a separate kids room with their “Rose Buds Menu” (read kids buffet with nuggets and more sweets and popcorn than they could possibly stomach). So you can set them up from the get-go with their own meal, they have a shared table together and a little independence. This arrangement might not suit all who want to dine as a family but if you want an adults-only occasion where the kids are safely taken care of, this is your winner.
I’ll admit I didn’t find the kids dining room overly impressive on its own, with only a large screen for entertainment, and it appeared as though the serving staff were left to supervise the kids. However, right next door is the hotel’s kid’s playroom. Brunching guests are allowed to sign children in here for free in a fully supervised area so you can rest assured of their safety, and entertainment with toys aplenty, colouring, video games for the slightly older ones.
Another great selling point, it’s free for kids up to 10 years old. Most brunches only offer free dining up to 5-years-old which given the minuscule quantities of chicken nuggets that I have seen most little ones eat, doesn’t seem fair really. Aqua is another brunch that casually spills on to an after-party on the terrace by the pool. From here there are spectacular sunset views to be had over the Abu Dhabi city skyline, a perfect way to roll into Saturday.
Rosewood Hotel – Aqua, Al Maryah Island, 12.30pm – 4pm Friday. Food, Grapes, Hops & Mixology 350AED+++
Best of the Rest with Kids
To be honest narrowing it to a top 5 is tough. Even over the five years we have lived here, extensive effort has clearly gone into catering for the family market and there is a plentiful supply of brunching options to suit those with junior dinners in their group. So special mention also needs to go to this bunch;
Safina at Saadiyat Beach Club – the brunch itself isn’t extensive but the kids room was one of the better ones and the views, wow!! A really great mix of ambience and class, but kids absolutely welcome. Another one you can groove from afternoon into evening when the resident DJ kicks off, or also enjoy the extensive pool & spa facilities as part of a brunch package and enjoy the entire day. You can see our full review of Safina here.
Saadiyat Beach Club, Safina, Saadiyat Island East, Friday’s 1pm – 4pm . Bubbly package 375AED+++
Bubbalicious at The Westin – this one might be very close actually to bumping into the top 5. We have only brunched here for Christmas which was another experience in itself, truly spectacular and I’d argue to say the best one we have spent overseas. We would need to return on a ‘usual Friday’ to see how it stacks up against the competition but with a string of kids entertainment organised by Kidz Factory and free-flowing drinks stations you can’t go wrong with something for everyone, followed by Be on the Grass afterparty 4pm-8pm. They also offer the Big Bubbles Brunch for tweens.
The Westin, Bubbalicious at Fairways, Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Sas al Nakhl, Fridays 12.30pm – 4pm. House Beverages 355AED+++
Ginger at Park Rotana – Another one that puts some sweet extra touches on for the kids. Colouring and fairy floss aplenty were the highlights for our little ones with a jumping castle outside, pool access included. Missed out on our top ranking because we felt we spent half the meal up and down supervising the kids outside not just sitting. Compared to others the range of foods for adults wasn’t extensive – but it is also one of the better value picks coming in < 200AED. It is not a completely dry restaurant, you can order drinks a la carte but the main boozy brunch here happens at Coopers down the corridor, which I wouldn’t suggest as child-friendly, you can bring children there until 6pm though. You can see our full review of dining facilities for families at Park Rotana here.
Park Rotana, Family Brunch Fiesta at Ginger All Day Dining, Friday ‘s 12pm-4pm. Selected house beverages 190+++
And our Favourites Sans Kids
I will confess as much as we love a great brunch with the kiddies, it’s wonderful to have a grown-up event without them too where the focus is on the food & drink selection.
Our long standing favourite would have to be CuiScene at the Fairmont (they do have a kids corner put aside in Frankies but it’s not extensive and can be difficult if you are based in another room, last we went NOT formally supervised). They’re Friday Brunch is now inclusive of Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill and Cedar Lounge. We have not revisited since this Friday Brunch extension but to this day it remains our most vivid favourite for food and service we have received. The views from the terrace over to the Grand Mosque are spectacular. Read more about our “adults only” staycation at the Fairmont.
Fairmont Bab al Bahr (Between the Bridges), Friday’s 12pm – 4pm. Hops & Vines 369AED+++
And the latest brunch to get a huge tick of approval from the Globetrotters for their extensive culinary spread and service is The Terrace on the Corniche at St Regis Abu Dhabi. The live cooking stations seem to go on forever! The extensive desert room is to die for and if that’s not enough, there’s a hidden chocolate and cigar lounge, as well as sabering of the champagne for some light crowd entertainment. Yes, kids will love the extensive desert and lemonades selection here particularly; however, unlikely many of their counterparts in this 5-star market, you do not have immediate access to a kids room or similar facilities with the hotel. We want to make sure it’s on your radar though parents because the food and service were brilliant!
St Regis Abu Dhabi, The Terrace on the Corniche, Selected cocktail, Wine & Beer 385AED+++
And the best bit about a brunch on a Friday, you’re all done and dusted by about 6pm and can stack the kids off to bed full and exhausted, then get a good kip in before Saturday awaits!
There are still plenty more Abu Dhabi brunch reviews to come. I am happy to take your contributions and suggestions as well to make this a comprehensive list for families to choose from for all ages and occasions – email me [email protected] or comment below.
Do you have an Abu Dhabi brunch…with kids favourite?
Disclosure & Disclaimer: Please note all reviews and pricing correct at time of initial publishing February 2015. Last revised and updated February 2017. +++Prices in Abu Dhabi are quoted exclusive of taxes which are currently 10% service fee, 6% tourism tax and 4% municipality fee. Always contact the hotel directly for latest pricing. Some brunches on this listing have been provided to us on a complimentary basis in exchange for our honest review, most have been paid for personally and all opinions, as always, are our own.
© Our Globetrotters