Brunswick Sports Club is the fourth cafe from partners Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez, the same guys who brought us Tom & Serg (they also own The Sum of Us and a coffee joint called Common Grounds).
Located in the Sheraton Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates, the latest venture marks a departure from their usual approach – Brunswick is the first licensed venue in their portfolio. It’s designed for serious sports fans, with half-a-dozen big-screen TVs – at least one visible from every seat – and sports memorabilia lining the walls.
It’s a tidy, well-designed, very clean “man cave”.
Still, there is a decidedly Tom & Serg feel to this space – urban, industrial, modish, with exposed metal pipes and bare light bulbs hanging from electrical wires. Separated by a glass wall, the smoking area – often an afterthought – is a comfortable, oasis-inspired space with greenery covering the walls. There is a counter with bar stools, which is set apart from the main (small) dining area filled with picnic-style tables. The music is funky and upbeat yet relaxing.
Brunswick’s menu is a concise offering of inspired pub food, consisting mainly of burgers, hot dogs and some hearty mains. Chefs use free-range, certified organic Australian beef for the burgers, all of which are served in homemade brioche buns. There is also a unique list of “burgers” in which the beef is replaced by protein such as ahi tuna, soft shell crab, Australian lamb and more.
We started with cheesy mac bites and chicken wings – perfect sports-pub food. The cheesy bites come as five thick chunks packed with hot and creamy mac and cheese, made with aged cheddar and jack cheese. The thick, crisp coating added a savoury crunch and the sweet chilli sauce and aioli it comes with adds a nice level of sweetness without overpowering that cheesy goodness.
The flavourful chicken wings are covered in a sweet, mildly spicy coating, but there was no messy sauce. They were, surprisingly, a bit dry, but helped somewhat by a tasty, light cucumber and green pepper salsa piled on top.
The waiter tells us the Mac Daddy burger is one of the restaurant’s most popular, so we order it. It is a beef patty topped with a mass of pulled beef brisket and a heap of rich, creamy mac and cheese – this time made with four cheeses (Shropshire, aged cheddar, mimolette and Parmesan). The brisket is tender and full of flavour, but we’re not convinced it belongs on a burger.
Unfortunately, the patty is well done. We weren’t asked how we wanted it cooked, which the waiter admitted later was his mistake.
That aside, this big sloppy mess of a burger is fun, unique, tasty and worth trying.
Another signature item – The Filthy Dog – proves less exciting. Just in case the all-beef sausage is not enough meat, it comes topped with a pile of barbecued braised beef, jalapeño cheese and fried shallots. It also has slivered spring onions and fresh coriander, perhaps to help disguise the calories you are consuming.
Across the menu, the dishes are hearty and heavy. You certainly will not leave hungry – especially if you also order dessert.
The simply named Waffle is a massive portion of thick waffle quarters with candied pecans, candied bacon and thick pumpkin cream, drizzled with homemade chocolate syrup and served with a side of caramel ice cream.
There’s a lot going on here and the ingredients don’t seem to mesh. Even if they did complement each other, it was too hard to get a piece of each ingredient in every bite. We ordered The Frenchman, too – thick slabs of soft, flavourful French toast, dusted with sugar, and served with strawberry sauce for scooping and vanilla ice cream. This dessert is your best bet if you’ve still got room after that Mac Daddy.
Service was efficient for most of the meal, but things went wrong at the end. We waited such a long time after ordering desserts (more than 25 minutes) that the manager came out to apologise – before we had even complained.
Brunswick is indeed fun and sporty, as intended, but it really is just a menu of slightly better-than-average pub food. When you’re watching football with the guys, this place is probably exactly what you’re looking for.
•Our meal for two at Brunswick Sports Club cost Dh366. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito