It would not be remiss to say that we love our brunches in the UAE, nor that we have turned on its head a meal that, in other countries, is traditionally eaten between, or instead of, breakfast and lunch, usually on a Sunday. In the Emirates, though, brunches come in all shapes and sizes. Some even start in the evening.
The most ubiquitous of them all is the Friday afternoon brunch, and the sheer variety on offer in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is mind-boggling. From lavish buffets and live stations to sharing platters served tableside and celebrity chef-created set menus, a Friday brunch or "frunch" is a staple for non-Muslim UAE residents. Even Expo 2020 Dubai got on the brunch bandwagon.
Expo 2020 Dubai Friday brunch - in pictures
But all that looks set to change with the country’s recent announcement about its new weekend from January 1, which will begin for many after a half day’s work on a Friday and extend until Sunday, with Monday being the first day of the work and school week.
So where does that leave the beloved Friday brunch? We ask the experts and decision makers in the industry.
When it comes to timing, LPM sure has a funny tale to tell. The fine-dining French restaurant, which has branches in the UAE, London and Saudi Arabia, last week announced the global premiere of its first-ever brunch, which is meant to launch in the Abu Dhabi outpost – on a Friday.
Nicolas Budzynski, global operations director at LPM, now acknowledges: “It is very clear that Friday brunch will no longer be … so the big question is Saturday or Sunday? Eventually, I predict the more 'party' brunches will take place on Saturdays, while the more sophisticated and family-orientated brunches will take place on Sundays. With the recent announcement of the UAE’s weekends changing, we will review and entertain the idea of a Sunday brunch.”
Samantha Wood, founder of impartial restaurant review website FooDiva.net, says a decision on new strategies will also depend on the number of private sector companies that will follow the new working week. “If the private sector does follow, I expect those restaurants that do offer brunch as we know it here will move to a Saturday, and definitely a Sunday brunch will take over from Friday, which will bring the timing in line with cities around the world.
“I would love to see restaurants use this opportunity to offer a more realistic brunch offer tapping into the “b” of brunch with a breakfast focus, similar to what you have in cities like New York – eggs Benedict with a mimosa, for instance – or like in the UK, with a traditional Sunday roast lunch.”
While a Sunday brunch seems the next likely step, as Wood and Budzynski predict, few operators are quick to commit.
Considering there is still some confusion regarding how the new weekend will play out (as private companies have a choice as to whether or not they want to adopt it), Lili Astic, operation director for Rikas Hospitality Group, tells The National: “The Saturday brunches at Mimi Kakushi [at the Four Seasons Resort] will operate as usual. We are definitely considering a Sunday brunch as an alternative option once all sectors are confirmed, and Sunday is considered part of the weekend. However, until there is a clear line of communication regarding public versus private sector’s new weekend shifts next year, we will keep our Friday brunch.”
Another outlet that is set on retaining its Friday brunch, albeit with a twist, is McGettigan’s. The Irish pub, which has outposts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was also one of the first to announce a brand-new Saturday brunch (arguably, the new Friday brunch) a few hours after the weekend change announcement.
“In light of the changing UAE week, we are also changing things up at McGettigan’s to ensure our brunch customers make the most of their weekend, as well as now offering a Sunday roast, actually on a Sunday,” says Dennis McGettigan.
Friday brunch will stay. The only difference, says McGettigan, is that “Friday brunch will start later on, meaning those who work a half day can start the weekend in the best way possible and kick-off the party early.”
Sameer Purain, owner of Sedap Asian Street Kitchen in Al Seef, Abu Dhabi, agrees. “I believe Friday brunches will remain and may prove to become more popular as a way to mark the start of a two-and-a-half-day weekend. In general, the [longer] weekend is extremely promising because there is more time and opportunity for brunching on different days at different venues.”
Given the brunch-happy crowds that make up the UAE, that sounds just about right.