Friday brunch at: Coya Abu Dhabi, The Galleria, Abu Dhabi

Sea bass ceviche by executive chef Sanjay Dwivedi for Coya Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Coya
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The location

Coya is the latest restaurant to take up residence at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island. The 120-seat establishment offers diners water views and is easily accessible from all parts of the city. It’s down the Four Seasons end of the mall and valet parking is available just along from the entrance to the hotel, with entry to the restaurant itself on the right hand-side.

The atmosphere

I attend one of Coya’s first brunch sittings in the capital, so as expected, anticipation and expectations are high. The first contact I have with the staff inside the restaurant comes in the form of a happy, bubbly hostess who meets us at the lift. To my surprise she greets me by name, which I am incredibly impressed about, and her savvy, switched on demeanor makes me feel happy and valued from the outset. As she leads us to our table, I am as equally impressed by the decor. Spare a few tables, the entire interior of the restaurant, which has four separate areas — inside, private dining area, lounge/bar and outdoor terrace — appears full.

The enthusiasm of the wait staff gives the restaurant a contagious buzz, and the background Latin beats coming from the DJ whose deck is set up in the bar and lounge area, provide a welcome toe-tapping backdrop as the devouring of the Peruvian food begins.

Just as the brunch really kicks into gear, an impromptu drumming show ensues. It’s this that sends already relaxed happy spirits soaring, with everyone up on their feet clapping and filming the staff as they bash away on a small drum with feeling. It’s obvious they are enjoying themselves just as much as the guests.

The food

Coya, as many people know, is popular for its sharing concept, and this brunch celebrates that further. There isn’t station upon station of food for guests to choose from, and really, the only reason to get off your seat is to make your way to the ceviche bar, which offers a selection to choose from, including our table’s favourite, the Atun Chifa — Yellowfin tuna, sesame seeds, shrimp cracker and soy sauce. The Lubina Clasica is also worth mentioning with its sea bass, red onion, white corn and sweet potato combo.

While we are devouring the small ceviche bowls, our server delivers us a basket of tacos, a selection of salads (the Quinoa Al Tamarindo — quinoa, coriander, mint and pomegranate is lovely) and proceeds to make us the beautifully fresh Guacamole in a big mortar. Once the showmanship is done I can’t help but keep digging into, all the while knowing I should hold back, this is just the appetiser.

We make fast work of the appetisers, which for the most part are very good, although I can say I have had ceviche elsewhere recently that I would say was better. And then it’s onto the skewers, of which there are three choices. I love the portobello mushroom stick, it’s such a lovely rich flavour which my friend aptly says “tastes like something out of the jungle”, and the chicken is good too, but I draw the line after one bite when it comes to the veal heart skewer. I don’t like the strength of the flavours and texture, so put it aside.

Not unlike other serviced brunches of the same kind, the only real decision we have to make is regarding our main course. There is a selection of six to choose from — Arroz Nikkei (Chilean sea bass, rice, lime and chilli); Solomillo de Res (Spicy beef fillet, crispy shallot and garlic); Pappa Seca, Setas y Trufa (Peruvian dried potatoes, mushrooms and black truffle); Salmon (fillet, golden beetroot, cucumber and mint), Pollo Al Josper (corn fed baby chicken, aji panca and coriander) and the Papa Seca Vegetariana (Peruvian dried potatoes, butternut squash, and poached egg). All dishes are served with grilled whole corn, broccoli and stir fry quinoa vegetables.

My chicken is tender and flavoursome, and I am told on good authority that the Pappa Seca Setas y Trufa is tasty too.

Once we’ve got through this course, we are sure we just can’t fit another thing in, but as is always the case when the desserts come out, that all changes.

The selection is mouthwatering and eyeboggling at the same time. The Ganache de Caramelo is the perfect combination of sweet and salty with its salted caramel ganache, raspberry sorbet and candied orange. The Sundae de Main rates a mention too, and there’s not doubting it will get its fair share of fans in the coming weeks thanks to its corn sundae, sweetcorn ice cream and popcorn combination.

Who’s it best for?

Ideal for those who aren’t fond of a huge buffet feast and like their fair share of table service. Perhaps give it a rethink if you’re looking for a quiet lunchtime spread.

The verdict

A good idea for those who may have something to celebrate. Price-wise it’s on a par with other brunches offered on the island.

The National was a guest of the restaurant.

• Fridays 12.30-4pm, starting from Dh278 with soft beverages, Coya Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island. Reservations call 02 306 7000, email or visit