The Souq brunch at: Olea, Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates

The location

Kempinski Hotel at the Mall of the Emirates probably doesn’t need too much introduction. It’s the hotel attached to the front of one of the world’s most famous shopping malls. On the plus side, this means your taxi will probably know where to go, and it’s well served by a metro station. On the minus side, you’re going to a shopping mall, which depending on your stance on shopping malls could make it the ultimate meeting of retail therapy and all-you-can-eat delights or a striplit nightmare of escalators and suspiciously permanent 75 per cent off sales. Luckily, once you arrive in the hotel, you’re very much in a hotel, not the food court — they even manage to squeeze a terrace with a pool in, and the latest menswear bargains are nowhere in sight.

The atmosphere

Very pleasant. It’s not a raucous, over-exuberant affair, but it’s not so low profile you forget you’ve gone out either. The leisurely 1-5 timing means you can take your time over your meal, and a pianist and vocalist keep the entertainment going in the background, without shrieking “It’s 3pm — let’s turn the music up.” There’s a family vibe too, with kids running round on the aforementioned terrace with their newly painted faces and a magician visiting tables.

The food

Olea has definitely aimed for the ‘less is more’ approach, and that’s not a criticism. Where so many brunches attempt to overawe visitors with a terrifying array of every dish under the sun, the chefs here have chosen to focus on their signature dishes — Levantine specialities such as Palestinian Musakhan join the expected array of barbecued meats, while a dedicated raw meat counter will doubtless appeal to many. In the interests of professional integrity I tried a small sample, and discovered that for me, no amount of olive oil and spices would make me want to eat raw meat. The hungry diners leaving the counter with plates piled high suggest I was in the minority, and I’m assuming the raw meat was in the higher quartile if that’s your thing. The barbecued meat, on the other hand, was definitely excellent. Perhaps one advantage of keeping the number of dishes on offer down is that the ones that are on offer are prepared with love and attention rather than mass produced, and a special mention has to go to the chicken kebabs, which were tangy and fruity and tasted quite unlike any marinated, barbecued chicken I’ve eaten before.

Who is it best for?

This was the launch so it’s early days to judge, but families looks a good bet. The kids activities, relaxed atmosphere and, well, lots of kids, seems to point in that direction. Equally, it was a great place to simply sit down and enjoy an afternoon in the sun with good food and drink. It’s probably not best for those with a picky diet or vegetarians — we’re looking at a lot of meat.

The verdict

We’d definitely return. The food was tasty, the location was not what we’d expected from a mall hotel, and the relaxed atmosphere and surroundings meant we ended up staying for an hour or so after brunch simply relaxing and enjoying a Moroccan tea on the terrace.

The Souq Brunch takes place Fridays from 1pm-5pm at Olea, Kempinski MoE, and costs from Dh225 per person. For reservations call 04 409 5111 or visit

The National was a guest of the venue.