When you walk into Oryx Rotana’s Friday brunch, you might be slightly underwhelmed (maybe not slightly). The décor is basic, the ambience screams food court and as we walk to our table, we realise how congested this entire space is. We almost shove our neighbouring bruncher off his chair trying to get into ours – that’s how close the tables are to each other. The space is relatively small but the high ceiling is all glass so a lot of light fills the area making it look bigger than it actually is. Venue wise, we’ve hit rock bottom.
Once we settle in, profusely apologise to our neighbour for almost toppling him over and start doing the brunch rounds, we are pleasantly surprised – there’s some incredibly good looking food around here. We pass by a Peking duck station, a cheese fountain, garlicky lobsters and a massive oven for baked potatoes to the tapas section. It’s possibly the least appealing from the entire spread but luckily, the spread is massive. The little bites do not look their freshest and are pretty average taste wise.
The gnocchi in a creamy, pink sauce might have an overdose of fresh black pepper but it works wonderfully for some reason. We finish an entire plate, despite it having cooked parsley. Eventually we stumble upon a hidden salad bar with bright, fresh tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. It’s far more superior than we expect.
The Peking duck station has soft little rolls with shredded duck and a wonderfully sweet sauce ready for pick up. There are two or three varieties of dim sums at the same counter, too. We love the shrimp toasts here which are basically fried wontons. The toasts aren’t oily and just perfectly crispy with a nice seafood flavour.
Junk food lovers will adore the nachos station with an actual cheese fountain. The baked potato counter is rather exciting – there’s a large oven and condiments by the side. The bacon bits and shredded cheese are staring hard at us, but going for an entire potato at a brunch sounds like wasted calories to us. If we’re going to consume all those carbs, they better come with sizeable amounts of protein at least. So we walk away to the terrace slowly, longingly ogling at what would have been an ideal weeknight dinner. But it’s for the greater good – the terrace is lined up with grill stations and we can see everything from lamb racks to shawarma. We try a chunk of tenderloin cooked to medium – it’s juicy and delicious.
There’s a decent selection of main courses too from Indian to Middle Eastern. We try the Irani rice and it’s mildly spiced with a stab of sweetness from raisins and dried cranberries.
The band is playing mellow, acoustic tunes but we expect them to pick up pace at least halfway through the brunch. There’s a big group over the other side and it is clearly visible they are bursting with energy and possibly some questionable dance moves but there’s just no way to let it out with the band singing the most depressing version of Diamonds by Rihanna we’ve heard in a while. Sadly, it just never gets lively and it’s as unruffled when we entered as when we leave.
The service is chaotic – dirty plates piling up, no cutlery, drinks rarely topped up and just a general shortage of servers. As kind and courteous as the staff are, a little training could go a long way. Luckily, the food more than makes up for everything that’s not right with this brunch. It’s one of those places where you keep filling yourself with seriously great stuff until you finally slump back and declare you are done.
This brunch has absolutely nothing going for it except its unexpected but outrageously good food. The spread is massive, as varied as it comes, and the quality of the dishes is top- notch. Just for the food, we’re most definitely returning here.
QR280 (soft drinks), QR390 (selected beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Oryx Rotana, Umm Ghuwailina (4402 3333).
WHAT IS IT...
A seriously tasty brunch, and nothing else
The food at this brunch is easily some of the best we’ve had in the city, but beware of the décor, live band and staff