Recently, I found myself on Yas Island at lunchtime. A quick internet search revealed that despite the growing number of restaurants on the island, few of them are open at midday.
An all-day dining restaurant serving international food presented buffet-style would not normally appeal to me, but because of the limited options, I ended up at Origins at the Yas Viceroy hotel.
I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Plenty of light filters through the restaurant's large windows, which lead out on to a terrace overlooking Yas Marina. Inside, the backdrop is very white and the room spacious, but the occasional neon yellow lamp, brightly coloured chairs and the flowers in the centre of each table add colour and a bit of character, as does chatter from a constant stream of customers.
The range of dishes on offer is certainly extensive, but not so large that you feel overwhelmed. If you don't want your plate to take on a multinational, multicoloured appearance, with flavours blurring and each item blending into the next, you can stick to one cuisine and still eat well.
We started our meal at the cold counter, where, along with a good selection of fresh-looking salads, we found platters displaying different cuts of meat, wedges of cheese and pots of chutney, some seafood and a couple of vegetable and meat terrines. A quick stop at the bread station to pick up a crusty roll and our first course was complete.
The hummus was properly thick and creamy, moutabel had plenty of depth of flavour and the fattoush salad was well seasoned and pleasingly perky. The prawns, meanwhile, tasted fresh, and a smoked duck salad, featuring tender, tasty meat and crunchy sliced fennel, was nice.
By this time, given that an afternoon in the office beckoned, we'd probably eaten enough. However, the price of the buffet lunch at Origins (Dh148 per person) meant that we felt compelled to try the more substantial, hot main course dishes. It would perhaps be nice if the restaurant were to offer a half portion or "cold selection only" option, for those who don't want to overeat in the middle of the day.
Once again, we stuck to one or two dishes, rather than trying to cram a little bit of everything on to our plates. Roast beef - carved to order - was medium rare and full of flavour and the steamed carrots, broccoli and cauliflower still had colour and bite. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the roast potatoes, which were soft and soggy rather than golden and crunchy.
I had the poached salmon fillet, which flaked easily into pieces and was flavoured with lemon and dill. The spoonful of macaroni cheese that I'd ladled on to my plate on a whim also exceeded expectations, with a layer of crunchy, grill-scorched cheese on top and creamy, al dente pasta underneath.
The dessert section featured an array of miniature cakes and tarts, dates, pastries and rich chocolate and coffee mousses, as well as a selection of fresh fruit.
I'm not going to say that the meal was flawless or that this is the best buffet lunch in the region, but the food at Origins looks and tastes fresh and is competently prepared, making it a safe and reliable choice.
A meal for two at Origins, Yas Viceroy hotel, Yas Island, costs Dh306, not including service. For reservations call +971 2 656 0600. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito