Soothing with its low-key arabesque motifs, go to Ewaan for a calmer Friday brunch, James Brennan says.
Ewaan: Understated abundance
For some, the words "Friday" and "brunch" go together like "summer" and "hot". The initial euphoria at waking up at the weekend and realising that the day will be one of unadulterated leisure is truly something to savour. But once the endorphins have settled down, and the mists of sleep have dispersed into the mid-morning sunlight, a problem emerges: what on earth are you going to do?
Most of us rarely harbour ambitions to spring out of bed and embark on an epic bicycle ride or something equally energetic. But even if we did, our cycling helmets would soon melt in the heat, transforming us, as the liquefied plastic engulfs our heads, from amateur cyclists to baddies from a forthcoming Batman project. So what's plan B? Go to a mall? I'd rather sign up for boot camp with the Gurkah Regiment. Suddenly, Friday brunch seems like the only sane option, but which one?
Much has been made of Dubai's brunches. They rarely place emphasis on understated, wholesome food - a solid foundation to build your weekend upon (although we heartily recommend the Organic Foods & Cafe for this kind of experience). Mostly, they are no-holds-barred indulgence marathons where trousers with an elasticated waistband are considered an asset. Ewaan falls somewhere between the two. The all-day dining restaurant at The Palace hotel soothes with its soft beige and brown touches and low-key arabesque motifs. Instead of dominating proceedings with lurid mountains of luxurious food items, the buffet stations curtsied elegantly at one side of a large dining area, inviting us politely. We accepted, and found all the usual king prawns, lobster tails, Scottish smoked salmon and salad materials we've come to expect from the very best brunches. Everything was beautifully fresh and of a suitably high quality. But all that paled into insignificance next to the foie gras.
Although it was pan-seared at a live-cooking station in front of me, the delicate lobes of duck-liver might have been cooked in a garden of delights. They were richly caramelised on the outside, fluffy as a cloud on the inside, and adroitly complemented by fig and mango marmalade, balsamic reduction, rocket, and malt bread. Whether you're the overindulgent type or not, you'll cartwheel back to the cooking station for seconds.
While my companion sipped gracefully on spoonfuls of tom yum soup with soft, dewy prawns, I marched back to the meat. This time I took two modest slices of pink Angus beef, and a few cuts of marinated venison. The venison had begun to dry out under the glaring buffet lamps, but the thick brown gravy more than made up for a lack of moisture. I added roasted potatoes and mixed green vegetables to the plate and attempted to affect the look of a man who wasn't trying to break a meat-eating world record. I succeeded, but only because of umm ali.
This traditional Egyptian dessert often makes an appearance at brunches, but is all too criminally ignored by the chocolate fountain brigade. Such was the case at Ewaan, so that when my dining partner skipped off to slather watered-down molten chocolate over a succession of sweet nibbles, I had the whole unspoilt umm ali to myself. The milk-soaked pastry pudding with almonds and raisins was rich, sweet and as heartwarming as a comfort blanket.
Ewaan occupies a particularly attractive niche in the pantheon of Friday brunches. It's relaxed yet far from laid back; abundant but never decadent; and understated without ever being underwhelming. If you're looking for a place to head this Friday for the last of the summer's blowouts, but can't quite face the brunch bunch elsewhere, you won't go far wrong here.
Ewaan at The Palace Dubai The Old Town Island Downtown Burj Dubai Tel: 04 428 7951 Friday brunch is from noon to 3.30pm and costs Dh295 for all you can eat