Dubai, which is partying, reflects on the new debate on the working week: when is brunch?


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Friday will never be the same.

For those with the means in Dubai, the former first day of the weekend carried a tradition of gourmet feasting – an hour-long affair with an endless supply of seafood, pizza, desserts and Veuve Clicquot champagne. to pulsating music known simply in this city-state as “Friday brunch.”

But starting this year, the UAE moved its weekend from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday – a move to align with global markets and Western timetables.

Now, Emirati government employees work half days with time for worship and family gatherings on the Islamic holy day. However, most of the country’s expat-dominated private sector works all day.


It has thrown Dubai’s beloved Friday brunch — a key revenue stream for COVID-19-battered restaurants that revel in Instagram-worthy booze-soaked buffets — into disarray.

“The traditional midday Friday brunch is extinct,” said Adrian John, who along with his wife Lucy Melts started a popular Dubai brunch reviews website called Mr. and Mrs. Brunch.

Friday brunch in Dubai involves much more than the midday meals enjoyed in other major cities like New York and London. For those who aren’t immobilized after four hours of feasting, there’s post-brunch brunch, evening brunch with more booze, and midnight brunch.

“This is the experience Dubai is known for. It helped put Dubai on the map,” said Samantha Wood of restaurant review website FooDiva.

Luxury hotels and restaurants each have their own style of brunch. A steakhouse features a James Bond theme with spy film music in the background. Money rains down from the ceiling of the Waldorf Astoria hotel during a brunch inspired by Martin Scorsese’s film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’

There’s a karaoke brunch featuring lip-sync battles and another with a giant spread of lamb shanks next to a petting zoo. Hotels are rolling out dessert trays with chocolate fountains evoking Willy Wonka.

Fixed prices may seem expensive — unlimited Champagne packages cost upwards of $200 — but cheaper options exist. Enthusiasts insist that unlimited booze remains a business in a city where every drink poured into a bar is subject to a 30% municipal tax.

The brunches also have their own clientele. At CÉ LA VI, a sprawling rooftop with an infinity pool and sweeping views of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower on the planet, a group of Balenciaga leather-clad Russian tourists craned their necks to snap selfies a recent Saturday morning. Businessmen flashed Rolexes as they loaded up Parker House rolls. A table of well-groomed young women debated the best place to get breast implants.

At Filia, a low-key Italian spot downtown at the SLS Hotel, a group of expat mothers picked parmesan cheese from a dish the size of a car wheel and shouted to each other to the party tunes deafening DJ.

Locked in a culinary arms race to attract Dubai’s big spenders, brunch destinations are now keen to keep the extravaganza alive despite the weekend’s upheaval.

The industry sought to remake itself with a new slogan: “Saturday is the new Friday”. Any Sunday brunch would serve as a hangover breakfast, officials say, a family affair to recover and kick off the week with quick appetizers and light mimosas.

“People party on the weekends, so naturally Saturday should be the new party brunch,” said Andrea Sacchi, COO of upscale restaurant and lounge Roberto’s in Dubai’s glitzy International Financial Center. . “We changed branding, guarantees, scheduling and booking systems.”

But uncertainty reigns as locals mourn the loss of a Dubai rite.

“There is an element of sadness,” said Melts, the other half of Mr and Mrs Brunch, who came to Dubai 12 years ago from Reading, England. “It was so nice to be different from the world, to be like, ‘Look, it’s Friday, we’re having brunch while our friends at home are working.'”

Without Friday, restaurant executives wonder if Dubai brunch can keep its shine.

Since the change took effect on January 2, many of Dubai’s trendiest brunches have felt lukewarm.

“The numbers aren’t that good right now on Saturdays compared to last year,” said Arun Edakkeppurath, manager of the glass-enclosed Observatory Bar & Grill with stunning views of Dubai’s man-made Palm Jumeirah island.

The restaurant is now receiving a flood of calls from bewildered government workers, teachers and others who work half-days on Fridays, demanding to know what happened to their famous brunch.

“I think people will react slowly to the changes,” he added.

Other brunch venues have reported empty tables since the weekend shift.

“There have been a lot of cancellations,” said Sadhan Adhilkary, assistant restaurant manager at Jazz @PizzaExpress, which has rushed to push its brunch to Saturdays this year and rebook its concerts for Fridays. , the new party night. “But it’s hard to say the reason.”

Business generally slows as residents tighten their belts after New Year’s Eve overspending, he said. A sense of foreboding has also returned to the booming pandemic-era city as the omicron variant is driving a major spike in infections.

Industry-wide, “we still don’t really know how people are going to react,” said Nicolas Budzynski, director of global operations for LPM Restaurant & Bar. “I think there is anxiety. It has created some confusion.”

LPM has moved its classic brunch to Sundays, betting that Saturdays will be overloaded with shopping and Sundays will be better suited to festivities and family gatherings.

“I can tell you that Saturday is not the new Friday,” he argued. “It does not replace a quiet day just because of prayers.”

John, who still remembers the all-you-can-eat brunch on a luxury yacht where he met Ms Brunch more than a decade ago, believes Friday had a magic formula for success that may never be found again.

“I remember getting off the boat thinking, ‘Wow, what the hell is this place? It’s amazing, it’s just awesome,” he said. “Friday brunch will always be something romantic. We will always have those years.”

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Follow Isabel DeBre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/isabeldebre.

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