Friday is brunch day in Dubai. I know; a whole day devoted to brunch? Our American idea of brunch is going to a nice restaurant, maybe in a nice hotel, around 11am for a big meal with some mimosas or bloody marys and heading home about two hours later. Here in Dubai, brunch is an event. They start around 12pm or 1pm and last four hours. They are expensive–ranging anywhere from US$65 to US$150 per person–but include all the food you can ingest and all the alcohol you can drink. And the food isn’t your average scrambled eggs and waffles. We’re talking seafood, crab legs, cuts of meat, oysters…like, really high-end food. And I’m going to tell you how to make the most of the insanity in the very wheelchair accessible Atlantis Palm Jumeirah Resort in Dubai.
The locations for brunch in Dubai vary, and my local friend Rebecca sent me a list of places to choose from that had well-reviewed brunches. I’m all about go-big-or-go-home, so chose brunch at the Atlantis Resort on Palm Jumeirah. This is the ginormous man-made island off the coast of Dubai (but attached) that looks like a big palm tree with a circle around it. Each palm “frond,” as it were, supports either private residences with beachfront property or one of roughly two dozen hotels. The island took five years to build, and has experienced its fair share of controversy. The water between the fronds started getting stagnant, and engineers had to create breaks in the outer circle to encourage water flow around the fronds. Geological surveys have also confirmed that the Palm Jumeirah is sinking by 5mm per year, although it seems no one has reported any structural damage as a result. The 5-star Atlantis resort on Palm Jumeirah is the first resort that was built on the island, and pretty much looks like the Atlantis in the Bahamas, if you’ve ever been.
Fun facts aside, the day was absolutely insane. It actually reminded me a LOT of South Beach (Miami), and my fellow 305 peeps will understand why shortly. We arrived at the Saffron restaurant inside the resort, and it was already crazy. Easily over a hundred people were waiting in line to get in, and servers were handing out champagne to everyone in line. It was kind of a cattle call once they opened the doors to let everyone in and find their assigned table. After we got settled, it was time to do the walk-through to explore our options. If you think you’ve done brunch, you haven’t. This much food in one place exists nowhere else on earth. Then there’s the free booze–a Jameson stand, a vodka stand, beer stands, and wine poured at the tables. I can’t put it into words. But seriously, the food was incredible, the service impeccable, and EVERYONE was extraordinarily polite in making way for me and my scooter, even as crowded as it was.
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Then there’s the nightclub atmosphere. There’s a DJ playing the whole time, so the indoor seating is treated to some really great 80s and 90s dance music. And the people…this is where all the young, beautiful, half-naked, and plastic people in Dubai come to brunch. Most are foreign tourists, with a large chunk of them being Brits. The dress code is South Beach nightclub all the way, and you don’t have to adhere to standard UAE clothing restrictions. We saw a LOT of lady parts this afternoon. There were at least 300 people both outside and inside the enormous dining space. By 3pm, everybody was ranging from buzzed to completely plastered. Large groups were celebrating birthdays loudly or jumping on benches and chanting soccer (football) rallies. Women were stumbling in their 6-inch platform stilettos, and security guards even chased a couple of them who managed to “escape” into the pool area. About 15 minutes before the end of brunch, everyone started hoarding the free drinks from the stands, so people would be returning to their tables with their arms full of half a dozen beer bottles, champagne splits, and trays of shots. Just. Insane.
We were at brunch for a full four hours, and only because they started kicking everybody out. To say there was a lot of eating and drinking going on at our table is an understatement, but we were mellow compared to a lot of people. One guy had to be carried out because he was, well, mostly unconscious, and it wasn’t from eating too much dim sum. The bathroom lines were insanely long because all of us brunch peasants were restricted from leaving the brunch area and mixing with the legitimate hotel guests. Our party of five got a VIP pass because I was in a scooter and had to take the elevator (outside the area). Thanks to that, we were able to go to the lobby and take some great pictures with a stunning Dale Chihuly blown glass sculpture (he’s the same artist who created the glass sculptures in the Bellagio) in the atrium. We were also able to take the main exit and glimpse the Persian Gulf. Some people think a body of water or an ocean view is just an ocean view. But it’s a little bit alien to see a gulf or sea or ocean with your own eyes that’s SO far from home.
At this point, it was 5:30pm and we had to figure out what to do. Brunch after-parties are all the rage, so we went for it. We headed to the Westin hotel that has a nightclub that plays 80s and 90s pop, dance, and hip-hop. It was packed, but Rebecca had a connection that scored us a VIP corner with tons of space. Her friend gave us free champagne, and we danced (yes, I rock it like a boss in my scooter seat) for probably three hours. I won’t lie; it was weird to be clubbing in the late afternoon, but hey…anything goes in Dubai.