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Yalumba (Friday Night Seafood Brunch) – Le Meridien, Garhoud, Dubai

One of my lovely followers, Maria, requested that I do more reviews at affordable places, which I felt was a fair comment. Quite a lot of the restaurants I’ve recently critiqued have been on the fine-dining, special occasiony side, so when I read about Yalumba’s new, evening seafood brunch (from their hilariously pun-filled flyer), coming in at a very reasonable 295 AED with a variety of beers, spirits and wines (including sparkling!) I was hooked in. If you can think of a more affordable brunch offering, that includes lobster and bubbles, please let minnow.

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Their “craysea Friday shellfish lobsession” (chortle) takes place from 7-10pm every Friday, so I headed down with the wife and our friends atozaatar and hubby to sea what it was all aboat.

I’m always a bit fishy about seafood selections at brunches – especially ones that are served purely in buffet format; it can overcook really quickly and things like tiger prawns and lobster don’t lend well to being left under a lamp for 3 hours. One thing I’ve got to say though, is that in respect to the team who came up with the concept – they hit the brief. Everything is seafood. There’s not a spot of meat in sight, just fish, fish and more fish. Mussels, crab, lobster, prawns, octopus, squid, sushi, dim sum, chowder, you’ll be spoilt for choice if seafood is your bag.

Ok, so was it any good? Well, it wasn’t bad. I tried the crispy prawn balls and battered fish for starters and they were pretty tasty after being dipped into the sweet chili sauce. The sushi wasn’t the best as it didn’t taste very fresh, was poorly constructed and the selection was limited.

Afterwards, I tried the seafood thermidore which was inoffensive – the prawns inside were prepared well and it had the cheesy flavour you’d associate with thermidore. The tiger prawns and lobster were a little disappointing, they’d been cooked with a heavy smoke that totally overpowered them taste-wise but in all fairness, they were soft and juicy.

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I then gave the crab a go, the meat was tender but the flavour of the sauce was a bit weak and muddled. Also, the cutlery was completely useless as it was too big, so it was a messy affair getting into it – they do provide plastic bibs though which is kind of them!

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In relation to the service, it was definitely a let down. For a launch night brunch where a lot of the Dubai food blogging/writing scene was in attendance (Mr & Mrs Brunch, @markmyworldblog, Stephen from DiningOut.com etc.) I expected “over-service” if anything, but it was challenging all night to get a drink, took 20 minutes to receive our first order and 10 mins to receive a menu as the girl who I asked, had to go speak to one of her other members of staff first, to get him to bring it to me?

The dessert spread was reasonably generous, with gummy sweets, different types of cake, a chocolate fountain and these insanely yummy peanut butter & honey chocolates that I must have eaten ten of.

After we’d stuffed our faces, we were informed about last orders and were presented with a topped-up round of drinks, before settling the bill and toddling off – all of us feeling whelmed about the whole occasion.

FOOD: 8/15 – A myriad of seafood and a lot of it was cooked well enough, but it’s more of a case of “quantity over quality” and nothing really stood-out.
SERVICE: 7/15 – Below average. Slow in getting drinks orders and not much thought has gone into the cutlery, as the crab was impossible to get into (unless you want to jam your fingers in there!) as was one of the dessert that came in small shot glass.
DRINKS SELECTION: 4.5/5 – For 295 AED I was mightily impressed at being offered a range of beers (including a low-carb option) and various spirits and wines. Prosecco as well? Nice work!
AMBIANCE: 4/5 – The brunch was busy – but not too busy that you’re queuing for food and we had a lot of fun, as did other diners.
DESIGN: 3.5/5 – Better than your average “all-day-dining” restaurant, but nothing you’d turn your head around for and be wowed with. I liked the seafood displays walking into the restaurant though and the lighthouses on the tables were a twee touch.
VALUE: 5/5 – It might not serve the best food in the world, but for 295 AED with the drinks options, it’s well, well worth it.

TOTAL: 32/50

CONCLUSION: I feel that diners with more epicurean tastes will find everything lacking sophistication but for the price they charge, I’m hesitant to criticize the offering too highly. It’s not a brunch for big foodies but if you love seafood and want a bargain evening with a variety of alcohol options, it’s a really strong, frugal choice. Just a shame the service let it down.

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