Long-standing “Best Brunch in Dubai”, Traiteur has undergone a huge facelift that has meant its hallowed doors have been closed for quite a while now. After several delays (one of which my family bore the brunt of when they weren’t ready to host their extremely expensive Christmas brunch), it’s finally opened, so I headed down courtesy of their lovely PR team, to check out their actual brunch offering for the first time.
Firstly, the interiors are stunning. For a high-end brunch they have the venue to match; luxurious furniture with a navy and grey colour theme, embellished by spectacular lighting – it’s somewhat of a jaw-dropper. If you’re a fan of striking interior design, you won’t be disappointed. LW have done an excellent job.
I chose to sit indoors as the temperatures are getting a bit too balmy for my English bod and a glass of champagne was instantly poured in front of me. Most champagne brunches across the region go with the standard Moët & Chandon, or Veuve if they’re really going high-end (!), but Traiteur have opted for magnums of Besserat de Bellefon brut. Admittedly, it’s not a champagne I’ve ever come across, but I enjoyed it more than Moët. I usually get raging heartburn after a couple of glasses of bubbles, but this went down very pleasantly and I found it to be my drink of choice over the afternoon.
Traiteur tends to be known as the most luxurious brunch in Dubai (at least in my circles) due to a number of factors. Firstly, there are not many brunches in town that offer dishes like snails, foie gras, lobster and quail. Secondly, having that opportunity to “enter the kitchens” and have the chefs cook food for you has its charming appeal. Thirdly, it’s simply the most pricey buffet-brunch in town (alcohol package ranges from 695 AED for house beverages to 895 AED for premium champagne).
I began with the kitchen area immediately in front of where I sat and meandered back to the table with an eclectic mix of mussels, live-cooked prawns, pizza, foie gras, snails and periwinkles. The mussels were a surprise as I didn’t have too high expectations with them just sat in a bowl on the buffet – they were perfectly cooked, red hot and the sauce was perfect. Periwinkles are a new one for me and after being brought over the correct implement for extracting the innards, I gave it a go. I must admit, it did remind me somewhat of watching my young niece digging for nose-gold whilst in the UK last week – particularly the way the insides came out, but other than that they were a tasty little snack, tasting fresh from the sea.
The foie gras was rich and luxurious, served with a clever mix of sweet jam and crouton; the snails were packed full of garlic and butter and were cooked well and the pizza was safe and inoffensive.
As referenced a couple of paragraphs ago, the prawns were “live-cooked”. To elaborate on an earlier point, a big thing for me that always made me want to go to Traiteur before it closed last year, was the fact that you’re inside the kitchen, watching the chefs cook. I’m not sure if things have just changed with the new layout – but I’d definitely call “being inside the kitchen” a real stretch of the imagination. In reality, there’s a couple of chefs at live cooking stations of which you can walk in front of and behind, cooking lobster and prawns on hot plates. That’s about it. I didn’t see anything else getting cooked live for the rest of the time I was there. Back to the prawns, well, they were a bit overcooked, sadly.
The live-cooked lobster is a signature of the Traiteur experience and as I didn’t see it during my first meander from the table, I asked one of the staff where I go for it. They pointed me to another room outside the main dining area, so off I trotted to see how it fared. I entered a small room serving cold seafood entrees who mentioned that the lobster was in the other room that I’d just been in – pretty poor that the staff don’t know where things are, especially when the place has been back open a few weeks now. I eventually found it and had a plump tail cooked for me whilst picking up some delicious-looking gnocchi and a lasagne-like thing that wasn’t lasagne but I’ve forgotten the name of.
Unfortunately, although tasty, the lobster was on the overcooked side. It didn’t peel away nicely from the shell and was pretty dry. The gnocchi’s sauce had a rich, deep, cheesy flavour but the gnocchi itself didn’t resemble the fluffy pillows and were rather stodgy. The “lasagne thing” was enjoyable, however!
Next up was the roast dinner and it was by far the best roast I’ve had at a brunch. The tenderloin the highlight, carved in front of you, beautifully pink, served alongside a delicious jus, délicieux! The other meats, the lamb, the quail were all cooked well and there was a decent accompaniment of roast veg, green beans, potato gratin and sauteed mushroom to round off the plate.
After the beast of a roast, the decision was taken to head to the dessert room, which is located in another room, on the other side of the venue. This room was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the day with a definite theme of “quantity over quality”. It was like a “best of” of every single mundane dessert you’d expect to receive at a buffet brunch – countless moussey things in shot glasses, jelly sweets, broken up chocolate bars in a dish, big tubs of umm ali etc.
There was a tasty-looking chocolate dessert that was displayed in a big cloche, but there was nowhere to put the massive lid to get into it, so I had a bit of a mission trying to juggle my plate, the lid and spooning the chocolate cake (which ended up being pretty jellified and not appetizing). The only thing I found that I felt worthy of a 600 AED+ brunch was the tarte tartin which was delicately crispy and tangy.
However, on walking back with my sad plate of dessert I took a different route and noticed where the crêpe station was, there was a selection of beautiful-looking pastries on display that could have come from any high-end pâtisserie in town. I was expecting these to be for display-only as the desserts were elsewhere, but to my surprise, you could take your pick. I selected an eclair that was well-executed with an expertly-made choux and a moreish sweet cream and bitter, tempered chocolate combo. Top tip – skip the dessert room altogether and raid the pâtisserie!
After desserts, I was pretty full, but went for a little exploration of the charcuterie section. It was very impressive, with a large array of thinly sliced meats and pickled goods. Ridiculously, I forgot to go back and get some cheese (I blame too much champagne), but it’s worth noting that they have one of the largest selections I’ve ever seen and if you’re a fromage-fan, you’ll be in heaven.
I left pretty tiddly and full, but did it live up to all the hype? Possibly not.
FOOD: 10/15 –Some aspects were delicious (lovely roast!), but as with most buffets – I feel that the “quantity over quality” theme sings through.
SERVICE: 10/15 – They kept the drinks topped up regularly which is half the battle at brunch, but there seemed to be a general lack of interest in providing an exceptional level of service for customers. You’d often find a couple of staff huddled round having a natter and the only time I asked for their assistance, they pointed me in completely the wrong direction.
DRINKS SELECTION: 3/5 – Although the champagne was more than palatable, the reason I stayed on it is that the other drinks in the package were very basic (non-premium spirits, standard beers). For the price, it would be nice to have something a little more premium like a nice gin and a craft beer. We had an espresso martini, but it was disgusting!
AMBIENCE: 4/5 –The restaurant was packed and the air was filled with smiling, happy people (and a few miserable people with faces like smacked arses who were just there so they could instagram, “look at me! I’m at Traiteur!”). The band were a little safe though, some of the music was more on the bland side and I feel it would be better for something a bit more upbeat for brunch.
DESIGN: 4.5/5 – LW have done a stunning job of the interiors – the only real negative thing was the lack of integration of the speaker system. A beautiful design was ruined ever so slightly by big, ugly speakers sticking out of the walls with coloured wires protruding.
VALUE: 3.5/5 – It is generally the most expensive brunch in Dubai I believe (that’s not a silly novelty thing that includes Rolls Royce pick-ups), but to be fair, they ply you with as much champagne as you can drink and there’s plenty of lobster, tenderloin, foie gras, mussels, snails, cheese for everyone so I wouldn’t call it bad value for money by any stretch.
TOTAL: 35/50 – All in all, I had an enjoyable afternoon at Traiteur but was let down by a couple of overcooked signatures and disappointed that the service wasn’t as impressive as I’d have expected. I don’t think I’d go back any time soon, but if I was invited as part of a group, I definitely wouldn’t say no. If you’re going to go, try get in before summer hits as the outside area is perfect to while away the afternoon.