One of the most popular and regular social engagements around these parts is brunch, not the coffee-juice-eggs-benedict-leisurely-read-of-the-papers type brunch that I was more au fait with before moving here. No no, this is an altogether more weighty endeavor where one must wear something one hasn’t just rolled out of bed in and prepare oneself for a serious afternoon of eating, drinking and general expaty frivolity.
Since moving here almost two years ago, I’ve been fortunate to try a number of the best brunches the Kingdom has to offer, all greatly differing in character, food, drinks and atmosphere. One thing unifies them all though – strategy. How exactly do you master brunch? What are the shoulds and should nots when you’ve invested approximately £60 on an all you can eat/ all you can drink experience on a tiny island where anonymity is something of a luxury.
Let me be clear, there are no ‘rules’ as such when it comes to brunch, if you enjoy good food and good wine it’s like Disney Land for adults and why would anyone impose boundaries on that? but these tips below are just some things I’ve picked up along the way which have helped me transition from wide-eyed amateur into a focused semi-professional bruncher.
You shouldn’t go wild the night before. If you’ve got brunch in the diary for Friday, save yourself. There’s no point spending a sizeable chunk of your hard earned dollar on gorgeous food and drinks when the thought of both make you want to curl up into a ball and weep. You’ll also be really poor chat and no one wants that at the table.
You should really have breakfast before you go as you’ll immediately be presented with a glass of fizz, a pint or whatever your tipple is upon arrival and will keep being topped up forthwith. Quaffing bubbles on an empty stomach is a rookie error and will only lead to a downward spiral of tipsy destruction. Make yourself a coffee and some eggs, you’ll have laid a good foundation for the decadence to follow.
You should do some exercise in the morning. Brunches tend to kick off around 12/12.30 on the Friday so even doing half an hour of something in the AM to wake you up, make you feel good and hopefully stave off the potential gout is a good move.
You shouldn’t be shy. Yes you’re in a nice dress and towering heels, which you can’t walk in properly and it’s all a bit open plan, but no one else cares. No one’s counting how many times you’ve come back with a freshly filled plate, they’re all too busy wolfing theirs down and forward planning what to have next. Embrace the gluttony but know your limits.
You should try new things. When you’re confronted with such a vast selection of cuisines, appetizers, patisseries, soups, salads, curries, stews, fish, meats, cheeses, pastas, breads, laksas, sushi, oysters, chocolate fountains it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stick to what you know you like. There’s a brunch in Dubai that has an entire room dedicated to pork and cheese. Now, I could happily have stayed in there all day but it’s true what they say, you can have too much of a good thing and come away feeling a bit disappointed that you blew it all on salami and gouda. For your first plate of, hopefully a fair few, take a turn around the place to see what’s on offer and try a few new delights to expand your repertoire. I’m massively more of a savoury than a sweet person but the petit fours are often so beautifully made it’s hard to resist sampling a couple. I know i’m in foodie heaven if I pause the wine and order a coffee mid-brunch to have with a macaron or other little sweet treat. I’m truly won over then.
You should relax and pace yourself. When you first arrive and try to get the lay of the land on where everything is, what cuisine is on offer, someone said there’s a whole room full of cheese, where is it? What’s everyone else having? I wonder where he got that from, where’s the waitress with the drinks? What should I have first? etc etc it’s all a bit hectic and you don’t know where to begin. Fast-forward to 3.30pm and the power hour begins, drinks are bulk ordered and food is shoved down the priority list. Everything starts getting cleared away and you feel a bit like you’ve missed something. Brunch is a marathon, not a sprint. The other potential danger to be aware of is a brunch panic where you end up doing a full lap and coming back with a large spoonful of rice, 2 samosas and a sausage (this has happened to someone I know).
A tip from a fellow semi-professional bruncher and friend of mine, Andi is that you should “eat something salty towards the end”. This could just be his alcohol levels talking as this statement was made at approximately 2.30pm during brunch but I would say having something a bit carby is a good shout. Grab some pizza for the table in the last half hour to keep you all going and stop anyone from falling off the edge before post-brunch partying commences.
If you’re looking for a brunch in Bahrain and good food is the priority then I’d recommend The Domain and Bushido. If you’re in it for the cocktails, the Marguerita bar at Sofitel has it and the views outside post-brunch are pretty unparalleled. Atmosphere is hard to beat with the huge party room and live music at the Crowne Plaza but the brunch to be beaten for me is hands down the Art Rotana – at the pricier end of the market but with great food, great staff, great setting, great views, great mojitos, great big bowls of mussels and copious bottles of fizz delivered to us when we’d all retired to the sofas outside. This is all indeed great but of course none of the above really matters, as long as the company’s good so take heed and choose your brunch-fellows wisely.