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How to make a perfect Dubai brunch

Words by Nathan Irvine

We talk to the QE2's executive chef, Dino Khanaa about how to create the perfect Dubai brunch. From food station placement, price points to that tired entertainer who's on their fourth run through of Wonderwall.

What's the key to a successful Dubai brunch?

The brunch market in Dubai is extremely competitive and our customers have more choice than ever.

To create a concept that's both popular and keeps people coming back requires a careful combination of a quality offering, an ambience to suit the concept and a price point that matches the package.

You need to offer fresh, great tasting dishes. You also have to be innovative with presentation and use a careful balance of the latest food trends as well as classic dishes. Beverages need to be diverse too. On top of this the service needs to be both friendly and efficient.

The lighting, temperature and entertainment has to be well thought out and consistently good. Plus, the music has to match the preferences of those that you're targeting.

Free-flowing food and beverages alone aren't going to keep your guests entertained for hours – they have to feel comfortable and connected to the environment.

Finally, you have to charge guests a price that gives value for money – yet at the same time ensures a profit can be made.

There’s no point charging a high-end fee for a limited buffet selection or charging discounted rates for a quality meal - it defeats the objective of offering a brunch at all.

QE2 Doing the venue justice with a quality brunch is just one of the problems chefs face.

Is the placement of food stations important?

Considering the guests culinary journey through the brunch is important. You wouldn’t place the rice on the other side of the restaurant to the curry, for example.

You have to place food stations in a way that don't cause congestion or queuing. People don’t like to queue for their food, especially if it means that the rest of their plate goes cold.

Guests also need to be able to eat with their eyes before they select the dish. If it looks delicious they will choose it. However, if it looks so delicious on the station and the taste doesn’t match, it makes the disappointment all that much worse.

So both placement and presentation of the food stations are important tasks that require a lot of planning.

What trends and customer demands have you noticed recently in Dubai?

The trend for simplicity and quality continues to prevail. The days are numbered for complicated ingredients and overdressed food presentation. People want green, organic and quality value for money dishes.

It is one of the reasons that we have reimagined the culinary concept of the QE2’s signature dining venue, The Queens Grill, to offer a more defined and simplistic style of food delivery.

What mistakes do you often see?

I'm often left disappointed when I receive consistently slow service or pay a high price for below par food. Poor entertainment won’t keep me there until the end either.

If I get any of these - or all - then I won't go back or recommend it to others.

Quality food variety is the key.

How daunting is it to make a brunch aboard the iconic QE2?

The QE2 has a glamorous history spanning over 50 years, in which she served some of the world’s most elite glitterati. So, expectations of a brunch, as well as afternoon tea and all other dining options on board, is very high.

We are a British concept that offers both traditional and modern dining options, but at the same time we have to ensure that we appeal to a wider market with an enticing assortment of international dishes.

The whole QE2 team is involved in the brunch project.

There's the procurement team sourcing the food. The culinary team planning, cooking and preparing it. F&B service team delivering it. The IT team ensuring that the music system is on point. The marketing team setting the right price and targeting the right market. And the HR team making sure that our staff are happy with guests.

It's not easy to create a concept that works and survives in the UAE. We have to keep improving, innovating and maintaining quality across the board to ensure that we deliver a perfect brunch every time.

What do you think the QE2 offers that other brunches do not?

It's a family brunch that not only offers a dedicated kids’ play area and buffet, but one that offers a taste of history, nostalgia and class.

The live music, ambiance and location of the brunch (perched on the decks and surrounded by water) make it unique and sets us apart from the rest. But the positive feedback we receive the most is about the food and selection. It's been described as the best buffet brunch offering for food and quality in Dubai.

The QE2 Brunch is on every Friday from 1pm-4pm. Prices start at AED 225.

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