Entering one of Abu Dhabi’s huge buffet brunches is always exciting. But when it’s right on the white sands of Saadiyat Beach, the anticipation is even greater.
The set-up of The Market Brunch at Sim Sim is, quite frankly, adorable. Walking in we pass a cobbled courtyard filled with traditional wagons and pretty drinks stations. The hallways are also lined with replica market stalls complete with stacks of fresh veg.
We dread to think how much fresh produce is wasted just on filling the displays, but it certainly adds to the feeling of entering a vibrant market place.
We sit outside by the huge palm tree-lined pool (we love you, Abu Dhabi autumn). Out here there are more cute street stall-style stations, three enormous barbecues preparing meats, fresh seafood and Middle Eastern specialities, and also a stage where the band are performing a nice mix of chilled-out tunes.
There’s a room dedicated to European charcuterie, if that’s your kind of thing. The meats go well with the mezze-style starters and freshly baked breads from the Arabic buffet spread.
Each station is decorated beautifully to reflect the cuisine it serves. The Middle Eastern section has woven carpets and wooden camels, the seafood area is adorned with fish nets, and the huge cheese counter is guarded by the imposing figure of a cow.
We then fancy some seafood, and for this we first need to pick up our choices at the seafood counter before carrying the raw fish outside to be grilled. The seriously impressive spread includes lobsters and collosal tuna, but we eventually settle on trying the swordfish (the whole thing must be well over a metre in length) and the sea bass.
Expecting just a fillet of the bass we are quite suprised to be presented with a whole fish. It’s so big the head and tail are flopping off the large dinner plate, which only makes us feel more smug about our decision.
Understandably, our hilariously excessive amount of fish takes a while to barbecue. The sudden, extremely unexpected downpour of rain doesn’t help quicken things up either. But as this will only be a problem on about one Friday out of the whole year, it doesn’t dampen our spirits.
The bass tastes absolutely sensational. We are slightly worried that we’ll make a mess of filleting the fish, but it falls easily off the bones and tastes so super fresh. Accompanied by the colourful roasted vegetables, it’s the perfect seafood feast. We’d recommend ordering your fish as soon as you arrive. That way it will be ready by the time you’ve had your starters. The other stations offer sushi, roasts, curries and Asian street food. We share freshly prepared pad Thai, the best chicken and cashew stir fry we’ve had in the city and some dim sum. It’s all interesting and brilliantly tasty.
The dessert table is seriously Insta-worthy. The Coca-Cola and cookie jar cakes are as visually amazing as any entry in the final of The Great British Bake Off, and we just resist ordering a huge waffle piled with sweets (we like to pretend to be grown up sometimes).
We do however try a beautifully creamy hazelnut crunch cake and the chocolate and banana tart (always a winning combination).
As we finish everything off with a smooth and frothy cappuccino (they will also make these with soya milk, just FYI), we are already planning our next visit.
Dhs335 (soft drinks), dhs475 (house beverages), Dhs595 (bubbly). Fri 1pm-4pm. Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villa, Saadiyat Island (02 697 0000).
WHAT IS IT...
A buffet-style brunch that’s laid out like a cute market place
To eat more barbecued seafood than you ever have in your life. The lovely staff won’t even judge you one bit