Very much a game of two halves – as old Keys and Gray would most likely have it – the returning Picnic Brunch at Iris caters pretty well to two distinct kinds of crowd.
Chances are this is down to its extended, generous running time. With a five-hour service at their ready disposal, its attendees don’t perhaps feel that frequent need to rush in early to ensure they maximise their money’s worth.
The net result is a largely family crowd rocking up at kick off and a largely non-family one rocking out come the end.
The set-up is smart. Playing to their strengths, the Iris team has undoubtedly made the most of their magnificent Marina location, with the option to turn up, grab a basket and blanket and chill out on the lawn outside. For those preferring to eat their food actually vertical, there are also the usual tables and chairs and stools around the bustling central bar.
The service, it has to be said, is uniformly excellent. The calm, young staff don’t just seem compelled to do the minimum. Rather they seem genuinely dedicated to making sure their customers are having a good, relaxed time, topping up and taking away without anyone ever having to pull a muscle to catch their eye.
The food, frankly, is a little more hit and miss.
When we arrive at our table, a small chalk board promises much, but a lack of detail lets it down. When you just write ‘Grill’ (alongside ‘Crêpes’, ‘Tacos’, ‘Sushi’ and more) it fires up the imagination in a way that the reality here turns out not to deliver. There are chicken legs and mini burgers, but where’s the seafood? Don’t get us wrong, at these keen prices and at this extended duration it’s not like we were expecting lobster and king crab. But someone ‘doing an Aussie’ (chucking a shrimp on the barbie) would go a long way to livening up what’s actually a somewhat pedestrian affair. The same goes for the crêpe station, which consists of a man making puddings out of batter, Nutella and strawberries, and zero alternative permutations.
The sushi and salads save the day. There’s a delicious spread of the former – though it could do with being topped up more frequently – and the latter are varied, very tasty and packed in cute jars perfect to load up your basket with.
Factor in a live pasta station and assemble-your-own tacos and this does deliver on its family promise. While, from around 2pm, as the little ones start to head off for an afternoon nap, the place is refilled by a cooler, older crowd, who have perhaps just surfaced from one of their own.
It’s fun, it’s busy and it’s relaxed. It just needs some refining before it gets great.
The bottom line
Brilliant service and views. Solid food.
Dhs200 (soft drinks), Dhs350 (house beverages), Dhs430 (premium beverages), Dhs480 (bubbly). Sat 12pm-5pm. Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina, Yas Island (055 160 5636).