Friday brunch at COYA

Great food and service in a colourful restaurant with bags of personality

Friday brunch at COYA

DETAILS: Dhs198 (soft drinks), Dhs318 (house bevereges), Dhs428 (sparkling). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. The Galleria (02 306 7000).

There are some places that make our job an absolute joy, and make the inevitable expanding waistline which comes from frequently eating out totally worth it. COYA is very much one of them. This contemporary Peruvian is hardly noticeable from the outside but inside it is a sanctuary of Latin American colour and spirit.

As testament to this, though we arrive feeling tired and groggy, within minutes of walking through the door we’re overcome with a happiness that continues right through brunch. Perhaps it’s because of the restaurant’s quirkiness – the décor is a breath of fresh air in a city where dark lighting and muted pallets often prevail. The bar area is light and bright, with large windows that look out over the terrace, the sea and the Abu Dhabi skyline. The restaurant area has a garden corner, where fake foliage has ‘grown’ over one wall. And all of it is brought together with woven cushions and accents of lustrous Incan gold throughout.

It is perhaps, too, the chilled-out Latin harmonies from the jolly live band that make us go a bit mushy. Plus we love the fantastic staff, who are welcoming, chatty and genuinely seem pleased to see everyone. Then, of course, there is the food on offer. Oh, the food!

This brunch is not a buffet, but more of a set taster menu, and each course feels like it arrives with more of a sense of occasion because of it. Firstly, there is fresh guacamole made at the table, a selection of tacos, edamame and various ceviche (including a courgette-based veggie option) – the light-as-air lubina clásica (raw sea bass and white corn) is our favourite.

Next is a round of anticuchos, marinated skewers that arrive on a mini charcoal grill. There are chicken, beef and the unanimous winner, mushroom. They are rich in their sticky umami marinade, with a hint of smoke and spice.

The standout main is the arroz nikkei, an iron pot of Chilean sea bass served over buttery spiced rice that is one of COYA’s signatures. It is mashed and mixed at the table, making us feel slightly like a child – in a good way. And last is the dessert platter – if the raspberry and salted caramel ganache de caramelo isn’t pure happiness, then what is?

The bottom line
A Peruvian pleasure we never fail to enjoy.

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