I’m not a bruncher, but I’m open to persuasion

I’m not a bruncher, but I’m open to persuasion

I am not really a bruncher but with the right food and ambience combination, I’m open to persuasion. Because Friday brunch is an institution in Abu Dhabi and I can’t resist the call of a new brunch concept, I found myself in Roberto’s in the Galleria Mall one blustery Friday.

I have been dying to try Roberto’s since the early buzz about the outlet began. I was heartbroken to miss the opening, so I jumped at the opportunity to try their new Friday Andiamo Brunch when it launched.

From the moment you enter to when you depart, the service is impeccable. The Roberto’s team has all the European flair and charm you can dream of without the pretence and price inflation you might find in other Italian franchises.

So here I will just give a brief outline of how Roberto’s Andiamo brunch works.

Every guest is offered a quick tour of Roberto’s trademark Crudo Bar: an exquisite Oyster and Martini Bar. The oyster bar serves a fanciful array of several kinds of oysters and all their gourmet fixings, while the Martini Bar is replete with jar after jar of colourful fresh herbs, flowers and berries. Your barman will whip up any number of exotic concoctions, including the signature Casanova Martini (oyster martini)—watch out, James Bond, there are now a lot more options than just “Shaken or Stirred.” Prepare to have your minds blown, martini fans.

You are then guided to the Dessert Salon, a surprisingly social way to culminate your brunch experience. It’s mostly standing room only, but that’s often the perfect antidote to the few hours you just spent sitting and eating course-after-course of Italian favourites.

So, getting back to Italian favourites, because that is what brunch at Roberto’s is all about, your hostess will then take you to your seat once you know the geography of this brunch—not that you need it— because thankfully this is not your average queue up at the trough kind of brunch. This brunch service is positively elegant.

We are seated at a table for two by the window with a lovely sea view and offered menus. Our drink offers are taken swiftly and our server explains the concept of this brunch, which, to us, sounds like lots of small plates of our choice of seafood, seafood-meat misti or vegetarian antipasti.

In that characteristically Italian way, our server plies us in between martini sipping, order-taking and dining with decadent olive bread and warm focaccia and fresh pizza. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Roberto’s 1970’s Rhythm and blues/Soul playlist, which was quite possibly the most on point soundtrack to a lazy Friday brunch ever heard in this town. Brunch seems to present most restaurants with a musical dilemma, and they so often get it wrong. Most music is too loud, too fast or too slow, but this playlist was just right.

The feast continues at the table, with a mouth-watering selection of classic and contemporary antipasti including Tartare di Manzo, a grade 9 wagyu beef tartare, prepared tableside and with great flair by the Chef, followed by the theatrical Risotto Bosco flavoured by a few turns of the parmesan wheel and finished with a generous portion of freshly grated truffle—made even more generous, we discovered, if you tell the server you want to take a quick video, but don’t say I told you this. I don’t want to be responsible for breaking Roberto’s Andiamo Brunch truffle bank.

In between the pizza but before the Risotto and freshly made pasta which is all before your main, I might add, were a slew of fabulous antipasti. Most memorable for me was the grilled octopus (polpo), which was reminiscent of an Italian seaside village where you actually witness the fisherman hauling them in every morning. The meat is so fresh and tender, you would never guess you are eating octopus.

Just when you are bursting at the seams and can eat no more, the mains come, and your server, like an Italian grandma, will give you that look which implies that you simply must try this. You are certain that you have no space until you try it, and slowly somehow bite-after-bite you have devoured it under watchful and admiring appraisal. In this case, my companion and I fought against all odds to eat more, but we each made light work of our grilled prawns that were complimented by a light, tangy mango sauce.

We were almost bursting at the seams. But, of course, that was not the end…

As we loosened our belts to make the long roll home, our server guided us away from the door, straight into the Dessert Salon, which was ambient, vibey, full of friendly faces and did we mention there were vast swathes of decadent desserts, because you know there were.

Over conversation, we managed a few tastes of tiramisu strictly for the caffeine buzz, and we were glad we did. Whatever your stance on tiramisu, tired old cliché of Italian cooking or a classic that simply needs a reboot. No one can deny its power to lift you up after a long Italian eating fest.

The Verdict: Roberto’s Andiamo Brunch is not to miss if you are a fan of Italian food, eating, remarkable martinis and/or elegant service. In my humble opinion, there is no other Italian brunch in Abu Dhabi with such a perfect mixture of home comforts, great music and friendly service.

What: Andiamo Brunch

Where: Roberto’s Abu Dhabi

When: Every Friday from noon to 4 pm

Prices:

AED 295 for the Classico brunch, including soft drinks and fresh juices

AED 395 for the Andiamo brunch, including signature cocktails and unlimited house wines

AED 495 for the Riserva brunch, including Italian Bubbles

Children between 6 to 12 years eat for AED150 – children below 6 years free

Website: http://www.robertos.ae

Reservations: reservationsauh@robertos.ae or +9712 627 9009

Address: Rosewood Hotel, The Galleria Mall, Al Maryah Island

Have a look at the menu: Brunch Menu

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Photo–Navigation

Daily Photo–Navigation

There are days when I wish I had a proper internal navigation system–like one whose accuracy rate is just a wee bit better than my own. I may only admit this once, and please never remind me of this statement again. But sometimes, I lean towards bad decisions. I lean into these bad decisions so hard, like an off course boat in a gale wind, but I do it with such surety, and I very much convince myself I am on course. Even tonight, as I sit here looking out on the yellow buoy in my front yard, I wonder if I have steered my family in the right direction, there is a tiny devilish angel sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear that I am, indeed, on course. I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this exact moment. But is this voice right? I may never know.

Well, the aforementioned “devilish angel sitting on my shoulder”–the only one that has ever guided me in any direction whatsoever–has never really led me too far off course in all honesty. Most of my decisions, while not entirely thought through, have been pretty good ones. I have a wonderful husband, intelligent and hardworking kids, a distant family who loves me and friends all over the globe that I adore. We are employed, generally content and have a wonderful roof over our heads. What could be wrong, you may ask?

Well, I’ll tell you. I have no concept of home whatsoever. “Home,” to me, looks like the next head of a pushpin into a map of some distant city on this great, big earth into which we could settle–only for a short time, of course. I am not even sure I care where it is, so long as it has friendly people, book stores, an art scene and good schools–my priorities right now. I wish my children knew intrinsically where their “home” was as my husband and I did as kids. It was so easy back then. Now, I fear our kids might become “global orphans,” at worst, or “global citizens,” at best, but I still wish they knew they had a place that was home: home to their parents, home to their grand-parents, a place where beloved pets were mourned and buried and place where we marked each inch they grew on a wall in their bedroom that we could giggle about when they are all grown because they are close to all grown. Sometimes, I wish they had this. Today, I wish they had this.

Tonight, this nomad is a little homesick, but she has no “home” of which to be sick or which to speak. I turn to this Yellow Buoy for some navigation, but it says only “why are you looking at me?”

Yellow Buoy in My Front Yard.
Yellow Buoy in My Front Yard.

Thank you, Todd Baker, for sharing this Pico Iyer TED Talk with me. It’s so relevant that I thought I should post it here. If you have a second and have ever wondered about the notion of “home,” this talk is for you!

Pssst! Moms, Read This! Our Kids Listen to Us, I Have Proof!

Pssst! Moms, Read This! Our Kids Listen to Us, I Have Proof!

My nearly teenage daughter made me cry today, but not because of anything she did wrong, it was because of something she did so right! Read on, please.

Lizzy of Arabia's daughter
Skye & I (far too many years ago)

I don’t know about you, but most days I feel like no one listens to me, especially my kids because, of course, they already know everything, right?! Usually, I feel like a so so parent, perhaps on the higher end of average. Maybe not a great one, but certainly not a terrible one; I read about the latter all the time and I know categorically that I am not one of them. Please read the Crime section of any given paper, if you ever need affirmation of just how great a parent you actually are–I do this from time to time. There are those days when you lose your patience; you say all the wrong things and set the worst example for your children (like every day you drive in the UAE). There are also those rare days when you step back and notice something great that you have done, often unwittingly. I rarely acknowledge these moments, but I am going to take a moment to do that here, because I think it’s sometimes healthy to dwell on what you have done right as a parent.

My oldest daughter, Skye, is 12—soon to be 13. Yes, she has been acting like a teenager for a year or more, so I like to think we have been well primed for what’s to come. Gosh, I hope so! Yes, she behaves unfortunately some nights and says some really thoughtless things to me and to her father—hourly to her little sister. But let’s not dwell on that today. I am certain that there will be another day soon when I will need to vent about that.

mom&daughterHere’s the story. We had a very busy weekend. We were exhausted. It was a good kind of busy. We traipsed around town from one fun thing to another. I love busy weekends, but I relish a late Sunday afternoon (here Saturday, of course), at the very least, of relaxation. This past Saturday, that was not in the plan. We realized that my daughter, her friend and her friend’s mother (we’ll call her “my friend” here for the sake of anonymity) still had to run out to a mall to prepare for a Talent Show the girls are in this week for their schools’ Art Festival. Shopping was one more thing that I did not want to do that afternoon. Why? Well, for starters, I don’t like to shop for clothes. I am not very concerned about them. I do my best to clothe myself daily, but my efforts lack inspiration. You could say that I could care less, and you would be correct. Honestly, give me a beach, a bikini and flip-flops—that’s all I need.

So getting back to the story, we set off to the mall, the girls were excited. My friend was excited—she loves to shop, and she clearly has a lot more energy than I do! I needed her there desperately though because she, unlike me, has style, and I hoped she might impart this to my daughter, which thankfully she did. My friend has been here just as long as I have, but she is in possession of so much more information about the clothes and stores here than I. She sped through the aisles from store to store throwing her nose up to almost each and every item. She understood—even from afar—when a store was selling rubbish. It’s a talent.

We found H&M—a store we both know and like—and skipped in. They bee lined it to some blingy stuff in the rear of the store. They were all more aware of how one is supposed to dress onstage than I am. The mother and daughter combo took moments to piece together some really extraordinary costume combinations. They both have that uncanny ability to mix and match things I just would not put together, but when I see them put together, they look fabulous. My daughter watched in delight. In a very short time, they cobbled together three potential costumes from ordinary teenybopper clothes into something fit for a teen pop star–I’m telling you this is a talent! I can say that, because it’s a talent I will never, ever possess. The girls zoomed into the dressing rooms, parading in and out in their outfits. Skye’s little sister and my friend acted as the judges. The dressing room brimmed with giggling and happiness. They were having so much fun, and you could tell they loved how they looked. All they needed was some tinsel town soundtrack to make the fashion show straight outta Hollywood. Everyone was having fun but I was worried. 

This is not my cup of tea. I shuddered silently at the thought of the price tag. While we can, of course, afford little luxuries such as this, we usually don’t because, to us it seems kind of wasteful to buy an outfit that’s probably only made to be worn once or twice. Skye’s dad is very into sustainability, and I guess he is rubbing off on me in a positive way (but don’t tell him I said that), since I was a bit of a spender before we met. He regularly holds me to task about not perpetuating the “throw away culture” that the US compels its citizens to foster, and to buy high quality items–only when absolutely necessary. Not much fun, I know, but we all know it’s true. We also do have to watch our finances now, as our whole very presence in this country has been, at times, precarious, unlike many of my friends here more given to what everyone considers the “Expat Life” of lavish spending and frequent holidays. I watched as they threw all the outfits over their arms in elation mentally adding it all up and agonizing a bit inside about the impending disbursement. The judges all agreed that one little, blingy black dress and matching jacket was THE ONE! They had to have it! Skye clung to my arm and implored me “Can I have it, mom? I really love it! And, it’s practical! I can where it anywhere.” She was shaking a bit with a mixture of happiness and excitement. I replied, “Yes, honey. Sure” with the very best feigned smile I could split my face into. She could tell though. She knew I wasn’t going to be the one to rain on this parade even if it chewed into money that I had set aside for other things. I did not want deprive her of something she needed, and I also didn’t want to seem cheap, even though I know that I am–Skye knows that too—so, I said Yes.

After I said yes—the answer she should have wanted to hear—she started to put the items back on the racks. She turned to me, shaking her head sadly and she said, “No, mom. That’s all right. I don’t have to have this. I can wear something else.” Her face darkened and her smile faded. She looked down at her feet. I felt horrible. I knew she was worried about me and that I might be spending too much money–money that maybe I should not be spending. I hugged her, and I lifted her face up to me and I said, “Skye, I said you can have it. I want you to have it. You look beautiful in it, and you need it for the Talent show.” I was being honest this time. I meant it. I really did want her to feel beautiful and special and, if wearing this outfit did that, I needed her to have it. She looked into my eyes, but she still looked dismayed and said, “No, mom. It’s too much money, and I don’t need it. You always tell me it doesn’t matter what you wear. It’s a Talent show. It’s about how I sing, isn’t it?!” She was very right. Yet, she was also a little wrong. With such conviction, Skye had just echoed back to me everything I have always said to her when I thought she wasn’t listening. She knew intuitively that clothes do not make the woman. What’s on inside is what counts. She had just demonstrated this to me. My work is done. I wanted to cry. I am crying now as I type this. I am so very proud that she understands the value of a “dirham” (or a dollar), but saddened that she doesn’t understand that sometimes it’s all right to pamper yourself, just a little bit. Life is too short to worry all the time. I have so much respect for her and what she did because it could have played out so very different. With this, I want to impart on Skye that, every now and then, it’s all right to splurge a bit—as long as no one is hurt by your actions or it’s NOT money that you don’t have. I have learned this the hard way. I have an uneasy relationship with money. I fear sometimes I am passing this onto her. These were the negative thoughts that ran through my mind when the tables turned, and I found myself atypically trying to convince my 12-year-old daughter that she absolutely needed to have this outfit. 

Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it rightI listen to most of my friends complain about the entitlement that they see their children and teens often exhibiting “these days.” I often empathize. I sometimes sympathize. Skye’s no angel. She sometimes expresses that she “deserves” certain items as well, though–like mom and dad–her wants and needs are usually in the tech arena rather than the clothes’ aisle. Sometimes when you are done obsessing over what you are doing wrong as a parent, you get clued into what you are doing right or, in this case, bludgeoned into seeing it. This outing taught me that I need to go easier on myself and on Skye. After all, she is trying to learn to be an adult, in the same way that I am trying to learn to be a parent of a teenager. I am mostly setting the right example, and she’s mostly getting it–even if I don’t think so or know it all the time. You are too, probably. 

Pass it on.