“Here in Dubai, we wait half the year to enjoy good weather in Dubai, so when the time comes, we take advantage of it as much as we can,” says Wassim Zouein, general manager of Iris Dubai, located in the Oberoi in Business Bay. He can be seen gliding through the outdoor rooftop venue, which recently underwent a mini-revamp to refresh its chic outdoor seating area, during it’s popular Iris Brunch, which runs November through May.
With outdoor, all-day brunching a luxury, Iris offers unadulterated views. Despite a relatively concise, even narrow, space, the ambiance leads the way and explains how each weekend, Iris finds itself packed to the brim with those coming to see and be seen. “Our brunch is different to the traditional Dubai-style brunch in that it’s not ‘Dubai style’; you feel like you’ve escaped the chaos of Dubai for a few hours while enjoying good music, great weather, an incredible view of the Dubai skyline and Burj Khalifa, along with live food and beverage stations. Iris’ brunch has a really cool vibe,” Zouein adds. And he is correct – Iris’s brunch is a hip spot where the Mediterranean seaside meets New York rooftop vibes, with people strolling in mid-afternoon with no weekend slump in sight – many linger well after the brunch, with some even popping in an hour before the last food-call.
Starting early afternoon, the venue is unique in that it seamlessly allows its diners to glide through to the evening, with a DJ playing all day and well into the night, and the sunset dimming in tandem with the increase of ambient lighting overhead. There is no culinary hustle here and service is independent at best – expect hours of casual nibbling and imbibing with plenty of room to traipse back and forth, or enjoy a little people watching from the wide lounge and couch options and the intimate high-top tables. “It’s quite rare to find an all-round brunch/party in Dubai,” remarks Zouein. “It’s not just one thing that makes it special, it’s the fact that it combines many aspects really well. You’re gazing at the Dubai skyline while the sound of vocal house and smooth lounge music fills the air, all while soaking up the sunshine and enjoying good food and drinks.”
For its food offerings, the buffet is spread across the venue, encouraging that aforementioned visual perusing. Focused on Mediterranean, Japanese and South American cuisine, the ‘Iris Raw Bar’ and specialty ice cream stations are the highlights, built off the Iris food concept and adapted to the specific festive atmosphere that dominates the Beirut-born Iris brand. From smoky BBQ at a homey grill station on one side, flanked by a selection of pastas including a plentiful bowl of Mac and Cheese, the next stop is a mini taqueria prepared to order which faces a Poke bowl station – both of which prove the most popular stands and require some proactive queuing in order to acquire. Each live station has a chef ready to serve your customisable dishes, providing a happy middle-ground between plate balancing and visual feasting. Come the other end of the brunch, there is a sushi and sashimi table with a tight but palette-pleasing selection of Japanese mainstays, a selection of breakfast pastries, and then the desserts, which include a chef who will turn favourite chocolates and some liquid into ice cream right before your eyes, with a touch of novelty flash.
Though the food is simple – the small selections hover closely around comfort foods – this is not a venue where one needs to worry about over-indulging. The generous time frame (1-5pm and onwards), considerate portioning and ability to move around (careful of the two or three steps sprinkled across the venue), keeps it sexy – be it for the food, the music, or to simply relocate to that couch area once the sunlight turns to night.