By Sarah Townsend
Refined and refreshing dining experience that focuses on classic Spanish small plates
Walking into Spanish restaurant El Sur on a Friday lunchtime is a refreshing experience. Rather than being caught up in the whirl of house music, drinks stations and huge piles of food that marks many of Dubai’s infamous ‘brunches’, El Sur’s offer is altogether more refined.
We are taken to a table overlooking the patio of The Westin hotel, where the restaurant is located. Sunlight streams in and complements the mellow, earthy décor and the place exudes a relaxed ambience – busy without being overly packed.
The brunch is a sit-down affair. A waiter attends to us straight away, bringing us a large jug of traditional Spanish drinks – not too sweet – and takes us through the menu. El Sur serves a mix of traditional tapas such as patatas bravas (sautéed potatoes with creamy tomato sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers with sea salt) and tortilla española (Spanish omelette), as well as contemporary dishes such as crab tempura and wagyu beef tartare.
The brunch menu focuses on classic Spanish small plates. As well as the aforementioned dishes, we had gambas al ajillo (garlic and chilli prawns), manchego cheese with juicy olives and cracked black pepper, ‘broken’ eggs with potatoes and a Catalan-style paella known as fideua, made with angel hair pasta rather than rice.
We also had one contemporary dish – a delicious tiradito (carpaccio) of wafer-thin slices of sea bream drizzled in a coriander pesto sauce.
The food was served with crusty bread that tasted as if it had just been baked that morning. All of the dishes were good: right-sized portions, quality ingredients and not too greasy as Spanish food can sometimes be.
For that reason we still had room for pudding, unlike most help-yourself brunches where you are full to bursting within half an hour.
However, the two desserts had not been as cleverly selected as the main dishes. Both were made from similar ingredients – a creamy rice pudding with blueberries and a hint of lemon, and a traditional crema catalana, also made with milk, cream, lemon zest and vanilla.
I thoroughly enjoyed both but my guests – one of whom does not eat dairy – were disappointed. They said they would have liked more choice, maybe a chocolate or pastry-based dish as well.
Overall, though, the brunch was excellent and the service attentive without being intrusive.
Also of note and from the founders of El Sur is new DIFC eatery Baxzar, which features four different food and drink stations – a bakery and coffee house, Vietnamese noodle café, burger zone and wine bar – all under the same roof.
During my visit, I had crunchy popcorn prawns, a generous bowl of steamed Vietnamese broth with chicken and vegetables and a rather less wholesome half-baked American cookie with vanilla ice-cream.
The restaurant was buzzing, the staff were friendly and the food was delicious. A perfect lunch or dinner choice if you and your guest cannot agree on what to eat.
El Sur is at The Westin Dubai, Mina Seyahi. Brunch every Friday 12.30pm to 4.30pm
The reviewer was a guest of The Westin Dubai