Friday, Oct. 10, 2008

4. Champagne Brunch

This is a Muslim state, but alcohol flows liberally. By law, it can be served only within the confines of a hotel, but with an estimated 450 hotels in the emirate, some with up to 26 bars, restaurants and clubs, you won't be left thirsty.

If your stay in Dubai takes in a Friday (the first day of the Arabic weekend) then you can experience first-hand the city's strange relationship with the bottle. While it is the holiest day of the week for Muslims, many of the city's restaurants throw their doors open for "champagne brunch." This brunch is not the sedate culinary experience it is elsewhere; in Dubai, it is an exercise in excess, with free-flowing booze and heaping buffets that would have even the most indulgent glutton begging for mercy.

Spectrum on One in the Fairmont and Le Meridien's Yalumba each offers unlimited champagne (Moët and Laurent Perrier, respectively) and tables straining under mountains of prime steak, oysters and prawns the size of Neptune's fist. Spectrum is the more civilized of the two, with Yalumba often degenerating into a dancing-on-the-tables affair with occasional bubble trouble as people overdo it. For those who fancy indulging alfresco, the excellent Mina A' Salam Brunch has outdoor seating, live cooking stations and a kids' club.

If you're just in the mood for an evening tipple, the places to head are the open-air 360 Degrees, an out-to-sea rooftop bar within spitting distance of the famed Burj Al Arab; Bar 44 in the Grosvenor House with its dizzying views of new Dubai or Le Meridien Mina Seyahi's Barasti, puzzlingly the shorelined city's only real beach bar.