Is this Italian institution still worth a visit seven years after opening?
Before we’ve even arrived at Roberto’s brand new Friday brunch, we’re fans. For most brunches, you’ll need to arrive promptly between 12pm and 1pm (depending on their start time) to maximise your brunching time, but for Roberto’s it’s a leisurely 3pm arrival time.
We forgo a seat on the terrace with its beautiful Burj Khalifa views for a slightly cooler seat inside, as it’s still a touch too humid for alfresco dining on our visit. But in the winter season, it’d definitely be our first choice.
The brunch is described as a classic sharing menu, and a glance to the menu certainly affirms that description. Guests enjoy a selection of starters to share, then pick an a la carte main from a choice of three meat, three seafood and three vegetarian options, with a sweet treat from the pastry chef finishing things on a sweet note.
Starters kick things off at the typically high standard we’ve come to expect from Roberto’s. Five sharing antipaso arrive in succession, with heaped bowls of crunchy fried calamari and perfectly plated burrata with ripe vine tomatoes firm favourites, but we don’t dislike anything. The Pizza Roberto’s is a signature: a crispy base topped with slithers of beef carpaccio, topped with truffle shavings and generous heaps of rocket, while a lighter option comes in the form of a baby lettuce salad with mandarin slices, pine nuts and drizzled with honey mustard dressing.
A second course arrives in the form of two pasta dishes; a porcini mushroom risotto and tortelli arabbiata, given a punchy flavour thanks to a tomato sauce with hints of chili. There’s more than enough to go around, and it’s a welcome interlude between starters and mains, and it takes a lot of might not to fill up on the creamy risotto before the next course arrives.
It’s an impressive choice for mains, and while we opt for the breaded goats cheese, we enviably eye up the Bistecca, a charcoal grilled angus rib eye with stuffed bell peppers. The menu is more adventurous than we expect, and we welcome the new additions that have leaned away from Roberto’s traditional Italian menu to suit a more global audience.
A special mention should be given to the friendly waiter who self-titles himself ‘Pepper Bae’ (a nod to the infamous Salt Bae), who brings around the largest pepper grinder we’ve ever seen to finish guests’ dishes as requested.
While brunch isn’t the busiest, the venue fills up at the bar as the sun sets, and as Roberto’s moves into its evening service, the venue comes alive.
Food quality isn’t compromised despite being served for brunch, drinks are extensive and for a four hour package, overall we leave impressed – and very full.
Roberto’s, Gate Village 1, DIFC, Dubai, Fri 3pm to 7pm, Dhs315 soft, Dhs465 house. Tel: (04) 386 00 66. robertos.ae