Is this Italian institution still worth a visit seven years after opening?
Before weâ€™ve even arrived at Robertoâ€™s brand new Friday brunch, weâ€™re fans. For most brunches, youâ€™ll need to arrive promptly between 12pm and 1pm (depending on their start time) to maximise your brunching time, but for Robertoâ€™s itâ€™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 itâ€™s still a touch too humid for alfresco dining on our visit. But in the winter season, itâ€™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 weâ€™ve come to expect from Robertoâ€™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 donâ€™t dislike anything. The Pizza Robertoâ€™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. Thereâ€™s more than enough to go around, and itâ€™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.
Itâ€™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 Robertoâ€™s traditional Italian menu to suit a more global audience.
A special mention should be given to the friendly waiter who self-titles himself â€˜Pepper Baeâ€™ (a nod to the infamous Salt Bae), who brings around the largest pepper grinder weâ€™ve ever seen to finish guestsâ€™ dishes as requested.
While brunch isnâ€™t the busiest, the venue fills up at the bar as the sun sets, and as Robertoâ€™s moves into its evening service, the venue comes alive.
Food quality isnâ€™t compromised despite being served for brunch, drinks are extensive and for a four hour package, overall we leave impressed â€“ and very full.
Robertoâ€™s, Gate Village 1, DIFC, Dubai, Fri 3pm to 7pm, Dhs315 soft, Dhs465 house. Tel: (04) 386 00 66. robertos.ae