What’s Spanish for “sorry I can’t hear you?” or “could you turn the music down please?” These are phrases that you might want to learn prior to jumping on the latest, loudest brunch-time bandito wagon that Dubai has to offer.
If you like fiesta with your feasting, Zoco is a party brunch for you.
Located at The Atrium in Al Habtoor City, the recently-opened Zoco brings a touch of modern Mexico and a splash of Latin American flavour to Dubai.
The restaurant entrance is fancy and the restaurant itself is grand; reminiscent of a medieval banqueting hall with exposed brickwork and a high, vaulted ceiling. The lengthy room is flooded with natural light via floor-to- ceiling, arched windows. But don’t expect stunning views. This eatery is exactly the same level as the elevated Sheik Zayed Road and the Dubai Metro. If you crane your neck and look carefully, you’ll see the newly-created Dubai Water Canal; but only just.
Tottering on impossibly high heels, the beautiful maitre d’ walked us past the long cocktail bar and tequila serving station to the far end of the hall. From our table beneath a swirl of ceiling-suspended empty bottles, we had a fine view of the busy cocina, bustling with lots of staff master-chefing under the tutelage of Head Chef Jimmy Rojas Lopez.
My first impression was that the music was just a tad too loud for decent conversation. To hear the waiting staff explaining the menu was near impossible. Utilising my lip-reading skills, the waiter told me that there’s a variety of “traditional Mexican signature dishes” that are the “specialities of the house”. At least that’s what I think he said. Hoarse from shouting above the music, I gave up shouting with my fellow diner and headed to the buffet.
You’ll find no explanation of any of the concoctions on the serving tables so if you’re a vegetarian, beware. It’s probably best if you simply grab the delicious home-made guacamole and the tomato/onion salsa. And if you can successfully pick up fresh, crispy nachos with metal tongs, you’ll be doing better than me.
I took my nacho crumbs and a hot-pot stew of beef and charro beans and returned to my table to find a Titan of man pulling a heavy wooden trolley, laden with treats. I was delighted with my tapas choice of avocado, chorizo and poached egg … on toast. What’s not to like? The chicken tostados were also to die for but impossible to eat without dropping all over the table.
It’s essential that you get off your culo and go to the live cooking stations. Over the loud music, you won’t be able to a hear a word of what the Latino chefs are telling you, so my advice would be to gesticulate for a bit of everything and manage your own delicious slider of Latino goodness. I went for the classic Mexican street food of ‘Campechano’ (beef chorizo), the Pico de Gallo with short rib (beef again, but delicious) and the traditional chicken taco from the Puebla region of Mexico. You won’t be sorry.
And then the Latin live band started. They were good. Extra-loud, but very good. “Do you want to dance?” the singer shouted. “No love, I’m eating my lunch”, I sing-songed back to her.
Having spent much time in mainland Spain over the years, my favourite pastime is to count how many times any Spanish song mentions “corazon”. This afternoon was corazon-aplenty.
I watched the serving staff mouthing along to the words of the songs; I enjoyed the neighbouring diners teaching their children to rhythmically clap; and I revelled in observing other diners left-to-right swaying with a tight pinch of a bum cheek. Dios mio! Even I was shoulder shimmying (a result of the 350 Dirham alcohol package?).
And as the off-rhythmic clapping got louder in direct parallel with the alcohol intake and as more of the Caucasians in white linen trousers and bright shirts (only ever worn abroad; never on home turf) joined the dance floor, I could see that this party was going to get messy.
I’m loco for Zoco and it may be hora feliz but frankly I’m exhausted. I need a siesta.
- Food 7/10
- Staff 7/10
- Overall experience 7/10
Review: Nick Stephenson
El Bruncho at Zoco, The Atrium at Al Habtoor City, Dubai
Every Friday from 12:30-16:00
AED225 per person inclusive of soft beverages
AED295 per person inclusive of house beverages
AED350 per person inclusive of house beverages and sparkling grape
T: +971 (0) 4 437 0044