Given I visited El Sur not too long ago, I had a natural point of comparison for a recent Friday tapas brunch at Salero Tapas & Bodega (actual title, ‘Friday Fiesta Brunch’). Never mind the most annoying radio commercials of all time (if I hear ‘all the drinks you like to sup to’ one more time, I might hurt someone — and God only knows what that phrase means), I went in with a positive attitude. After all, who can say no to tapas, sangria, and good friends?
The tables were preset with cold tapas, which immediately was a turn off for me. Something about cold egg salad with tuna congealing in front of me is just a situation I’m never going to respond positively to. Another immediate distraction for me was the indoor smoking. While El Sur divides the smokers and non-smokers (as best they can), the ventilation at Salero wasn’t keeping up with the smokers throughout the afternoon. As Salero is located on the bottom floor of the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates, it would be very easy for those who choose to smoke to walk directly outside and light up.
After our group was seated and drink orders were taken, we were given a plate of fresh bread, with tomato, garlic and oilve oil (points for presentation, but I’ve definitely had better bread). The hot tapas seemed a bit better than the cold, with the patatas bravas declared the winner. While I would say I was impressed with the amount and variety of food, it was simply very basic dishes and nothing I would order again. The experience did not feel, in any conceivable way, to be authentic Spanish cuisine. We did end the meal on a high note — the paella was wonderfully received by the table, and I appreciated that they dished out smaller servings (less food wastage). Of the three desserts, the best was, far and away, the churros (with chocolate sauce).
Other things were lacking — although they tried their best, our servers never seemed to anticipate or keep up with our drink orders. Perhaps they were trying to keep up with the table next to us, who seemed bent on doing as many tequila shots as possible.
It wasn’t all bad. The flamenco dancer and live guitarist were crazy talented, and it was a nice departure from usual brunches to have this musical/live theater addition. In fact, I think El Sur’s similar brunch would be elevated to include something similar. I thought the pacing of the meal was also quite well done, and appreciated the decor and layout of the restaurant, which was an open plan design (it was fun to watch the kitchen work on the big plates of paella).
With the Entertainer voucher, the total was AED 210 per person, which is a huge bargain. With the reduced price, I guess the brunch was worth it. Without the voucher, I wouldn’t be interested (AED 350 per person seems a bit high for what’s on offer). Furthermore, while the full menu at El Sur is still something I’d like to go back and try, based on my experience at Salero, I have literally no interest in returning.
Overall, even if I had a few issues with El Sur, it is the superior brunch (but this is not saying much — why have I been striking out with Mexican/Spanish restaurants so much recently?). The details of the former Loca brunch are a bit hazy now, but I remember a far better experience. Oh well, we were able to send off our friends in a positive manner, and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?