The sandcastle AKA Dubai has a plethora of fine dining establishments. In fact, it’s a bit like being the proverbial kid in a candy store. Quite honestly, you could have a unique dining experience 365 days of the year in Dubai, however some of those experiences come and go. Ultimately these short-lived dining adventures are caused by a lack of brand management or the biggie and most common causes: the exec chef moving on or poorly trained staff leaving you with a sprinkling of gems to hold on to.
Sometimes, we all want that little extra wow factor, whether it’s high tea, cocktails, business lunch or dining with your loved ones – and so to that end, let me introduce you to At.mosphere and exec chef Jerome Lagarde.
I’m not one for heights – in fact I can feel rather nauseous, but once you go up to At.mosphere you’ll not want to come back down (well for a little while anyway). Many holiday makers spend a small fortune to head up the Burj Khalifa not knowing about this impressive restaurant and lounge. So, rather than do the tourist thing, another option is to pop on your glad rags and venture up 122 floors to experience breathtaking scenery whilst sipping a Kir Royale and eating your way through a delectable menu created by world acclaimed chef Jerome Lagarde. Alternatively devour a scrumptious high tea in the lounge area next to the restaurant (we raise our glasses to Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford who clearly suffered from hunger pangs hence creating the British “afternoon tea”) whilst listening to live music.
With any fine dining establishment, especially when it’s the tallest structure in the world, standing at 829.8m, unsurprisingly it’s busy… so you will need to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. However don’t fret, the booking process is extremely straight forward (despite the fact the website needs some work to becoming truly user-friendly!) and although credit card details are taken, what better incentive do you need to make sure you are there on time and ready to have a fabulous experience.
We arrived at the Burj Khalifa (note that if you are heading to At.mosphere you need to ask your driver to take you to the Armani Hotel entrance).
When we entered the hotel, it appeared to be a place for rich and successful business professionals; however the lobby area/entrance to the Armani restaurant lacks soul. A highly attentive member of staff directed us to the lift where we then headed to the reservation desk of At.moshphere to have our names checked before jumping in for the ride of our life – AKA the super fast elevator!
The experience in here alone left you gasping for breath whilst your ears popped constantly due to it shooting up to level 122 (442 metres up) at a rate of 36km/h. The lift really is an experience in itself, and you find yourself reaching for your iPhone to record it to prove to friends and family that it really was that fast!
On exiting the lift and after getting over a pang of jealously as a Japanese business man turned left and entered the residence area, you will be faced with the most awesome views of Dubai. It honestly will blow your mind and I can guarantee two things. If you are a first timer you’ll want to pose by the window for a quick Kodak moment and if you are regular you’ll probably want to do the same! Reception staff were again incredibly attentive and after another check in they whisked us off to the restaurant.
My personal opinion is that it was a little bit of mahogany overload. Impressive certainly, but I felt that the restaurant needed some life, a splash of color, maybe a magnificent arrangement of flowers – just something to take your eyes of brown, brown and more brown (as well as visible scratches and wear and tear on the tables and chairs).
Also, one thing that really surprised me was the lack of entertainment in the restaurant. On arriving, we could hear beautiful live entertainment in the lounge area but there was zero music in the restaurant. A grand piano reeling out smoothing jazz tunes would have just set the “atmosphere” alight. However, to replace this mild disappointment, we had magnificent views, attentive staff and a glass of champagne to set off our lunchtime experience.
Priced at a pretty hefty 450AED per person for two courses or 600AED for three, it is most definitely at the top end but hey you are also 122 floors up..
On arrival the restaurant was empty which left me feeling dubious, however that feeling went out of the 122 floor window as within a short space of time, the restaurant was buzzing with couples on holiday, locals and business people impressing clients and no doubt giving their company AMEX a good thrashing.
So, 122 floors up, a culinary chief and an awesome location ticks a lot of boxes, but would the food shine? I was pleased to see a simple well-crafted menu. With a choice of starters including Hand Dive Sea Scallop and Brittany Lobster Carpaccio, Foie Gras “Masion Sollard”, I opted for a simple Heirloom Tomato and creamy Burrata salad – no frills, just straightforward and refreshing whilst leaving space for the main. I chose the Brittany Lobster “open” lasagna with sautéed spinach and curry cream. A little too rich for me; but perfectly presented with great flavours. So did I stop there? I had good intentions until I spotted the Dame Blanche Profiteroles with Pear Cremeux, Vanilla ice cream (with a yummy 72% chocolate). The usual, eat half and think of the calories thought diminished and I have to say this was the highlight of the meal. One absolutely gigantic profiterole of yumminess!
The menu, quality of food and selection was well thought out and did not disappoint. I have since decided that next time the main dish I would have to opt for would have to be the Roasted Guinea Fowl, which I witnessed wheeled out on beautiful trolleys at least 4 times to other diners.
Feeling pleasantly stuffed, we decided to polish off our experience by spending the next hour or so in the Lounge enjoying live music provided by an exceptional flautist while working our way through the cocktail list. Here, we encountered an utterly different feel and would say 80% of the guests would have been first-timers on holiday divulging in a stunning high tea.
For the cocktail lovers among you this is a fact… the skills of the mixologists at At.mosphere will simply blow.your.mind! Again, you do need to book if you just fancy venturing into the Lounge, and you can opt for window or non window views. Minimum prices apply but to be honest two or three cocktails and some lounge nibbles will meet that requirement, and it is well worth it! By the time we left we had already sent a whatsapp message to our Ladies networking group suggesting a night in At.mosphere.
Finally, just to finish off our experience Jakob Yamac, Director of Food and Beverage Operations, kindly showed us through to the Private Dining room – a luxurious room for up to 14 guests with the same exceptional views – ideal for parties or business lunches or dinners with the objective to impress but again guys – wheel in the flowers, add some color and bring in live entertainment – you are afterall called At.mosphere!
At.mosphere is not a place to frequent every week, but if you fancy something a little different or are looking to impress friends, family or of course customers visiting Dubai then At.mosphere is one of those gems to keep hold of.
Value for money 3/5
Brand Strength 3/5