The new Emerald Palace by Kempinski really does live up to the name of Dubai’s new Palace by the sea. Upon entering an undeniably opulent lobby, with a grand piano, gold leaf embellishments and elongated colonnades, the hotel offers and impressive visual assault, a stark contrast to the beachfront setting of the Mediterranean restaurant Villamore.
A standalone structure, close to the hotels swimming pool, Villamore is like a breath of fresh air. A two-story structure heavily influenced by the trattorias and tavernas of the Mediterranean manages to be both chic and rustic in equal parts. Led along stone floors and down whitewashed corridors, we find ourselves on the pleasant terrace. Decked out in blue and white upholstery, Villamore provides the distinct feeling of Santorini island life. A sense that’s only heightened by our unique location, sat upon the sands of Palm Jumeirah with striking views towards the glittering skyscrapers of Dubai Marina piercing the horizon.
Villamore’s Barefoot Lunch attracts a more mature crowd than we perhaps expected and looks to simplify the weekend brunch experience with a four-course set menu of Mediterranean dishes that leans heavily into the cuisines of Italy and the Levant whilst maintaining a strict focus on seafood. We begin in the anti-pasti room (yes you read that correctly) here guests are encouraged to graze on a selection of cold mezzes, cheeses and cured meats. We highly recommend the Spanish Manchego drizzled in balsamic oil and honey which accompanied by a fine beverage, marks a wonderful start to this weekend affair.
Go easy on the anti-pasti though, as this lunch includes a lot of food! Beginning with a selection of appetizers served directly to the table. The Bacalao Croquettes are generously stuffed with salted cod and provide just a hint of lemon, allowing the full flavor of the fish to shine. Simplicity reigns supreme throughout the Villamore menu and the focus on high quality ingredients certainly shows. Even the Mediterranean Salad of chunky tomatoes, cucumber, fennel and Persian feta is memorable for the intense flavor of the sun-kissed tomatoes.
What’s a weekend without oysters? It would seem that Dubai decadence has ensured oysters are a firm fixture of brunch menus throughout the Emirate and the French Fine De Claire Oysters served here are particularly enjoyable with their pomegranate and shallot vinaigrette. The Tuna Tartare served in a bowl shaped like a spiked sea-urchin allows the tuna and avocado to complement one another but unfortunately the gazpacho poured on-top is a little too acidic.
Four main courses are offered – Roasted Sea Bream, Sirloin Tagliata, Whole Fed Corn Chicken and Lemon Risotto – of which guests select one each. The Sea Bream is a large fish which arrives whole and is expertly filleted table-side. Once again, the simplicity of ingredients and pronounced flavors abound, and the tender flesh is delightful. Of a similar caliber, the Lemon Risotto is cooked al dente with an abundance of cheese. The creamy mixture has subtle hints of lemon which works wonderfully with the sides of bitter leaf salad and a chilli garlic broccolini.
With an elongated running time (guests are welcome to partake in the Barefoot Lunch between the hours of 1.30pm and 4.30pm) it’s wise to enjoy the setting, and pace yourself before the onslaught of desserts! A varied selection of four Mediterranean classics served sharing style includes a Ricotta Cannoli and a rather dense Orange and Almond Cake with black olives! The desserts certainly showcase some interesting flavor combinations and we certainly appreciate the Vanilla Panna Cotta with macerated strawberries, balsamic vinegar and pepper. The Decadent Chocolate turns out a little too… decadent! A rich mass of flourless chocolate cake, amaretti cream and hazelnuts, which we would’ve devoured had we not overdone it in the anti-pasti room earlier.
Villamore is more of a relaxed brunch than an all-out party and feels like a weekend hideaway thanks to the inclusion of pool and beach access in the brunch package. The venue marks another successful operation within the new Emerald Palace by Kempinski and it’s exciting to see another outsourced venue thriving in what is actually quite a difficult location. The relaxed vibe that transitions effortlessly from day to night positions Villamore as a memorable dining location but what really sets the restaurants apart is the strive for excellency in ingredients. Keeping things seasonal, local and sustainable where possible.
AED 375 for soft beverages and AED 475 for selected beverages.