Having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Matagi at the new Emerald Palace by Kempinski, we were excited to return in daylight to experience another one of the food and beverage outlets at Dubai’s new Palace by the sea. The lobby while undeniably opulent with its gold leaf embellishments and elongated colonnades, is a little too gaudy for our tastes and we’re relieved to escape outside to the beachfront setting of Villamore.
A standalone structure close to the hotels swimming pool, Villamore is like a breath of fresh air when compared to the ostentatious Emerald Palace. 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 white washed corridors, we soon find ourselves on the outside terrace. Decked out in blue and white upholstery we are given a distinct feeling of Santorini island life. A sense that’s further heightened by our location, sat upon the sand of the Palm Jumeirah with impressive views towards Dubai Marina and its glittering skyscrapers piercing the horizon.
Villamore’s barefoot lunch attracts a more mature crowd then 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 while maintaining a strict seafood focus. We begin in the anti-pasti room (yes you read that correctly) where guests are encouraged to graze on a selection of cold mezze, cheese and cured meets. We’d particularly recommend the Spanish Manchego drizzled in balsamic oil and honey which accompanied by a glass of champagne, marks a wonderful start for this weekend affair.
Go easy on the anti-pasti though as this lunch includes a lot of food! Beginning with a selection of appetisers served directly to the table. The Bacalao Croquettes are generously stuffed with salted cod and minimal potato and with just a hint of lemon, the flavour of the fish is allowed to shine. This idea of 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 flavour of the sun-kissed tomatoes.
What’s a weekend without oysters? It would seem that Dubai decadence have ensured oysters are a firm fixture of brunch menus throughout the Emirates and the French Fine De Claire Oysters at Villamore are particularly enjoyable with their pomegranate and shallot vinaigrette. The Tuna Tartare, served in a bowl shaped like a spiked sea-urchin was disappointing. While the tuna and avocado would work nicely on their own, a gazpacho is poured on-top and transpires to be far too acidic!
Four main courses are offered – roasted sea bream, sirloin tagliata, whole fed corn chicken and lemon risotto – of which guests can 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 flavours are key and the tender flesh of the sea bream is delightful. Of a similar calibre, the 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 dessert! 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 flavour combinations and while we certainly appreciate the Vanilla Panna Cotta with macerated strawberries, balsamic vinegar and pepper, we find the Decadent Chocolate to be 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 on.
Despite the best efforts of a DJ AVIDBOLD pumping out ambient house music that gets progressively louder as the afternoon wears on, Villamore is more of a relaxed brunch than an all out party. It feels like a weekend hideaway and this particular beachside escape is enhanced by the inclusion of pool and beach access as part of the price tag (starting at AED 375 for soft beverages and AED 475 for house beverages). The drinks selection is pretty standard with Estrella hops, a Nederburg Pino Grigio, a Pasos De La Capula rose, and Fetzer Merlot. In addition to three basic cocktails.
Villamore 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 makes for yet another memorable Dubai dining location (we really are spoiled for choice) but what really sets Villamore apart is the strive for excellency in ingredients. Keeping things seasonal, local and sustainable where possible. This ethos puts many other establishments on the touristy Palm to shame. We only wish the service was a little more friendly and and attentive…
Out & About UAE were guests of Villamore. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.
The Verdict: Villamore
A charming beachfront hideaway that offers spectacular views with food to match! This beautiful setting complemented by high quality ingredients makes Villamore one of the more memorable dining destinations on the Palm.