There’s a new chef at the world’s highest fine-dining restaurant – and we put him to the test.
The universe seemed to be conspiring against us on a recent Thursday when we headed to the Burj Khalifa to try out the new menu at the world’s highest dining spot, At.mosphere.
Traffic was at a standstill on the uncharacteristically stormy evening, and for a moment during the nail-biting taxi journey, we thought we might not make our reservation.
But after a lightning-quick, ear-popping elevator ride to the 122nd floor, we soon found ourselves looking down on the bright lights of the city, all of the day’s troubles suddenly feeling very small and far away…
The main drawcard of At.mosphere is obviously its spectacular vantage point, and thanks to a last-minute cancellation, we were fortunate enough to be seated at a window table.
But even without the benefit of the jaw-dropping views, it’s a sophisticated spot. Though the restaurant is on the small side, glossy, mirrored surfaces gave the impression of a much larger space. Some booth-style seating with plush cushions caught our eye, and we thought that would be a pleasant way to spend an evening, if you weren’t able to nab a window seat.
My only gripe would be the lighting was a little too low – and while this did make it easier to appreciate the city lights below, it made it hard to see exactly what was on my plate.
Getting to At.mosphere is a rather intimidating experience. You enter through the lobby of Armani Hotel, and must proceed past a number of gatekeepers before finally being ushered up to the restaurant (be sure to have your reservation number handy).
Once inside, however, we found it to be surprisingly down to earth. The wait staff were attentive without being over the top, and we felt as though we were in safe, non-judgemental hands when asking questions like, “should I use the fork or the spoon to eat this?”
While the restaurant does have a dress code, we spotted a hoodie at the table next to us. We also spied another diner playing a round of solitaire on their smartphone in between courses. Basically, this is a fine-dining restaurant where you can feel at ease.
At.mosphere’s new executive chef Christopher Graham is all about unique food pairings, so you can expect a few surprising combinations on the menu – like chocolate moelleux with parsnip ice cream.
We opted for the seven-course experience, in order to try a bit of everything. The menu flowed like a story, and despite a marathon three-and-a-half hours of eating, we were never left feeling restless or overly full – the pacing was just right.
Highlights included silky, hand-dived scallops from Japan, followed by a nutty risotto that was so good it had us scraping the bottom of our bowls.
Our expert waiters were on hand to add a drizzle of sauce or a shaving of fresh truffle at the table, which was a pleasing touch.
At one point, my dining companion noted that we had almost every type of animal on our plates, as we tucked into John Dory, crayfish, and chicken wings. And then a hearty slab of melt-in-your-mouth 36-hour beef cheek. Every beast was cooked to perfection.
Dietary requirements were well catered for (no eggs), though I suffered from pangs of food envy when my buddy was served a beautiful blackberry cremeux, while I settled for a fruit salad.
Considering how much it costs just to visit the Burj Khalifa’s observation decks, you might as well splurge a bit more to enjoy a plate of foie gras while looking down on the world.
The views, the top quality ingredients and interesting flavour combinations… and yes, the atmosphere.
At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa, Dubai. The seven-course experience menu is Dhs880 per person, or a six-course discovery menu is Dhs680 per person. Tel: (04) 888 3828. atmosphereburjkhalifa.com.