Opened in November 2015, Vanitas is one of Palazzo Versace Dubai’s eight restaurants, serving high-end Italian cuisine under the leadership of chef Andrea Gaia, who most recently worked at three Michelin starred Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.
WHERE IS IT?
On the ground floor of the property, next to all-day dining restaurant Giardino.
The restaurant is housed in a neo-Renaissance style dining room decorated with murals of Roman ruins, cascading chandeliers and gilt-embellished banquet chairs upholstered in regal red and blue silk. Tables are grouped in pairs around the long room, dressed in pressed white tablecloths and set with Versace’s bold blue and gold crockery and a pretty arrangement of fresh roses. On the ceiling is a delicate fresco of imitation stone carvings, which gives the impression of greater height.
We were there on a Monday evening and were the only table in the restaurant until halfway through our meal when another couple joined. Upbeat Motown classics played in the background, creating some sense of ambience, though it was difficult not to notice that we were alone in such a large room.
The menu is divided into starters, soups, mains and sides, featuring inventive dishes such as seared Hokkaido scallops carpaccio with celery gel, marinated egg yolk and black truffle (£18), slow cooked roasted lamb loin (£39) and caramelised organic yellow chicken with Jerusalem artichokes and lemon confit (£40).
We decided on the tasting menu (£103), which featured five decadent courses starting with wagyu carpaccio, served with mushrooms, green leaves and parmesan shavings.
Neatly fanned out in a half crescent, the carpaccio had a rich, buttery flavour that paired well with the crisp lettuce, mushroom and rich parmesan shavings grouped in dainty clusters on the other half of the plate.
Next up was the polipo e patate, comprising two small towers made up of charred octopus, thinly cut French beans and a crispy ripple of fried octopus skin on top. Aerated dollops of mauve olive purée added to the octopus’ strong, at times overwhelming flavour, but a dusting of seaweed flakes on the plate lifted what might have otherwise been a combination of very intense flavours.
After this came the carbonara di astice, a good looking dish of lobster-stuffed ravioli, topped with flakes of cured goose ham and a courgette drizzle. We were told to try to fit a whole ravioli in every mouthful – a bit of a challenge, but worth it when the pocket burst, oozing warm salty broth and succulent chunks of lobster.
Topping it off was the wagyu beef with baby leek and salsa verde, featuring a trio of seared beef slices, with the grilled leeks delicately placed on each. Served separately in its own tureen was a fried egg, on top of a savoury biscuit, which was an odd addition that didn’t do much to enhance any part of the dish. The beef however was fantastic, tender, with beautifully charred edges and a crimson, melt in the mouth centre.
To finish, we had the affogato, an impressive take on the classic Italian coffee and ice cream dessert featuring a frozen chocolate globe over which our waiter poured steaming decaffeinated coffee, melting to reveal a scoop of vanilla ice cream at its centre – a spectacle to end that created a delicious fusion of dark chocolate, coffee and creamy vanilla.
We were very well looked after, though this came as no surprise as we had the place largely to ourselves. Service was warm and attentive, and the chef came out to greet us once we were finished.
This is one of the hotel’s more upmarket, formal restaurants, making it a good option for client dinners if you’re keen to impress with a decadent and elaborate menu. The service was excellent and the food of equal measure – it’s clear that Gaia enjoys experimenting with fine foods and reinterprets classic dishes with flair.
Culture Village, Al Jadaf, Dubai.
Palazzo Versace Dubai is a member of the Preferred Hotels and Resorts Legend Collection.