VANITAS – PALAZZO VERSACE

The Vanitas restaurant is located within the Palazzo Versace Hotel, the Renaissance-styled monolith that sits waterside within Dubai Creek’s up-and-coming Harbour district. The first thing you’ll notice when you enter The House of Versace’s latest extravaganza is the intricate & impeccable hand-crafted décor throughout. Within the lobby area itself rests a sprawling floor mosaic comprised of over 2 million hand-laid, marble fragments. These form an exact replica of the rug which sits in Gianni Versace’s Milan Villa… Now that’s quite the way to make an entrance!

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This neoclassical emporium is home to a collection of stylish boutique restaurants, each boasting a different creative theme from street food to experimental concept fusion. Vanitas however, follows a similar line of styling to the hotel itself & its interior walls are lavishly adorned in hand-crafted artworks spanning the opulent, yet tasteful dining area. Following a warm welcome by the host we are taken to our table, as we walk across the room we catch the gaze of joyful couples enjoying candlelit cuisine together. To my right stands large French Doors which open out to a terraced area overlooking the Creek itself, on this occasion it was a little chilly for al fresco dining. This dimly-lit terraced area plays stage to some beautiful Italian renaissance statues that elegantly pose before a backdrop of the Versace Hotel & Creek, providing all the right ingredients for a romantic evening with a loved one.

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Upon the recommendation of the host, we decided to try a selection of cuisines specially selected by the chef himself. Our first experience from the kitchen arrived in the elegant form of pan seared octopus, brimming with bright flamboyant Mediterranean colors. We were lucky enough to be graced with the presence of Head Chef – Andrea Gaea, who came from the kitchen to introduce himself and explain the imagination and history behind the vivacious dishes on display. Within a few moments of speaking with Andrea, it’s immediately apparent that his heart & soul, along with the heritage of Versace’s Italian homeland is lovingly reflected in each dish.

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There’s a strong air of the Mediterranean as we are presented with a beautiful arrangement of marinated scallops, baby fennel & coral lobster. This was complimented with a hand-cut tuna medley which was nothing less than a sensory delight, the tuna carpaccio bringing together a subtle combination of textures, tones and flavors. Wonderful seafood is not often easy to find in Dubai despite some establishment’s misleading prices… rest assured however as Andreas and his team of kitchen artisans have this all under control. The flavor and fusion of the seafood’s delicate undertones were impeccably balanced in each course that arrived. My personal favorite from the evening’s dining experience was the modestly proportioned & simply presented Ricotta Tortelli, this really was something else. As a lover of Italian food, I’m incredibly picky when it comes to pasta which surprisingly share a lot in common with another great Italian passion… Football! Many people can play football to an acceptable level however, only a lucky handful can command the skills necessary to make it to the professional levels, and so the same is true with pasta…. 99% of people can cook relatively palatable pasta dishes, however there are but a select few who possess the mastery, skill and flair required to make mesmerizing dishes with this beautiful & highly diverse base ingredient. Try the Ricotta Tortelli if you want to experience pasta served to the ‘Italian Serie A’ professional level.

In true Italian style, Chef Andrea saved the most grandiose surprise for last. The climax to the evening was the espresso-fueled crescendo named the ‘Affogato’ which literally means drowned in Italian, and trust me, after experiencing this dizzying sensory rollercoaster, you’ll feel just that!  This combination of hot espresso, poured over ice cream encased in a chocolate sphere creates a concoction of delicious mocha-chemistry that can never be forgotten.

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Boasting the name ‘Vanitas’ (Latin for Vanity) in a hotel that prides itself on an attention to the finest detail, you may be forgiven for thinking that this type of dining experience is only available to Dubai’s uppermost elite. On the contrary, the hotel’s philosophy is to draw in people who genuinely appreciate artistic quality & share a love of renaissance elegance, regardless of their budget. The hotel has only recently opened but already it’s establishing itself as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Dubai’s new Creek Harbour District. We had an unforgettable and sincerely enjoyable evening with the wonderful team at Vanitas, one thing is for certain, we will be back soon to discover what other culinary delights Chef Andrea and his artisans have hidden away behind those hand-painted walls.

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Let’s be honest, the champagne display in Palazzo Versace is never going to be understated…

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