When you first set eyes on Emerald Palace Kempinski, with its over-the-top flourishes and regal air, you might be inclined to think that stepping foot onto the property will be a constant swirl of glitz, glamour, and gold…and you wouldn’t be wrong. The lavish palace-like hotel is located on Palm Jumeirah, includes eight restaurants and lounges, holds 391 rooms, suites, and villas, and gardens inspired by the Palace of Versailles. There’s a lot going on here!
But rather than the obvious opulence, what I was most interested in was Villamoré – a Mediterranean-style restaurant launched by Atelier EPJ. These guys are one of Dubai’s best F&B specialists who have been attached to other big names like One&Only, Zuma, and La Petite Maison. Knowing Villamoré had a powerhouse team behind them, coupled with its Instagram-perfect vibe, it was a non-compromise venue to visit. Interestingly, while the restaurant is located at Emerald Palace, Villamoré is operated separately by Atelier EPJ (who also own Matagi and Skorpeus at the hotel). It’s an unexpected contrast in style and vibe.
I also learnt that Villamoré had already had a rather impressive number of guests come through its doors, including Eva Longoria. Since the Queen of Brows Suman Jalaf happened to be in town with her COO Sherrie for our first-ever 130-person #caviarcollab event at Fairmont The Palm, it seemed like just the kind of place to go for a #rebelleboss dinner celebration.
Villamoré is a zillion miles away from the opulence you witness when you enter the hotel. Emerald Palace Kempinski isn’t shy – the lobby’s atrium has been hand-painted in 24-karat gold leaf, there’s a chandelier boasting 40,000 Swarovski crystals, and the top-of-the-line Imperial villas go for a cool 60,000 AED (!!!). If this kind of grandeur isn’t your style, just keep an open mind because hidden away in plain sight outdoors, is a very special gem.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to stop, turn around, and look up when you head outside towards Villamoré. The hotel is impressive for what it is and it’s quite a sight to see in the evenings when lit up in green.
Once you step into the restaurant, it’s a complete 180. Breezy and chill with just the right amount of Santorini-like vibes. The night we visited happened to be rather quiet but in Villamoré’s defense, it was a Saturday night and they had just opened. A quick glimpse through their social media reveals the restaurant is usually alive and kicking with a crowd that I’m willing to bet is the opposite of what you might see within the hotel itself. I’d be curious to find out if some potential guests never even make it here based on their first impression of the over-the-top Emerald Palace.
In terms of design, Villamoré nails creating the right atmosphere. Inside, outside – everything is thematically blue, white, and ocean-based (check out the fish tiles in the bathroom) and the stone floors and whitewashed walls finish off the Mediterranean feel. You should come here for the food but while you’re at it, make a point to head to the upstairs terrace bar – it’s a fantastic spot for pre or post-dinner cocktails.
Rounding everything out are the excellent staff, the lighting, and the music (if you’re like me or Suman, you’ll have Shazam open all night). Paired with those ocean views, it’s really not too hard to imagine you’ve escaped the deserts of Dubai, if only for the evening.
Our service from Jessie (who speaks an impressive 3-4 languages) was impeccable. Yes, we were particularly spoilt because it was a quiet night, but I’m confident it would have been just as great if they were packed. I’ve since been back five times and the only comment I have is that brunch service could be sped up a bit but they’ll get there. I could tell the team is made up of well-trained machines (shoutout to Ryan Baird, Director of Operations).
Leading the kitchen is Chef Gokhan Cokelez who is an absolute legend. Having trained under the keen eye of our buddy Chef Colin Clague of Ruya, we had a good feeling about him…and he delivered. Chef Gokhan was even kind enough to give us a personal walk around the kitchen (not easy with four curious and mischievous women!) and joined in for some memorable Instagram moments and laughs. (We love a good boomerang!)
The perfect way to enjoy your meal here at Villamoré is to order a bunch of dishes and graze, Mediterranean-style. Our #rebelleboss crew lazily nibbled through our plates and it was a fab way to spend a girls night as we chattered and clinked glasses in between.
For my cocktail test (I like to order a classic just to see how it measures up to other venues), I chose their margarita, which ticked all the boxes. The great selection of cocktails, in addition to wines, digestives, and spirits, is extensive enough for all tastes and budgets so there’s no excuse not to enjoy a drink with that glorious rooftop view!
Walking into the restaurant, you’ll see a room on the left – aptly named the Antipasti Room – where there’s a massive table laden with cured meats, cheeses, olives, dips and other goodies for you to attack. If you’re not feeling particularly hungry, this is a fab place to start and you can easily make a light meal out of all of the nibbles here.
We were ravenous and ready to explore more of the Mediterranean menu. Think Fritto Misto, Burratta with Sugar Snap Peas, Seafood Couscous, and Sirloin Tagliata. Our table started off with Fine de Claire Oysters (freshly shucked to order), Scallops Carpaccio (served with shaved radish, pine nuts, basil oil, and lemon), and the King Crab (simply prepared with mayonnaise and lemon). If you’re feeling indulgent, there’s always the 50 grams of Imperial Caviar for a mere 888 AED. 😉
For the main course, we shared the Seafood Linguine with calamari, prawns, clams, and mussels. Had we not already thrown back a couple of cocktails and worked our away through the antipasti and the starters, we would have gladly tried more.
Villamoré is a seafood lover’s dream with everything from whole fish (red snapper, sea bream, lobster) to house specials like a whole sea bass cooked in a salt crust, which feeds 3 to 4. The sides are also delectable and complement the rest of the menu nicely without being overwhelming (the broccolini with garlic and the lemony potatoes are my picks).
As for dessert, let’s say that whilst it may have been heaven on a plate, it most certainly wasn’t heaven on the hips! There are classics like tiramisu and panna cotta alongside milk and strawberry b’stilla, a decadent flourless chocolate cake, and an orange, pomegranate, and halva salad.
Villamoré has a Barefoot Lunch every Friday and Saturday from 1-4pm, which is 475 AED for a 5-course meal and house beverages, and 575 AED with champagne.
Throw on some sunnies and an Evarae kaftan for that breezy beach look during the day. In the evening, anything goes – this place is trendy and hopping with a chic crowd.
There’s always a good time to be had at Villamoré – and I’m not just saying that. Just get here, stay put, and let the rest of your evening ride out Santorini-style. The ideal way to soak up the best of everything is to first go upstairs for pre-dinner cocktails and get in those Instagram shots (you know you want to!) and then head downstairs for a delectable meal.
And then, if you’re still in the midst of a great conversation and great company, head back upstairs for more!
Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai, Crescent West, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai