The Blacksmith Smoke House

The Southern part of Dubai Marina was never known for the gastronomy or nightlife. Squeezed between high-rise and a popular neighbours like Jumeirah Beach, it used to be home to families and young office mates. Even tourists barely made it here. The situation changed with the opening of the very affordable, cosy and friendly Wyndham hotel.

P2016861.JPGFocused on bringing together the local community for after hours and weekend entertainment, Wyndham’s team shows strong commitment to organizing exciting events. Just a few nights ago a fantastic new smoke house opened its doors and chimneys to a curios crowd. I was very lucky to witness it.

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Blacksmith is easy to find. Just trust your nose. The air around the restaurant is deliciously smoky with irresistible notes of wood and fire. Irresistible to the point that a ride one floor up in an elevator seemed endless and made me dream of the upcoming dinner. My night started with a sip of rich red at the bar right next to the entrance. The bartender wanted to mix something very special for me but anticipating an intense dinner I decided to stick with the classics.

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Orelle Young chef de cusinine and pitmaster made an appearance looking awesome in very manly apron holding a long pointy hook. One of those chefs who immediately establishes: “You are in for a treat.” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everything I tried: chicken wings generously coated in black pepper sauce, pulled beef with red chillies, ribs and jerk chicken was absolutely exceptional. Tasty, smoky, well flavoured and well spiced, I could feel how much love and soul got invested into every piece. My only complain it was quite impossible to stop and so I didn’t.

Apart from eating, I danced to all time favourite American songs and music. Wyndham’s food and beverage manager participated in a one man show eating the spiciest chicken wings in the world and the audience didn’t hold back with cheers and applauds. The best night out ever!

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*Find out more about the Blacksmith here

**Stalk Pitmaster Orelle 

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Maison de Juliette in Dubai

The continuously growing La Mer neighbourhood now has its own casual dining French restaurant and bakery, Maison de Juliette. Decorated in a delightful high tea party theme with spacious outdoor terrace, blue hues, colourful furniture, light reflecting tables and bright giant lamps, this place creates a charming morning vibe that slowly transforms into the romanticism of Provence after dark.

Intended to attract foodies craving simple but absolutely delicious Gastronomy Francaise, and families to share big heart-warming dinners, Maison de Juliette focuses on warm and inviting dishes from the South Eastern region of France bordering the Mediterranean, the Provence. P1265432.JPG

Provence is loved for sunshine, warm climate and rich soil, and is considered by many as the garden of the country. No wonder Provencal cuisine is known for bright dishes powered with locally produced vegetables including aubergine, ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, asparagus and my all times favourite artichokes. The menu at the Maison de Juliette in Dubai is not an exception. P1265438.JPG

Interestingly the restaurant is run by the Parisian Chef Aris, who willingly decided to move away from the stereotypes of high dining in the capital towards the deliciousness of a few ingredients focused cuisine. He seems to enjoy delivering rich, colourful and thoughtfully styled dishes, pleasing both the eye and taste buds. His seared tuna rolled in pistachios, accompanied by a generous portion of a green salad, is my all time favourite. Try goat cheese glazed in honey, creamy burrata on toast, and the warm seafood platter with intense sauce and a bit of foam (they are French after all).

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Be surprised by your server suggesting the right beverage to accompany your starter, main or a desert, or offering a mocktail to try based on your current mood. The pastry and desserts are so good, please do not leave without a little taste or two.

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The House of Waka

Waka is not a regular restaurant but a destination to experience the authentic flavours of Latin American cuisine with a fusion of Japanese influence. The place is decorated in warm earthy colours, with splashes of bright expressive patterns bringing in a cosy homey feeling. So does the art on the walls.

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The reception outside the restaurant sorts out calls and reservations, keeping the extra noise away. A short corridor with dimmed lights opens up to a small lounge, beautifully lit bar, and DJ booth. The main dining area, divided in two parts, can easily be transformed in exclusive secret rooms for private events.

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The kitchen is divided from the main dining area by a transparent glass wall. Interestingly, while guests can sneak peak on chef’s movements, the window is blackened on the other side. Just like American detective stories but the other way around.

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Ordering is a pleasure, as the team gets very passionate talking about food and describing dishes. Frequent recommendations are followed by a brief history of a particular ingredient or a dish.

The food is fantastic. Most of what I tried had a distinctive individuality in taste and presentation including many little special effects (dry ice, so hot right now). The finely sliced wagyu steak that resembles salami from a distance gets cooked right at the table with a blowtorch and then quickly dressed with delicious bits and pieces. Chicken skewers served on tiny charcoal grills are deliciously juicy and out of this world. On a personal request a little bowl of fresh chilly sauce was prepared especially for me and was quickly consumed with great appreciation.

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Mighty Masti, with a License to Pour (update: I’m not happy with the new menu)

La Mer, a beautiful “Arabian coastal chic” neighbourhood spread across the beginning of Jumeirah beach is turning into everyone’s favourite hangout. Delightfully diverse in every aspect, it’s a place to witness cultures of the world mixing together and carrying their own identity. Cheerful crowds in colourful swimwear coexist with locals dressed in traditional outfits sipping tea on Persian carpets. With free parking, Wi-Fi, outdoor showers, street art at every corner, plenty of attractions open and a few more on the way, every visit to La Mer is an exciting discovery. For me things got super exciting when I’ve discovered Masti, where sunset cocktails are no longer a dream.

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The first time I heard of Masti was from one of the restaurateurs. “How intriguing,” I thought. It is not common for competitors to speak highly of another business, or insist with a little glimpse of naughtiness that I must check it out immediately (in fairness the conversation took place as I typed my pin code). “Are they open now?” I wondered. The response startled me: “Be there after five”. Obviously overwhelming curiosity won, bringing me there at 5 o’clock sharp, thirsty for a new experience.

Masti translates as “fun and mischief”, a concept that appeals to all sort of cool folks: millennials, hipsters, Instagram stars, desperate housewives, startuppers and “seen it all” DIFC girlz and boyz (these are the categories that popped up first in my head). The restaurant’s approach of blurring limits applies to everything you see, hear, touch or taste. Being the first (and only at the moment) licensed restaurant at La Mer, they are obliged to experiment and amaze.

Extraordinary, but fact: the restaurant with a “license to pour” is not a part of a hotel, but a completely independent establishment at the South side of La Mer. The existence of Masti is a fantastic occurrence on its own, inaugurating a new era in UAE food and beverage business, and paired with some pretty awesome cocktails is an offer one cannot simply miss. The the restaurant consists of two levels, with drinks served after 5pm on the first floor and their fantastic upper terrace overlooking the beach and the Downtown.
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While many may stop to sip the night away, Masti is definitely not just a pretty lounge with epic cocktails. The majority of dishes on the menu represent the change in dining happening all over the globe. Set as Indian Fusion cuisine, the restaurant breaks all obvious stereotypes and expectations by offering food that exists nowhere else. Have you ever tried any of the following: naan pizza with burrata and butter chicken, tuna tartar mixed with crunchy puffed rice, caved in a shell of unsweetened sugar, smoky lamb croquettes with a side of chopped sweet onions, lotus cookie tiramisu in a pool of saffron or a mysterious sounding dessert called “raspberry rose”?

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Peruvian magic, Lima Dubai

For two years City Walk has been the hottest neighbourhood in Dubai, immensely popular among locals and especially charming at night. It’s unsurprisingly the result hard work and smart marketing. Free, spacious underground and outdoor parking, edgy design, futuristic lightening, street art and a rare opportunity to explore places on foot contributes to City Walk’s fame. However, only a few had enough time and patience to discover the hidden gems of this district. One of them is incredible Turkish restaurant that serves freshly baked bread and out of the world Bakhlava (Babaji). Only a few days ago I discovered that a glass of red is not taboo at City Walk either.

PB135911.JPGTo be honest, Lima, a new Peruvian restaurant is slightly off he beaten path. That’s why I produly call it “a hidden gem of City Walk”. Reach the square and the head towards Al Wasl street checking places on your left. Once you spot a few steps leading up, you are probably on the right path. Google maps are extremely helpful.

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The first thing you’ll notice is lush greenery. Lima’s cosy outdoor terrace is covered in plants and bushes, creating the feeling of a little oasis in the center of urban Dubai. Step in and be surprised once again by the warmth and authenticity. Expect smiles reaching out to you from every corner.

I started my night at Lima on the first floor, right at the bar where Max and Luis were creating the best traditional Pisco Sour I’ve had in my life. Mixing bartending and story telling, Luis conveyed me of fables of past and present, and in a few minutes I was very aware of Peruvian dining rituals. Equipped with a drink I lost myself to the Latin tunes, nestling in a cosy hanging chair made of wood. The DJ’s booth at the opposite corner was barely noticeable but his work pushed my soul to dance.

An hour later, all set with aperitifs, I made my way to the cevicheria, placed in a way that all cooking magic would be visible from anywhere at Lima. While I watched salmon being gently sliced, chef Diego Sanchez has appeared at the counter and I couldn’t resist but speak to him. Quick and very very charming, he talked me through the variety of ceviche dishes served at Lima and his passion to tweak traditional recipes introducing new flavours and tastes. A challenging task in Dubai, he thought. A big fan of a change I quietly disagreed, because only a silly girl would argue with a great chef while he is cooking for her.

Chef Diego Sanchez started when he was just 17, a fact recognized by me as a huge achievement. With a little candid smile and eyes sparkling with passion, he immediately wins over his guests, capturing respect and attention. His charm continue with the taste of his dishes, perfected to the ultimate beauty in taste and presentation. I couldn’t stop applauding every time he appeared from the kitchen, adding a fantastic touch to the whole dining experience.

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Eat, drink and party Argentinian way! Asado, Downtown Palace, Dubai

The Spanish verb “asar”, to grill or to roast, has travelled across the continent and transformed into much more than a way to prepare meat. In Argentina, Asado is an important part of local culture. It’s a party where cooking is considered to be a ritual with secret techniques, century-old recipes and purposeful steps. This tradition dates back to the times when gauchos (cowboys) used to sit down to slow dinners over a wood fire and a cup of tea after a long day herding.

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The Downtown Palace has recreated the atmosphere of the traditional Argentinian roast in the most passionate way at Asado, a restaurant with fantastic views of Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain and the blue waterfront.

 

The Grape and Harvest lunch at Asado on Fridays and Saturdays is inspired by the rich fertile soils and blooming meadows of the Pampa region. Sweet corn, chicken cooked in banana leaves, various crunchy chips and salads are displayed in a tempting way indoor and outdoors.

 

A live band sets the mood, adding a bright Latin American touch to the party.

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There is a counter with a giant shark-like tuna where the freshest ceviche is made to order.

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The traditional feast consists of sausages, seafood, ribs and deliciously smoky chunks of meat, slow roasted over charcoal and wood for hours. Everything is served with salsa on the side and sauces. Female chef Josefinna Vallve, who recently joined the team, has introduced new exciting dishes to the menu.

 

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Chateau Blanc, Dubai

This landmark villa on Jumeirah Road is a magnificent white castle neighbouring Kite Beach on one side and Jumeirah Public Beach on the other. Complimentary valet parking assures your trip to Chateau Blanc will be a stress-free.

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Started by Chef Lal De Silva in Indonesia, the brand expanded to the Middle East and transformed into Chateau Blanc, a family run business. With a fully operational kitchen, elevator and a fantastic sky view terrace with reclining roof, Chateau Blanc has stepped outside the boundaries of the fanciest French patisseries.

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The ground floor of the villa features panoramic windows, comfy sofas, shelves with house-made goodies and hand painted wall art. Murals resemble the facades of Vienna, Paris, Florence, Venice, St. Petersburg and a few more places around the world known for Baroque architecture. Baroque motives spread across the vast array of pastry, artisanal chocolates, 3D cupcakes and “decorated to serve” cakes.

All desserts are crafted from the finest ingredients and traditions. To preserve the quality, all cakes to order are decorated a few minutes prior to serving or delivering.

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The last floor of the villa is a newly opened terrace to enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea or snacks and fragrant shisha in the evening. There is a bar, non-licensed but nonetheless busy, mixing signature drinks, juice, smoothies and fruit mocktails.

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Cafe Bateel 10 years

Starting of as a producer of gourmet dates and chocolates in 2007, Bateel has rapidly transformed into a well-known brand, loved for traditional Arabic coffee, French pastry, Mediterranean cuisine and luxury gift boxes packed with tempting goodies.

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To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Bateel chefs designed a seasonal menu available at all branches including their flagship store in JBR. That’s where I went for lunch after spending the morning at the beach.

Being right at the beginning of this popular neighborhood, Bateel JBR is quicker to reach than the rest of the development due to less traffic. Customers get two hours free parking at Murjan Tower 1 and there is indoor and outdoor seating with free WiFi.

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The menu introduces several signature dishes designed for the occasion, seasonal variations of all-time favorites and a few call backs from previous editions.

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The 10th anniversary menu consists of locally sourced ingredients with a focus on regional flavors rather than traditional Mediterranean cuisine. This trend is continued, adding mildly spiced curry, saffron and tabbouleh to otherwise conservative dishes.

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Superfood tuna salad pleasantly surprised me with a dash of roasted garlic that wasn’t listed in the description but was hidden among the fresh lettuce, house-cured olives, avocados, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes and slices of beautifully pink tuna. Seasoned with light apple vinegar, it was an ideal choice for a starter as it triggered an appetite for more. Apparently it was available on the menu in the past, and if you are looking to try a completely new creation, the Bateel Palm salad is a great alternative.

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Lobster rigatoni made of slowly cooked Canadian lobster in light creamy curry sauce was delightfully fragrant. Fresh coriander leaves added lovely drops of green colour and perfectly balanced the zestiness of the lemon.

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Sea bass served on a bed of saffron risotto was tender and tasty. Large asparagus cooked in a pan added crispness and tartness to the dish.

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My dessert, paired with dark coffee, was made of premium beans and as delightful as the whole lunch. A Tarte Azelia greatly benefited from bits and pieces of roasted hazelnuts and the Emoji Tartelette and Passionfruit Strawberry Tart had a lovely contrast of sweetness and sourness that were just excellent.

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Vanitas @ Palazzo Versace in Dubai

Mesmerized by the name, I couldn’t possibly resist a dinner at Vanitas, literally translated from Latin as “emptiness” in reference to earthy achievements and pleasures. In art circles, this term is closely associated with still life “memento mori” paintings, visualizing the worthlessness human desire – power, money, sweet luxuries – through the symbols of rusting metal, decaying silk and burnt candles. Obviously learning the history behind just one word, I was intrigued to visit Vanitas.

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Hoping to explore the gothic side of Palazzo Versace in Dubai, I chose to wear a rather contrasting romantic gown with open shoulders, floral motives and the most cheerful skirt ever made by Dubai based designers at Si Fashion Galerie. Boy, was I wrong!

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Decorated with the freshest and very fragrant red roses, Vanitas restaurant greeted me with a spacious well-lit hall, a prevalence of beige marble floors, wooden parquet, traditional Italian wall art and crystal chandeliers. So chic. So Palazzo. So Versace!

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As the evenings are still quite warm, I sat indoors where the lighting was slightly dimmed, setting a very charming intimate atmosphere. Candles, red velour on upholstery, bright royal blue dinner plates, roses and my beloved Versace prints celebrated life at her brightest, with a clear focus on the art of dining well.

The minute I got into my seat, the dinner had started with arrival of warm and fluffy focaccia bread and beautifully young olive oil.

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The amuse-bouche placed in front of me clearly indicated chef’s desire to experiment with textures, forms and ingredients, and ultimately with the audience. Vanita’s chef intended to transform the stereotypical perception of traditional Italian cuisine to the taste of millennials, hard to impress Dubaians and savvy travellers aiming to create an unforgettable dining ritual.

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While Lucia helped me to navigate through the Italian menu and must-tries, the place filled up with couples, families with well-behaved, well-groomed kids, joyful friends and even a solo diner. When I finalized my order, tables seemed to be rearranged to accommodate all and staff quickly moved from one corner to another prepping for a busy night. It was the generous serving of burrata surrounded by crunchy veggie rolls, lettuce and sweet tomatoes that turned my attention back to the table. What a creamy burrata it was!

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My next appetizer, a plate of octopus with purple potato puree, greens, chips and black olive powder was as tasty as it looked. Chef’s creativity deserves a special compliment.

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A few minutes later my table started to resemble a state feast with the finest china and cutlery, sparkles of gold and stylish Mediterranean touches at every level of detail.

The foie gras was layered like an opera cake with parmigiano ice-cream, grapes filled with tender goat cheese and crispy lettuce that could easily be mistaken for dessert. A really rich one!

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My mains continued with chef’s tendency to surprise. The seafood risotto featured nicely cooked rice with a lovely touch of black pepper. Interestingly the seafood bits, octopus, shrimps and fish were cooked separately and served on the top to add a crunchy texture to an otherwise creamy dish. I asked for extra Parmesan as I’m addicted.

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When I tasted the linguini it took a while to figure out chef’s trick. There was a very familiar softness in both texture and taste. The truth was revealed: the Pasta’s recipe was based on potatoes with a little help of wheat flavour. No wonder I though of homemade gnocchi at the first bite.

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I’m wearing a tailor-made gown with incredible skirt from Si Fashion Galerie.

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Wake up in Paris and brunch @La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai

Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.

“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.

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In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.

When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.

Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.

Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.

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Enigma @PalazzoVersace, Dubai

At the lobby level of Palazzo Versace, with indoor and outdoor seating facing the main pool and magnificent Creek (especially at night), Enigma delivers on its namesake, “delightfully mysterious”. So did my incredible gown from Si Fashion Galerie.Si Fashion Galerie.

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It’s best to call it contemporary Turkish with warm Mediterranean influence, reflected in the ingredients, flavours, colours and distinguishable Versace prints.

The installation of branded wall mirrors result in dramatic reflections of candlelight and exteriors, creating an Ottoman palace effect. The soft fabrics used for seating arrangements including pillows, sofas and chairs create a “divan culture”.

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Signature cocktails, designed around everyone’s favourite beverages and well-known landmarks like Constantinople and Bosporus, show the bartender’s obsession with the history (of the world and drinks).

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One can never underestimate the freshly baked fluffy bread with crispy edges and sesame seeds, paired with a selection of sauces, including my favourite tomato and red peppers, sweet pear puree and sliced marinated to crisp onions.

The real magic starts when the chef appears with a long serving table and house cured meat, pastrami layered with black pepper, fenugreek, anise, bay leaf, white pepper and obviously a secret ingredient. While the chef slowly slices pastrami on white plates carved of stone, he engages in a conversation explaining the magic behind the softest and the most fragrant piece of meat one can dream of.

But the masterpiece of the night was octopus, cooked in a vacuum pot for as long as five hours, then quickly seared on a hot pan.

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I’m wearing a beautiful tight gown from Si Fashion Galerie.

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Break the sky @At.mosphere Dubai

In many ways Dubai is the most eccentric city in the world. Home to driverless subways, the largest malls, warmest sea, safest environment, the most expensive coffee and the tallest building, it always keeps visitors on their toes, overwhelmed with experiences all year (even when thermometer jumps to +50C). The one truly unmissable attraction is the Burj Khalifa, a tower that holds to the world’s record of 828m since 2010. Dubaians believe if you haven’t been to Burj Khalifa you haven’t really seen Dubai. Many opt to book a tour to the top but there is a better and tastier way to experience it, – At.mosphere.

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Located on the 122nd floor, a minute ride on a rapid elevator, Atmosphere is divided into two establishments: a lounge for high-tea, pre- and post-party drinks, and a luxurious restaurant with private dining. Needless to say the view is fantastic from every window.

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Depending on time, weather and position of sun and moon, the view around Atmosphere changes dramatically making it the most exciting destination to explore the ever-expanding Dubai.

Being a frequent guest of Atmosphere’s lounge for high-tea and pre-dinner cocktails, this time I stopped in to experience the newest breakfast menu created by chef Christopher Graham, formerly of Jumeirah Group hotels.

Atmosphere states the dress code as casual, but I prefer to wear a slightly ridiculous outfit because my photo memories are expected to be spectacular!

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The interior resembles the vibe of London decor with polished wooden panels, reflective aluminum columns, shiny glass, panoramic windows and patches of warm red light here and there.

The new breakfast menu consisted of pre-set dishes paired with eggs as well as tasty delights like organic greek yogurt parfait, waffles, crepes, jams and vanilla butter (with real crushed vanilla).

In terms of cost, it’s quite flexible. The minimum spend is AED 200 per person (window tables are subject to availability upon reservation). A special 35% discount is offered on Decadence Menu (yumm) for guests with a valid Emirates ID card.

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Day & Time: Daily, from 7am to 11am (last arrival time is 10am)

Price: Decadence Menu – AED 325 per person (UAE residents can enjoy 35% discount with their Emirates ID), Prestige Menu – AED 525 per person and À la carte – Dishes start from AED 60. Children below 5 years can dine for free (ID required with date of birth). Children aged 6-10 years are entitled to 50% on Decadence Menu only (ID required with date of birth).

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