Walking down the elegant spiral staircase (one of those that makes me picture a ballgown ‘reveal’ before prom) and into the ‘underground’, aquarium-submerged Ossiano, it’s pretty clear this is an eatery for special occasions. The very full room, resplendent with toweringly high ceilings, was packed with mostly tables for two (with the men dressed up in a way that suggests an anniversary dinner, or maybe even a pop-the-question moment).
We were seated at a table looking directly on to the ocean life of Atlantis’ Ambassador Lagoon (def request one of these tables as you book, as there’s no better conversation point than a sting ray or shark swooping past mid-appetiser) and introduced to the concept. Originally created by the man dubbed the “architect of food”, Catalan three-Michelin star chef, Santi Santamaria, the creative energy is now supplied by South African Chef de Cuisine, Wesley Berghoff, after Santi sadly passed away last year.
Wesley’s menu traverses the full range of Mediterranean cuisine, and seems to have an inherent respect for good ingredients (allowing them, rather than technique, to be the star). Looking through the à la carte menu, the Obsiblue prawns and yellow tail ceviche with tomatillo snow, chilli and lime, was particularly tempting, but we ultimately – after a few delicious berry cocktails (ordered from an iPad menu, nonetheless) decided on the Ossiano Experience menu, a degustation that promises to showcase the best of everything.
We began with a fresh Gillardeau oyster and a perfectly chilled and rich in flavour Lobster gazpacho, before moving on to a very subtle Tuna carpaccio and a blissfully tender portion of Slow-poached veal. The third mini-course was, without a doubt, our favourite – the Crispy scallop “à la Française” with smoked duck and quail egg combined crispy and gooey textures to perfection. The pearls of scallops were some of the most succulent we’ve ever tasted, while the Seafood risotto with market and shell fish was rich in flavour, yet somehow lighter and less cloying than most bog-standard risottos.
The savoury courses ended with a Braised veal shank cassoulet and a Roasted wagyu beef with horseradish mash (amaze!) and roasted baby vegetables; and a piquant Cheese board was then followed by a bulging chocolate fondant (delish). As we were polishing these off, commenting on the fact we were less sickeningly full than we feel after most ‘journey’ menus, we noticed what we thought was a frighteningly large fish in the aquarium, but, as the creature swooped down we realised it was in fact swimming right towards us – oh no, right towards the couple on the table next to us. Seconds later he unveiled a letter and held it up against the glass (which we couldn’t read – you’re quite far away from your dining neighbours in Ossiano), and what exactly was happening became clear when the man at the table got on one knee and the woman burst into tears... in a good way! A proposal – a perfect punctuation to the meal. After we’d supped on our tea (from a limited edition Christofle pot, nonetheless) and sampled some Petit fours from the trolley – we recommend the marshmallow – we bid adieu to the sting rays and the tropical fish, oh and congratulated the happy (still crying) couple.
Tasty trio: Aquarium views
Location Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim
Timing 12.30-3pm and 7pm-midnight, daily
Tel 04 301 7600
Housed in the iconic white sail hotel, the walls of this fine-dining option consist of an aquarium filled with brightly coloured fish. This is definitely a special occasion spot, with the journey menu costing Dh850 and including phenomenal dishes like Poached tsarskaya oyster, and Alaskan king crab and foie gras ravioli.
Location The Dubai Mall
Timing 8am-midnight, daily
Tel 04 330 8515
Not all restaurants with an aquarium view are fine dining, in fact, this is a firmly family restaurant – a typical diner menu is overshadowed by the interior, which is a “simulated” rainforest, complete with fake thunder, faux lightning and mechanical animals like crocodiles and elephants. And, unlike any rainforest in the world, this one leads on to one of the largest aquariums in the world; with one of the cafe’s
walls being the tank of the Dubai
Location Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
Timing 12pm-3pm and 7pm-11pm, daily
Tel 04 295 6000
This Old Dubai restaurant is one of our absolute favourites, thanks to its views out to the creek, as well as into the restaurant’s very own four-metre high aquarium – and of course because of its artful, Asian and Pacific-inspired menu. Dishes like Premium centre-cut tuna saku with sesame seeds on a tagliatelle nest and the Indian-spiced Madras seafood soup, showcase the absolute best combination of the world’s culinary cultures. And for such haute cuisine, the vibe is remarkably laid back.