It’s easy to judge a restaurant by the hotel housing it. It’s also lazy.
For despite its location inside a high-end designer-associated hotel, let us first say that Palazzo Versace’s Vanitas is actually very reasonably priced. In fact, the only thing even faintly inaccessible about dining here is the Palazzo itself, still not particularly well known by the city’s cab drivers and surrounded by undeveloped land and unfinished roads. But put those orienteering skills into practise and get yourself over to Al Jaddaf.
From the upholstery to the China patterns, Versace’s influence is abundant, but not overwhelming. This is an intimate and tasteful space, with natural light flooding in through French windows, which lead out to a spacious terrace overlooking the Creek.
Seafood is a speciality for the Italian eatery, but there are enough vegetarian, pasta and red meat dishes on the menu to satisfy all.
The garden-like orto starter (pictured), a vegan royale of broccoli topped with colourful, lightly seared vegetables, seaweed crisps and flowers, is full of soft and crunchy texture and sweet and smoky flavour, and is a perfect example of the freshness and simplicity championed here. Across the table, the neat, cylindrical Parmigiana melanzane is rich and oozy, encircled by almost candied aubergine skin.
Mains are just as pleasing – the savoury cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) encasing delicate ribbons of house-made pasta, the salty squid of the calamaro scottadito gently charred and moreishly squidgy.
The only slight – and we do mean slight – disappointments of the meal are the desserts, with the tiramisu lacking enough espresso bite. The cheesecake barely deserves a mention.
But judging by the lack of signage on Sheikh Rashid Road, nor does Palazzo Versace itself, but we can say, with all certainty, that is simply not true.
The bottom line Thoughtful, simple, beautiful food.
The Bill (for two) 1x Parmigiana melanzane Dhs65 1x orto Dhs75 1x calamaro scottadito Dhs70 1x cacio e pepe Dhs70 1x tiramisu Dhs60 1x cheesecake Dhs60 1x large water Dhs30 Total (including service) Dhs430