At.mosphere in Dubai

Time Out takes a tour of the world's highest restaurant 17 Comments

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past couple of weeks, you’ll have likely heard of At.mosphere, the new restaurant perched on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. Given the Burj’s record-breaking potential, it’s no surprise that At.mosphere is the world’s highest restaurant (after all, most buildings don’t have this many floors). This fact alone has sent the media into a frenzy, and once again all eyes are on Dubai.

Yet at the end of the day, there’s no point visiting At.mosphere purely for the view – that’s what the At the Top viewing gallery, located a couple of floors above, is for. This venue is all about the food, which is why we decided to sidestep the hype and overlook the annoying punctuation mark in the venue’s name to speak to the man who matters – head chef Dwayne Cheer.

Dwayne is a 33-year-old New Zealander who’s been working for Emaar Hospitality for two and a half years. He first heard about the At.mosphere project when he was involved in the pre-opening for the Address Downtown Dubai. ‘We were working on Neos, which was on the 63rd floor,’ says Dwayne. ‘It was pointed out that there was going to be a restaurant twice as high. We thought it was impossible, but that was the first time I heard about it.’

Little did Dwayne know that he’d be the man designing the menu for one of the most high-profile (that’s our last altitude-related pun, we promise) restaurant openings in the world. ‘It’s a bit surreal, every time someone says to me, “You work in the highest restaurant in the world,”’ admits Dwayne. ‘It’s still not really real. Even though the media attention around it is sort of crazy, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to cook and do something I love.’

Despite the media frenzy, Dwayne says he feels no more pressure than what he’s experienced at other restaurants. ‘I put so much pressure on myself,’ he says with a knowing smile. ‘It doesn’t matter how much external pressure there is on me, I can promise you I’m putting put more on myself. I’m my worst critic.’

When we speak to Dwayne, At.mosphere has been open for a few days. He says that like all restaurants in their infancy stages, it has suffered a few minor teething problems, but nothing he’s overly concerned about. The novelty of the restaurant alone has ensured it’s been fully booked for the first week, so Dwayne and his team have had their work cut out. Which begs the question: is it really any different working in a kitchen that’s twice as high as any other in the world? ‘I’d love to tell you that the water boils faster upstairs and everything’s a little faster,’ chuckles Dwayne. ‘But unfortunately not.’ However, because the Khalifa tower gets smaller towards the top, Dwayne admits the kitchen is a bit tight – not that he’s not complaining. ‘We have one of the most beautiful kitchens in the world – we have a view all the way down Sheikh Zayed Road and we can see the ocean. I can be deep-frying chips and looking at The World islands – it’s crazy.’

The Burj’s safety regulations also stipulate that the kitchen runs on electricity rather than gas. This makes no difference to Dwayne, or the food that he prepares, largely thanks to the huge Josper oven (‘The Mighty Josper’ as he calls it) – an old-fashioned Spanish charcoal oven, which is the centrepiece of an otherwise very modern kitchen. ‘There’s something almost barbaric about it,’ says Dwayne with a glint in his eye. ‘The Josper is just a grill – an old fashioned barbecue. It’s stupidly simple and amazing and beautiful.’

The talk of the Mighty Josper moves us on to the most important subject – the food. We’re half expecting Dwayne to confound us with talk of complicated molecular gastronomy, but are relieved to discover that the menu is no-nonsense, with a seasonal focus. ‘The menu was designed purely in keeping with the seasons,’ he says. ‘ At the moment we have chestnut and pheasant soup, which is a very wintery dish, as well as other very seasonal starters.’ By this, he’s referring to offerings such as diver scallops served with ricotta dumplings, chorizo and confit tomato; foie gras terrine with plum, quail breast and confit leg salad; and poached langoustine with baby watercress and lobster vinaigrette. ‘For the main courses, because we have this barbecue [oven], it’s all about the grill – it’s not a steakhouse, it’s a contemporary grill,’ asserts Dwayne. ‘I’m very, very careful about what we’re putting on the menu. We concentrate on sustainable seafood, and the beef we’re using – I want to source it from a particular area. We have the Rangers Valley tenderloin from Australia – 1,000m above sea level, 47 dedicated farmers, the animals are hormone free… it’s a beautiful product and beautiful beef.’

The way Dwayne speaks about his produce evokes a very parochial image: it’s almost surreal that the meat, fish and root vegetables he’s using, all sourced from as far afield as Australia or Maine, will be served hundreds of metres above Dubai’s arid cityscape. ‘We want people to come and eat the food, and look at the food, and have to come back because they forgot to look at the view. It’s not molecular, it’s not crazy, it’s simple food done well, seasoned well and cooked simply. We’re not here to change the world, just cook.’ Say what you will about the hype surrounding At.mosphere, but it’s refreshing that the man in charge of the world’s tallest restaurant is so down to earth.
Open daily 3pm-11pm. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai, www.atmosphere burjkhalifa.com (04 888 3828)

By Oliver Robinson
Time Out Dubai,

User reviews:

Posted by: Abraham on 15 May ' 13 at 06:47

I used to work at a concierge company and many of my members used to request for Atmosphere so I thought I might as well try it myself. It was my friend’s wife’s birthday, so I made the reservation and informed them that I worked at X Company and if they could offer me something small as an extra? The reservations girl said she would throw in a free dessert for us and the min. spend was AED 2000

We arrived there, the food was amongst the worst I have eaten in any restaurant in my life really. The only good thing about the restaurant is the view. After we finished our meal, I asked for our free dessert then the waiter said she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I then called the manager who kept arguing with me for 10 mins why he cannot give me a free dessert even though I explained it’s not about the money we’re obviously paying a lot anyway for such a horrible experience, it’s just about the concept, the reservations girl promised me the free dessert.

Anyway, the food (we ordered various dishes) was horrible and the customer service was even worse. I will never recommend this restaurant to anyone!

Posted by: Mrs Bhoy on 07 Apr ' 13 at 19:47

We wanted to have a very special birthday celebration for it was my husbands 60th and my sons 23rd birthday. I explained that to Angelica who took the reservation. The birthday cake missed out my sons name, I could see he was disappointed as he thought we had forgotten him. Very sad. The food was. Absolutely awful! The Amuse Bouche was disgusting. The Sea Bass was fishy and bland. The lobster was overlooked and tough. The only thing they couldn't mess up was the ribeye steak but the pepper sauce tasted nothing like a pepper sauce. The chocolate cake was embarrassingly tiny for the price but the sorbet was delicious and the ONLY nice thing throughout the whole dinner apart from the stunning view. I am so sorry I took my husband and son there for their birthdays. Absolutely disappointing. I don't mind paying even rip off prices for a good meal but this was totally BAD!

Posted by: Rodg on 26 May ' 12 at 23:20

Edited by TimeOutDubai.com

Obviously the restaurant is not interested in improving itself because nothing has changed since a year ago. The food is still heavily overpriced, very ordinary and the long security clearance procedure made me feel like a rat trying to sneak into a nuclear reactor. Finally arrived at the small ‘glossy yacht’ like restaurant, after going through metro station style, escalators, gates, elevators and stairs. The menu has limited choices and made me wonder whether it was a airline menu. The bread came as a quartered loaf. The quarters had been carelessly cut and we had to tug at it to break off our quarters. This ‘take it or leave it’ single choice of bread didn’t go well with any of the food. However as it came on a flat slate, that ensured a table littered with bread crumbs. The crumbs weren’t cleared for the meal service so that’s probably part of the atmosphere. Our table had only 6 but the staff couldn’t remember who ordered what and mixed up the service every time - for the starter, mains and even the desserts. There was a long wait for the mains after the starter; and the texture, flavour and the presentation of the food was very disappointing. The unexpected appearance of prawns and fish in the food was a nasty surprise for my friend who was allergic to seafood. The choice of wines is poor too and our wine smelt bad even after it was allowed time to air and breathe. To add insult to injury the napkins were worn-out and tearing at the edges and the sugar tongs were rusty. The restaurant was not busy although it was a weekend, and the dozen or so sombre staff standing like pallbearers in black suits near counters never asked us how we were. Never saw the celebrity chef either. And the toilet was out of order and we had to go to the one in the lounge.

Posted by: Thomas on 09 Jan ' 12 at 09:08

This restaurant is too expensive and does NOT offer good service.

The food is avergae and you purely pay for the view.

Go elsewhere to enjoy the view and eat better food.

Posted by: Amanda on 19 Sep ' 11 at 07:10

Thanks Emanuele a very informative review, I was about to book the restaurant for my mothers trip, but like others will look elsewhere.

Posted by: Gil on 09 Aug ' 11 at 07:56

thank you Emanuele, I wil follow Peter and Make reservation for my wife somewhere else.

Will wait for more positive review to go there.

Regards

Posted by: Peter on 24 Jul ' 11 at 00:39

Whilst not a review, I appreciate the previous reviews of atmosphere restaurant. My family and I are stopping over in Dubai for a few days shortly and where on the verge of making a reservation at the atmosphere restaurant.

Thanks to your honest reviews we will look eksewhere.

Peter

Posted by: Christina Sang on 17 Jul ' 11 at 10:23

To our valued Guests,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write and share your experiences with us.

We would truly appreciate your e-mail addresses to be able to contact you directly.

Please feel free to e-mail me should you have any further queries, feedback, etc at csang@atmosphereburjkhalifa.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

With Kind Regards,
Christina Sang

Posted by: EMANUELE on 15 Jun ' 11 at 11:51

Dear Atmosphere team.

I know you will never answer to this feedback, even though I believe you should as mine and the comments of others should assist you to improve your service.

I went for lunch on Friday 10/06/2011 to Atmosphere. During the reservation process you will be asked to give your CC number and are advised that if you cancel your reservation (late) a fee of AED 200 will be applied. In addition a table at the window cannot be guaranteed, you need to spend AED 300 minimum per person, and kids under 6 are not allowed. Overall a very POSITIVE start, isn't it ? :)
Well, my expectations were now at a very high level as only exquisite restaurants in New York and London or Michelin Stars restaurants throughout the world would do that.
We arrived by car and you need to drive down to the basement. Not a very glamorous appeal. You are then greeted by a lady at a desk who will then reconfirm your details and direct you to another lady that with an electronic key will open the gate leading to the elevator. I thought I will have to take the metro or subway as the system is the same :).
The fast elevator ride will bring you to the restaurant or at least one floor above.
After being seated the menu arrived. Fairly reduced options with fairly HIGH prices, well we are on the 122 floor :).

THE SERVICE;
I expected much much more! As a hotelier I noticed that they were a lot of staff on the floor, but regretfully the attention to our table, and some others, seemed to be lacking. The restaurant was actually not really full and most of the guests were sitting at the window even though the reservation process made it seem that the restaurant would be very popular and packed. This was not the case!
The waiters did not seem very informed and the Manager did only visit our table briefly. The captain, I believe, seemed to had bitten his tongue that day, as he did not say a word to us, not even when placing our dishes on the table. He did also never smile, maybe this is not required anymore in the new hospitality trade?
The wine list is very reduced and lacks a certain wow factor.
We ordered the beef Tartar and the taste was good, even though I believe it could have been minced/ cut a bit finer. Maybe I am to conservative, but simple toast would have been the better choice rather that the "special bread" for this dish.
As a main course we had the Angus Sirloin. It had a nice taste of grill, but our request of having it cooked Medium-Rare turned out to be a Medium. As nobody ever asked how things are, I just quietly accepted this. The side dish of BBQ potatoes were very disappointing and tasteless. No taste of BBQ (grill) at all. I thought they were boiled and the skin was "annoying".

The dessert was the high-light of our meal. We had the 122 Sphere. Vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate, placed on a chocolate tart (72% chocolate) - Nice, but you should have seen the mess on our table as we shared one dessert, but they did not provide us with small dessert plates.

Overall I believe the service is below average and certainly not at the level of NY, London, or Hong Kong. I thought the staff was not very attentive and not really knowledgeable (e.g. the captain had to take out a little cheating note to remember the 5 pieces of cheese served to the table next to us, come on 5 cheeses, you can remember that!) The prices on the other hand are on that high level, but I still do not know why. I truly think it is the "View-Factor" as I can surly exclude the service and food quality factors giving me the justification of price.
If I would have the choice again I would go to JW Steak House as I believe the food and service there is much better.
Atmosphere did actually lack in atmosphere! You can only justify your prices with the location and view you are offering, otherwise I believe if you would be with your feet on the ground (I mean on the ground level), your competitors would surpass you in price, food quality, and service, which would make it very difficult for you to survive.

I wish you good luck and hope my feedback will assist you to make the necessary improvements.

Regards, Emanuele

Posted by: bahrain09 on 23 Feb ' 11 at 21:18

The view was amazing, the food was good but not so special. Overall it was a very satisfying experience but the price was way too expensive! almost 1400 for 2! (including starter, main course, and dessert)

Posted by: Mark Astor on 20 Feb ' 11 at 06:07

Had lunch there at the weekend.

The view (during the day, when you can see stuff) is great and the food is first class - if wildly overpriced.

The downside, however, is the security getting there. Four times I was stopped and hassled and treated like I was trying to get into Pentagon rather than just a hotel. The staff are lovely but the security guards and their attitude have ensured that I will never bother with this place again.

Why treat people like that when they're about to spend a load of money that goes towards paying your wages?

Posted by: Patrick on 15 Feb ' 11 at 12:18

I invited 5 business guests to At.mosphere in mid February 2011.

Regretfully we all left the restaurant only being amazed at the view. There were simply too many flaws for any of us to specifically recommend it over other good restaurants in Dubai.

The service felt very nervous allround. We determined one of the problems was that several waitresses were of Asian origin where we had to ask several times to repeat what they were saying as none of us could understand a word of the broken English.

The food was very nice but the steaks were luke warm to say the least.

None of us were impressed and there is obvious room for improvement before the restaurant matches the sky high expectations.

Posted by: ahmad on 14 Feb ' 11 at 13:05

whats the pricing from to for two person.
and how can i enter to the burj , as the security out side

Posted by: John on 14 Feb ' 11 at 06:27

In reply to SC... it's stupidly expensive.

The cheapest starter is Dhs110 for a goats' cheese salad. And one of the starters is Dhs360.

Mains are mostly steaks and the cheapest is 270 for sirloin. They go up to Dhs450. And you then have to pay another Dhs30 for the sauce. What a cheek!

And if you want the lobster it costs Dhs590. That's over 100 pounds English for just one course.

And there's no guarantee that you'll even get one of the tables with the view. Big swizz best left to the tourists.

Posted by: Nayoul on 09 Feb ' 11 at 10:17

Are there any reviews on the food yet for At.mosphere?

Posted by: sc on 06 Feb ' 11 at 15:11

whats the pricing at this super-hyped restaurant and is the food worth it?

Posted by: Rosemary Cheer on 04 Feb ' 11 at 23:56

Dwayne is my son, well done Dwayne what a great article. very proud of you and cant wait to see and sit in Atmosphere

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