Looming out of the night like the Kremlin on kryptonite, the new Kempinski is easily spotted from afar thanks to the alien-green onion domes that crown the huge hotel complex. Though not the most tasteful addition to Dubai’s skyline, the luminous domes do make a convenient beacon when directing taxi drivers – mine made no secret of his displeasure of having to circumnavigate The Palm so I could have my dinner. I was inclined to agree with him – the island wasn’t designed with commuter convenience in mind, though I doubt this is of concern to the hotel’s tracksuit-clad guests and timeshare residents.

Yet for all the money flying about at this prime Palm location, Brunello appeared wholly underwhelming. The low-ceilinged restaurant felt as though it was an extension of the lobby, while the clutter of ill-placed tables made the room feel claustrophobic and airless. For this reason, my date and I opted to brave the gusty sea breeze and sit outside among fairy-lit palms, in view of the electric blue infinity pool. The atmosphere immediately improved, but our al-fresco location put us out of sight and out of mind of the staff and I was forced to retreat inside to ask for a menu.

There was little discrepancy between the price of starters, pastas and mains, so I opened my account at Brunello with the gnocchi. As with the tableware, menus and amuse-bouches – which finally found their way outside after my asking – the delivery of my order was painfully slow; all the more irksome considering the price (a Dhs110 starter, in my opinion, should be flown in by helicopter). However, the wholesome wheat-flour dumplings, bathed in a rich taleggio fondue, were a filling reward for the wait. Was the dish worth Dhs110? I was unconvinced.

My date’s beef tartare was artfully presented yet nowhere near as satisfying as my gnocchi. The flavour of the meat was suffocated with what tasted like lemon marinade, and while the thick, nicely salted asparagus offered some respite in both taste and texture, it was not enough to redeem yet another overpriced dish.

The inevitable wait between starters and mains afforded us an opportunity to soak in more of Brunello’s eccentricities, while nibbling on the bread basket that had decided to make an appearance alongside our starters. It was odd, for example, that the staff wore polo shirts (more leisure club that fine dining, I’d wager) and that the eclectic, at-times-inappropriate soundtrack ranged from monotone rap to Kenny G. I considered the gilt-edged restaurants further along the Palm’s West Crescent, and decided something special was required of the kitchen to pull Brunello back from the brink.

But a last-minute comeback wasn’t on the cards for Brunello. My duck was sufficiently tender, but the portion size and lack of sides (save for a couple of lonely figs) failed to justify the price tag. The bed of gorgonzola on which the duck was served had also been corrupted by the juices of the meat, rendering it an insipid, runny mess. My date’s chicken breast was competently prepared, but was devoid of the flair and imagination that diners deserve from a high-end restaurant – its most redeeming feature was that it provided some sustenance after an overly long wait. Brunello has yet to receive its alcohol licence, so in this respect it’s not a finished item. However, if a restaurant is ready to take Dhs589 out of my pocket without adequate return, it’s ready to take a panning.

The bill (for two)
1x Beef tartare
1x Gnocchi Dhs110
1x Chicken breast Dhs180
1x Duck Dhs150
1x Sparkling water Dhs29
Total (excluding service) Dhs589