Cirque de Cuisine at Atlantis The Palm – review

A party mega-brunch with food from some of Dubai's top restaurants

Cirque de Cuisine at Atlantis The Palm – review

From the moment you arrive at Atlantis The Palm, it’s clear that Cirque de Cuisine is a brunch like no other.

The pumping Latin beats can be heard from the bottom of the hotel’s usually quiet driveway, where a queue of cars full of eager evening brunchers snakes far out onto the road.

And instead of the usual doormen, there are shrieking feather-clad women performing fancy footwork that looks like it’s straight out of Rio.

This is the Atlantis mega-brunch, and this time it’s taken on an energetic Brazilian carnival theme – with acrobats, jugglers and a (extremely loud) drum corps taking over the five-star hotel for one night only.

Held twice a year, the event gives guests the chance to sample unlimited cuisine from some of the best restaurants in Dubai – including Nobu, Ronda Locatelli, Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and Hakkasan.

The Dhs495 early-bird ticket price also gets you unlimited house beverages as well as signature mixed drinks created specially for the night at each restaurant.

Even better, every one of the venues is just a few minutes’ walk from each other and there are enough seats for 1,000 guests.

But seeing the huge queues when we arrive, we’re still a bit concerned that we might not find a table in some of the more popular spots – or that it might take an age to get our hands on a drink.

Luckily, our fears are quickly allayed. The focal point of the evening is the main atrium which connects all of the restaurants.

There’s a huge pop-up bar here, with dozens of staff also roaming around holding trays of quick bites from Asia Republic such as dynamite shrimp and fluffy little bao buns. It’s absolutely crammed full of people, and the live Latin music is uncomfortably loud, but the service is at least quick and there are a wide variety of beverages on offer.

The chaotic vibes smooth out once we’re inside the restaurants, and there are loads of pre-poured glasses of bubbly at the entrance to every one.

Like the last time we reviewed Cirque de Cuisine when it launched back in 2017, the atmosphere varies wildly in each restaurant. Bread Street Kitchen is laid-back, with diners flocking mainly to the garden.

The spread here is substantial, with a huge selection of cheeses and Ramsay classics as well as a meat carving station and plenty of vegetarian options.

The chefs are more than happy to explain what’s on offer, which is useful considering the lack of signage beside any of the dishes.

Over at Ronda Locatelli, it’s a bit more chaotic – but the food here is the standout of the night.

On the way in, we’re handed arancini balls in a little paper cone and a plate of slightly stale pasta – but the real treat comes at the risotto station, where chefs dish out bowls of the pasta from a wheel of parmesan before shaving a thick layer of truffle on top. We find ourselves quickly going back for seconds.

When we came to Ronda Locatelli at a previous mega-brunch, we were a disappointed to find mainly cold cuts and only one type of pizza. But this time, the chefs have gone all out.

We count at least eight different varieties fresh from the wood-fired oven, and while there’s a significant spread of (admittedly delicious) cold cuts there is also an extremely cheesey lasagne, roasted pumpkin ravioli and a rich tomato gnocchi.

Ronda Locatelli is known for his vegan menus, and there are plenty of options to cater for all diets here.

Next it’s Nobu, where it’s a struggle to get a table considering that it’s absolutely packed. Here, it’s a case of queuing for the buffet, but only for five minutes.

A team of busy chefs prepare plate after plate of short rib, while there’s also a selection of excellent sushi on offer, although it’s rather simple compared to the usual fusion offering that Nobu is famous for.

The signature drink here takes advantage of Japanese flavours, and although the bar is busy we’re served quickly.

At many of the restaurants throughout the night, the waiters are focused only on picking up plates (which works well in keeping tables clear), but at Nobu the standard of service is exceptionally high.

A senior member of staff in a suit walks around every table asking how everyone is enjoying the experience – while our eagle-eyed waiter spots that one of us is eating vegetarian food and heads off to get some extra dishes prepared from the chef. Despite the fact that it’s mobbed, we still feel like valued customers.

There’s an absence of that famous black cod, but suddenly it appears on a platter whisked through the restaurant and our experience at Nobu feels complete.

We move on to Hakkasan, which is altogether quite disappointing. Drinks service is fast and we love the intimate setting, but the only food available is on a far-too-infrequent pass-around tray. It’s good (the truffle dim sum being a particular highlight) but there’s just not enough of it.

A little bit hungry, we head through Seafire Steakhouse, which is offering an impressive selection of meat and American favourites.

We delve into the mac and cheese, which has gone a little bit stale but still retains some of its flavour at least.

Here, there’s a live jazz band entertaining the crowds, with a roaming singer making sure that everyone is well into the swing of things.

The highlight of the evening by far though is dessert. Mimicking the style of Ossiano, the famous Atlantis seafood restaurant that’s surrounded by aquariums, the final course is served throughout the Lost Chambers. It’s like a maze of sweets, with every station set up in front of an aquarium view.

That means you can taste chocolate and praline while watching jellyfish propel gently through a darkened tank, or admire the majestic stingrays as you pop open a nitro coconut ice cream shell.

There are three chocolate fountains (of course), with loads of other Latin-inspired dessert offerings such as churro stations and inventive miniature pastries, such as passionfruit chocolate pies.

To answer a few questions – there are plenty of tables at every restaurant, you can go between each restaurant as you please all night and, yes, there are plenty of the most famous dishes. Would we go back? Absolutely. Atlantis The Palm has significantly stepped things up since we last came, and we’re impressed.

This is a party brunch first and foremost, but we’re impressed that the food seems to be an equal priority and we leave feeling that we’ve got more than our fill (even considering the Dhs495 ticket price).

The next Cirque de Cuisine comes at Christmas time, and we’ll be there – with jingle bells on.

Time Out reviews anonymously and pays for all its meals.

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