Another day, another trip to the Palm — this time to Villamore. As Hubs and I stayed in town for the holidays, I responded to my invite by confirming a lunch reservation — perfect for the late December weather.
Walking down through the OTT lobby of the Emerald Palace Kempinski (and even more ridiculously outfitted all-day dining venue), we step outside to the pristine grounds at the resort. Given the hotel is in early days, there is no one by the pool, and we easily spot Villamore, which is located in a separate building. Do I think there should be more of an effort made to determine the entrance to the restaurant? Yes. My suggestion would be large planters, or some other landscaping feature, however, once inside the venue, guests will feel immediately transported to the Mediterranean. Done in blues, whites, natural stone and materials, and tiled surfaces, the restaurant delivers on chic beachside elegance.
Given the pleasant weather, we’re shown outside and taken to a shaded seat by the beach.
For starters, I’m once again drawn to scallops, this time in the form of Scallops Carpaccio, AED80. Also, because carbs, I go for the Foccacia, AED30, which is served with tapenade and roasted garlic. We also receive Taramasalata (which I could live on, especially the sourdough bread it comes with), AED68. The warm octopus salad, AED80 is also a good choice, with the protein arriving tender and well seasoned. And because I’m me, we ordered the Burrata with Sugar Snap Peas, AED90. Each of the dishes is fresh and lovely in presentation. Could I use a touch more seasoning in the carpaccio? Yes. Would it stop me from ordering the dish again? Not in the slightest. Although I would happily order any of the cold starters again, it’s the Taramasalata that is decidedly moreish, and I would be happy to know how to make it at home!
Although tempted, we turn down the offer antipasti room (AED90 per person for a comprehensive range of food). Fortunately, the wait staff decides to show off and brings us a few nibbles from the room (and no, this isn’t just because I’m reviewing, they’ll happily put together a plate for anyone). By (brilliantly) having the antipasti room, theoretically, you could rock up for a bunch of snacks and drinks. By utilizing the antipasti room, Villamore would be a great place to show off the Palm to out of town friends to without having to order off the rest of the menu (although I would encourage you to try a few more things).
Moving on to warmer courses, we’re tempted by the Short Rib Tortellini, AED90. The pasta ends up being one of our favorite dishes of the day and could be split between two people. For a protein, although there are a large number of fish to choose from, we ultimately decide to share a Large Tiger Prawn, AED140. I feel I should point out a bit of difference and discrepancy in pricing here. Silly us, we thought when we were ordering a prawn, we were ordering prawn(s). Given the price point, I’m still not sure how AED140 is appropriate for a singular prawn. Yes, it was cooked beautifully, and seasoned well, however, to approach the table with one prawn to split, or charge AED280 for two all just seems absurd (or maybe I’m too out of touch with pricing in the city). Given the remainder of the menu is relatively consistent with pricing, I’m hoping the team at Villamore will dial pricing back here a bit.
With a kitchen wanting to show off their skills, although we’re reaching capacity, the Seafood Couscous, AED135 arrives and is chock full of seafood. Personally, and I know this is a weird term, but the mouthfeel of the couscous is wonderful. Given I’m not the largest fan of clams and mussels, Hubs ends up with most of the dish.
For dessert, we split a wonderfully bitter granita, paired with an excellent port from the dedicated and professional sommelier, who looked after us for our later courses.
Overall, there isn’t much to fault at Villamore. The menu aligns as it should for the cuisine and ambiance. The drinks deliver, the plating is beautiful, the staff is knowledgeable, proud, and confident in their food, and the chilled out vibe is one of the best the Palm has to offer. As a minor quibble, Hubs recognized that the outdoor speakers were already blown out/peaky, but we saw a team working on them, so I’d have to imagine this detail has been dealt with already.
Would I go back to Villamore? Yes, I like it for a winter lunch spot, a place to take parents or to return and see what the second story of the lounge looks like. For the record — thus far at the Kempinski, between here and Matagi, I prefer Villamore. I’d definitely be interested in going for brunch before the weather heats up again.
Who is Villamore best for? As mentioned, this is one of the most chill places on the Palm and a different crowd than what the Atlantis or Club Vista Mare might draw.
A to Za’atar was a guest of Villamore. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.
What’s your favorite restaurant on the Palm?