- I visited the romantic underwater fine-dining restaurant Ossiano in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on my own.
- Despite usually being happy dining solo, I felt awkward and lied that my partner was ill.
- The menu was pretentious, and the prices – such as $72 for a salad – were extortionate.
- The food, however, was genuinely delicious – with so many free extras – the service was impeccable, and the setting was truly very special.
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But unlike most of the city’s most expensive restaurants, there’s no minimum spend.
When visiting Dubai for the Dubai Air Show in November, I wanted to experience what it was like to eat underwater without having to spend a fortune, so I decided to pay Ossiano a visit.
I was on my own, about which I usually have zero qualms, but I felt so uncomfortable and awkward that I ended up pretending I had a partner who was ill and couldn’t make it – which I also hoped was justification for why I wouldn’t be ordering much.
Despite ordering only one cocktail, a salad, and water, my bill came to an eye-watering 390 dirham, or $106.
That said, I was brought so many extras – palate cleansers, canapés, bread – that I left incredibly full.
Rather than explain what the dishes are, Ossiano’s menu simply lists things such as “the soup,” “the seafood,” and “the meat,” but despite being pretentious, the food was genuinely delicious, the service impeccable, and the setting incredibly special.
Ossiano is one of nine restaurants in Atlantis, The Palm. I got to the artificial island from the mainland by car, which seemed to be how everyone travels everywhere in Dubai. We drove up a pretty approach lined by trees draped in lights.
There were tons of valets and bell boys at the entrance to the hotel, and with waterfalls either side, a red carpet, and lots of gold, it felt very lavish — and very Dubai.
I wasn’t entirely sure where I was meant to go, but I figured I’d follow the red carpet and head on in.
The hotel lobby was huge — it felt almost like the reception of a water park as everything was ocean-themed.
There were giant shell water sculptures around the room which made for a pleasing soundtrack, and it was anything but minimalist.
Being Dubai, everything was grand and opulent. I still had no idea where I was meant to go, and had to ask for directions to Ossiano.
I was pointed down a corridor lined by designer stores and other bars, as tourists and guests milled around — the clientele weren’t dressed formally, but I wondered if this would be the case in Ossiano.
I finally found the restaurant and was greeted at the reception before being led down a staircase.
It was quite breathtaking to say the least.
To be clear, Ossiano isn’t actually underwater — but one whole wall is a huge aquarium, which is still pretty amazing. The lighting was dim, but grand chandeliers twinkled overhead.
It was 6.30 p.m. and the restaurant was nearly empty, but I was shown to the bar briefly first. The interior was pretty fancy, but certain aspects looked dated to me, like the carpet, which I thought was actually kind of tacky.
The bar was very … blue. I perused the drinks menu but realized you’d struggle to get anything under $25, and wine was more expensive than cocktails. I ordered one of the cheaper cocktails at 80 dirham ($22).
I’d booked a table for two on the off-chance one of my colleagues could join me, but it ended up being just me. As someone who travels alone — both for work and pleasure — a lot, I am not remotely phased by dining on my own. Well, usually.
This was the one time I’ve ever felt weird about it, and I even felt the need to make up a story about how my (made-up) partner was ill and unable to make it, but had insisted I had the experience — this line also helped me justify ordering the bare minimum, I thought.
Ossiano is not set up for solo diners. The tables are huge, even for two, and the lighting is so dim that you couldn’t read a book even if you tried. Still, with the fish for entertainment, I suppose you don’t need anything else.
Staff were incredibly attentive all evening. After I sat down, a waiter placed a napkin on my lap, checked if I had any allergies, and asked if I wanted still or sparkling water — I figured tap probably wasn’t an option (even though I’d been drinking it all week in Dubai).
The first thing I was brought set the tone for the evening: a cool wet towel infused with lemongrass from a smoking “tree of life.” Was it ridiculous? Yes. Was it also a fun spectacle? Definitely. I wanted to laugh, but I also kind of loved it.
I was also served two canapés and a palate cleanser which was a fruity bubble. One of the canapés was like a meringue, the other was foie gras — I wasn’t keen on it, but felt like I should eat it.
My cocktail, the Lady Lina, arrived and it was incredibly elegant in a beautiful shade of pink. I savored every sip, and figuring it was about $2 a sip, drank it slower than I’ve ever drunk anything in my life.
As a pianist played a chilled jazz soundtrack, I sat back to peruse the food menu, and couldn’t help but furrow my brow. It was so pretentious.
Rather than explain what the dishes actually are, the à la carte menu simply lists things like “the soup,” “the seafood,” and “the meat.” The waiter told me what everything was when he gave me the menu, but obviously I couldn’t remember them all. I thought it was a strange system but ordered “the salad” because there was burrata involved (and it was the cheapest dish).
There was also a set menu called “the Journey,” and there was no information about what the food actually was on that either. The second course, for example, was “On the path to nostalgia/In search of loving memories.” Delicious, right?
A side table was soon added to my already unnecessarily large table which turned out to be for the bread, the serving of which was a spectacle in itself: freshly churned butter with crispy onion pieces, salt, and pepper was piped out on to a dish before my very eyes.
The butter was scooped up on to a little rock dish, a whole loaf of warm sourdough arrived, and it was served with a savory tea made from buckwheat, sesame oil, dry beef, and celery with fish broth — it sounds weird, but was actually incredibly tasty. It was like a broth.
Question: Is it acceptable for one person to eat a whole loaf of bread? Because I may have done just that. The bread was sensational — crusty but soft, and with that butter! Wow. Having the whole bread basket to yourself is reason enough to dine alone.
It wasn’t long before “the salad” arrived: It was burratina, served on a watermelon tartar (in lieu of tomatoes, which I don’t like), alongside a side salad.
Honestly, I’d been expecting a normal ball of burrata, and this was anything but. It did look beautiful though.
I was advised to break open the ball with a spoon, mix it up, and eat it with the salad, which I duly did. While the exterior of the ball was light and crisp, the inside was creamy and runny. It was delicious, but so cold it actually hurt my teeth.
Having finished my food (and had the crumbs cleared away, of course), I ventured to the toilet, because I always love a fancy bathroom.
Forget rows of squished toilet cubicles — each individual bathroom was bigger than my bedroom at home.
When I got back to my table, I was brought a palate cleanser. It was a light, fruity concoction consisting of pineapple, passion fruit ice pieces, and cream with a hint of black pepper. Sweet and light, that was dessert as far as I was concerned.
Despite only ordering one course and one drink, I was incredibly full by the time I left — the loaf of bread may have played a big role in that though. Still, I thought it was good of Ossiano to bring me all the little extras despite me not going all out.
Maybe they took pity on me because my partner couldn’t join me. Or maybe they saw through my lie and felt even more sorry for me as a result.
By the time I left, the restaurant was much more full than when I’d arrived, and it was mainly couples.
Did I feel weird dining on my own? Yes. But did I also enjoy the experience? Absolutely.
It was very cool to watch all the rays, sharks, and fish swim by, and the aquarium was mesmerizing.
The food was genuinely very good too, and you’re paying for the experience of how it’s served as much as the setting and the service – for example, I had put my evening bag on the table, but staff brought a little stool for it.
My bill came to a rather painful 390 dirham ($106): 265 ($72) for “the salad,” 80 ($22) for the cocktail, and an outrageous 45 ($12) for the water.
I also found it odd to leave the restaurant and suddenly be back out in a slightly rowdy, tourist-packed hotel.
If you’re after something fancy and special, with refined, fine dining, Ossiano may be for you. But it’s really incredibly expensive and actually a little stuffy – it’s not somewhere you’d let your hair down.
That said, if you can ignore the dated carpet and if you really like good bread, it’s worth a visit. Just maybe take a friend. (Or if you really love bread, don’t.)