DUBAI (Reuters Life!) – Dubai's boom may have fizzled, but you can still live the high life perched atop the world's tallest building as the glitzy Gulf emirate unveils one of the world's highest restaurants.
Atmosphere, on the 122nd floor, is one private elevator ride up the glass and chrome Burj Khalifa.
Its designers say that Atmosphere, touted as the world's highest restaurant, shows that Dubai may have lost its luster as a business hub after the financial crisis, but for those seeking the lifestyle of the rich and famous, it can still dish it out.
"Up here, you feel elegant and luxurious, you feel sexy," said the restaurant's designer, Adam Tihany, pointing to the mahogany-paneled rooms and cozy leather booths.
"You are floating ... it's a journey. This is your luxury yacht in the sky," he said.
Atmosphere is a 57-second elevator ride up 442 meters (1,350 feet) that makes ears pop. Dwayne Cheer, the executive chef, tries to limit the number of times he goes up each day.
"I came up yesterday five times and after five times, you feel a bit dizzy. You only want to come up twice."
Cheer recommends the house specialties of foie gras or the beef tartare--but prices here may burn the pocket books of all but Dubai's most well-heeled denizens.
Entrees at the contemporary grille, serving up what Emaar Hospitality's chief executive calls "eclectic, European cuisine", cost an average of 340 dirhams ($93). Appetizers will set you back another $50 each.
Atmosphere's views at noon show ritzy Dubai's past and present: its ambitious artificial island project, The World, lies unfinished amid the blue waves on one side, and the sandy expanses of stalled construction sites are on the other.
Dubai's six-year boom, which fueled construction of the world's tallest building and artificial island archipelagos, slammed to a halt in 2008 after the global financial crisis.
Millions of dollars of construction projects were slashed or put on hold and the emirate is struggling to dig out from under a massive debt burden, estimated at more than $100 billion.
Developers at Emaar Hospitality, of Emaar Properties, say the restaurant opening at these soaring heights is a sign that the low point of Dubai's recession is ending.
"I think really the hospitality business has picked up quite nicely," said Emaar Hospitality chief executive Marc Dardenne. "Dubai is still a very attractive destination, with world class hotels and world class restaurants available."
The restaurant, for which owners declined to reveal the costs, faced some delays when Dubai's economy first stumbled. But it was eventually completed, Tihany said, because construction for Burj Khalifa is already almost finished.
"The top of the crown jewel has to be beautiful," he said. "The economy will follow suit, hopefully."
(Editing by Paul Casciato)