Updated: Mar 2
One of the most spectacular and unique restaurants we have ever had the pleasure of experiencing was the underwater restaurant in the Maldives.
We spent seven heavenly nights in an over-water bungalow (with plunge pool) at Hurawalhi Maldives, a luxury resort with breathtaking views, phenomenal service and an outlandish variety of top-tier food.
Using our anniversary as an excuse, we booked a lunch at the 5.8 Undersea Restaurant. Aptly named, it is the largest, all-glass underwater restaurant, where you dine 5.8 meters below the surface. At the time of booking, there was one set time for a five course lunch at a cost of $225 USD per person, or two set times for a seven course dinner at a cost of $280 USD per person. After reviewing the photos available online, we opted for lunch. There was a greater clarity through the water and a greater chance of seeing more fish and underwater creatures during the day. At night, lights were illuminated around the restaurant to create a magical atmosphere, but we were more interested in the corals and fish. The lighting effects of the night-time view is beautiful, but it is difficult to see what swims beyond. NB: Today, Hurawalhi offers two lunch times and one dinner time. We suspect it is for the very reason we chose the lunch; the spectacular view.
To reach the restaurant, we walked along the beach and across a long, curved bridge, shaded by solar panels, over crystal-clear waters to the main entrance. The concierge greeted us with a delicious welcome cocktail and then entertained us with fun facts as we made our descent. The circular staircase was adorned with windows, allowing us to easily see and measure how quickly we were descending. If you’re sensitive to it, and we most certainly are, you can feel the pressure building as you descend. Your body feels as if it is submerged underwater, but your perplexed eyes remind you that you're dry.
We were asked to remove our shoes prior to entering the seating area (as this is a barefoot restaurant) and select a free table. The sight is overwhelming. Eight simple square tables lined the sides of a huge glass dome, a blue rug lined the area between them. The room was warm (warmer than we expected) and very open. One of our fears was that the curved sides and shallow roof would feel claustrophobic, but the restaurant was wider and taller than expected.
The colourful coral reefs that surrounded the glass restaurant were created, or rather gardened. The underwater gardeners wanted to create an extension of what already existed in the house reef. Some blocks of coral that initially showed little signs of life, were transported to the area around the restaurant to provide them access to more nutrient-rich waters. Now, they are beaming with life and thriving. We felt transported, small and insignificant inside this giant fish bowl.
Welcome drinks in hand, we sat at a table on the left, nearest the view with the most fish. We were given a wine menu, but opted against it. We were then handed the lunch menu to peruse and select our options. We had the unique opportunity to test out a new menu, created by the restaurant’s Michelin Star chef. The chef personally came around to each table to thank us for coming and ask our opinions of the dishes.
Most options were seafood based and each course was served in a creative underwater theme with spectacular precision. Words cannot describe the quality of these dishes, quite simply, they were delicious works of art. NB: At the time, only the one menu was available, but now Hurawalhi appears to have multiple menus, including non-seafood and vegan options.
During the meal, in between courses, we took the opportunity to view the corals from every available angle, taking many photos and videos. Only one other couple did the same. Most couples remained in their seats, chatting and taking photos of themselves or the food. The dress code is casual, most opting for summer dresses and fancy shorts. Thin cottons and linens would serve you be best. Though the restaurant had air conditioning blowing, the heat increased with more people. The restaurant was not full when we lunched, but at times it did feel full. The unique shape of the space allowed of voices to travel with deep acoustics.
We started with the Maldivian yellowfin tuna tartar, served with crispy quid ink and sea foam, on a double glass plate with crushed sand in between. Next the Hokkaido scallop, served delicately in a large shell with beautiful dollops of accompanying flavour. Next the red mullet, a firm fish in a lobster bisque foam with squid ink brittle in the shape of fish bones. we could have opted for the beef or the Canadian lobster, of course being Canadians so far away, we had to try it. The lobster was artistically displayed, with flavourful accompaniment.
After an outstanding deconstructed mango cheesecake dessert, we were surprised with a special anniversary platter of macaroons, chocolates and crème brulé. Stuffed to the brim, we devoured every last morsel, leaving nothing to waste. Even the Happy Anniversary sign was edible.
It was a completely unique and magical experience. If you ever have the opportunity, to visit Hurawalhi or a neighbouring resort, jump at the chance to visit the 5.8 Undersea Restaurant.
5.8 Undersea Restaurant, Hurawalhi, Maldives
Overall Ranking - 4.5/5
The space and experience are enough to pull you in, but the quality of the food, the presentation and the spectacularly unique atmosphere will overwhelm you. Opt for lunch over dinner if you wish to be mesmerized by the coral reef. Be sure to wear thin cottons and linens, as the space can get warm. Don't forget your camera or your appetite.