Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa is to open 'Ithaa', the world’s first aquarium-style undersea restaurant. Designed in New Zealand, constructed in Singapore, using materials from the United States and then
shipped to the Maldives, Ithaa will sit six meters below the waves of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by a vibrant
coral reef and encased in clear acrylic offering diners 180-degrees of panoramic underwater views.
“We have used aquarium technology to put diners face-to-face with the stunning underwater environment of the
Maldives”, says Carsten Schieck, General Manager of Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. “Our guests always
comment on being blown away by the colour, clarity, and beauty of the underwater world in the Maldives, so it
seemed the perfect idea to build a restaurant where diners can experience fine cuisine and take time to enjoy the
views – without ever getting their feet wet.”
Created by MJ Murphy Ltd, a design consultancy based in New Zealand, Ithaa’s distinctive feature is the use of
curved transparent acrylic walls and roof, similar to those used in aquarium attractions including Sydney
Aquarium, Ocean Park Shark Aquarium in Hong Kong, and the San Sebastian Aquarium in Spain.
“The fact that the entire restaurant except for the floor is made of plexi-glass makes this unique in the world,”
continues Schieck, “We are currently planting a coral garden on the reef to add to the spectacular view, and
when the restaurant opens in early 2005, we will hold daily fish-feeding sessions to attract the rays, sharks and
other fish to the reefs near the restaurant.”
The five-metre by nine-metre transparent arch, which spans the entire room, provides a feeling of being
completely at one with the underwater world while submerged beneath the surface of the ocean. Set with the
resort’s renowned house reef one side, and a clear lagoon on the other, diners enjoy their meal within Ithaa’s
translucent shell as the underwater drama unfolds on all sides.
Naturally the food will be as spectacular as the underwater setting, explains Schieck, “In such a unique
restaurant we wanted to create a distinctive cuisine, which is why we’ve decided to offer ‘contemporary Maldivian
cuisine’ as a theme. We take local spices and traditional flavours and give them a western twist to create a fusion
cuisine that you could find in the best restaurants in London or New York. Nobody else has done this before and
we’re very excited about it. For a while we considered making Ithaa a seafood restaurant, but in the end we felt
this was too predictable!”
While the cuisine is dedicated to the fine balance of western food items with a Maldivian flavour, the wine concept
is equally exciting; offering diners the perfect opportunity to discover the wines of the prestigious Champagne
house Louis Roederer.
Ithaa is reached by a wooden walkway from the nearby over-water Sunset Grill Restaurant. Diners begin their
meal with drinks on a specially constructed deck over the ocean and then descend to the restaurant via a spiral
staircase where the ŕ la carte menu is served. Seating only 14 people, Ithaa offers one of the most intimate and
exclusive dining experiences in the world.
This innovative restaurant is the first of its kind in the world, and is part of a US $25 million re-build of
Rangalifinolhu Island, one of the twin islands that make up Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. This re-build includes
the construction of 79 luxurious Beach Villas as well as the Spa Village, a
self-contained, over-water ‘resort-within-a-resort’ consisting of a spa, restaurant and 21 villas.
Ithaa (pronounced eet-ha) means ‘pearl’ in the language of the Maldives,
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