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Paradise Island's New Atlantis Resort

Schooley informs me that I’ve got it backward. The true meaning of transportainment is that water parks have evolved beyond that isolated moment of raw fear. Now the thrill junkies can divert their tubes into the Power Tower, while those of us who think too much can just float along.

Actually, thinking too much might get in your way of fully enjoying Atlantis. For instance, how you feel about the word “transportainment” may be an indicator of how you'll respond to the theme-park ambience. Similarly, your philosophical position on artifice versus authenticity will determine how you regard the resort’s finest dining experience, Café Martinique.

In 1962, A&P heir Huntington Hartford turned the boathouse on his extensive Paradise Island property (where he recreated some of Versailles’s gardens) into a restaurant called Café Martinique and it became a local society hot spot. It was the setting for James Bond and Bond-girl Domino’s romantic dinner and dance in the 1965 movie Thunderball. Over the years, the café changed hands with the rest of the property, from Hartford to Resorts International to Donald Trump to Merv Griffin and finally, in the early 1990’s, to Kerzner.

"Café Martinique was the one place on the island where the standards were good,” Kerzner recalls. He adds, “I guess the place was pretty famous.” Unfortunately, Kerzner’s master plan called for a marina and there was no room for a ramshackle waterfront restaurant, even one with the imprimatur of James Bond, in his conceptual universe. The forcer la nature impulse, in Kerzner’s case, also plays out as forcer la man-made. “When we decided to build the marina, I talked to the prime minister and I told him that Café Martinique would come down,” Kerzner continues. “He was horrified. I promised to rebuild it.”

Indeed, he did. The new Café Martinique opened in early 2006 in Marina Village, an open-air shopping mall. The formally dressed doorman escorts diners into an antique birdcage elevator to a bar decorated in restrained French-colonial style. There’s no trace of the festive outdoor dining area depicted in Thunderball, but while waiting for your table you can sit on the balcony and check out the yachts moored in the marina. The big surprise is the genuine beauty of the dining room, designed by Adam Tihany. The lamplit space features exposed, whitewashed beams, holding up a steeply pitched roof. I have excellent peppered-crab dumplings, fresh local snapper, and crème brûlée. Somehow this reinvention of Paradise Island history is so compelling that I actually forget about the shopping mall downstairs. The restaurant—like the resort that surrounds it—is an enormously effective piece of art direction, a demonstration of the seductive power of artifice.

Karrie Jacobs is a T+L contributing editor.

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