In a city that has far surpassed five star deluxe, it’s not easy to make the cut when it comes to haute accommodations and dining. here are five hotels and four restaurants that are at the very top of our haute list.
By Ayesha Khan
The Park Hyatt Dubai is adjacent to the renowned Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
There are two things that luxury-seeking, Birkin-toting travellers look for when they seek out the best of the destinations they frequent: The Best Tables and The Best Rooms, two precious commodities that define the “hauteness” of our world’s finest cities. And nobody does it better than Dubai when it comes to seven star-style hotel service and Michelin star-worthy chefs clamoring for a piece of the action.
In December 1999, Dubai exploded on the hotel map with the Burj Al Arab. The world’s tallest all-suite hotel when it opened, with the world’s largest atrium, the Burj Al Arab is a favorite among heads of state, celebs like Brad Pitt and the Beckhams and just about anyone else willing to foot a bill of more than $3,000 a night. Set on a man-made island off Jumeirah Beach and designed to resemble a billowing sail, the hotel begins pampering its guests the moment they disembark from their chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, BMW or helicopter (there’s a helipad on the 28th floor).
Inside, spellbinding interiors are decked out in some 9,000 square feet of 22K gold leaf and nearly 25,000 square feet of Italian white Carrara Statuario marble (the one favored by Michelangelo) along with every color and texture of the spectrum. But once you step into any one of 22 palatial-size duplex one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, each featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows that afford breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf, you’ll enjoy everything from a Hermès bath oil-infused bath (chosen from a decadent menu of music and oils) drawn by your personal butler to sleeping soundly on any one of more than a dozen pillows chosen from a special menu – and chances are you’ll find it very difficult to leave.
Another glamorous hotel choice is the very fashionable Grosvenor House West Marina Beach. Smartly set in very posh, yacht-lined Dubai Marina, its sleek, blue-lighted façade is simply a sign of what’s to come – and actually, not necessarily British-style like its sister property in London. Here, all 422 guest rooms, suites (including Club Rooms on the top 10 floors) and 205 butler-serviced one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are appointed in elegantly understated rosewood, deep carved carpet and marble. This hotel is also home to some of Dubai’s finest restaurants, including the Michelin-star awarded Indego and a Parisian outpost of Buddha Bar.
Farther down, on Sheikh Zayed Road, sits the 301-room Shangri-La Dubai where, by the way, some of George Clooney’s Syriana was filmed. Perched atop the 43-story tower is its crown jewel, the butler-serviced Al Shams Presidential Suite – the suite of choice for Alicia Keys, Enrique Iglesias and Anna Kournikova, and Bryan Adams. You’ll arrive via a split-second elevator ride to a swank two-story, two-bedroom getaway that features a double-height, floor-to-ceiling window accommodation. The hotel also offers 126 fully furnished and serviced apartments, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms.
For a more serene, less citified getaway, resort experiences abound. The finest among these is the beachfront 50-room One&Only Royal Mirage. There, we suggest you make a beeline for the exclusive two-bedroom Garden Villa. At about 3,000 square feet, the villa is a standout for its private garden (which is, amazingly, over 6,000 square feet and has its own temperature-controlled pool.) There’s also a well-equipped kitchen, a sunken living room and dining area, and larger-than-life bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, indoor/outdoor rainforest showers and LCD TVs.
Farther down Dubai’s azure shoreline lies Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, replete with authentic architectural references to the United Arab Emirates’ rich history. The resort’s myriad guest accommodations include a collection of Dar Al Masyaf (summer houses) boasting the finest Arabian antique furniture along with every modern amenity. For the ultimate Madinat Jumeirah experience, the über-haute, $6,000-a-night Malakiya Villas are the ones to book. Inside the two- and three-bedroom villas (plus staff quarters) you’ll enjoy endless luxury and 24/7 butler service complemented by a lovely living room, formal dining room and kitchen.
Then there is the Dubai culinary experience: a melting pot of European, Far Eastern and Arabian gastronomy second to none and on par with London, Paris and New York; much of that is a result of some of the world’s most famous chefs setting up shop here.
On Beniyas Road, inside the Hilton Dubai Creek, Verre by Gordon Ramsay never ceases to amaze, whether it is via a choux pastry filled with a truffle cream cheese or a rich, sautéed foie gras. The hotel’s signature restaurant, this was the three-Michelin star chef’s first foray beyond the borders of Britain when it opened in 2001. The 70-seat eatery is dominated by a glass panel around the room, lit with tiny colored uplights to counter the minimalism of the snow white linen, white china and simply silver cutlery. “Verre was my first restaurant outside the UK and represents a huge challenge, but a thoroughly enjoyable one,” says Ramsay. “There is a real buzz about Dubai, and I am proud to be a part of it. In my mind, Dubai is one of the most vibrant cities around.”
The Park Hyatt Dubai is adjacent to the renowned Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. The poshest of their restaurants may well be Traiteur. A two-story experience (connected by a long staircase that is suspended from the ceiling), this restaurant boasts Cave Privée, a 1,200-bottle wine cellar and two private dining rooms that can accommodate up to 10 guests each. Upstairs, there’s the wonderfully designed Traiteur Bar with its pulsating ceiling (some say it’s the best-looking bar in all of Dubai) that opens onto a terrace. On the marina’s front side, the hotel’s other standout, The Terrace, features a spectacular Raw Bar serving caviar, oysters and such along with a terrific assortment of premium vodkas.
Back at the Grosvenor House awaits Dubai’s version of the Paris hot spot – Buddha Bar. The place is still bursting with ambiance and great Asian fusion-style food in any of its themed dining rooms (the main dining room is dramatically set under a vaulted ceiling) and sushi bar. Traditional Japanese tatami seating (mats) and sunken private lounges are notable features, too.
Burj Al Dubai, www.burgaldubai.com
Grosvenor House West Marina Beach,
Hilton Dubai Creek, www.hiltondubaicreek.com
One&Only Royal Mirage, www.oneandonlyresorts.com
Park Hyatt Dubai, www.parkhyatt.com
Madinat Jumeirah, www.madinatjumeirah.com
Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, www.shangri-la.com