The unexpected can cause confusion: I arrive at the St Regis Saadiyat Resort without luggage and so miss out on the effusive greetings that normally accompany more obviously new guests with a porter in tow. I'm checked in with efficiency by a smiling member of staff who asks whether I need to be shown to my room. No, I don't need to be shown to my room but, when I'm sent the wrong way and promptly get lost, my stay starts badly. Luckily, when I reappear looking grumpy and asking for assistance, the receptionist remembers that the St Regis is a five-star hotel and asks a butler to show me the way. He manages to smooth my ruffled feathers and, faultlessly helpful and polite, saves the day.
The St Regis Saadiyat is one of the most popular hotels in Abu Dhabi thanks to its beautiful beachfront location on Saadiyat, the adjacent golf course and clutch of good restaurants including Turquoiz, a new seafood eaterie by the water, and Sontaya, probably the city's best South-east Asian restaurant.
A visual treat. I check into one of the hotel's three new and luxurious spa suites decorated in either a Moroccan, Thai or "contemporary" style; each offering a full spa menu. The 165-square-metre Moroccan suite boasts an exclusive hammam with a plunge pool and hot stone table as well as a large treatment room. The decor is thoughtful and ornate, with a sunken living space decorated with lamps, carved mirrors and woodwork, leading to a large bedroom with soft rugs underfoot, and a huge bathroom tiled in a gold and red mosaic, accented with different marbles. Double doors lead from the bedroom and living area into a large private garden. The spa area, off the living room, has two treatment beds, an adjoining shower cum steam room, separate toilet facilities and the hammam.
Lurches between top-notch and below par. My butler is quick to bring me a coffee machine and toiletries when I question their absence, but the next morning fresh milk for my coffee takes 25 minutes to arrive. The maître d' and staff in Sontaya are pitch perfect, and by striking the right note between being welcoming and authoritative, their efforts add to my evening.
The St Regis Saadiyat always has a pleasant buzz about it. The hotel is busy with package tourists, well-dressed locals and expats, particularly on weekends.
I'm tempted to order in and eat outside in the garden, but the night is cool so I opt for Sontaya and enjoy a succulent deep-fried crispy duck with enoki mushrooms and spicy hot basil sauce (Dh150), mildly spiced nasi goreng (Dh80) and a curious but delicious crème brûlée with green tea spaghetti (Dh35).
My own private hammam. Andrea, my excellent therapist, exfoliates my skin with the required painful thoroughness before slathering on black-olive soap with mint and washing my hair. I jump into the shower to wash before a firm but relaxing massage in a mix of styles using orange-scented oils.
The hammam table was too cold to create the necessary steam to open the pores, and I felt a little chilly.
A beautiful room with outstanding facilities - and when you compare the cost of separate spa treatments and a standard double room, not prohibitively expensive.
The bottom line
The spa suites costs from Dh4,640 including breakfast, two hours of treatments and taxes per night. The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island (www.stregissaadiyatisland.com; 02 498 8888).
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