My car and luggage are quickly attended to as I arrive at the hotel's entrance. In fact, there are so few guests that it's a little off-putting that I'm greeted several times before I get to reception. Still, the lobby, arranged around a central fountain and with views onto the pool and mangroves, is dramatic and relaxing. Reception finds my booking quickly and I'm taken to my room on the third floor.
One half of the hotel faces the sublime tract of mangrove forest abutting the eastern edge of Abu Dhabi Island. The other half faces the not-so-sublime Salam Street. With heavy-duty triple glazing in place, you probably won't be disturbed by road noise on that side of the building, but it's worth asking for a room facing the other way.
Besides kayaking on the mangroves, there's not much else on offer in the immediate area, though it's only about a 10 minute drive to the Corniche.
Luckily, I'm allocated a room facing the mangroves. It's beautifully still and quiet, and I enjoy the view from my balcony out across what looks like miles of greenery, the sound of birds and the distant outline of the Corniche in the distance. The rooms don't quite match the opulence of the rest of the hotel, and seem to be virtually the same: large (57 square metres) and businesslike, with a great flat-screen television, huge comfortable bed, plenty of desk and wardrobe space and a sofa. I like the blackout blinds, deep, fast-filling bath and selection of organic French teas on offer, along with a kettle and coffee maker, but I have to call room service for milk.
I'm disturbed at night by the sound of a screaming child in the next room and ask to be moved. The next room has noisy air conditioning and the third room is also too hot, but by that point it's too late and I'm too tired to keep moving around. I don't sleep well.
Generally effective and genuine but a little over-personal at times: I don't want to have to greet a succession of individuals between my room and the swimming pool or breakfast table. For a more intimate stay, the executive level on the top floor comes with its own lounge. At the spa, the staff are more discreet. In Pachaylen, the Thai restaurant, staff are mostly attentive and helpful, but our conversation is frequently interrupted at the start of service.
With its currently low occupancy level, the hotel is generally peaceful, and it can seem as if you've got the place to yourself - a feeling I like. Pachaylen was busy, which made for a good atmosphere.
The menu at Pachaylen is extensive but heavy on meat and fish. Most importantly, the spice levels aren't reduced to cater to non-native audiences (unless you request so). The green papaya salad (Dh60) was fresh, laced with chilli and topped with soft shell crab. The stir-fried Andaman scallops (Dh130), served with roasted chillies and sweet basil, were exquisite, but our favourite dish was the massaman lamb curry, a slow-cooked lamb shank in curry sauce with sweet potatoes, shallots and cashew nuts (Dh110). The extensive breakfast buffet features high quality ingredients.
Impressions, the rooftop bar with a large outdoor terrace overlooking the mangroves, is relaxing, as is the infinity pool. The spa is dripping with Asian opulence, with a large and authentic Turkish hammam. I'd return if the prices were lower. My 90 minute Thai massage, though good, was priced at Dh650, twice the amount I would be happy to pay.
Being disturbed by the noise in the next-door room.
A fine property with both Arabian elegance and a unique selling point, but I didn't come away feeling relaxed.
The bottom line
Double rooms at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara (www.abu-dhabi.anantara.com; 02 656 1000) cost from Dh696 per night including taxes. A buffet breakfast costs Dh130 per adult.