The lobby of the Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche is empty when I arrive, which, combined with its cavernous ceilings and white marble finishes, makes it feel a little cold and uninviting. Thankfully, this is countered by the warmth of the staff. I'm handed an ice-cold towel and ushered straight to my suite, where check-in is carried out quickly and efficiently.
I'm presented with a glass of fresh strawberry juice, shown around my room and invited to choose a pillow from the dedicated menu.
The hotel is located at the eastern tip of Abu Dhabi's Corniche in the Capital Plaza complex, near the financial and business districts. In spite of the Corniche address, there is no direct access to the beach.
My 85-square-metre Opera Suite is on the 30th floor and offers striking views of the sea, Corniche and Lulu Island. It is spacious, with a separate living area furnished with a good-sized desk, L-shaped sofa and large flat-screen television.
The room is comfortable and reasonably well designed, if a little generic. The large walk-in wardrobes and Hermès toiletries are a definite highlight, as is the ultra-comfy bed, with its cocoon-like feather and down duvet and top mattress.
The service was consistently good, with the staff both courteous and efficient. I'm greeted with a cheery "bonjour" or "bonsoir" - a nod to the brand's French roots - at every available opportunity.
The hotel is still in its soft opening phase, with a grand opening scheduled for later this year. I visited during Ramadan, which meant that some of the food and beverage outlets were closed and the hotel was pretty quiet for the duration of my stay.
The poolside Ramadan tent got livelier later in the evening, attracting small groups of young, well-dressed Abu Dhabi residents looking for a shisha fix.
The hotel's Thai restaurant, Silk & Spice, one of Abu Dhabi's few dedicated Thai restaurants, serves authentic fare in a lively, colourful setting. We have a top-notch meal at La Mer, the hotel's fine-dining seafood restaurant. Our waiter is attentive and helpful, and recommends the prawn risotto (Dh190). Light, creamy, sprinkled with edamame beans and topped with the largest prawns I've ever seen, it turns out to be the highlight of the meal.
We also order a signature seafood platter to share, which is a veritable feast of fresh lobster, prawns, oysters, langoustines and mussels laid out on a bed of ice. At Dh390, it is also great value for money.
My one-hour Swedish massage (Dh375) and 45-minute reflexology treatment (Dh250) in the hotel's So Spa. My French therapist is thorough, effective and knowledgeable, highlighting tension areas in my neck, back and calves, and addressing every knot with verve and vigour.
A single pane of clear glass separated the wetroom-style shower and bath area from the bedroom. I know that this is a popular trend in hotel design but I like to have the option of privacy while I'm showering by being able to close a blind.
The hotel perfectly caters to its target audience: business travellers looking for a five-star stay in the heart of the capital. For the most part, the interior failed to wow, but only because this hotel is supposed to herald a new and exciting design direction for Sofitel, so expectations were high.
The bottom line
An Opera Suite costs from Dh1,972 per night including taxes and breakfast. A Superior Room starts at Dh725 including taxes and with breakfast. Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, Corniche Road East, Capital Plaza Complex, Abu Dhabi (www.sofitel.com; 00 971 2 813 7777).