There are valets on hand to park my car and the smartly dressed staff on reception handle my reservation with an air of sensible efficiency. It's a promising start.
"Abu Dhabi Gate City" is yet to rise up from the sand and the twin, joined towers of the Novotel and Ibis, both Accor brands, are a lonely landmark. The hotels sit beside the narrow creek separating Al Maqtaa from the rush on Khaleej al Arabi but traffic noise is barely noticeable in the public areas or bedrooms. The hotel provides a shuttle service to Mushrif Mall and the Souk at Qaryat Al Beri is close by.
The four-star Novotel has 160 double rooms and 64 one-bedroom apartments with fully-fitted kitchens, popular with long-stay guests. I check into a spacious one-bedroom apartment and immediately warm to its pared down decor: the walls and curtains are white; it has dark wooden floors with cream rugs for warmth underfoot; numerous comfy sofas; and a flatscreen television in both the bedroom and separate living area. I don't like the "Modern Art" on the walls but, more importantly, I get a good night's sleep. The bathroom is large enough for a separate bath and rainshower (properly sealed so it doesn't leak water all over the floor), and has large bathsheets and Novotel-branded toiletries. I particularly like the good, old-fashioned light switches which make a change from hi-tech touch panels - I could get used to this unluxury lifestyle.
Every member of staff greets me with eye contact and a sincere smile. A waiter offers to open the voile curtains for me so I have a view with my coffee over breakfast and in both the bar cum Italian restaurant, Gabbiano, and upstairs in Horizon, the buffet restaurant, service is prompt and intuitive.
A mix of guests are making themselves comfortable in different areas: every seat at the bar in Gabbianos has been claimed by a hard drinking and smoking male western expat; there are a few families and couples dining in the Horizon restaurant as well as businessmen dining in ones and twos and, upstairs by the large outdoor pool, the shisha bar is quite busy with people enjoying the warm evening.
Forgettable. It's Mediterranean night in Horizon and, although there's a good selection of food on offer including salads, a selection of Indian dishes and Spanish themed cuisine such as paella, none of it is really tempting for Dh130 per head. The paella, for example, is made with basmati rice rather than fat grains of bomba rice. Desserts are more successful and I have two mini strawberry cheesecakes. The experience is not helped by an over-bright chandelier and low-backed chairs that discourage diners from reclining.
My 80-minute hot volcanic stone massage (Dh319 for guests) with Lyht, a former chiropractic nurse, who sets about soothing my body with an array of heated smooth stones covered in massage oil. Lyht uses a bewildering but effective variety of massage techniques including Balinese, Hawaiian and manual lymphatic drainage before cracking my spine, neck and shoulders. After each careful manipulation she asks, "Pain?", and when I thankfully reply in the negative, keeps going. The spa is clean, bright and serviceable with a sauna, steam room and hot tub. The hotel also has a large gym and several games rooms.
Dining should be a more satisfying, pleasureable experience.
A stress-free, value-for-money stay.
The bottom line
A double room costs from Dh304 per night, including breakfast, Wi-Fi and taxes. Novotel Abu Dhabi Gate, Road 34, Bain Al Jessrain (www.novotel.com; 02 508 9999).
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