When I first visited The Joule in 2010, it was an art installation in the lobby that stuck with me. A giant floor-to-ceiling cog wheel, being turned by another on the ceiling itself. Then, that was almost apologetically hidden at the back of reception. Now, after a US$78 million (Dh286m) refurbishment, it’s the centrepiece of something more ambitious. Other statement artworks are sprinkled around. A big, largely inexplicable yellow shell-like thing sits in the middle of the floor and the walkway to the spa is lined with gold-speckled mosaics. It feels simultaneously sophisticated, creative and impressive.
The Joule’s in the heart of Downtown Dallas, although that’s a fairly weak heart that could do with some bypass surgery – Dallas is a sprawly, driver’s city with multiple mini-pulses rather than a genuine core. But most of the city’s key attractions are within walking distance and flagship department store Nieman Marcus is next door.
Bedside reading lights that pop out when you push the ends, free-standing glass basins and magnifying deskside mirrors are among many things designed to induce purring. Lighting panels on the walls control different moods in various parts of the room, beds have sink-in cocooning comfort. Nothing feels scrimped on – it’s an individualistic, highly accomplished interpretation of luxury.
The refurbishment has seen The Joule turn from the coolest hotel in Dallas into a more encompassing social space. Extended to stretch a full block, there’s a gift boutique, a coffee shop that’s quickly gained a reputation for hyper-freshness and a sit-down alcove surrounded by books picked out to be talking points. The result is buzzy and transformative for the immediate area. It seems determined to show business travellers a concept and vibe that’s a step sideways.
It’s the sort of place where little snacks keep arriving in your room at regular intervals and switched-on staff have leeway to chuck bonus treats in your direction. My room wasn’t ready when I tried to check in at 2.30pm – I didn’t expect it to be – but the receptionist apologised anyway and gave me a free breakfast voucher for the “inconvenience”.
A new fine dining restaurant is due to be the last part of the refurbishment early this year. For now, it’s just CBD Provisions that’s open. It feels more of a business-lunch joint for people who want to cool and relaxed rather than opt for power dining. The food is sourced from local farmers and ranchers where possible, and dishes such as the $24 (Dh89) pan-roasted quail with rice and roasted peaches offer eye-opening taste combinations at reasonable prices.
The 10th floor pool isn’t huge, but the three-metre cantilevered glass overhang adds an awe-factor. – you feel like you’re swimming in the sky, overlooking the street way below. Also, top marks for minibar trays full of local snack products.
In a city where space is plentiful and a car is essential, charging $27 (Dh100) for parking seems excessive, even if done by valet.
The multimillion dollar makeover has taken The Joule to an extra level. It oozes class, while having a considered yet distinctive personality and vision. It’s somewhere that wants to not just be a part of Dallas’s future, but to play a key part in shaping it.
The bottom line
Deluxe rooms from $293 (Dh1,077) a night. 1530 Main Street, Dallas, Texas (www.thejouledallas.com, 001 214 748 1300).