"Room number, please," said the guard manning the car park underneath the new Suitehotel and Ibis hotels, which are both part of the same new building. We did not have a room number - we had yet to check in - but he let us pass anyway. A lift in the basement car park took us to the lobby of the Suitehotel on the ground floor, which is spacious and smart, and - when we visited soon after opening - virtually empty. The staff were, however, quick to check us in and show us the snug library and business centre on the ground floor and the hotel's funky coffee shop.
The Suitehotel is part of a large new Accor block in Al Barsha First, next to Mall of the Emirates but set back from Sheikh Zayed Road. It's fast becoming a pleasant little residential and hotel district, with several smart new budget options, a few cafes and the Traffic gallery all on the same street. Opposite the Suitehotel is the Golden Tulip Suites. It's just two minutes from Mall of the Emirates, and Madinat Jumeirah and the Burj al Arab are within a 10-minute drive.
All 180 rooms are "suites" - there are 54 master suites, each covering 48 square metres, and 126 standard suites, each covering 33 square metres. Both offer more space than your average hotel room and the key benefit to the rooms is that they can be divided up into separate sleeping and living areas. The master suites have two dividing curtains, with a living room-cum-sofa bed area on one side, a dining or second living area in the centre, a proper double bed on the other side, two bathrooms and a separate toilet in the hallway. The standard suites have only one dividing curtain, which can be drawn to create two rooms.
Mine was a master suite, which would be ideal for a family with children, a long-term resident or, in my case, a friend who slept at the other end with the living area between us. The room was stylish but fairly spartan by Dubai standards, with an unfussy decor and the low ceilings creating a snug feel. The view outside, across the hotel's front courtyard, was pleasant and the double-glazed windows blocked all outside noise.
Most things in this hotel were fairly self explanatory, such as the free internet connection downstairs or the in-room wired service which cost US$6.80 (Dh25) per hour. And things generally worked, so we had little need to call on the hotel's staff. When I asked for a toothbrush, it arrived within 10 minutes and the service at breakfast was quick and pleasant. Dinner was another matter; here, staff seemed unsure of what they were serving and we had to remind our waiter that we had ordered a bottle of wine.
This hotel only opened in June so there was very little atmosphere in the restaurant the night we stayed. The bar was relaxed, with several guests winding down with their laptops and a nightcap. The following morning things were a bit busier, with several guests at breakfast and some Japanese tourists checking in. I can see the hotel and its downstairs deli and coffee shop doing well in future, with a mix of overnighters on shopping trips, families on budget holidays and long-stay corporate guests.
The hotel's main eatery is Amici, an Italian restaurant which is shared with the Ibis. It's surprisingly pleasant, given that one end of it leads into the Ibis reception area (the other links into the Suitehotel's deli). It's clean and bright, with sweeping lines and comfortable seating. We did, however, have some issues with the food - a result, no doubt, of teething problems. The beef carpaccio I ordered arrived frozen; I sent it back and it was replaced with a caprese salad which was just about OK (at $6.81; Dh25), perhaps buffalo mozzarella was out of the question). My main course, a grill containing hammour fillet, vegetables and mashed potatoes, was pretty good for $13.35 (Dh49); my friend's veal osso bucco, was large, nicely cooked and a good value at $17.70 (Dh65).
We ordered a plate of assorted Italian cheeses for dessert, and perhaps for $10.62 (Dh39) we were expecting a lot, but none was actually Italian - there was a piece of Emmental, Danish blue and Gouda The first two, our waiter claimed after asking the chef, were cheddar and Gorgonzola - on further questioning he conceded that the so-called Cheddar was Emmental but seemed flummoxed on the blue cheese. The breakfast was fast and to the point - I had an Arabic breakfast with a decent foul, fresh bread and unlimited cappuccino - another nice touch is that you can have it delivered to your room for no extra cost.
The downstairs deli and bar areas and the no-nonsense atmosphere; also the pool on the roof terrace is unexpectedly swanky and private. The rooms offer an awful lot for the money.
Partly because of a building site on one side, the pool area's loungers and tables were covered in dust when I visited. The frozen beef carpaccio and non-Italian selection of cheeses also disappointed.
A very good value, well-located and fun hotel.
Standard suites cost $122 (Dh449) including tax but excluding breakfast; master suites cost $152 (Dh559) including tax and excluding breakfast; breakfast costs from $12 (Dh45) per person. Suitehotel Mall of the Emirates, Street 2A, Dubai (www.accorhotels.com; 04 382 3200).