Once we'd found the right turning (the map on the hotel's website wasn't working so I had to call for directions), we parked the car ourselves, then lugged our bags up a ramp to the entrance (with bags, it's better to valet park). Once inside, the welcome was pleasant but restrained, in contrast to the enormous marble lobby, which comprises several open seating areas, a bar and small cafe, and reading areas stocked with books on Middle Eastern travel and culture. We were quickly checked in and taken to our room on the eighth floor, where it was nice to be welcomed by staff at the reception of the executive club, who told us we were just in time for afternoon tea. With a big pot of Earl Grey, smoked salmon sandwiches and views out to sea, we felt immediately at home.
The Westin, the first in the UAE, opened last year, filling the last piece of prime real estate on Jumeirah Beach, between the Le Méridien Mina Seyahi and the larger One&Only Royal Mirage. The Palm Jumeirah is just across the water in front; at the back is Al Sufouh Road; Dubai Media City and Dubai Marina are also very close.
The Westin brand is part of the Starwood hotel group, which, with almost 1,000 hotels worldwide, offers a reassuring standard of service and homeliness. The service inside the main hulk of the hotel was warm and efficient, but less so outside - as with so many hotels these days, you have to get your own beach towels and we had to ask the rushed breakfast staff several times for tea and coffee. The drinks service in Blue Orange, the main buffet restaurant, seemed fast in the evening but slower in the morning. In Bussola, the hotel's Italian beachfront restaurant, the service was halting, and our drinks didn't arrive until after the food. In the executive club, there were no such delays.
The hotel has a total of 294 rooms - a mix of "deluxe" and "executive" rooms and 26 suites. Most rooms have sea views and balconies or private terraces. Our room is a corner suite complete with long terrace with views out to sea. Inside it's spacious and comfortable but unspectacular - in all, it's a comfy sort of hotel. The room is decorated in pastels, with oversized mirrors and upholstered headboards, thick curtains and no-nonsense sofas. It has the utility of a business hotel but the sense of privacy of a resort. The best part was the bed - the combination of Westin's signature "pillowtop" mattress and combed-cotton duvet cover was sublime. Our only complaint was with the outside space - it was dusty due to building sites nearby and contained only one small set of chairs with a small table - and the seat cushions, we discovered the day we left, were in the wardrobe.
There are 10 bars and restaurants to choose from. Blue Orange is large, light and modern, and offers high quality rounds of breakfast, lunch and dinner, with five cooking stations offering food from all over the world. Here the breakfast (US$34; Dh125), which offers tailor-made juices and smoothies, was my favourite; dinner ($53; Dh195) seemed more variable, with good sushi and Arabic options and salads but slightly disappointing Indian and Asian offerings. Dinner at Bussola, two salads ($19; Dh68 and $17; Dh 62) followed by veal shank ($35; Dh130) and braised pork ($36; Dh132), was average, but perhaps we should have stuck to pasta. Pizza is only served in the (also alfresco) lounge upstairs.
A mix of well-heeled holidaymakers from all over the world, including a large number of Russians, and (especially in the bars and restaurants) expatriates enjoying lunch or a night out. Bussola was very pleasant; the atmosphere in Oeno varied from (on the first night) raucous due to a ladies' night going on to (on the second night) quiet. There's a very impressive wine list and a separate cheese room next to the bar.
The 1,200m-long beach, gardens and the holiday atmosphere which predominates, the cheese room on the ground floor and the executive club, which for an extra charge offers round-the-clock drinks and snacks in a snug and out-of-the-way bar and restaurant, complete with old-style sofas, newspapers and a telescope for viewing out to sea.
Having to trek all the way back to the hotel swimming pool for a towel just as we'd found sunloungers. Breakfast was swiftly cleared away at 10.30am sharp, meaning a last-minute dash for food on the first morning. We weren't too keen on the ladies' night on the first night as it (and the large number of men it seemed to attract) created noise which carried through the lobby and up into the corridors above. We could even hear noise from inside our room, but luckily it didn't go on too late.
A luxurious and welcoming hotel that's big enough to make you feel like you're on holiday but small enough to feel exclusive: a great place to escape to for a couple of days.
A double room costs from $506 (Dh1,860) including taxes.
The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai (www.starwoodhotels.com; 04 399 4141). firstname.lastname@example.org