Hotel Insider: Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa
I’ve booked a transfer for the 30-minute drive to the hotel, and my driver is waiting with my name on a sign as I enter the arrivals hall. The BMW’s air-conditioned comfort is a welcome shelter from the searing heat outside, though there’s a fair amount of traffic because it’s a Thursday night. The exterior of the hotel is quite grand and fortress-like, rising to seven storeys, but the large arabesque lobby is well lit and offers a good, homely start.
The hotel is on the central west coast of Bahrain, with the village of Zallaq on one side and some royal palaces on the other. It’s close to the Formula One circuit, Bahrain University, the Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park and Al Areen Wildlife Park, but nothing is within walking distance and public transport is extremely limited.
My room is one of 262 and on the fifth floor. All rooms are 43 square metres and face the sea. It’s well designed, with a luggage area and wardrobe in the hallway, a tea-and-coffee-making area, a desk and a lounger by the window. The bathroom is also generously proportioned, and bathside shutters open to the bedroom.
I stay on a weekend, the busiest time, with lots of Bahraini and Saudi families visiting with young children. Those looking for a quiet weekend getaway may not find it, as all the restaurants seem to feature at least one crying child, even late at night. Weekdays are better.
The hotel is staffed by an army of uniformed foot soldiers, meaning that help is never far away. Service in restaurants is attentive, even on a busy weekend when there are about 1,000 people at the property.
Breakfast at the main restaurant, Saraya, is a full buffet affair. There’s a nice basket of fresh bread and pastries on the table and a great selection of fresh juices. The made-to-order saj is also good, as is the coffee. At Friday brunch, which spans the main restaurant plus the Italian and Asian restaurants, I really like the Moroccan station and the pho and fresh fish counters. In Wok, the Asian restaurant, the pomelo salad (5 Bahraini dinars [Dh49]) is an appetising mountain of juicy fruit, tangy sauce and prawns. At the seafood restaurant, La Mer, which has a lovely sea view, I try the crab bisque, which also contains calamari, prawns and red mullet, and it’s delicious (4 dinars [Dh39]). For a main, the sea bass, locally farmed between Bahrain and Qatar, is firm and tasty, and served with couscous and tomato jam (12 dinars [Dh117]).
The Thalassa Sea and Spa is the only thalassotherapy centre in the region, and offers a variety of relaxing, medically substantiated treatments at affordable prices – a reason to visit in itself.
I returned to my room at 3pm to find it being cleaned. Smoking in the Arabic restaurant was off-putting. And the open Wi-Fi network struggled under the weight of numbers.
Thanks to the professionalism of the staff, the quality of the food and the variety of restaurants and facilities on offer, this resort is successful as a self-contained retreat.
The bottom line
Double rooms at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (www.sofitel.com; 00973 17 636 363) cost from US$250 (Dh918) per night, including taxes and breakfast.
Updated: May 28, 2015 04:00 AM