The exclusive Monte Carlo Beach Club opens on Saadiyat Island.
A riviera on our doorstep: the exclusive Monte Carlo Beach Club
The UAE has been doing a fine job of importing features from the French world.
As well as the forthcoming arrival of the Louvre museum, the country's francophilia includes Parisian coffee shops, restaurants specialising in French cuisine, chocolatiers, language schools, concerts and a French military base.
The latest addition is the ultra-ritzy Monte Carlo Beach Club. Situated in a sleepy corner of Saadiyat Island, the premium venue is one of the country's finest pieces of real estate: a 9km stretch of natural beach also shared by endangered turtles and the odd dolphin.
But unless you have flippers or a shell on your back, the only way you can enjoy the establishment's facilities - save for the food and beverage outlets, of course - is with a membership ranging from Dh600 for a day pass, Dh4,500 for a month and Dh35,000 for an annual membership. That one is equivalent to seven return airfares to France.
But like the original club, which has been running strong on Monaco's French Riviera for 90 years, the Abu Dhabi edition - the brand's first foray overseas - retains the club's philosophy of providing luxury and exclusivity to the rich and powerful. Indeed, the company operating the original Monte Carlo Club flew in some of the senior management to Abu Dhabi to ensure the only thing tarnishing the brand would be the sand carried by the ocean breeze.
As you enter, smiling staff offer refreshing cold towels. On the left is the Library Lounge, a small lobby bar with plush couches serving all manner of delectables, including in-house baked croissants, yogurts, fresh fruit and rich coffee.
It is here the architectural and design motifs employed by the Dubai firm LW Design Group appear: a wooden bar, sandy-coloured vases and a creamy marble floor. Even the staff wear light brown uniforms.
Outside is a picturesque 650sq m pool that seemingly disappears into the crystal-blue beach beyond. Still being built are three bungalows, which will be operational early next year and available for Dh500 daily on top of the membership fee, and a stone's throw from the beach or pool.
The real star of the show, however, is the pristine beach. A favourite spot for turtle hatching, it is here that the club's environmental focus comes into play. Working with the government developer TDIC, the club intends to lessen the noise and dim the lights during the turtle hatching season, ensuring these Monte Carlo visitors are provided the same exclusivity and comfort afforded to the club's human members.
The public also has a chance to get involved in the fun with the outdoor Sea Lounge, serving light snacks by day and hosting a DJ by night, spinning chilled-out house tunes. The venue also boasts an impressive lawn, an attractive feature for event organisers.
Then there's the Bubbles Bar, with its large bi-folding doors opening on to the landscaped pool deck. The eclectic array of mocktails on offer could prove to have the most pulling power: Le Flammand Rose (passion fruit, watermelon, cream, soda) and Turtle's Paradise (lemon juice, orange juice, honey and ginger), to name but two.
For a relaxed meal, Le Deck beckons, specialising in cuisine from the French and Italian rivieras. On the way out, past the club's spacious gym, spa and locker-rooms, sits the only ATM on the premises.
I joke to the general manager Patrick Nayrolles that he may need to install a few more for members to stump up the entry fees.
The charming Frenchman does not miss a beat, coolly replying that it may be more money, "not more ATMs", that customers will need.