Nick Leech checks into the world's tallest hotel that also offers new places for Dubai's culinary and clubs scene.
Hotel Insider: JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai
In a city that defines itself in superlatives, the twin-towered JW Marriott Marquis (JWMM) certainly has what it takes to stand out in a crowd. Only 26 metres shorter than the Empire State Building, the JWMM has already entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world's tallest hotel, boasting 804 guest rooms in a single tower. It also includes 10 restaurants, four bars and two lounges, a double pool deck, spa, fitness centre and well over 5,000 square metres of event space in its six-storey podium. As if all that wasn't enough, the hotel's second tower is expected to open in 2014, doubling its already enormous capacity.
Towering over the Sheikh Zayed Road, opposite Safa Park, the JWMM's twin towers stand like a pair of art deco-inspired lightning bolts, hurled into the unfinished mayhem of Dubai's Business Bay. Unfortunately, being able to see the towers is no guarantee that you will reach them anytime soon. Roads here still end unexpectedly, detours are epic and even local taxi drivers get lost.
For a hotel aimed firmly at the Mice market - that's meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions - the JWMM's rooms feel pleasingly luxurious. My feet sink into the thick carpet, a handy, portable touchscreen easily controls in-room services such as the lighting and air conditioning and, even in a standard room, the marble-lined bathroom is enormous, with an oversized tub and separate toilet and shower. The space is well balanced and organised and the view, along the Sheikh Zayed Road and out to Jumeirah, is memorable.
With a sixth sense for what his diners will enjoy and for matching dishes with drinks, Mesrob Yergatian, the maître d' at Prime 68 and Vault, is an ambassador for the hotel whose knowledge, charm and expertise continue to impress long after an outstanding meal. Check-in felt underwhelming, although this probably has more to do with the long trek to the reception desks buried at the back of the lobby than with any actual fault in the service.
Thanks to 600 delegates attending a conference, the hotel buzzes during my stay. Curiously, it boasts one of the latest additions to Dubai's club scene - the VIP Room - part of an international brand that already has outposts in Paris, Cannes, St Tropez and Monaco. When I dine at Prime 68, the international football manager and new Al Nasr technical advisor, Sven-Goran Eriksson, sits nearby.
Describing itself as a "boutique steakhouse", Prime 68 offers up-market surf 'n' turf in the form of sustainably caught seafood and small-batch produced USDA prime, Blackmore Australian Wagyu and Argentine Aberdeen Angus steaks. At Yergatian's suggestion, I pair an Argentine fillet (Dh225) with crab cakes (Dh80) and pan-seared scallops with cauliflower puree (Dh75). Weakly, I am unable to resist a desert of bread and butter pudding with bourbon hard sauce (Dh55). The food is outstanding and the atmosphere is relaxed. The breakfast served in Kitchen 6 also surpasses my expectations. Different international cuisines - Arabic, Chinese, Indian, European - are served from individual kitchen stations and I skip the croissants and opt for delicious South Indian idli and sambar.
The option of 12, freshly-made ice creams for breakfast including masala, basil and green olive flavours.
The hotel's main entrance, on Business Bay, is cramped, underwhelming and easily overlooked. Many of the interiors feel bare even for a business hotel and need an extra layer of detail to give the place a sense of warmth.
The bottom line
A double room costs from Dh1,020 per night, including taxes and breakfast. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay (www.marriott.com; 04 414 0000).
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