There may be nothing subtle about Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, but an outstanding spa, personable staff and unbeatable views live up to the hype.
Hotel Insider: Luxury and bling at the west end of the Corniche
Men in dark suits wave you up the driveway and towards the darkened hotel entrance beneath the podium that supports Etihad Towers. Once inside, guests are almost blinded by a combination of desert sunlight streaming into the lobby through the glass wall behind the check-in desks, and the bling provided by the enormous crystal chandeliers.
There's nothing subtle about Dubai-based hotel group Jumeirah's first foray into the capital: from the setting in one of five massive towers at the west end of the Corniche, opposite the Emirates Palace; to the finer details such as the agate- and amethyst-lined lifts that whizz guests at ear-popping speed from the foyer to the guest floors. This 382-room hotel with an executive lounge, Talise Spa, mini shopping mall and small private beach has already caused a stir in a city not unused to five-star openings.
Serenity ends at the bottom of the driveway with a mess of traffic cones and plastic barriers, the result of a road improvement scheme around the Emirates Palace, which is also home to a number of destination restaurants including the popular Hakkasan, and neighbouring construction projects. Marina Mall is only a short five-minute drive away as well as the rest of the Corniche beachfront with its wide, sandy public beaches, parks and boardwalks.
I stayed in a 50-sq-m deluxe room with a king-sized bed on the 42nd floor, and used the option of an adjoining, smaller tower room with twin beds suitable for families. The velvet bedspread, mirrored panelling, and sizeable bathroom with twin basins, deep bathtub, rainfall shower and contrasting marble feels suitably luxurious, if not standout. The star in every room is the view out towards the sea or over the city ... until you turn down the sheets and sink into bed. The cocooning effect of the Sealy mattress with topper, with a second, separate feather topper is ludicrous. Almost worth the stay alone.
Elegant Emiratis with to-die-for accessories can be found having a consultation on the comfy chairs outside the beautiful Talise Spa, while the menfolk gather in the lobby. Upstairs in Ray's Bar on the 62nd floor, there is a much flashier crowd sprawled on the window loungers or perched at the bar enjoying drinks, tapas and upbeat lounge music; while on the top floor the Asian restaurant Quest plays host to smartly dressed groups of all ages and backgrounds. The hotel is pitched at business travellers and tourists on a stopover but it clearly enjoys a strong following among residents, too.
All smiles and occasionally slightly cloying but the waiting staff we chatted with in Ray's Bar and Quest were genuine and interesting company.
There's a Lebanese restaurant, Li Beirut, offering up classic dishes with a twist; Nahaam, a poolside restaurant for pizza, smoothies and the like; and an all-day dining venue, Rosewater, where an above-average buffet breakfast is served in rather plush surroundings.
Top billing goes to Quest, however, which serves up an ambitious Asian fusion menu from its open-style kitchen. We were treated to the chef's tasting menu (Dh650 per head) which included Yam Pak, an astonishingly fresh-tasting salad served in a plastic flower pot. The service is excellent; the chef and sommelier both stopped at our table to chat and each dish is served with a breezy explanation of what it involves so diners can enjoy the taste, rather than wondering which fork to use. Diners are treated to window seats in the main, and it's a tribute to the food that the view from up on the 63rd floor does not outshine what's on the plate.
There is much to love at this new Jumeirah but the spa experience stands out, thanks to the well designed, dimly lit spa suites and my expert masseuse who made sure to keep asking whether the pressure she applied during the hour-long signature treatment (Dh450), which focuses on pressure points and stretching, was comfortably firm.
When I returned to the room to pack and check out, I was met with three workmen trying to fix a lighting problem that a previous guest had reported. Given that my belongings were strewn all over the room, I felt like my privacy had been invaded. Staff were apologetic and left as quickly as possible, explaining that their visit had been in error.
Etihad Towers dominates the skyline, thanks in part to its imposing shape but also because of the sense of excitement and unrestrained opulence the hotel has brought to the capital.
The bottom line
A double room costs from Dh1,095 per night, including taxes. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche, Abu Dhabi (www.jumeirah.com; 02 811 5888).