Hotel insider: Palazzo Versace Dubai
The hotel is situated “in the heart of the Culture Village – the next centre of Dubai”. On arrival, it’s clear this is a euphemism for a construction wasteland off Al Khail Road on the Dubai Creek. Arriving in the middle of the night after driving in endless loops down empty one-way roads, because Google Maps is confused, I finally spot the long-awaited new hotel’s glowing, neoclassical facade. As I pull into the circular drive, a cat runs across my path, and the grounds are so empty, I worry it’s not yet open. My fears are quickly dispelled by the chipper doormen, who guide me into the ornate lobby overlooking the Creek, and a gracious night manager, who shows me up to the lush surrounds of my room.
Up-and-coming, to be kind: the hotel, only the second Versace property outside of Australia’s Gold Coast, is the centrepiece of a bigger community yet to be realised, now connected by Al Jadaf Metro station. Festival City is a short drive over Business Bay Bridge, and Dubai Mall is 15 minutes away, if you don’t get lost on the way.
My third-floor deluxe room is one of the most exquisitely crafted in Dubai; I’m almost able to forgive the drab view of construction trailers that makes the balcony largely pointless (opt for the more scenic Creek view over the “Cultural Village”). Instead, I focus on the mosaic parquet floors and sponge-thick carpet underneath my princess bed, covered in turquoise silk from the Versace Home Collection (the Greek-key pattern and Medusa head in its logo is imprinted on everything from the frosted-glass shower door to the bottom of the drinking glasses, but in an artful enough way that it’s not cloying). The marble bathroom is fit for an empress, with mosaic tiles underfoot and decorating the alcove over the soaker tub. There’s a marble-topped espresso bar behind cabinet doors in the carved-wood-panelled walls, and the controls for the lights and curtains are user-friendly. The only thing missing is a music system; while the television seems to have one, a technician can’t find a way to make it work.
For a soft opening, the staff are amazingly on the mark, quick on their feet to offer assistance and solve problems.
While the hotel itself doesn’t seem busy, there’s a healthy mix of Emiratis and expats in the restaurants; stars such as Eva Longoria and Terrence Howard visited during last month’s Dubai International Film Festival.
Vanitas, the Italian seafood restaurant, is worth a trip alone for its perfectly cooked risotto (from Dh80) and fresh pasta served on brilliant blue-and-gold Versace plates by charming Italian waiters in a palazzo-style dining room. Next door, Giardino, decorated with mosaic vines on its floor and pillars, serves an international brunch with cooking stations. It’s noteworthy for its freshness, particularly the cheese selection and pastries.
The quality touches, such as real orchids in the rooms, a brightly lit vanity area with an elaborate silver mirror and gold-embossed stationery with Versace pens.
The location, which at present jars with the luxury image.
A place for design and Versace aficionados happy to remain cloistered in the hotel or jet-setters looking for a five-star fashion hotel near the airport.
The bottom line
Rooms at the Palazzo Versace Dubai (www.palazzoversace.ae; 04 556 8888) cost from Dh1,460, including taxes.
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Updated: January 7, 2016 04:00 AM