I’m met on arrival at Muscat International Airport by a driver holding a sign for The Chedi. He leads me through the crowded arrivals area and car park to a waiting Mercedes S-Class, where cold towels and Voss mineral water are waiting. Within 15 minutes, we’re at the hotel entrance, which at night is beautifully lit and suffused in the smell of frankincense and bukhoor. The hotel’s draped lobby is dimly lit and relaxing. Check-in takes place away from the reception desk, so that I can sit down. I’m then taken in a buggy to my room, with my bag.
The hotel is on a strip of suburban coast between Muscat airport and Qurm, close to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and about 15 kilometres from Mutrah Corniche. The six-hectare site is Zen-like – a beautifully built and landscaped 158-room complex of fountains, pools and restaurants, all delightfully minimalist.
My room is a ground-floor Chedi club suite, which is 68 square metres, and features a private terrace looking onto reflecting pools, and a separate majlis-style sitting room. There’s a wooden floor, low bed and an overwhelming sense of peace and quiet. The only problems are that it smells strongly of room scent or insect repellent on the first night, the toilet smells like there’s a drainage problem and there’s no pillow menu. Because it’s a suite, I’m also able to use the club lounge, which has a stylish, library-style look and a great books selection.
Warm, knowledgeable, discreet.
Guests are mostly Europeans, especially British and German; others are from Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Asia and Russia (including an oligarch while I’m there). Most are well-heeled and middle-aged, and fit the hotel surroundings – well-dressed, trim, wealthy, relaxed. The Chedi’s architect and designer, the prolific Jean-Michel Gathy, sees his many hotels as “lifestyle product design” rather than just buildings. This translates into the feeling of being able to do what you want, privacy and space. The hotel’s restaurants are also regularly used by Muscat residents – Omanis and expats.
Uniformly excellent, although the buffet breakfast isn’t as good as everything else. The main restaurant is called The Restaurant; its great Friday brunch is a relative bargain at 29 Omani rials (Dh277) including taxes. From the menu, I love the locally farmed Fine de Claire oysters (9 rials [Dh86] for three) and the lobster masala (31 rials [Dh296]). At the smart Beach Restaurant, standout dishes are the Swiss cheese and black truffle soufflé (13 rials [Dh124]) and the fresh, local, line-caught fish of the day, filleted and grilled (18.50 rials [Dh176.50]). At the Long Pool restaurant, the seared salmon sashimi with yuzu miso (10 rials [Dh95]), Wagyu teriyaki (12 rials [Dh114]) and miso black cod (11.50 rials [Dh110]) are all sensational.
The whole hotel. The hour-long ancient Balinese massage (56 rials [Dh535]) in the spa is a good combination of decadence and therapy.
The room glitches. Also, the Wi-Fi signal in the hotel car isn’t very strong.
A soulful hotel that’s a worthwhile destination in itself.
The bottom line
Until September 30, rooms at The Chedi (www.ghmhotels.com) cost from 116 rials (Dh1,107) per night, including taxes and breakfast. On bookings of two or more nights, guests receive a three-course dinner for two. There are also discounts of 30 per cent at the spa and 20 per cent on additional food and soft drinks.