Hotel Insider One of Abu Dhabi's newest hotels lacks the touch of polish it needs to really shine.
Noise issues dampen peaceful retreat at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan
The entrance to this new property is smart and inviting, and nicely tucked away behind Corniche Road West. After having our car unloaded and valet parked we catch a glimpse of the elegant lobby lounge (cavernous ceilings, ornate sofas, huge, crystal light fittings) before checking in. Several staff stand before us and say "welcome to the Khalidiya Palace", which I find excessive. We're checked in and escorted from reception, staring up at the impressive 21-storey atrium before being taken in the glass lift to our room. Our bags follow promptly.
The hotel is situated in a great location opposite Emirates Palace, but at the moment it's surrounded by roadworks and building sites, including the almost-finished Etihad Towers and the not-so-nearly-finished Presidential Palace and works on Coconut Island.
Staff are plentiful, well-mannered and appear mostly to be well trained. The room and poolside staff we find to be warm and extremely helpful, although a male staff member walks in on me in the bath while doing the turn-down service. We find the service in Horizon, the main, all-day dining restaurant, to be rather forced and impersonal at breakfast and dinner. The service in the Beach Restaurant felt warmer and more genuine. We're appalled at the service in the Lounge, which offers a selection of sandwiches and light meals during the day. The staff are inattentive and seem to have an attitude, which is borne out when we order a salmon and cream cheese bagel, which takes ages to arrive, and is then presented without any cream cheese. Our waitress can't see what the problem is, although the manager apologises and doesn't charge us for the food.
The hotel has 443 rooms. Ours was a twin room with a balcony, which was comfortable and businesslike, but it failed to match the opulence of the hotel's public areas and, more seriously, we were disturbed by a monotonous buzzing noise coming from the kitchenette area - that woke us several times during the night. I could also hear, ever-so-faintly, the constant sound of machines at a building site on the island opposite the hotel. After complaining, we were moved the following day to a two-bedroom suite on the top floor, which was perfectly peaceful and had a great view of the islands off the west coast of Abu Dhabi and of Emirates Palace. Again, though, the style of the rooms isn't opulent - the tiled floors and rather bland interiors may disappoint those expecting Emirates Palace-style rooms.
There's a positive and calm atmosphere in this hotel, which perhaps stems largely from the fact that it is alcohol-free. In the evening the lobby and atrium fill up with resident Arab visitors ordering tea, coffee and cakes; during the day, there's more of a businesslike atmosphere. At the poolside and beach, it's mostly European families on holiday. The beach is pleasant but somewhat marred by jet skis, although a swimming area is cordoned off.
There's a sporty atmosphere in the Bodylines health club where, after using the excellent steam room, I had a sublime one-hour aromatherapy massage with a Thai woman called Ta (Dh280 for hotel guests). Unfortunately, the treatment rooms suffered from noise pollution from the number of families with children passing by.
On our first evening we tried the dinner buffet at Horizon, which we weren't very impressed with. We found the Arabic starters (sambousek, kibbeh, hummus, mutabal and cheeses) good but the main courses were less appetising. The Asian food, particularly the Indian selection, was disappointing, and some of the food, such as the roast chicken, was dry and looked like it had been sitting around for too long. The juice selection, however, which is available throughout the hotel, was excellent.
The buffet breakfast in Horizon was fine, but nothing special - "there are no delights," said my friend, although she found the man who made the eggs "smiley and charming". Worst of all, she complained, "they can't make a cup of tea". The tea, which came in a metal jug, was sent back several times for being "stewed", and once she was brought coffee instead of tea (my cappucino was fine). The tea problem may have had something to do with the brand - while Twinings was on offer in the rooms, there was no choice but Dilmah in the restaurant. We much preferred the Beach Restaurant, the hotel's fine dining offering, which is situated away from the main building. We loved the grilled Angus tenderloin with truffle mash and black pepper sauce, which was superbly soft, juicy and tasty (Dh135), and the Indian grouper, which was gorgeously spiced and came on a bed of baby potatoes, spinach and lentil jus (Dh79). The sticky toffee pudding (Dh35) was our favourite dessert.
My massage at Bodylines, the beds, and the fresh juices on the beach.
Being woken repeatedly on the first night. The internet in the room also kept being cut off.
A good concept with most of the right features, but the delivery lacked a final level of polish.
The bottom line
Double rooms at the Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana (www.rotana.com; 02 657 0000) cost from Dh463 per night, including taxes, breakfast and internet access.