x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

One&Only The Palm, Dubai: relaxed intimacy in a glamorous setting

Hotel Insider A sumptuous setting is slightly marred by some disturbing phone calls in the middle of the night.

The Villa Pool of One&Only The Palm in Dubai.
The Villa Pool of One&Only The Palm in Dubai.

The welcome

The entrance to the hotel has all the company's classic hallmarks: style, exclusivity and a dash of opulence. The cars parked outside the entrance are expensively understated, the driveway and entrance foyer beautifully elegant. Inside, I loved the arched ceilings, marble floors and fountains. A large number of shopping bags belonging to myself and a friend were offloaded and made it to our rooms in reasonable time, and check-in was done in a relaxing manner, sitting on a sofa.

The neighbourhood

To get to the hotel, you drive all the way up the trunk and right to the end of The Palm's west crescent, past the behemoth still-under-construction Kingdom of Sheba, Taj Exotica and Kempinski hotels. A vacant site separates One&Only The Palm from the newly opened and very different Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. From that end of the crescent, it's a fantastic view across the water to Dubai Marina and JBR.

The scene

The property itself is heavenly - "airy, floaty and light" were my friend's immediate comments. The area between the main building and the beach is well-laid out and stylishly done, with palm trees and daybeds surrounding a pool worthy of a film set. At night, it's brilliantly lit. Inside, the restaurants and other common areas are beautifully designed, with fabulous lamps, furniture and fabrics. The One&Only crowd is immediately apparent: the other guests are smarter and look more refined than those you'll find in most Dubai hotels, but the overall air is of relaxed intimacy. Those staying are mostly western couples, either on holiday or honeymoon, in their 30s and 40s. In the evenings the terrace fills up with Emiratis and other Arabs out for the evening. Perhaps thanks to the helpful welcome letter, which states that "for dinner, the dress code is smart-casual and full-length trousers for men. Plastic slippers, flip flops and rubber sandals are undesired", this isn't the sort of place you'll see platform heels, mini-skirts and football shirts - or big hair, screaming children and bling-bling jewellery.

The service

Swift, accurate and generally efficient. I was impressed that housekeeping had found and kept a pair of shorts I'd left at the hotel three months previously. Yet apart from our room staff, who were lovely, and the man who cleans your sunglasses by the poolside, we seemed to have few genuine interactions. I found some of the higher-ranking restaurant staff a little patronising; at breakfast, for example, it was often cloyingly inferred that I might like a particular smoothie or fruit juice - when I would rather have simply been given the menu.

The room

The hotel has 90 rooms and four villas, although many of the "rooms" are in what look like villas. I had a very spacious downstairs room in one of the "Palm Beach Mansions". It came with a large entrance hall, sitting area, stunning bathroom and outdoor terrace with a private swimming pool. The view from here to the beach made you question where you were: squint and it could be Mauritius. What's not to like? The air conditioning seemed to have been fitted or programmed to European rather than UAE standards of coolness. I like the room to be cold, but I couldn't get it down to less than 21.5 degrees - which for me is too hot. The bed was sublime, but unfortunately I was jolted awake by three mistaken internal calls to my room at around 3.30am, which left me exhausted the next day.

The food

The hotel has three restaurants: Stay, by the Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alenno; Zest, the resort's main restaurant; and 101, a cool Mediterranean restaurant in a building built over water at the resort's own marina. In Stay, we delighted in a six-course "Epicurean" menu of sea bass tartar, fregolasarda pasta, Dublin Bay prawn ravioli, black-peppered beef fillet, a selection of cheese and, finally, a whole metre of desserts from the "pastry library". Each course was paired with drinks by the head sommelier, Azedine Dhaheri. My friend complained that she wasn't allowed to choose her own desserts, but I was happy to go with the flow. Six courses costs from Dh495 per person without drinks. In Zest, starters, fish and meat are each grouped under "Asian", "Middle Eastern" and "Western" headings; there is also a vegetarian selection. We loved the salmon sashimi (Dh60), steamed sea bass in lemongrass sauce (Dh190) and the grilled tuna with vegetables (Dh155). My friend said the cheesecake (Dh45) was the best she'd ever had. We loved the setting at 101 but were less impressed by the food there: my charcoal-grilled duck breast (Dh120) was large but rather dry; my friend's tandoori tiger prawns (Dh165) were delicious.

Loved

The design and ambiance and the Andalucian-style spa; also the Bastien Gonzalez Mani:Pedi:Cure studio where I had one of his peerless pedicures (Dh450 for 60 minutes). The calm emptiness and peacefulness of the beach area and the clean, jet ski-free water for swimming. The air-conditioned poolside cabanas, complete with bathrooms, televisions and a fridge full of cold drinks, gives a luxury upgrade to a day by the pool. The free speedboat transfers which operate to and from the One&Only Royal Mirage also add a touch of glamour.

Hated

The disturbing internal phone calls to my room and less-than-responsive air conditioner. "Light" use of the wireless internet is free, but users must re-register every 24 hours, which is one more thing to have to fiddle with.

The verdict

A place to go for quiet rest and relaxation, peace and pampering - that's as long as you don't get those random phone calls.

The bottom line

Until September 30, a manor house premiere room costs from Dh1,740, including taxes. Two children under 12 can stay for free when sharing the parents's accommodation. One&Only The Palm, Dubai (thepalm.oneandonlyresorts.com; 04 440 10 10).

rbehan@thenational.ae