x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ritz-Carlton, Manama, Bahrain

Hotel Insider So tough is entry to the Ritz-Carlton school of excellence that it is virtually impossible to catch out one of their concierges.

The Club Lounge has spectacular views across the Gulf.
The Club Lounge has spectacular views across the Gulf.

You would think a hotel that had hosted the president of the United States two days before and was getting ready to welcome the prime minster of Malaysia the next week would have little time for mere mortal guests like me. Not the Ritz-Carlton in Bahrain. Even the general manager stopped in the lobby en route to a meeting to smile, shake hands and say welcome. Impressive.

Bahrain's capital, Manama, is undergoing significant construction. The Ritz-Carlton, at the western edge of the city limits, stands as a luxurious oasis, removed from the cranes and dust. The hotel occupies a small peninsula and a spit of land that curls around a lagoon and ends in a private island - just for guests. All this means lots of beach space and virtually no risk of bumping elbows with your fellow guests.

There's something about the Ritz-Carlton that just works. Everyone seems to know everything. This may seem a basic skill but very few hotels perfect it.

The building's staggered exterior has clearly called for ingenious interior designers but they have made it work. My room had two windows with uninterrupted views on a 45-degree angle to the room. Both had those fabulous electric blinds that I love and that can be controlled by switches from the bed. I also had a new experience - a Nespresso coffee machine. I'm almost allergic to caffeine but couldn't resist sampling all the offerings. If you are feeling particularly flash, rent out one of the fabulous Caribbean-style beachside villas on the spit of land leading to the island. Pricey but exclusive.

So tough is entry to the Ritz-Carlton school of excellence that it is virtually impossible to catch out one of their concierges. The man behind the Bahrain property's desk was no exception: efficient, polite and kind. He knew the names and locations of even the smallest art galleries in town and the latest exhibitions being shown.

Executives, families and Ritz-Carlton junkies. Oddly, the mix is not uncomfortable. The execs ensconce themselves in the excellent Club Lounge, pretending to work while eating canapés and drinking tea. The families can let their offspring wear themselves out on the beaches and in the pool and the lagoon. Those who know Ritz-Carlton hotels are always one step ahead - they rise early, breakfast in their rooms or villas, get the best pool loungers and are first down to supper for the prime tables.

The Club Lounge, a private eyrie with views over the Gulf and down the coast to the new and growing metropolis. And Nirvana, the hotel's excellent homage to North Indian cuisine. Sitting on cushions and listening to a sitar player in the centre of the room, I sank my teeth into jheenga til jinka (sesame-coated jumbo Gulf prawns), and Kashmiri rogan josh (lamb curry).

Two maintenance men who spent the better part of an hour carrying hammers and metal ladders and talking loudly in the hammam as I and my fellow guests were trying to steam, sauna and chill out. Not relaxing. Surely this can be done at 3am. Also, the hotel's shell is a legacy of postmodern concrete brutalism. The good news is that the interiors are chic and fabulous. And, after all, once you are checked-in you never have to look at the exterior.

One of the premier resort hotels in the Gulf region, guests here benefit not only from access to a historically interesting destination with a more modern artistic bent, but also from a hotel with endless panache and elegance, and a beach that is to die for.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Spa Manama, Bahrain Tel: +973 1758 0000 www.ritzcarlton.com info.bahrain@ritzcarlton.com Doubles from Dh1,400