Men's Style (Australia) - - Contents -

Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai, where the lo­cals go in Barcelona, and Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula’s stun­ning Jack­a­lope

When it comes to money-is-no-ob­ject lux­ury and ex­cess, Dubai has been blaz­ing a trail all of its own for the past two decades, es­tab­lish­ing the he­do­nis­tic Mid­dle East­ern hot spot as the global hub of all things big, bold and bling.

Home to the world’s tallest build­ing, big­gest shop­ping mall, largest man-made island, hugest in­door theme park… Dubai’s trans­for­ma­tion from desert out­post to thriv­ing mod­ern me­trop­o­lis has been noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar.

At the same time, the city has gained an equally world-beat­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a play­ground for oil­rich bil­lion­aires and pop­u­lar work des­ti­na­tion for ex­pats, lured by the emi­rate’s zero in­come tax pol­icy – thou­sands of cashed-up Aus­tralians among them.

From plat­inum Bu­gat­tis and $5,000 gold-dusted cock­tails to in­door snow ski­ing re­sorts and trop­i­cal rain­forests (nei­ther of which can ex­ist out­side in temperatures of­ten top­ping 50°C in sum­mer), the UAE’S sprawl­ing show­piece is awash with os­ten­ta­tious op­u­lence on a grandiose scale that seems to know no bounds. If you’ve been to Dubai, you’ll surely agree it’s not an over­state­ment to say that pretty much ev­ery­thing about the place is, well, over­stated.

You would ex­pect, then, that a ho­tel dubbed “the world’s most lux­u­ri­ous” would not only be right at home in Dubai, but also of­fer a new level of di­a­mond-en­crusted lux­ury to its well-heeled clien­tele.

Sur­pris­ingly, when the pres­ti­gious gong was an­nounced at the World Lux­ury Ho­tel Awards, the win­ner, Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai, was recog­nised for its ap­peal in set­ting new stan­dards in ser­vice, un­der­stated splen­dour and el­e­gance, rather than out­ra­geous ex­trav­a­gance.

Lo­cated in the down­town Dubai area at the base of the afore­men­tioned world’s tallest sky­scraper, the 850m, 211-floor Burj Khal­ifa tower, it’s one of only two ho­tels launched to date by iconic Ital­ian de­signer, Gior­gio Ar­mani (the other is in Mi­lan, Italy). His epony­mous ho­tel is the re­al­i­sa­tion of Ar­mani’s long-held dream to bring his so­phis­ti­cated fash­ion style to life, em­bod­ied in an ex­cep­tional stay ex­pe­ri­ence de­fined by the high­est stan­dards of com­fort and ser­vice ex­cel­lence, rather than the glit­ter­ing ex­cesses of its host city.

It man­ages to create an un­der­stated style of lux­ury that’s also com­pletely tran­quil at the same time.

And he has cer­tainly achieved that. When you en­ter the ho­tel, the glitz of Dubai gives way to a re­strained, min­i­mal­ist de­sign, and an am­bi­ence that re­flects the el­e­gance, sim­plic­ity and re­laxed-yetlux­u­ri­ous vibe that de­fine Ar­mani’s style.

The 82-year-old Ital­ian de­signer with the Mi­das touch over­saw every de­tail of the de­sign process, from the Eramosa mar­ble and Ja­panese tatami wooden floors, to the ze­bra­wood wall pan­els and be­spoke fur­ni­ture. Even the books in the study within the ul­tra-pre­mium Dubai Suite were per­son­ally selected by the de­signer.

Every inch of the care­fully cu­rated re­treat is swathed in a neu­tral pal­ette, which com­bined with clean lines and muted light­ing, cre­ates a serene atmosphere and en­sures the mood re­mains un­pre­ten­tious and dis­tinctly Ar­mani.

In­deed, the Ar­mani brand is an in­her­ent part of the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence: just about every ob­ject in the ho­tel — toi­letries, pen­cils, even the tea and sugar sa­chets – carry the fa­mous Ar­mani mark.

But if you’re tempted to pack a mono­gramed bathrobe or towel in your suit­case as a me­mento of your stay, you might want to think twice. While Dubai at­tracts more than 15 mil­lion vis­i­tors each year, it’s def­i­nitely not the Ve­gas of the Mid­dle East as some ex­pect. Fun and ex­trav­a­gance aside, it’s a con­ser­va­tive Is­lamic town with cul­tural and re­li­gious sen­si­tiv­i­ties and strict laws against theft and of­fen­sive be­hav­iour – where any­thing from hug­ging and kiss­ing in public to swear­ing or mak­ing ag­gres­sive hand ges­tures can land you in se­ri­ous trou­ble. Giv­ing a lo­cal Emi­rati the bird, for ex­am­ple, is con­sid­ered an in­sult that could lead to jail time.

In the in­ter­ests of self­p­reser­va­tion it would be smarter to seek out the in-house Ar­mani Privé bou­tique for a more le­gally ac­quired keep­sake; or for more brand va­ri­ety there’s also pri­vate ac­cess from the ho­tel to, you guessed it, the world’s largest shop­ping cen­tre, the 1,200-store Dubai Mall lo­cated right next door.

Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai fea­tures 160 plush guest rooms and suites, each with ipads that con­trol large flat-screen tele­vi­sions, the light­ing, cur­tains and front door, and floorto-ceil­ing win­dows pro­vid­ing spec­tac­u­lar views of Dubai and the Arabian Desert. There are seven restau­rants of­fer­ing gourmet food rang­ing from Euro­pean to con­tem­po­rary Ja­panese and In­dian cuisines, with the ex­clu­sive Ital­ian Ar­mani/ris­torante run by cel­e­brated chef, Alessan­dro Sal­vatico. There’s also a deluxe spa, cus­tom-made Ar­mani choco­late shop, in-house florist and a con­tem­po­rary art gallery.

In an­nounc­ing the world’s most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel hon­our, voted for by the trav­el­ling public, award con­venor An­ton Perold said the key at­tribute that put the spot­light on Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai as a be­ing a cut above the rest, and which ul­ti­mately won the ho­tel the ac­co­lade, was its “team of highly ded­i­cated staff will­ing to go the ex­tra mile and stop at noth­ing to en­sure that no re­quest goes unan­swered”.

The ho­tel’s Gen­eral Man­ager, Mark Kirby, agrees, say­ing the per­son­alised, “warm, Ital­ian-style ser­vice” is what sets his ho­tel apart from the com­pe­ti­tion. “For in­stance, each guest is as­signed a Per­sonal Life­style Man­ager [oth­er­wise known as a but­ler], who han­dles ev­ery­thing from ar­rang­ing child­care to land­ing dif­fi­cult book­ings at the hottest restau­rants. The idea of it is to pro­vide guests with a home-awayfrom-home ex­pe­ri­ence.”

A reg­u­lar guest of the ho­tel, Mil­ton Pe­draza, CEO of lux­ury brand rat­ings and re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion the Lux­ury In­sti­tute, be­lieves Ar­mani’s great strength is his abil­ity to create an un­der­stated style of lux­ury that’s com­pletely tran­quil at the same time. “It’s a para­dox­i­cal con­cept few could pull off,” he says. “And when ex­e­cuted prop­erly, it makes guests feel pam­pered and peace­ful at the same time.”

“The staff at his ho­tels are very well-selected and well-trained. They make you feel wel­come in a way that seems more gen­uine and re­lat­able than other ho­tels. Fact is, peo­ple don’t want to be treated like roy­als any­more.”

Maybe, but whether you have blue blood or not there’s a cer­tain qual­ity about the Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai that makes a stay a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence for even the most sea­soned and dis­cern­ing trav­ellers.

Op­po­site: Part of the lobby at the Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai. Above, top: The view from one of the suites. Above, left: The pool at the Ar­mani Ho­tel Dubai Spa. Left: Ar­mani Clas­sic Room.

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