TWO NEW HOTELS OPEN ON THE PALM TODAY
Dubai is witnessing a hotel boom this year – and Palm Jumeirah seems to be where the action is at. There are two new hotels launching today on the man-made island and we’ve had tours of both. Here’s the low-down on the cool rooms, luxury services and spectacular views.
Starting today, London isn’t a six-hour flight away, but a mere drive to Dukes Dubai – the first international branch of the prestigious Dukes hotel in Mayfair, London. The brand’s Dubai counterpart has a lot of history and hype to live up to and comparisons will be drawn – the original Dukes was the home of a Duke (hence the name) and is now a listed heritage site. However, its biggest claim to fame is being author Ian Fleming’s favourite haunt and the place he came up with James Bond’s iconic ‘shaken not stirred’ beverage. The Dukes bar has been recreated in Dubai, too, and rooms here start from Dh750. So can Dukes Dubai emerge from the posh shadow of its London forebear?
Abdullah Bin Sulayem, CEO of Seven Tides, the UAE-based hospitality and real estate company that bought Dukes London in 2006, thinks it absolutely will. For starters Dukes Dubai is a whole lot bigger with a massive 506 room count – that’s 279 guestrooms and 227 fully furnished hotel apartments – plus 64 suites.
The lack of history is in some ways an asset, he points out. ‘Dukes in London is a Grade 1 listed building, which means that we are limited in what we can do to improve it or refurbish it. In London, the history and heritage are what draw people in; here in Dubai it’s the laid-back vibe and location.’
The beachy Miami vibe on the complex’s outdoor podium area is replaced by an air of quintessential Britishness the minute one walks through the door. The lobby has a subtle beige colour scheme offset by hunter green winged armchairs, an arresting Swarovski chandelier inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and a discreet reception area that feels right out of a Victorian gentleman’s club.
‘In this hotel, we ensured everything is associated with London in some way,’ explains Abdullah. ‘The hairdressers we’ve partnered with are Toni&Guy, in roomamenities are by Floris, [there’s] Andrew Martin furniture.’ The rooms are decorated in fabrics from Liberty London – if you’re envisioning Princess Margaret’s chambers from The Crown, you’re right to do so.
The china and dishware in the restaurant are designed by William Edwards China, emblazoned with the special Dukes emblem, as executive chef Martin Cahill shows us in the hotel’s signature restaurant the GBR – Great British Restaurant. Like its name suggests, the restaurant straight off the main lobby is a proper British eatery with dark wooden furniture and an airy seating arrangement, ‘inspired by London’s The Wolseley’, Martin says. On the menu are wholesome classic British dishes without, ‘elaborate fusion or
experiments’, adds Martin who developed GBR’s menu by asking British dads in the UAE what they missed from the homeland. ‘And so you’ll have traditional roasts, jam roly-poly, walnut whips, shepherd’s pie, homemade breads. Some of our ingredients are from Britain – the smoked salmon makes its way from Scotland and our cheeses are supplied by heritage brand Paxton & Whitfield Cheese.’
While the GBR is Dukes Dubai’s pet F&B project, there are five other restaurants that will start operating in the next eight weeks – Tea Lounge, a Cigar Lounge and a Japanese restaurant that will be confirmed at the end of this year. Acclaimed Mumbai export Khyber will open its first international branch soon and while the North-Western Frontier-inspired restaurant’s Afghan and Mughlai cuisine is worth looking forward to, we’re equally excited about the view; the restaurant overlooks the main pool, an indoor pool on the 15th floor with sparkling lights built into the floor to resemble the twinkling starry skies that will be visible from the windows surrounding the pool.
A star-studded pool is just the tip of the iceberg of innovative features. Top of them is the women-only floor – the Duchess Floor – where 20 rooms are reserved for women travelling alone or with kids. ‘In London we’ve had ladies’ rooms, for quite a long time. Here because we have a lot of rooms to spare we decided to dedicate an entire whole floor to women. It is a new idea not tested before and we’ll try and see, if it works, it works!’
VICEROY PALM JUMEIRAH
Over at Palm Jumeirah’s Golden Mile a stretch of massive developments have been taking shape and the one that grabs attention is the completed Viceroy Hotel, which is also set to launch today.
This second Viceroy hotel (the first one is the Yas Viceroy hotel in Abu Dhabi) is as different from Dukes as chalk is from cheese. Where Dukes holds dear traditional British hospitality, the Viceroy exudes the glitz and glamour of LA and Miami with architect Yabu Pushelberg’s white-washed, glass-fronted, airy buildings. Like Dukes, the Viceroy also includes residence wings on either side, with the hotel structured like an H situated in the middle – but privacy is not on the cards and this has been purposely done. The hotel’s 477 guest rooms have been designed with a unique theatrical concept in mind – to see and be seen – something Viceroy considers is its DNA. DNA is a theme that keeps popping up at odd and interesting sections of the hotel during our tour – from the giant wooden double helix sculptures in the lobby (selfie opportunities galore), to wallpaper in suites and wooden screens in the ballroom. There’s no hiding if you’re staying at the Viceroy. Once you walk through the lobby a giant, central courtyard opens up with a 60m statement sculpture and restaurants (10 in total) on either side (BLVD on One all-day dining, Italian restaurant Quattro Passi and The Delisserie, a patisserie). Diners can see those swimming in the pool and vice-versa.
Just as fabulous as its features on the ground are, the innovation keeps building as you move up the hotel’s elevator. The 14th-floor suspended Vista ballroom is point of pride for the hotel – located on the central bridge that connects the two towers, the 600 sq m space has slanted wall-to-wall windows that offer unparalleled views of the Dubai Marina and Downtown. What we were intrigued by the most were the meeting spaces off the ballroom on the same floor called Elevate. Channelling the hotel’s glamorous young ambience, a corridor there doubles up as a catwalk for fashion shows, photoshoots and stylish soirées. Guests also have the hotel’s nightclub to look forward to. Inspired by the underground clubs of Beirut, details of who’d be operating the club were still under wraps during our tour.
The H-shaped Dukes Dubai has an enviable location on Palm Jumeirah’s west trunk, in the centre of the beachfront Oceana resort complex
Guests of the Viceroy on the Palm are greeted in the lobby by a 60-metre wooden DNA sculpture; right, rooms start at Dh1,200
Hip globetrotters aside, the hotel aims to draw in families with The Spa with its all-white standalone treatment ‘cubes’ and Generation V kids’ club