TWO NEW HO­TELS OPEN ON THE PALM TO­DAY

Friday - - Travel News -

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.

DUKES DUBAI

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

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