Sunshine, beaches and fish and chips
KATHERINE BAINBRIDGE heads to Dukes Dubai, a hotel bringing refinement to the capital of consumption
WHERE in the world can you get guaranteed sunshine, beautiful sandy beaches, and authentic fish and chips?
The answer is Dukes Dubai, the sister establishment to Dukes Hotel in London, which aims to bring a bit of British refinement to one of the world’s ritziest cities.
Situated on the famous Palm Jumeirah, the hotel is small by Dubai standards with 279 rooms and 227 serviced apartments, giving it a relaxing, calm and almost homely feel.
Forget covering everything in gold leaf – at Dukes you can expect dark wood, leather sofas, and furnishings by Liberty Fabrics that give the comfortable bedrooms a pop of colour.
Mind you, the lobby does feature a huge, and I mean huge, Swavorski crystal chandelier that it apparently took six men three days to hang. Just so you don’t completely forget where you are.
Among the hotel’s many amenities are an infinity pool, private beach (the only one on the Palm so we’re told), kids club, afternoon tea lounge, cigar and whiskey room, mezzanine bar, and three restaurants.
It also has some great quirky elements, such as the Duchess Floor which only takes female guests, and is only serviced by female staff.
As an all-female party, this was where we stayed. And yes, I did feel a bit like a duchess as it goes.
Dukes Dubai opened with a soft launch at the end of March this year and some of the hotel was still under construction while we were there – not that this is unusual for Dubai, there is construction going on everywhere (a huge mega mall is being built right opposite Dukes) and once you’re inside you wouldn’t know.
Once finished it will also boast a floating swimming pool, spa and fitness centre.
One of the main focuses of the hotel is, of course, eating and drinking, and we had a great time sampling a good proportion of what was on offer.
The three restaurant offerings are GBR (Great British Restaurant), New York-style steak house West 14th, and Indian restaurant Khyber (we Brits do love our curry after all), which we were treated to a sneak preview of as it wasn’t yet open to the public on our visit.
All operate under the watchful eye of executive chef Martin Cahill, who grew up in Bolton – so we can claim him as a Mancunuian – and has handpicked his team from all over the world.
Khyber is a sister establishment to the famous Mumbai restaurant of the same name, so is as authentic as it gets, and is on the 15th floor with breathtaking views of the city.
Among the dishes we sampled were Tandoori Murgh, Murgh Kagani, Nalli Nihari and Maa ki Dal, and all were completely delicious.
Those authentic fish and chips came from GBR, as did one of the most varied and exciting breakfast buffets I have ever seen.
We also sampled an excellent afternoon tea in the aforementioned lounge, and a famous Dubai brunch at West 14th.
Brunch in Dubai is a huge thing – it takes place on a Friday, the main weekend day – and people pay a set price to eat and drink for hours.
And I can see why; the desert buffet alone would have kept me going for days, never mind hours.
Plus it’s very (and I mean very) expensive to drink in Dubai, so an all-you-can-drink deal is something to be taken advantage of; though as it’s 40C in spring, taking it easy is advisable.
One of the things Dukes London is famous for is its bar – and more specifically its martinis, which are said to have inspired Ian Fleming to write James Bond’s famous ‘shaken not stirred’ line, and have also made the trip to the UAE.
The Vesper martini, which I can’t fully recall the ingredients off even though it was made in front us and explained in detail (possibly as a result of drinking it), is almost worth the trip alone... just don’t try to operate any heavy machinery afterwards.
The hotel has a lovely, calm feel which is due in no small part to the wonderful staff, who could not have been more welcoming or helpful during our stay (and I speak as the kind of annoying guest who immediately loses their room key card on the beach).
Assuming you can drag yourself away from the hotel, the pool, the beach, the food, and the martinis, Dubai offers plenty of diversions.
If you like shopping, you’ll be in seventh heaven, with the Mall of Dubai and the Mall of the Emirates offering thousands of square feet of high end retail (plus the chance to spot the supercars cruising by outside – I ticked ‘gold Ferrari’ off the Dubai bingo list), while the souks in the old town peddle everything from spices and dates to gold and silver jewellery.
I’d recommend a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa; the world’s tallest building, which dwarfs the massive skyscrapers that surround it.
Assuming you have a head for heights, standing right up against the glass and looking down is quite an experience.
If you can, go at dusk to watch the city go dark and the lights come on, and then descend to see the dancing fountains give their famous Las Vegas counterparts a run for their money.
If you’re looking for a break from city life, a desert safari experience is a great way to go.
We were with the Dubai Tourism Board and went dune driving (quite a lot like being on a rollercoaster – best not to eat too much beforehand...), sand boarding, shisha smoking, and enjoyed a delicious barbecue under the stars.
A pretty good way to spend a day.
Dubai is only a seven hour flight, and the time difference is just three hours, so it’s perfect for short breaks as well as longer holidays; we got loads done in just three days as well as spending plenty of time by the pool.
So why not get a bit of sunshine in your life? Just take it easy on those martinis.
The view from Dukes Dubai