Emer­ald Palace KEMPIN­SKI DUBAI

Step­ping into a new palace on the Palm, RHEA SARAN is trans­ported through time and space

Condé Nast Traveller Middle East - - Nordic Hotels -

I’ve al­ways imag­ined that, for a lux­ury hote­lier, Dubai is both a heart-rac­ingly ex­cit­ing and bone-chill­ingly ter­ri­fy­ing mar­ket. There’s such an enor­mous ap­petite for new and won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences, yet there’s also plenty of com­pe­ti­tion. So how do you stand out, as a debu­tante on the scene? One of the most con­vinc­ing an­swers to that ques­tion has just thrown open its unique, gilded doors on the west cres­cent of the Palm Jumeirah.

Step­ping into Emer­ald Palace Kempin­ski is like be­ing trans­ported in time and space. De­spite the Dubai Ma­rina sky­line view and glimpses of the Burj Al Arab – and even the Burj Khal­ifa and Down­town on a clear day – once you’ve stepped into the or­nate mar­ble lobby, over­hung with one of the largest crys­tal chan­de­liers I’ve ever laid eyes on, you’ll be ut­terly con­vinced you’ve time­trav­elled to a grand Euro­pean palace at the turn of the cen­tury. Pink-mar­ble col­umns tower up to a sparkling gold-em­bel­lished dome; bell­hops look like bell­hops did in the days when the term was first in­vented; and float­ing down from Blüth­ner Hall – the lobby lounge on a mez­za­nine level – the sounds of a live string quar­tet’s ex­pert ren­di­tion of Mozart.

I’ve stayed at plenty of ho­tels in Europe, and you’d be hard-pressed to name one I haven’t vis­ited in Dubai, so it’s with a great mea­sure of cer­tainty that I say there sim­ply isn’t an­other ho­tel here that has at­tempted to do what Emer­ald Palace had done, quite ef­fec­tively. Which is, recre­ate the con­cept of a Euro­pean grande dame in this Mid­dle Eastern city.

If there are any lin­ger­ing doubts about the con­cept of the ho­tel from the en­trance (there won’t be), these are laid to rest upon en­ter­ing the guest rooms. Chan­de­liers abound, gold- or plat­inum-tinged bro­cade fab­ric up­hol­sters fur­ni­ture that has a dis­tinct Louis XV vibe, beds are backed by elab­o­rate head­boards and car­pet­ing is plush and pat­terned with what looks like re­gal in­signia. Throw in the mar­ble bath­rooms, framed paint­ings and an 18th-cen­tu­ryin­spired china cab­i­net in my suite, and the over­all ef­fect is of a slice of Ver­sailles. My pres­i­den­tial suite wasn’t just pala­tial in de­sign but in size, with a grand foyer, a large liv­ing and din­ing room, two bed­rooms, a kitch­enette and a vast bal­cony hous­ing two dis­tinct loung­ing ar­eas as well as a gur­gling Jacuzzi. (Even en­try-level rooms here come in at 75sqm, mak­ing them among the largest in the mar­ket.)

“STEP IN­SIDE AND YOU’LL BE UT­TERLY CON­VINCED YOU’VE TIME-TRAV­ELLED TO

A GRAND OLD EURO­PEAN PALACE”

Hav­ing fin­ished my in-suite check-in with Kempin­ski’s sig­na­ture Lady in Red, and achieved an ideal num­ber of steps for the day just walk­ing around my suite, I wound my way back to Blüth­ner Hall, which had so charmed me with strains of live mu­sic. Named for famed Ger­man pi­ano-maker Julius Blüth­ner – and equipped with an in­stru­ment from the com­pany – this stately lounge is where af­ter­noon tea or drinks are taken. From Thurs­day to Satur­day, a string quar­tet of four gown-clad ladies plays, and I was pleased to have the clas­si­cal mu­sic ac­com­pany my un­usual Aus­trian af­ter­noon-tea spread (a dif­fer­ent Euro­pean cui­sine in­spires the spread each day of the week). Bite-sized of­fer­ings in­cluded trout on toast, a bone mar­row and Aus­trian cheese canapé, a breaded-chicken morsel that re­minded me of a mod­ern take on a schnitzel and, of course, Linzer torte.

Given the ex­trav­a­gant na­ture of the ho­tel, it’s only fit­ting there’s an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of din­ing op­tions. Le Jardin is the all-day restau­rant, the name sig­nalling the im­por­tance of gar­dens to Euro­pean palaces such as Ver­sailles. Matagi is the ho­tel’s Asian steak­house, and while I didn’t dine there dur­ing my stay, a slice of wagyu I sam­pled from the restau­rant was so but­tery-soft it drove me to im­me­di­ately pen­cil in a date to re­turn. All’Onda, de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with chef Chris Jaeckle, is Ital­ian meets… well, the world – word is, you can ex­pect Ja­pa­nese and even In­dian in­flu­ences in the dishes. And for laid-back Mediter­ranean, Vil­lam­oré, set in a villa down by the pool and beach, has out­door seat­ing and a ter­race. Shar­ing plates here in­clude starters such as warm oc­to­pus salad, a zingy Mediter­ranean salad and scal­lops ce­viche, as well as larger dishes like seafood cous­cous (a take on bouil­l­abaisse with large cous­cous pearls) and the best ca­cio e pepe I’ve had in this city – al­beit less tra­di­tional with a dust­ing of black-truf­fle shav­ings. Per­haps the most an­tic­i­pated of the res­tau­rants is miX by Alain Ducasse, which launched dur­ing my visit and in­cluded an ap­pear­ance from the su­per­star French chef. Over a chat and a drink he told me that the restau­rant is in­spired by cui­sine that is, of course, French but also with Latin, Asian and Mid­dle Eastern touches – in­spi­ra­tion I later saw in ac­tion in a sea bream ce­viche and a Mo­roc­can-in­flu­enced lamb shoul­der. Also in at­ten­dance was ar­chi­tect Manuel Clavel, whose firm is re­spon­si­ble for the mod­ern in­te­ri­ors of this three-story space, the cen­tre­piece of which is a giant egg hous­ing a lift that cul­mi­nates in the pri­vate din­ing room on the top floor.

In ad­di­tion to an en­vi­able stretch of beach, an im­pos­si­bly blue out­door pool fed by foun­tains, a Tech­nogym-equipped fit­ness cen­tre and a pri­vate cin­ema, there’s also a sprawl­ing 3,000sqm Cinq Mon­des spa from Paris where par­ents can head hav­ing de­posited their tots in the kids’ and teens’ club. A beau­ti­fully de­signed sanc­tu­ary with art­ful light­ing, there are 23 treat­ment rooms, an in­door pool, plus ham­mam fa­cil­i­ties and steam and sauna sep­a­rated by gen­der for com­fort in the lo­cal mar­ket. My Thai ther­a­pist was ex­tremely com­pe­tent, de­liv­er­ing a firm and re­ju­ve­nat­ing 80-minute hot stone treat­ment us­ing Ayurveda oils.

Back in the op­u­lent, Baroque-in­spired sur­round­ings of my suite, it oc­curred to me that while Emer­ald Palace is de­liv­er­ing on a more Con­ti­nen­tal “golden age” style of lux­ury than is typ­i­cal in this re­gion, it’s also man­aged to tap into cur­rent trends with the fo­cus on well­ness and haute global flavours. After all, as much as a guest might en­joy a throw­back to Euro­pean deca­dence, peo­ple aren’t one-di­men­sional – it’s good to see the ho­tel un­der­stands that past and present can, and must, go hand in hand.

Dou­bles from AED 2,770; 00971-4-248 8888, kempin­ski.com

This page, clock­wisefrom left: Gold de­tails in a suite bed­room; in­side the Cinq Mon­des spa; a sig­na­ture cake at Blüth­ner Hall. Op­po­site, from top: Asian steak­house Matagi; the gar­dens, pool and pri­vate beach; a china cab­i­net

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