SimCity Bonanza in Dubai:
Staying in the tallest hotel in the World is just one option in a city like Dubai where superlatives reign. The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai is just that, and a striking building in this spectacular city. The centrally located hotel has a charming outdoor pool, spacious rooms, all with picture windows out over the city and 12 restaurants and bars offering a cross-section of world cuisine. Our base for a recent trip to Dubai, it’s the sort of place where you could, if you wanted, just stay for your entire visit.
We did enjoy sampling the restaurants – from the extensive options for breakfast at Kitchen6, through to late night desserts at Prime68 followed by cocktails in Vault on the 71st and 72nd floor. Without exception, the food was excellent quality.
My personal favourites were Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar, where amongst other dishes we enjoyed this perfectly cooked soft shell crab
the quirky and lively Izakaya Japanese restaurant with wonderfully fresh fish prepared in an open kitchen
and Garden, a relaxed Peruvian restaurant where we enjoyed some fabulous dishes including a memorable lomo saltado and some delicious lamb cutlets. But, with just a couple of occasions to sample the food in the hotel, we didn’t have a chance to experience the steaks at Prime68 (by then we were eating dessert!) or to do more than taste a few dishes at Tong Thai – and there were more restaurants on site where we didn’t get through the door!
I was also impressed by the Executive Lounge on the 37th floor which offered a complimentary breakfast (and was a calmer environment than Kitchen6 first thing in the morning), snacks and refreshments through the day and wine and cocktails in the evening.
That was, at least partly, due to the Dubai concept of brunch. When I first looked at our itinerary I was concerned I might be hungry. Once I’d experienced brunch at the Madinat Jumeirah Mina A Salam I was convinced I’d never want to eat again.
Gentle reader if you visit Dubai and decide to indulge in a Friday Brunch, take care. Don’t eat the night before, don’t have anything for breakfast and don’t make plans for dinner. Taking an American style brunch to new levels, our experience had us indulging in oysters, grilled lobster, steak, curry from Sri Lanka, Tex-Mex ribs and more. And then feasting on macarons and cheesecake, trying hard to avoid the chocolate fountains and unlimited ice-cream.
The hotel restaurants were packed for Brunch, which started at 12.30pm and went on for most of the afternoon. The local expat community seemed to use the brunch experience for celebrations – birthdays, anniversaries and leaving parties, while business travellers or those on vacation like us were just there for the ride.
The hotel itself, on the beach, had a stronger Arabic feel than our base at the JW Marriott Marquis, with marble floors and arabic style gilding. I particularly liked the little boats which took guests from one part of the beach to another via a network of miniature canals. We could see the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel in the distance, one of Dubai’s most iconic structures and reputedly the only 7-star hotel in the world
By the next day when we were due to brunch again, I still wasn’t hungry. Fortunately, Hotel Vida in downtown Dubai was somewhat more restrained in its offering (though you’d still struggle to eat again that day). With 156 rooms, the hotel is on the large side for a boutique hotel, but careful design lends the lobby and pool area a charming colonial style with an Arabic twist.
If you can drag yourself away from the comfortable poolside cabanas, you’ll find shops, the new opera house and more within striking distance of Hotel Vida – and, if you prefer not to walk, the hotel will lend you a bicycle!
From Hotel Vida, the must visit Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall is a short drive. Check out The Dubai Fountain (the world’s largest fountain) browse the shops, take a coffee and pastry in one of the many wonderful coffee shops and, without any exception (unless you really suffer from Acrophobia), take a trip up the Burj Khalifa, the World’s tallest building, for a 360degree view of Dubai. We went in the early afternoon on Saturday when it was probably at its busiest. I’ve been told that a timed ticket for first thing in the morning will give you a more peaceful experience – and I can imagine that Sunset at the Burj Khalifa is also spectacular. The building started to be constructed in 2004 and was completed by 2010, as part of ‘Downtown Dubai’. And, it’s an amazing experience.
When you tire of the contemporary, there are traditional parts of Dubai to explore too. Perhaps my favourite meal of the trip was at Al Fanar where we feasted on Emirati specialities. Our ‘walking tour’ with Arabian Adventures (mostly by minibus) also introduced us to some superb cafes and bars in the old part of the Dubai, a welcomed contrast to the newer, Westernised parts of the City.
We tried some fabulous Emirati ice cream, amazing non-alcoholic cocktails and one of the best plates of ‘Beirut falafel’ before heading to Al Fanar.
My personal favourite was matchboos daya – chicken cooked in saffron rice with dried lemon.
But we also enjoyed a very comforting dish of thereed laham (a curry layered with Arabic flatbread to make something that was a bit like a savoury bread pudding), samak mashwi (whole seabream barbequed with spices) and a whole range of pickles, dips, flatbreads and more.
The traditional parts of Dubai don’t sell alcohol so afterwards we headed for perhaps the most glamourous hotel I’ve ever visited – Burj Al Arab, which we’d seen during the day, to Gold on 27.
My stunning cocktail, Scent of the Souk, was a real showstopper, as was the view back to Dubai and the amazing gold leaf lined room. And, if I ever visit Dubai again, I will be making a point of visiting Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara – after all, we need to support our local chefs!
- I stayed at JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai – from £519 per person, based on a 3 nights stay in a Deluxe Room with breakfast (45% saving on stay when booking with Emirates Holidays). Package includes return Economy flights with Emirates.
- Friday Brunch Experience at Jumeirah Mina A Salam costs AED525 per person including a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (approx. £118 per person)
- Saturday Brunch 3in1 at Vida Downtown costs ED345 per person including selected house beverages (approx. £77 per person). An extra AED100 per person for a private poolside Cabana and pool access (approx. £22pp)
- I also enjoyed a Flavours of Dubai Walking Tour with Arabian Adventures – £89 per person through Emirates Holidays
I travelled as a guest of Emirates Holidays .