Review: One & Only Dubai

(by peter)

OK, so we needed a break. Badly.

Our options were limited. Time was running out.

As many have done before us, we weighed up the critical factors. Flying time (more is bad) versus likelihood of sun (more is good) against expenditure (you get the idea). We also needed assurances of good food and wine: a staple in our daily existence.

For the first week in February, it’s never a particularly pain-free equation.

After much hand-wringing, we settled on Dubai. A friend and former resident pointed us in the direction of the One & Only Royal Mirage, but also gave us the following advice:

1) It’s a great place to go for some winter sun.

2) Food and drink is expensive in the hotels, particularly drink.

3) The first thing you need to do before going is to get a tattoo, preferably something Chinese in a inappropriate place.

4) Hotels-wise, you want to keep away from the anything with 4 stars or less. These tend to be in the wrong part of town and are old and shabby and full of Congolese hookers.

Duly briefed, we secured a pretty good deal and made sure to stop in at the duty free in Dubai airport to pick up a cheeky bottle of Louis Roederer NV and Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc to help cut down on essential costs.

Both, it turned out, excelled in this capacity. And neither was prohibitively expensive, certainly when compared to restaurant prices: the champagne worked out around £32 and the Savvy at £13.

The tenor of our stay was set right from the outset. Having drawn into a luxury courtyard with gold statues of tribesmen majestically astride camels, we were ushered into the hotel doors to the accompaniment of a loud gong, and served a cup of Yemeni tea.

It seems pointless to say it, but all of these were firsts for me. I could get used to the gong though.

In short, our stay was a delight. The service was impeccable. Facilities outstanding. Surroundings genial. Weather magnificent (this last one you can’t assign to the hotel’s credit, but it all helped).

As for the gastronomic interest, the food…was pretty good. The One & Only Dubai boasts quite a few restaurants. It’s a big hotel, with three discrete (and very large) parts, which stretch along a kilometre of private beach. There’s the Beach Bar & Grill, Tagine (Moroccan), Nina’s (curry), Eau Zone (modern with Asian twist), Olive (Mediterranean) and Celebrities (didn’t get past the name).

Our stand-out was Nina’s: great atmosphere, exquisite spicing, delicious dishes. And a decently prized Kiwi Sauvignon to go with it. (But be warned: the most basic wines on restaurant lists don’t come for much under £40.) It also boasted its own DJ: a necessary tonic when your eardrums have been brutalised to the strains of Jennifer Rush and Enrique Iglesias at poolside bars.

Eau Zone was chic and fancy; a scenic location and slightly quirky, engaging dishes – though it would have been good to have more choice. Beach Bar & Grill was romantic (but be sure to request an outside table when booking) and also catered for what in Dubai may count as an enlightened his’n’hers mentality: various slabs of beef for the men (Australian Waygu, Scottish and Argentine cuts – I remained loyal to the latter) and lots of decent seafood for the girls.

A half bottle of Château Ksara’s Reserve du Couvent proved a merry companion to the beef.

Mojitos in the Lobby Bar balcony were an agreeably sedate, if slightly expensive indulgence.

And, before we could say After Sun, our four-day mini break was over. The ever-punctual and perfectly pleasant Virgin Airlines whisked us back to the grey chill of the UK. Somewhat freckled; blissfully revived – and very slightly wiser about the weird and wonderful machinations of modern Dubai.