I confess. It wasn’t quite impressive entering a five-star hotel through a basement car park, but whatever reservations I might have had after arriving at Melia Dubai in this manner was quickly dispelled after the elevator opened up to the reception area at the ground floor.
The hotel interior—designed by a Milan-based architect—was unmistakeably modern and minimalist yet somehow inviting. The reception area featured a slightly elevated lounge area. Two men were having a conversation over coffee. At a corner, an elderly woman sat, reading a newspaper. Marble, glass and steel interiors intermingled with carefully selected furniture and eclectic contemporary art pieces.
“Where exactly is your main entrance?” I asked the smiling receptionist. Turns out, the basement car park was the entrance. Apparently, the concept is to make it easier for guests to drive in and out of the business hotel. Makes sense if you are on business with your own car for mobility. “There’s another entrance, but you’d have to pass through an adjacent hotel,” the receptionist told me.
There are 164 uniquely designed rooms in this hotel, and mine was equally unique, dominated by relaxing white, beige and brown colours. I could spot plenty of bespoke touches: the canvass chaise lounge by the window, the wooden piece of artwork in a corner, even the floor to ceiling mirror that also doubled as a TV set.
The separate toilet and rain shower could be accessed near the hotel room door, but I could also just swing the dark-wood wall panel open to access the other part of the bathroom where an elegant egg-shaped bathtub sat surrounded by a wall of clear glass so I could look out to the bedroom. If I needed more privacy, I could just draw the translucent curtains, which is what I did. That bathtub—specially designed by a local company—was one of the most comfortable bathtubs I have ever tried. If only they would tell me where they had it made, I’d have one installed at home!
What to do
This hotel is perfect for business travellers who want a glamourous retreat close to the bustling Bur Dubai area. There are no big attractions that are just a walk away from the hotel, so I was lucky to have my car ready in the basement (or I could have also put the taxi company on speed dial). But the room is so cozy my only real business was really just to relax in the confines of the hotel.
By sundown, I checked in for my Moroccan bath appointment at the hotel’s YHI Spa. After clocking in a month’s worth of hard work I thought I deserved to be pampered. My therapist led me to a room with two beds made of elevated marble platforms softened by damp towels. It doubled as a sauna room where I lay stomach flat on one of the beds as steam opened my pores and the therapist proceeded with the bath.
The 80-minute cleansing ritual was very thorough, and I could feel my stress ebbing away as the female therapist lathered special soap on my muscles and joints and then later gave me an exfoliating scrub. I must have shed a ton of dead skin cells in the process. It was so cleansing and relaxing I headed straight to bed afterwards.
The next evening, my guest and I hung out at the hotel rooftop where a rooftop swimming pool and deck offered a beautiful view of the Bur Dubai skyline. We didn’t take a dip, but enjoyed live house music being cooked up by the in-house DJ on deck.
Where to eat
While we were at the rooftop, we tried the food at Estrellas. The tables and chair s near the pool were already taken, so we sat inside, which meant we were closer to the waiters and waitresses eager to take our order. I recommend the barbecue platter, which comes with delicious skewers of three types of meat hanging over a mini grill with a flaming ensemble. It was very theatric, a real conversational piece, enjoyable and good for sharing, too.
Most of my dining experience at the hotel was at Azalya at the ground floor. The restaurant serves international cuisine and is open all day. Breakfast is a pretty busy event here, with live cooking stations and a big buffet spread. The caldo de arroz (chicken rice porridge) was a winner for me, which I washed down with a slightly cold coconut water. How very thoughtful of them to include this healthy, natural drink in the buffet, I thought. Lunch is quieter here, so I was able to enjoy a plate of perfectly braised lamb in peace. The meat was so tender I didn’t have to struggle with my knife and fork.
Of course, I could not leave the hotel without trying the fare at award-winning restaurant Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor. From the entrance, we passed the minute bar and into the dining room, which was already half filled with guests.
At one table, a family was celebrating someone’s birthday. The staff brought a cake with a lit up sparkler to their table as our waiter brought the appetizer to ours: crispy poppadoms with five kinds of chutneys. This was followed by amuse bouche—a shooter made of sweet chat and mint and fruit. The menu was filled with Indian terms, but thankfully our waiter—who was attentive all the way—guided us through our orders.
The chicken tikka was delicious—juicy and succulent. I also loved the rogan josh—the chili in the well-cooked lamb meat wasn’t overpowering and was easy on the palate. For dessert we tried a bit of molecular gastronomy with their lychee marble soup. Think a bunch of white pearls sitting on a bed of creamy, subtly sweet soup. I took a spoonful.. and then another... and another and savoured the pearls bursting into wonderful lychee flavours in my mouth.
Melia Dubai is located on 23 Kuwait Street, Port Rashid, Dubai. Website www.melia.com. Contact 04 386 8111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org