There are two kinds of luxury. One of them was unveiled in Dubai last week, at the Versace Palazzo, where you can eat dinner in a restaurant wallpapered in the same pattern as that legendary green dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammys.
The other kind was revealed to Gulf News in a preview on Tuesday morning: The historic luxury of the St. Regis Dubai, where a direct line from New York’s turn-of-the-century aristocracy can be drawn to modern-day Dubai, via butlers, cigar lounges, grand staircases and deep, deep carpeting.
The hotel, situated on Shaikh Zayed Road next to where the Dubai Canal will run, is part of the Dh11 billion Al Habtoor City project, which will also include a 1,000 room Westin hotel and the UAE’s first W hotel, the modern, arty brand by Starwood, the hotel group that manages the three properties. There will also be a “water theatre” by Franco Dragone, the creator of Cirque du Soleil; those are all due to open over the next year.
For now, it’s all about the St. Regis, its fleet of Bentleys, eight F&B outlets, six spa rooms, 234 rooms, 52 suites — and one, whopping, two-story, 913sqm Royal Suite. Read on for your sneak peek into the property.
The first St. Regis was opened in New York in 1904, and since then, the lobby of the hotel has been a signature, always featuring a striking grand staircase and a chandelier. Dubai has a double staircase and a chandelier — with 1,200 crystals.
Got Dh1,904? You can get a room in the hotel now, as it offers a special opening rate reflecting its founding year. Inside you’ll find the signature beds (and yes, you can also buy the beds, bedding and pillows online to take home), views over the front gardens or the central courtyard, and a claw-footed bathtub — the kind the Astors, the founding family of the St. Regis, would have bathed in. The Grand suite we visited had its own dressing room, walk-in wardrobe and private spa suite. And yes, that’s as mindboggling to see as it is to read about.
Not planning on a staycation? You can still experience the hotel through its eight bars and restaurants, which, for what is essentially a boutique hotel, is quite a high number. Jean-Georges Vongerichten (who also has a restaurant at the Four Seasons Dubai) is the creator of the J&G Steakhouse, a haven of steak-eating manhood if I’ve ever seen one. With cosy booths and a crudo (that’s seafood) bar, it’s the signature restaurant of the property. The meat for the hotel comes from a farm in Australia with a specific grass-fed cattle bred just for St Regis Dubai, meaning 17 cuts are available to order.
If you’re looking for something ulta-feminine, head to the patisserie in front of Brassier Quartier, the hotel’s all-day-dining restaurant serving refined, modern takes on French classics. The patisserie is the prettiest spot we’ve seen in Dubai in a long time; it has baby-shower afternoon tea written all over it in pink royal icing. Next door is Sidra Lounge, the lobby lounge serving the signature afternoon tea. Cafe Fleuri is straight out of Paris’s Left Bank, with marble-topped tables and bavette steak on the menu.
Fancy a drink?
St. Regis is a classy spot, especially if you’re thirsty. The leather-clad St. Regis Bar is a bit of NYC in Dubai; the Champagne Lounge has a nightly pre-dinner uncorking ritual; and Le Patio, an open-air courtyard central to the hotel, will serve shisha and have a trolley delivering classic sundowners.
The Bentley connection
If you arrange for a car from the St. Regis, it will likely be a Bentley. The UK car company is a marketing partner with St Regis globally, but in the UAE there is a special connection: The St. Regis Dubai owners, Al Habtoor, is also the local Bentley importer — in fact, they are the largest Bentley importer in the world. Soon to open is the Bentley suite, with finishings inspired by the Bentley Mulsanne. (We are sorry to report that there will not be an actual Bentley in the room.) The mural in the St. Regis bar is also inspired by a vintage Bentley.
Don’t you hate having to share your hammam? No problem: Though the Iridium spa is small (three treatment rooms each for men and women; they call it exclusive), there is an individual hammam room for each gender. The experience shower is a multi-sensory treat: You can program it to play birdsounds and feel jungle rain, or experience a thunderstorm, lightning included. Treatments feature Sodashi and Swiss Perfection brands; the latter is created by the founder of La Prairie, and is based on the root of the iris flower, the spa’s signature flower. Fun fact: Don’t bother checking the time here. All the clocks are set to midnight, to encourage you to let time fly.
If you hate packing or unpacking, there is someone to do that for you: Your butler. Yep, it’s not just the Burj Al Arab that offers personal butler service in Dubai anymore. Someone is on call for you, 24 hours a day (not the same person; two butlers cover each room). They will press a garment for you, twice daily, for free.
From photographs of wildlife in the business centre to huge murals, the design of the hotel is aimed at creating the feeling of a home. A very, very fancy home, that is — along the lines of the Astors’ New York home. The hotel imagined a fictitious Emirati who has travelled the world and brought back art from his travels to decorate his home.