Check In: The Palace – The Old Town
What we love most about The Palace – The Old Town is the amazing smell. Seriously. The hotel’s exotic, spa-like, restorative scent alone is enough to warrant a wander through the place. The spa itself is even more potent. Then there’s the huge palm tree-lined swimming pool and the traditional ‘old town’ Arabesque décor. All these signature elements combine to make this hotel an oasis in the hustle-bustle of Downtown Dubai, home to the record-breaking, sky-scraping Burj Khalifa and the sprawling Dubai Mall. The Palace also contains a couple of award-winning restaurants worthy of inspection, and hosts a ladies’ night with a panoramic view, plus Friday brunch with a caviar station! Read on to find out more...
The Pool, Gym and Spa
Outside, the pool is a rather grand avenue of twinkling blue water between two rows of sun loungers, cabanas and palms, all in the shadow of Burj Khalifa. Inside, the deluxe spa measures up nicely, offering a plethora of treatments. Choose from galvanic pro-lift facials to Philippine ‘Hilot’ massage. One Desert Journey is the signature treatment using locally sourced ingredients from the region, including Moroccan Argan oil and Arabian desert sand, to massage and polish patrons (you get a test tube of sand too, as a souvenir, so the treatment’s well suited to visiting rellies).
There’s also a well-stocked spa boutique selling premium brands such as Natura Bissé (Barcelona’s answer to Switzerland’s La Prairie), and the seductively fragrant Les Sens de Marrakech spa range. Both are gorgeous – and very expensive, so leave that credit card at home if you don’t want to be tempted.
Hardcore weight-watchers may have already visited the Palace’s gym for a Hypoxi training session (that’s the one where you don a suction suit and walk the treadmill, or work the exercise bike inside a big egg-shaped suction capsule – the sucking helps shift the fat, apparently, and Cheryl Cole’s got one in her home). Small but well-equipped, a couple of circuits around the many machines would be our recommendation for you body-sculpting divas.
In keeping with the hotel’s style, the rooms are traditionally Arabesque, but with mod cons (free Wi-Fi, plasma TVs, Nespresso machines) and Penhaligon’s toiletries – that’s the prestigious Brit brand proudly displaying the Royal Crest. It has a boutique in the mammoth shopping experience that is The Dubai Mall, just across the road from the hotel, so you can pick up full-sized versions of anything you like. Did we mention that you should perhaps leave your credit card at home…?
The Restaurants & Bars
AL BAYT: After Ramadan, for Dhs120 you can get a three-tier stand of crustless sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and – the crowning glory – a plate of little French fancies, plus all the tea you can drink in this colonial-vibe lobby bar. Go pescatarian on the sarnies (our beef and chicken options were a little grisly) and you’ve got yourself a good deal, served on elegant fine china with gold-plated cutlery (check out the motifs!).
FAI: Thiptara’s adjoining lounge is best enjoyed on their Tuesday ladies’ night where you get an almost identical view if you bag a window seat. The term ‘fai’ loosely translates as ‘fire’, while ‘thiptara’ means ‘water’. Together, the venues are set on water surrounded by huge flaming torches, which is, we’re told, a good balance of elements; great for chi, or zen, or something, and rather nice for romance too, we thought. For details on the ladies’ night deal, visit www.theaddress.com.
ASADO: How many awards?! This meaty establishment consistently tops the polls of best South American joints in Dubai and is a proud alumnus of Ahlan!’s Hot 100 Restaurants 2012. With a completely different vibe to the rest of the hotel, it’s opted for hunting lodge chic in the décor department – even the chandeliers are fashioned after antlers, and the open kitchen with its eponymous asado fire pit grill is a rare sight with the signature dish of baby goat roasting over it. Though it’s not where we’d take Paul and Stella on a night out, as committed carnivores we loved it.
EWAAN: During the Holy Month, Ewaan is all about iftars and suhoors, and there are few places more apt to indulge in this tradition. Outside of Ramadan, Ewaan hosts a decadent Friday brunch with stations dedicated to the kebab (choose from seafood skewers to the classic chicken shish taouk), roast dinners, posh cheese, foie gras, French toast and figs, fresh ocean fare (including lobster dressed in a half shell and ready-to-ravish claws, juicy crab legs, avocado shrimp cocktails, tuna tartare and the ultimate aquatic luxury, caviar). Popular with families and foodies, locals and expats, you actually feel like you’re in the Middle East at this brunch – the focus is firmly on the food. This all-day dining venue also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets with the same mix of international and local treats – at breakfast we discovered a delish date-flavoured camel milk by Camelicious. Try it, and thank us later.
THIPTARA: Another Hot 100er, this is among the best Thai restaurants in the UAE. It boasts views of the Dubai Fountain. Have you heard all the new tracks playing this year, from Whitney’s I Will Always Love You to MJ’s Thriller? And the best bit: the soundtrack from the fountain show mutes the restaurant’s music so you get the full experience. Don’t die without trying the crispy lobster with garlic, chilli and basil sauce. The menu also helpfully lists the key ingredients used in Thai cuisine and their health benefits, from galangal (a relative of ginger) to lemongrass (apparently a “cure for flatulence” – now there’s something you don’t see on a menu everyday!).
TRY Iftar, Suhoor & Eid at Ewaan
Celebrate Holy Month at Ewaan where the team will be serving up a blend of Oriental cuisine and Arabian delicacies in their apt traditional setting. Then, on the first day of Eid there’ll be a daytime buffet.
INFO: Iftar from sunset to 9pm, Dhs195 per person; Suhoor (à la carte), 10pm to 2am (3am on weekends), Dhs150 minimum spend per person; Eid buffet, 12.30pm to 4pm, Dhs250 per person; all prices include soft drinks (first day of Eid to be confirmed). For reservations, call 04 428 7806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Room rate per night: From Dhs899 (summer rate applies until 12 August)
One-hour massage at The Spa: Dhs475 to Dhs490
One Desert Journey two-hour signature spa treatment: Dhs750
Gym membership: From Dhs1,000 per person, or Dhs1,600 per couple per month (three-, six- and 12-month memberships are also available at increased discounts).
Hypoxi session/packages: A course of 12 sessions lasting 30-minutes each costs Dhs2,100
Daily pool pass: Dhs200 per person (weekdays), Dhs300 per person (weekends); Dhs100 for children.
Friday brunch at Ewaan (After Ramadan): 12.30pm to 4pm, Dhs390 per person including drinks; Dhs245 per person including soft drinks; Dhs123 for kids aged six to 12; kids below the age of six eat free.