Let’s face it, we might be surrounded by sand but it’s rare for us to get down to the beach to enjoy the perks of desert dwelling on a regular basis. And it’s even more rare for us to catch some rays with panoramic views of our capital. Oh, and did we mention that when you check-in to the Shangri-La Qaryat al Beri, just an easy hour and a half’s drive from Dubai, you’re also within a stone’s throw of some of Abu Dhabi’s top bars and restaurants, not to mention one of our fave spas. Which begs the question, what’s not to love about this particular hot spot?
We were lucky enough to get a room with a sea view, with an unbeatable, stunning sundown panorama. Expect a good-size balcony, super-comfy bed and large bathroom complete with a huge bath and rain shower. L’Occitane mini toiletries tick the posh pinch box, as does the excellent addition of two free packs of tights (one nude, one black). Yes, we know it’s rare to need tights in these parts, but they work a treat on pink pins if you get burnt.
There’s nothing we like more than a hotel breakfast, in fact we could happily eat nothing else, and brekkie at the Shangri-La’s Sofra bld restaurant did not disappoint. In fact, and we’ve had a lot of hotel breakfasts, we think that this might be in our top five. There’s the usual selection of fresh and dried fruits, cereals and toasts, plus the obligatory fry-up options, but that’s not the half of it. Think pastries, a dedicated sweets stand, cheeses and Arabic and Asian faves. It’s almost worth going easy at dinner the night before, to make room.
Reflexology at Chi Spa
Chi Spa is just as serene as it sounds, but that doesn’t do it justice. The dedicated rooftop spa pool makes it worth splashing out on a treatment and, despite having to cut our hour of reflexology in half due to dinner reservations, we still left feeling more chilled than we had in weeks. We cannot recommend this enough.
Life’s a Beach
After breakfast stroll down to the beach and bag a lounger by the sea, assuming you don’t fancy a spot by one of the pools. Comfy sun beds and huge soft towels, a free mini cool box of water and fresh fruit skewers mid-morning make it the perfect place to kick back and get a tan. Just be prepared for the jet skis whizzing by.
Party at Pearls
If you fancy a pre-dinner cocktail, you’d think that Pearls & Caviar would be the place to go. Maybe it is mid-week, but not between 6pm and 8pm on a Friday, unless you want to stumble across the city’s rowdy post-brunch crowd. That said, if you’re looking for a fun watering hole with great views, this is the spot for you. Maybe we’re just getting old?
Bord Eau has long had a reputation as the city’s top spot for French fine dining, but while the food was delicious and the staff went above and beyond to make sure our dietary requirements were followed to the letter, the highlight had to be Eduardo, the amazing Mexican sommelier. In two hours he taught us more than any other grape expert in the region and didn’t even mind when we mistook him for a Spaniard. Awkward! On the food front, everything was perfectly seasoned and well-presented while the ambiance was exactly what you’d expect from a fine dining spot. Formal yet comfortable and a chef with a passion for perfection. Top marks.
As well as lovely fresh flowers, when the hotel found out we got married recently, we got a fab free chocolate cake with a congratulatory message. Other little touches we loved were the sunglass polishing service poolside and the fresh fruit snacks on the beach. It was also really refreshing to be able to ask the chef at Bord Eau to create something dairy-free for us... and for it not to be a tasteless salad. He even managed to whip up a macaroon dessert, which made a welcome change from the usual dull fruit platter. And one final touch; when I realised half way home that I’d left my fave frock in the room, the hotel arranged to have it couriered to us. Dhs40 well spent
Room rates: Start from Dhs1,250 per room per night
Spa Treatment: Chi Signature Journeys; prices start from Dhs1,000
Gym Membership: Annual membership is Dhs15,000 per person, Dhs20,000 for couples and Dhs35,000 for families
Info: Shangri-La Qaryat al Beri, Abu Dhabi, 02 509 8888, www.shangri-la.com