Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island is the first place in the Middle East to boast a St Regis hotel. The global chain has enjoyed a rep for being the last word in luxury since the first one opened in New York in 1904. It was created by the Astors, a celebrity family of their time, only they were far more exclusive than the Kardashians.
Ahlan! chose this hotel as a fitting venue for its Best in Abu Dhabi Awards this year; it also made it into our Hot 100 Hotels 2012 – not bad for a venue that’s only been open since December 2011. With a mix of hotel suites and residences, three restaurants (so far), a deluxe spa and the best gym we’ve ever seen at any resort in the world, this place is on track to becoming a community in its own right – whether you just pop in or move in, this is your chance to live like the Astors.
The Gym, Pools & Spa
Olympic athletes couldn’t ask for more from a gym – we’ve never seen anything like it in a hotel before ever. It’s huge, with the UAE’s only Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool on the ground floor, and on the second floor, there’s every variety of exercise machine (all brand-spanking new and shiny just like the hotel) overlooking the pool below. Best of all, you don’t have to be a guest or resident to experience it – sign up for annual membership for Dhs10,000 per person, or Dhs15,000 per couple.
For more leisurely paddling, there’s a network of pools that run out between the hotel and beach. It’s hard to know where one pool ends and another begins, but the visual effect is postcard-perfect.
The sparkling Iridium Spa wraps you in a mosaic of twinkly little tiles, seductive mood lighting and heavenly scents. Book in for a treatment, then bring a book and spend at least a half day enjoying the steam, sauna, whirlpool and chill-out lounge before or after your treatment. Reflexology, ‘Herb & Oil Peeling’ and BABOR Sea Creation facials are among the various pamperfests on offer.
Modern and airy with light woods and wicker drawers, the suites have a Pottery Barn feel to them. Totes in love with the walk-through shower that connects two washroom areas; one area features a WC and ‘his’ sink and the other features a deep, free-standing tub and ‘her’ sink (well, ladies wouldn’t want to be on the WC side, now would we?). Ask for a room with balcony views over the resort’s pools for added ‘wow’ factor, and if you really want the five-star treatment, book one of the hotel’s monogrammed Bentleys to get you there.
The Bar & Restaurants
The Manhattan Lounge: Wood-panelled walls, historical cocktails, coffee-table tomes and fat leather chairs give this lounge a studious vibe. A good place to do business by day. By night it’s a sophisticated spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks.
Sucre: Got a sweet tooth? You’ll find the resort’s own patisserie in the lobby (also known as The Drawing Room when afternoon tea is being served). Leave room in your luggage for a box of handmade chocolates as a little something by which to remember the place.
Olea: The fresh aquatic theme of coral prints and ‘wave’ walls echoes the ocean-side location of this all-day dining venue. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, and buffet and à la carte menus, plus Friday brunch from 12.30pm to 4pm. À la carte options include pan-seared sea bream with potato mousseline, artichokes and almond citrus crumble. On buffets expect traditional tapenades and tomato bread, juicy grilled seafood and meats, some special salads, and a tempting array of St Regis-branded desserts among the bountiful spread. It costs Dhs300 including soft drinks, Dhs385 including grape, grain and Spanish beverages, Dhs450 with free-flowing bubbly.
Sontaya: This Southeast Asian gem on a pavilion above the hotel’s pools looks like it’s floating on water. The interior is equally Zen with beams of soft light running through the floor and up the sides of each table. The food is just as visually stunning – we ordered tuna sashimi for Dhs60 that came on a square bed of perfectly symmetrical stripes made with carrot and cucumber slices. Every mouthful was bursting with flavour.
55 & 5th: Congrats to 55 & 5th for making it into Ahlan!’s Hot 100 Restaurants 2012 and for a year that’s featured some top-class gourmet events. This elegant grill and lounge is the resort’s signature venue named after the address of the original St Regis in New York.
Take a camera as you’ll want to photograph your food. Start with smoked veal croquette, pearl onions and porcini emulsion (Dhs110), and then get your chops around vintage beef from the ageing room (from Dhs260) with sauces that range from the restaurant’s own secret concoction to the truffle Hollandaise. Nom nom nom.
Room rate per night: from Dhs1,450*
Annual gym membership: from Dhs10,000
Signature spa treatment – one-hour massage: Dhs525
*Room rates are subject to change
INFO: St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi; 02 498 8888, www.stregissaadiyatisland.com.