Big, Brash and on a seemingly unstoppable drive to become the Middle East’s principal tourist hub, Dubai has ‘bling’ written all over it. The Dubai Marina area by Jumeirah Beach is developing as rapidly as the rest of this twenty-first century city. At its heart stands yet another dramatic tower building,the shiny 45-storey Grosvenor House, overlooking the Marina. It was the first hotel in that particular spot when it opened in 2005, not that you’d know that looking at the surroundings just a few years on. As is customary in this rapidly growing Emirate, countless high-rise blocks have sprung up all around the hotel, each in various stages of completion.
Out by the Marina, building work is likely to continue for the foreseeable future as the hotel is itself constructing a second tower next door called The Residence, which will offer swish apartments and will be joined to the existing tower by a glass bridge. For, once inside, the drilling and hammering disappears and you finally have chanceto fully appreciate the hotel’s five-star quality. A grand marble floored reception hall lined with glass vases of fresh-cut roses sets the tone for a hotel that just exudes chic Off the lobby lie smart restaurants and conference facilities, while in the centre local businessmen in Arabic dress lounge in cushioned chairs and talk over coffee with suited Western counterparts. Upstairs, and decorated in tones of creamand chocolate brown, the hotel’s bedroomsand suites – many of which are sea facing –are just as sleek. They’re also soundproofagainst the surrounding mayhem and blissfully comfortable. With supremely cosybeds, 42in flat screen TVs, substantial ensuite bathrooms and butlers on call 24-hours-a-day, you’d be forgiven for pullingdown the blinds and not coming out fora day or two.Although you may well be tempted toventure out to the hotel spa, The Retreat.Here, you can be as pummelled or pampered as you wish with assorted body wraps, massages and other treatments.
One of the best features, however, is Bar 44 (on the 44th floor of course), an elegant champagne and cocktail bar which hosts live jazz and blues, and serves 44 different kinds of champagne. The views from here are good too, despite the building work that I saw on my visit – although given the pace of development in Dubai these are probably fully-fledged skyscrapers by now.But the view of the Marina is probably as impressive as you’ll find anywhere in the city and it’s also fascinating to peer out to sea through the heat haze and witness the progress of the Jumeirah Palm, the smallest of the city’s three enormous palm islands, which is being created in the bath-warm waters of the Arabian Gulf.
On the ground floor is the hotel’s signature venue, the Buddha Bar, a concept brought over from Paris, and known throughout the city for its fine Asian food, cool ambience and chilled sounds, at the centre of which looms a giant statue of Buddha, who looks on approvingly as guests tuck into squid tempura, salmon sashimi, or any of their other superb Asian dishes. It’s the most popular of the hotel’s 12restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, the Grosvenor’s sister hotel across the road, Le Royal Meridien, has a further 14 dining and drinking venues. Fresh locally caught fish forms the basis of a delicious menu at the Mi Vida seafood restaurant, while a choice cut of steak at Prime Rib is another good option.
While Le Royal Meridien and Grosvenor House are just a few hundred metres apart, you’ll need to take a free shuttle bus, as walking is a no go on account of the nearby construction work, which can be a little frustrating when you feel like a stroll. Le Royal Meridien itself allows room to roam, with direct access to a sizeable section of Jumeirah Beach and private grounds with green lawns and several swimming pools among palm trees. So there’s plenty of space to find some solitude on a sun lounger.Also five-stars, but a more traditional resort hotel than it’s glitzier bigger sister, Le Royal Meridien certainly makes the most of its position on the Jumeirah beachfront, which makes it far more suitable for families. It’s also a great place to simply relax by the pool with a good book and an ice-cold drink. Or alternatively, to get married on the hotel’s private beach, as some guests have done – no doubt confident that the attention to detail that makes these hotels notable in a city where five-star hotels are two-a-penny, will be applied to their special big day.