Could this be the Arabian hotel of our dreams?
(*In which I pretend like I can afford this kind of glamour for a weekend but it was in actual fact a fairly top-notch work trip. One I will be able to tout like it was just a casual weekend away when I am rich, permanently on holiday, and Tom Haverford is my holiday BFF. So, never.)
From the outset, this is just another gold-gilded Dubai 5-star hotel, from the group that brings the world a plethora of the sorts. Jumeirah Group’s Al Naseem hotel is the youngest member of the Jumeirah family, set right next to two of its brothers and sisters (Mina A’ Salam and Al Qasr) on the waterways of the Madinat Jumeirah. Enough Jumeirah for you, yet? The hotel boasts 387 rooms and 43 suites, all crafted in the same open-plan, airy and light layout – which actually leads in to why we think this might be Dubai’s most gorgeous hotel. And in a city that deals in gorgeous hotels, that’s certainly a controversial call.
The interior design is said to be inspired by sand dunes, blue skies, sea breeze and Dubai’s pearl diving heritage and Bedouin traditions. If by that, they mean sick wall murals and a glinting, open Turkish-style bathroom – we’re all for it. Our room and balcony looks over the rest of the resort, and its sprawling pool and beachfront area, as well as providing a front-row seat to the Burj Al Arab.
So far, so good. We think we’ve found the most beautiful hotel room in the world.
As with many big hotels, the service at the front desk is pleasant and cordial – but nothing too over-the-top. A small blip on our booking is handled accordingly and apologetically. But the added extras left in our room is what really makes us laud the hotel’s workers (a Hendrick’s mixing kit, desserts from downstairs).
As we touched on above, for Dubai, this setting comes second-to-none. Set on the beaches of the Arabian Gulf, as close as you can sit on a balcony from the Burj Al Arab without actually staying in it, Al Naseem is the staycation of dreams. The pool area is vast and big enough to separate yourselves from splashing kids, or put up with the splashing kids if you’re a parent, and the in-pool shaded table and benches were a fantastic gimmick. If you’re staying in the fancy suites or the villas, you’ll even get access to Summersalt Beach Club, a small, luxe club set right on the beach – with the best view of the Burj Al Arab from your pool lounger you’re ever going to get. You could almost reach out and touch it (don’t try that though, you’ll probably be reprimanded). You’re also pretty much right beside the Madinat Jumeirah and the other resorts, so if you feel like going for an explore, or trying out one of the other restaurants in another hotel, just hop in a buggy.
There’s ten restaurants in Al Naseem, and plenty in the surrounding area. We managed our way through four of them. No shame.
Il Borro: Dubai has plenty of fancy Italian joints around, but this one is special. Its famous Tuscan namesake has more than 1,000 years of rich history, and is set amongst a sprawling 700-hectare estate – and while the family-run business couldn’t recreate the setting, they have succeeded in bringing authentic Tuscan cooking to the city. Everything here is homemade – not a single canned item is used in cooking and everything from the olive oil to the wine is made organically on their estate in Italy. Even the vegetables come from the farm and arrive in shipments every three days. We can’t single out one dish here, but of course the pastas and the desserts and particularly great.
Katsuya‘s new home in Al Naseem is right beside the turtle sanctuary, so you can sit out on the deck as the little critters float right past your table. The food is a bit of a mix of Pan-Asian-cum-Japanese, and while its not our favourite Japanese spot in the city, it’s a fairly good stab. If you’re loathe to go any further than the confines of the hotel and have a hankering for Japanese, order the teppanyaki, the duck salad, and every single one of the desserts.
When we heard the words ‘all-day dining’ we were immediately crestfallen, but we have to admit – as far as international buffets go, Hanaaya (in Mina A’Salam) is one we’d actually choose to go back to (and pay for). The range and layout of this place is impressive, and though huge buffets tend to make us panicky, stressed out and sweaty about what to eat, in what order, and how to control ourselves for the 12 desserts we’d already spied and need to fit in – we felt reasonably calm working our way through this. Until we saw the bread section halfway through our main course, then we were on clear verge of a meltdown.
The meats here are really what shine, and if you’re in the market for a good roast lamb – complete with Yorkshire pudding, gravy, roast veges and whatever else you can slop on your plate – you’re in luck. Dessert is particularly good if you’ve played your cards right and left room. If not, sit there for three hours and then try again. You cannot leave without some of that sticky toffee.
Tortuga is another highlight- featuring some of the city’s best Mexican fare. While this is in Mina A’Salam too, it’s worth a 3-minute buggy ride. In the weekend evenings, there’s a live band and while they will inevitably play Despacito more times than you care to stomach, it really creates an atmosphere that transports you to the streets of Mexico. Before we even start with our recommendations we must deplore you: order the guacamole. Don’t care if you hate avocados. Eat it. All of the ingredients will be brought to your table, before they’re unloaded into a giant mortar and pestle and ground to within an inch of its life. The result is a gloriously chunky, well limed and cilantro-ed and spiced, guac for the ages – we don’t even care that it costs about $30 and paying that back home for a starter would just be straight up ludicrous. Sure, they do darned good tacos, excellent chili margaritas and their churros are beyond compare – but if we had to go back, we’d just order guac, followed by guac and concluded with guac. Oh, avoid the Abuelita Cake, though. It may say ‘Nutella sauce, almonds and pistachios’ but we only saw evidence of a lukewarm blue goop, covered in cold cake. It’s really our only qualm though.
Breakfast: A fairly standard international buffet affair, where you can dine on the veranda overlooking the pools. The bakery section is an unrivalled highlight.
As with all of the Jumeirah outposts, with your stay you’ll get free entry into Wild Wadi waterpark – which is in itself a reason to stay at a Jumeirah property. Wild Wadi is such a rush for all ages, and though there are plenty of people around, we still managed to wile away five or so hours there in unabashed enjoyment.
The transport links here are also well laid out, and if you want to wander down to another restaurant but don’t have the energy after one too many mousse cakes at The Palmery, just wave down any buggy going past or just make your way to a buggy stop. You’ll never have to wait long.
Price for one night ina resort deluxe room: Dh2000 via booking.com