Dubai’s Marina area is one of the most vibrant and exciting parts of this exhilarating 24-hour city. Its glittering skyscrapers; extensive waterways and vibrant restaurants make for a thrilling visit, both at day and night. Many regular visitors to Dubai will always stay in this part of town, so I recently paid a visit to experience it for myself.
My hotel for this visit was Grosvenor House, the renowned destination hotel, which was the first hotel to be built in Dubai’s Marina back in 2005. In the following decade, Grosvenor House has expanded by building a second hotel tower in 2011, and the site is now spread across the two buildings, with an interconnecting walkway. Many other hotels have opened in the area, but Grosvenor House still retains its popular reputation, and so I was keen to experience what keeps drawing guests back time and time again.
Grosvenor House is a little older than many Dubai hotels, but it retains its very high level of comfort and luxury in the rooms, and a real sense of glamour and fun in the lobby, restaurants and bars. There are a number of different types of accommodation available, from hotel rooms, to apartments and residences split across the two towers. We stayed in Tower One in a standard room, which was extremely comfortable and had an excellent corner balcony with views running down Dubai’s coastline, past the Palm and Burj Al Arab. The beds are enormous and extremely comfortable, with crisp sheets and sumptuous pillows. There is plenty of space to work and unpack, even in the entry-level rooms. The bathrooms are decked out in two types of marble and are equipped with Bulgari toiletries. Upon check in, guests are invited to upgrade their room to a suite, complete with access to the Level 5 lounge in Tower 2 for an additional 350 AED per night. We didn’t take this offer up, but it would appeal to anyone interested in a quieter communal space to eat and relax, and it includes all food and drink throughout the day from the bar.
Breakfast is taken in Sloane’s, the buffet restaurant on the Mezzanine level, which sits above the lobby area. As with many hotels in the Middle East, the choice is enormous and extremely international, as is often the case in this part of the world. Sloane’s is a large restaurant with mostly indoor seating, and a few outside tables set on a sunny terrace overlooking the Marina entrance. The breakfast here was, without question, the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. From beautifully made coffees, to beautifully fresh, sweet fruit juices, the butteriest croissants and individual brioche that look and taste as though they have just been baked in the very best Parisien boulangerie. Food intolerances are extremely well catered for, and the chefs and staff are willing to go out of their way to make you pretty much anything you like that suits your requirements. All the hot food on the buffet is made in-house from scratch, too, so you can easily find out exactly what it contains easily. Allow a good hour to take a leisurely breakfast if you can each morning. Even after staying in the hotel for several days, there is always something new to try every day.
Grosvenor House is famous for its social scene and its bars and restaurants are legendary in Dubai, frequented by non-residents, too. The hotel’s three bars include Embassy, Toro Toro and the Buddha Bar, which is currently under refurbishment and will open again in November. We visited Embassy for a couple of cocktails, and absolutely loved it there. Set at the top of Tower 2, it offers sumptuous and exclusive surroundings in which to unwind, and the cocktails are divine, too. The Palm and the Blackberry and Black Pepper Margarita were firm favourites.
But the best experience of all was dinner at Rhodes W1, Gary Rhodes’ restaurant, also situated on the Mezzanine floor. The restaurant has been recently refurbished, and offers a clean, light and bright dining room and bar with a white walls and stylish yellow and green furnishings, with a bright, garden-like theme. It is a great space, and the elegant surroundings have a wonderfully lively feel, in keeping with Grosvenor House’s atmosphere, with an open kitchen and really upbeat music, which really makes the restaurant feel fun and relaxed.
The first impression of Rhodes W1 was the warmest of welcomes. Gary has assembled a great team here, who are extremely friendly, welcoming, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. This is no mean feat, and the smooth, slick operation between the staff is a real pleasure to experience throughout the night.
The menu here is Modern British, with a focus on fresh, British, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours, and an emphasis on a sharing concept, and so we tried a four course sharing menu, with two small different plates comprising each course, which was a lovely way to try as much as possible from the menu. Not only that, but the sharing concept provokes conversation and thought with your dining companions, which makes the experience even more memorable.
We started with some small bites, which include an excellent plate of citrus cured scallop slices in a delicately flavoured sauce made with fennel and salted lemon and topped with micro leaves. The scallops were absolutely sublime, melting in the mouth and whetting our appetites for more. This was followed by a superb orange, black olive and fresh herb salad. It was beautifully prepared and presented and was a sensationally balanced dish, with each mouthful punctuated with sweet, sour and salty flavours, and interesting textures of the cool orange and little nuggets of crystallised hazelnuts. I’ll be trying to recreate this at home.
Next up was a dish of pan-fried sea bass, with beautiful flakes of fish and crispy skin, sat on a bed of richly flavoured shrimps with tomatoes and lentils. The complex, savoury flavours paired fantastically well together. We then moved on to a dish of juicy deboned and sautéed chicken thighs, baked with a honey pine nut pesto and nicely al dente sugar snap peas and asparagus, with a lime crème fraîche, which I could have happily eaten on its own, and found myself mentally recording every detail of the dish to try and make it at home.
The main course comprised another plate of supremely succulent chargrilled sirloin steak, topped with buttered spinach, tomatoes and black olives, and a highly successful basil cream hollandaise, which provided a wonderful balance of herby acidity and rich creaminess to accompany the steak. Then we enjoyed some superb Welsh lamb cutlets with a deeply flavoured sesame cabbage with ginger, which was not an accompaniment I had ever considered to pair with lamb, but again was hugely successful.
We finished our meal with another amazing duo of plates, including a perfect raspberry soufflé and a roast pear with Stilton ice cream and a red wine syrup, which was a really great balance of sweet and savoury flavours and made a fantastic end to the meal.
The food at Rhodes W1 is not only fantastically executed, but the exciting, complex and well-developed flavours in every course were hugely satisfying, interesting and enjoyable. The wine list is interesting and varied, and the staff are hugely knowledgeable, and will advise on what suits your tastes and pairs best with the food. I highly recommend trying the matched glasses of house wine to accompany the courses, as we did, which offers interest and good value for money.
We informed Rhodes W1 of dietary requirements in advance and were produced with a special menu on arrival, which we were told Chef Lee Adams had personally prepared for us, which was much appreciated. It made the experience easy and enjoyable, knowing they had prepared for us in advance.
Grosvenor House is a sumptuous, sophisticated hotel, which, quite uniquely, offers all elements of Dubai life to guests, from glamour, to fine dining, to nearby shopping, exciting nightlife, swimming pools and beach access at sister hotel Le Royal Meridien. It is a very special place indeed.
Thank you to Grosvenor House for inviting me to stay as a guest.