BACKGROUND The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi opened in March and is the five-star brand’s third property in the UAE. The hotel group has its sights set on other Middle Eastern locations including Cairo (2014) and Muscat (2015).
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The property is extremely grand, with a Venetian Renaissance theme and sprawling layout. Built in a crescent formation comprising ten interconnecting buildings, the hotel is set within 23 hectares of greenery, with 85 private villas scattered around the grounds. Its close proximity to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a real asset – the arch of the hotel entrance frames the sacred building perfectly. The palm-lined pool and beach are contained in the inner arc of the hotel’s crescent, facing away from the mosque so that bathers are not in sight of it. There are plans to expand the property by the end of the year with the addition of a “Venetian Village”, which will feature 33 apartments, seven restaurants and a spa.
WHERE IS IT? On Khor Al Maqta’a, a 25-minute drive from the airport. The hotel sits on the western bank of the Grand Canal, opposite the Fairmont and Shangri-La properties.
ROOM FACILITIES I stayed in an 85 sqm Executive Club suite on the fifth floor (the top level of the furthest building to the right along the crescent). There is a double balcony facing the Grand Canal and, inside, dark surfaces and marble floors inlaid with patterns similar to those in the nearby mosque impart a tasteful sense of luxury. I slept soundly on the king-size bed complete with velvety-soft 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton linens, and appreciated the lighting panel beside the bed and easily-customised air conditioning.
The walk-in wardrobe contains an iron and ironing board, laptop safe, luggage rack and scales. In the lounge there’s a Nespresso machine, large flatscreen LG TV, minibar, sofa and two armchairs, and a glass-topped workdesk with a range of plug sockets above it.
The bathroom has a walk-in rainshower with rainbow-coloured mosaic tiles on the walls, Asprey Purple Water bath products and silky bathrobes. Bottled water is free, as is an optional overnight shoeshine service, but in-room wifi costs
Dhs 100 (US$27.4) per day.
Entry-level deluxe rooms start from 42 sqm and come with similar amenities (minus Executive Club access), while the Royal Suite occupies 250 sqm. The one- and two-bedroom villas range from 90 sqm to 130 sqm, and have private terraces and butler service.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel’s dining offering is considerable. Li Jiang is a gourmet Southeast Asian restaurant with striking décor and delectable dim sum. The Forge is a chic steakhouse, and Mijana a modern Arabic eatery that has a frosted glass show kitchen through which the chefs’ silhouettes can be seen. Breakfast is served in all-day Mediterranean restaurant Giornotte, and there’s also pool-side Al Fresco, lobby bar Sorso, Alba for tea, and Dolce for coffee and ice cream. The Ritz-Carlton’s seventh-floor executive lounge offers a sweeping view of the pool and canal, and provides free wifi, food and drink throughout the day. Staff were warm and helpful, and greeted me by name.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Spread over three floors, the hotel has 15 meeting spaces and a decadent majlis (waiting area) for VIPs, with gold mosaic walls and purple diamanté-studded sofas. The Roma ballroom is one of the biggest in Abu Dhabi at 1,550 sqm, and can be divided into three. The other venues can hold from four people in the smallest to 150 in the largest, and there is a business centre on the second floor.
LEISURE FACILITIES The hotel has two small private beaches along the canal, and a 1,600 sqm outdoor pool that is illuminated nightly in different colours. The 24-hour health centre is excellent – it has Technogym and Kinesis equipment, free weights, Swiss balls and personal trainers on request. A 2,000 sqm spa with 15 treatment rooms is set to open by the end of the year.
VERDICT This architecturally, fascinating property has a stellar range of restaurants and facilities, plus highly professional staff.