Best for:
Ambience: A quiet and intimate space (think white and chrome with flashes of pink).
Colour choice: Essie’s latest, including light greens, lilacs and peaches (we went for ‘Tart Deco’, an intense orange shade).
Entertainment: The Corrs played quietly in the background and there were a few magazines: bring a friend to keep you occupied.
Speed: Despite having two therapists attending to us, we were in the chair for just over an hour – this is a thorough treatment.
Service: It seems to depends on your beauticians, but ours were very helpful.
Extras: We were treated to a thorough foot scrub and painless cuticle cutting. If you’re offered hand cream, say yes – its application comes with a hand and foot massage.
Results: Picture-perfect straight from the salon, but we had chips by day two despite avoiding doing the dishes.
Rating: 4/5
Dhs140 for a mani/pedi. Various locations: we tried the Emirates Towers branch (04 330 1001).

Tips & Toes
Best for: Relaxation
Ambience: Plush and soothing, with dark woods, rich colours and wide cushioned reclining chairs.
Colour choice: We were offered 12 shades of Essie and Orly polishes, including lots of pinks and nudes (very on-trend). We opted for a soft orange.
Entertainment: There’s a small supply of magazines at the door, but we chose to recline and close our eyes.
Speed: The pedicure was far speedier than the manicure. The manicurist took her time over each and every nail: great for an hour of pampering, not so good for a quick in-and-out.
Service: Thorough, friendly staff, although they’re not too chatty (ideal if you’re not into small talk).
Extras: A gentle scrub, massage and cuticle cutting are all part of the deal.
Results: Very neat application, although we discovered a random blob of varnish halfway up our hand. The polish lasted five days with no chips.
Rating: 4/5
Dhs110 for a mani/pedi. Various locations: we tried the Jumeirah Beach Residence branch (04 429 3477).

Ambience: The decor is bright and white – slick and professional.
Colour choice: We chose a French pedicure and classic manicure in traditional neutral shades. The green ‘Mint Candy Apple’ (from Essie’s new collection) was the oddest hue on offer.
Entertainment: Friends and Seinfeld episodes on tap, our own set of headphones, a cup of tea and the latest gossip mags. Unbeatable!
Speed: Our mani and pedi, plus extras such as eyebrow threading and a foot mask, took just over an hour.
Service: Excellent. We were given advice about choosing a colour, and the technician offered drinks and asked if we wanted our cuticles cut.
Extras: The standard mani and pedi came with a hand and foot massage: the hand treatment was so thorough we were asked to remove our wedding ring.
Results: The colour chosen for us was gorgeous, although the French tip was too thick and chipped less than an hour after we got home (we should have been advised to spend more time under the dryer).
Rating: 3/5
Dhs140 for a standard mani/pedi; Dhs160 with a French pedicure. Various locations: we tried the Mirdif City Centre branch (04 284 3722).

Nail Express
Best for: Entertainment
Ambience: The feminine yet sophisticated silver and purple colour scheme was rounded off with plush silver armchairs.
Colour choice: Lots of bright fluorescents to suit summer.
Entertainment: You get a personal DVD player with a selection of girly classics – Desperate Housewives and the like. There’s also free water and drinks (good for well-hydrated nails!).
Speed: No wonder it’s called Nail Express: we were in and out within an hour. The fact there were two therapists helped.
Service: Friendly without being intrusive. However, the manicurist wasn’t gentle.
Extras: Our feet got two thorough scrubbings during the treatment (not a reflection on the state of our feet, we hasten to add). We also had our hands and forearms moisturised and massaged.
Results: The quality of both manicure and pedicure were excellent, but the manicurist took to us with the file so vigorously that we ended up with several tiny cuts on our fingers. They still hurt!
Rating: 3/5
Dhs135. Garhoud, opposite Welcare Hospital (04 283 3828).

The Nail Spa
Ambience: Efficient but clinical. The lighting is bright and it’s clean, although a bit frayed around the edges.
Colour choice: A wide selection care of Essie: there are a handful of fluorescents on offer, but the rest of the range is fairly conservative.
Entertainment: There’s a decent magazine selection (mainly gossip mags) and a television on mute.
Speed: Even though we had an appointment, there was a long wait before we was seen by a technician (we’d read most of Ahlan! before one showed up). Overall, the process took just over an hour.
Service: Friendly and efficient. The therapists weren’t hugely chatty, but were sweet regardless.
Extras: The foot therapist shaved, scrubbed and massaged our heels, while our hands were given a massage with divine-smelling lotion.
Results: Our nails looked great at first, although the daily grind of typing and walking started to wear away at the paint the following day.
Rating: 3/5
Dhs140 for a mani/pedi. Various locations: we tried Aviation Club, Garhoud (04 282 1617).

Ambience: Spaces is quirky-cool, but the interrogation lamps directly over the mani/pedi chairs were headache-inducing.
Colour choice: There were three brands on offer – Creative Nail Design, Essie and OPI – with plenty of blues and shimmers and a great selection of classics (we went for CND’s ‘Tutu Pink’). We’d have liked to see more brights, though.
Entertainment: As we sat down we were delighted to see a personalised TV screen right in front of us, but alas, to actually watch anything you have to bring your own USB stick.
Speed: The mani was thorough and only took 45 minutes (our therapist, Jen, had a hefty eight years’ experience under her belt), but the salon was overbooked so we had to wait 45 minutes for the pedicure to start.
Service: Very friendly and not cloying
Extras: Spaces offers a cool range of foot soaks and scrubs (for extra cost), but we stuck to the basics and were very impressed with the execution.
Results: By day three, there were no chips and our feet still felt smooth.
Rating: 3/5
Dhs120 for a basic mani/pedi. Various locations: we tried Oasis Centre (04 515 4400).

Nails at Home
Ambience: This manicure took place in our own apartment (yes, the therapists come to you!) so the decor was obviously homely yet frighteningly chic.
Colour choice: We were offered a case-full of shades, from neutral to orange (which seems to be the company’s signature colour).
Entertainment: That was up to us – we wish we’d turned the radio on.
Speed: With a pair of technicians to attend to us, our fingernails took 40 minutes, our toes slightly longer (the brochure says 60 minutes).
Service: Friendly, efficient and tidy. They didn’t leave a trace.
Extras: We got an arm and leg massage and full scrub – our feet were super-soft afterwards. They also asked politely before cutting cuticles.
Results: Perfection! No chips, even by day four – they seemed to apply an extra layer of polish to finish and set the colour. The best mani-pedi we’ve ever had.
Rating: 5/5
Dhs150 for a mani/pedi in your home. (04 282 8385, www.nailsathome.ae).

Covetable colours
Our favourite summer shades…

Milf by Illamasqua
Bored of pink? This vintage shade is minty and fresh.
Dhs80 at Bloomingdale’s (04 350 5333).

Blueberry Whip by CND
This subtle mauve mixes two of our favourite shades: nude and purple.
Dhs40 at Spaces (04 515 4400).

Neon Pomegranates on Ice by Bio Sculpture Gel
The name of this neon is what won us over.
Dhs40 at The Nail Spa (04 282 1617).

Mauve Parure by Nivea Pure Diamond
Gone are the days of reds being the raciest colour: no hue is off limits these days and we think purple is here to stay.
Dhs30 at most major supermarkets.

Les Pop-up de Chanel
Chanel nail polishes have the longest staying power, and their juicy summer colours this season have our vote.
Dhs113 at most major beauty stores.