Exclusive first look inside a proper British import on Palm Jumeirah
You will, unless you’ve been living under a rock, be aware that the Palm Jumeirah is in the middle of a wave of new arrivals, with restaurants and hotels springing up in both tasty and dramatic ways. But there’s one, we reckon, that offers a truly unique experience. Next month, the first-ever international extension of London’s iconic Dukes hotel will open on the Palm. We get an exclusive sneak peek at what Dukes Dubai is bringing to the party.
1. It’s British through and through The Dukes brand couldn’t be any more British if it tried. Or if it went out on penalties in the quarter finals of a major football tournament. Its original, and only other, venue, in London’s prestigious Mayfair, was once the home of a duke – hence the name – before being transformed into an exclusive five-star hotel in 1908. Since then it has attracted a string of big names, been hugely popular with GCC visitors and become synonymous with top quality boutique travel for people with serious taste.
2. Speaking of taste… The venue boasts six food and beverage outlets, and all but one of them continue to celebrate Blighty. There’s the Tea Lounge, the Cigar Lounge and Manhattan grill and bar West 14th – which has a cool-as-they-come outdoor bar with views to die for and is located within the same development. Most exciting, though, are the two new restaurants that look set to put Dukes Dubai on the map. The first, which will open in March, is Indian spot (because what right-minded British hotel wouldn’t have an Indian restaurant?) Kyber – a Mumbai-based family business that has here landed its first international outpost. Sitting at the very top of the hotel, it will boast incredible views and unique flavours.
3. GBR meets JBR For us, though, the venue’s most tantalising outlet is GBR. An inside and outside offering, the latter has stunning views out over JBR, while the former is an awesome space. Accessed off the main lobby – a very impressive space in itself – it has a square central bar and huge windows framing it, making it by day bright and airy, while at night some clever lighting will instil a more intimate feel. It’s cool and a bit art deco-y – think London’s The Ivy or The Wolseley and you’re on the right track. There are four live cooking stations, bookended on one end by a seafood section where crustacean platters will be assembled to order, Colchester oysters will be shucked and diners can sit and chat to the chefs. At the other end is a pastry counter that will be churning out everything from mini jam roly-polies and apple crumbles to, according to British executive chef Martin Cahill, “proper” English custard. The two stations in the middle, meanwhile, will produce a classic roster of UK grub, including ploughmans and piccalilli, cod and chips, Dover sole, cottage pie, Lancashire hot pot and daily changing roasts with trimmings. Oh, and there won’t be any fancy names for stuff, either. “We’ve got some amazing breads, but they’re going to have the proper names, like baps and bloomers,” says Cahill.
4. James Bond would love it No really, he would. Mainly because the man who made him always used to. The bar at the original Dukes hotel in London was a regular haunt for 007 creator Ian Fleming who, on returning from some travels far afield famously asked its head bartender to mix him a new beverage, of the shaken-not-stirred variety. And so it was that James Bond’s drink of choice was born. In tribute, on the first floor of its Dubai sister is Dukes Bar, a refined, sophisticated, music-free spot with a complex drinks menu and classy wooden trolley service to your table.
5. So will Mickey Rourke Just as a sidenote, you can probably expect to see Hollywood comeback kid Mickey Rourke walking its corridors at some point soon. When he made his triumphant return to the A-list – after a stint as a pro boxer and a bunch of bit-parts in rubbish movies – in 2008, he went to London for a week to promote The Wrestler, the movie that would turn his career around. The hotel he insisted on staying in? “Dukes,” he said. “Because I only do the best.” 6. It’s got some quality touches The Duchess floor at Dukes Dubai is a women-only space. The hotel also has three swimming pools, a private beach, assorted watersports, the Dukesy Kids Club and a Toni & Guy hair salon, which is accessed from a door on the left wall of Dukes Bar. Expect to see partners relaxing there while waiting for their other halves to get their barnets sorted.
7. The swimming pool is a stunner The pools we mentioned earlier include an outdoor infinity pool and a Garden River pool, but the signature one is considerably higher. The hotel has been built in the shape of an “H”, but with the middle bit up at the top of the structure. And that’s where the pool is. Expect knockout views over Dubai Marina and a properly dazzling experience – the pool is black marble with twinkling lights built into it, making for an atmospheric splash about. 8. Location, location, location… Phil and Kirsty would very much approve of where Dukes Dubai sits in the scheme of the city. Located on the west trunk of the Palm Jumeirah, it’s a mere stone’s throw from Club Vista Mare, the 120-metre beachfront promenade that houses seven licensed restaurants. With Dukes Dubai boasting both hotel rooms and furnished hotel apartments, it’s perfectly placed to offer both tourists and residents an amazing stay. And given that there are more than 240,000 UK nationals living in the UAE, and 1.2 million coming on holiday each year, those after a true taste of home need look no further.