Australia Day 2020 was duly celebrated last Sunday at a Thai-themed resort in Dubai. Does that make sense? Honestly, the 293-key Anantara Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort & Spa is a property that makes you think you are in Chiang Mai rather than the stress-overload creation that is Dubai. It is little wonder that an increasing number of locals, both expats and Emirati, drive over to The Palm for staycations, sometimes every weekend, without fail. And long-haul travellers appreciate the resort for a recovery lay-over en route to, or back from, Europe.
Hotel GM Jean-François Laurent has contributed heavily, on behalf of the hotel, to Australia’s bushfire disaster charity. Last Sunday he was hosting a dinner in the 293-room hotel’s 80-seat Bushman’s Restaurant, which has a Penfold’s-themed private dining room, as well as a casual bar that would not seem out of place in The Rocks.
Even without the special occasion of Australia Day, Bushman’s will do 140 covers most evenings. Wood tables set with fine table tops, and soft music helps an already-jovial atmosphere. For the homesick, menu items include emu and kangaroo and, of course, an array of Australian beef and lamb (why else have a Josper Grill?). On Australia Day, accompanied by lots of toasts in Penfolds Bin 28 Kalima Shiraz, I started with emu wraps with homemade jam and carrot julienne, followed by Australian wagyu ribeye with lightly grilled asparagus and eat-with-your-fingers sweet potato fries. The knives, big enough for Crocodile Dundee, are actually Sambonet.
Jean-François Laurent – a one-time chef in his home city of Lyon, France – has, by the way, joined the hotel’s long-time Irish Executive Chef, Maurice Fitzgerald, in compiling a really gorgeous, and useful, cookbook, A Culinary Journey, publisher NPI Media FZ, Dubai (among the dozens of gloriously illustrated suggestions, with clear recipes, is one for a Tim Tam tart).
You can stay here for days without getting bored. There is of course an international restaurant, with nightly changing themed buffets, and you have a Pan-Asian alternative, Mekong, and Dine Anywhere allows just that, perhaps a picnic on a boat at sea, watching the evening lights at Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa, across on the mainland. What everyone, including many staying in neighbouring hotels, really appreciates, too, is Revo, a casual-chic eatery with garage-sale furniture, great lattes and home-cooked food, and from 8am. to midnight, co-working with free speedy Wi-Fi.
But it is not only about food. Depending on your arrival time, you might well be greeted in the lobby by a tame Peregrine Falcon, Mara, who sits patiently on one arm of her handler as if waiting to be photographed. Her daily routine includes regular spells on this job, interspersed with hunting wild, in the desert, and sleeping.
I would definitely suggest one of the private villas nestled around the resort’s own man-made lakes: some are swim-direct, straight off your own terrace stairs. My favourite, however, are the villas which have their own private pools, about six metres long and completely private.
For exercise, too, there is a serious Technogym, with lots of outside members, and do not miss the spa. Led by a charming professional, Galina from Sochi, this team knows what it is doing (try a Natura Bissé re-hydrating facial). And if it all gets too much, there are shuttles to Dubai’s famous retail malls. It is honestly not surprising that this is a resort with 22% repeats.
See Mary Gostelow’s free daily briefing, www.luxury-te.com