Mandarin Oriental Jumeira is a Dubai hotel that does things differently – and it is not only spelling Jumeira like that (everyone else seems to use Jumeirah). For a start it has an Austrian GM, Werner Anzinger who has a passion for Napoleon, and a wife from Melbourne. It has, as we will see, Dubai’s only tree-sculpted lobby, and a proper beach-set jogging track. And next Friday, 14 February, for one night it will be serving an anti-Valentine cocktail, ‘Leaving you behind’, Shōchū, vermouth, noisette and herb-flavoured liqueur with a dash of artichoke liquor.
Actually, the six-floor building does not look like a hotel – I thought it was global headquarters of a top fashion brand. Outside, as if male models waiting for cue, stood half a dozen young men, blue cotton jackets with a white samurai design, plain blue trousers, white shirts, no ties. In through doors in an otherwise all-glass wall, a smaller line up, offering dates and Arabic coffee, waited. “Welcome to your home,” said someone. I looked ahead, along an interior avenue, each side seven artwork trees, all different heights, interior-lit white glass trunks, stainless branches and white-light maxi-leaves. The avenue flanks four low decorative pools. I pass an enticing open-sided Mandarin Cake Shop.
Proximity-pad keys, in a card folder, come with a detailed fold-out hotel map, with clear outlets opening times, in Arabic and English. I am shown up by a tall samurai-jacketted guy, formerly at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech. There are 600 staff members, from 64 nationalities, to look after 256 rooms and suites. Rooms, and public areas, are designed by Jeffrey Wilkes. I am in suite #329, which looks straight out to sea. I was shown rooms, terrace, and the 110-centimetre television that revolves through 180° so I can watch it from my terrace. I have a cat-flap for movement of laundry and newspapers, Jacob Jensen phones, a beige Begg of Scotland cashmere throw and Natura Bissé toiletries. The Corian free-standing egg-shaped tub, with hydrating bath salts, is next to a wall-set heated towel rail. Pristine hardbacks, from London’s celebrity words-seller Heywood Hill Books, include The New Silk Roads, by Peter Frankopan, Oxford’s polyglot Professor of Global History; My Story, by Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum; and Vanity Fair 100 Years. I have a fruit bowl and, under a glass cover, four exquisite two-bite cakes, with Narumi plates and La Tavola cutlery.
Before sunset, I took a walk. At the front of the lobby is Beluga, a sleek caviar outlet outsourced to the Iranian head of Gourmet House, top local supplier of eggs not only from his home country but France, Russia and Poland. Best-seller, said the manager, is a Tsarine potato with Russian Oscietra caviar. I walked on past La Loge beauty salon, stocking a huge range of Kerastase products (best-seller, clearly marked with a #1, is a masque). I went out, to the courtyard of the C-shaped building. A range of interconnecting pools interestingly has dozens of soft teal loungers but also three different shapes of ‘lounging cabins’. A young man from Kampala offers all arrivals sturdy canvas and teal-leathered handled zipper bags with face cloths and cold water. Further on, my eyes opened even wider. At the far end of the courtyard, marked by a three metre-deep strip of astroturf, is a red concrete public jogging track. Yes, in Dubai! And what is more, it was being used, by joggers, alpine-stick walkers, old ladies hobbling and kids being pushed in buggies.
Later I had a quick look at the hotel’s fifth floor Club Lounge, open to suite guests and locals who join the fitness club and buy up to access the lounge, with free breakfast and meeting rooms and networking. This, and all eatertainment venues, are designed by Silver Fox, from Singapore. On the restaurants’ side, I loved the look of the hotel-run Tasca by Portugal’s super-star José Avillez. This is next to the general rooftop (sixth floor) pool – daytime loungers switch to saloon seating by night. There is lots of buzz, and dozens of black-clad cooking people are getting ready for a busy evening.
Back down on the ground floor Netsu restaurant has walls with red graffiti, almost up to Flinders Lane level. Netsu, also hotel-run, is Japanese by Ross Shonhan, an Aussie with lots of international following. Our table is at right angles and next to the cooking area. Calcutta-born sommelier Sourav Dutta explains how he progressed, via a rugby scholarship, to being hooked on sake, first in Edinburgh and then London. He shows off his Netsu-labelled Kimoto Daiginjo Kiku-Masamune. For an all-purpose red wine, he chose The Velvet Devil Merlot 2017 Washington State. This is all sharing. After a gigantic mixed sashimi platter comes an Australian wagyu ribeye grilled over rice-hay, imported from Japan. Then comes what must be a world-beating dessert platter, offering home-made icecreams through to sticky toffee pudding.
The fitness centre, with all-wall windows overlooking the hotel’s entrance, opens at 6am. The full area of Citterio-designed Technogym is complemented by TRX straps, weights and proper sitting-room chairs, all dark colours. There is a Nespresso machine, with china cups. Personal trainers run free classes.
After a really strong shower I head down to The Bay for breakfast. The space, inside and out, is broken up by open-trellis wood walls. Black and white tiled flooring goes with some walls that are blackboards, for exquisite drawings: living greenery hangs from the wood ceiling, or wafts in air-conditioning wind as some plants stand on the buffet stations. There is a prominent kids’ corner. I sit at a slatted pale-wood table, woven plastic taupe mat, pale blue pepper, and pale green salt, Zassenhaus mills, and a wrapped 20g Echiré butter. Homemade yoghurts are in open-top jars, filter coffee comes in a tall cup with a teal streak. I notice a selection of travel books lying next to living wheatgrass.
This is, I think as I climbed into the car to leave, an edgy Dubai hotel, with a lot of design and other style.