Mary Gostelow tastes being over the top in Dubai

Girlahead arrives at Dubai's newest Raffles opening on The Palm

Dubai’s icon, the equivalent of Sydney’s Opera House, has for 23 years been the sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab, but upstarts continually intrude. There’s 829.8-metre tall Burj Khalifa, and now also Ain Dubai, at 250 metres high the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel.

The Emirate, in addition, has the world’s most palatial hotel-for-today, for new-look extravaganza. Raffles The Palm Dubai. Remember the name. You will hear a lot about the Versailles look-alike, with over 6,000 crystal chandeliers and a full-time Italian artisan to tend to all the Francisco Molon from Romano d’Ezzelino, outside  Venice, silk damasks.

Soon after the 390-key resort was reflagged a couple of months ago it hosted a three-night wedding buy-out. ‘Normal’ occupancy is similarly doing just fine, says experienced Accor MD, Ayman Gharib. He is, by the way, particularly delighted how many bookings are coming in for his ten standalone villas, which come with two, three or four bedrooms, plus spa and wellness and all services, including butlers.

All guests love the airport welcome, and after 35 minutes in a Mercedes S-Class you feel, at Raffles The Palm Dubai on the end of a Palm frond, as remote as on a Maldives island. Your suite might be gilded and a bit Baroque but it is at least 65 sqm, with about an additional 20 sqm of terrace.

Ayman Gharib, Managing Director, Raffles The Palm Dubai
Lobby Lounge, Raffles The Palm Dubai

Recover with a workout and a Cinq Mondes treatment, or enjoy 500m of private beach and two football-fields-worth of well-tended gardens. Book ahead for a table out there, in the fresh air, at Piatti, invariably packed out with locals and expats attracted by, perhaps, the best-selling Maltagliati veal ragu, and possibly the chance for a selfie with a chef enticed here from Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire clubs.

Dining here throughout the hotel is well thought-out. Yes, there are those who like mass eating in an all-day lower lobby, with yet more gilding. Others, for main meals, would definitely head for Matagi, for an edgy take on, say, a Matsuhisa, Nobu or Zuma. The ambience is welcoming, despite a lack of daylight it’s light enough to see your device and the service is unobtrusive.

Matagi, Raffles The Palm Dubai

Don’t, under any circumstances, miss the superb Raffles Club, by far the best members-only space in town – make sure your suite allows access. Up on the sixth floor, this was formerly a 400-seat Alain Ducasse restaurant. Dine on its enormous terrace and look across a couple of kilometres to Burj Al-Arab, Burj Khalifa, the Wheel and more.

Back inside, Raffles Club is an all-white space highlighted with a few well-chosen red-hued paintings (somehow the effect is akin to sharing an A380 with only a few others). I breakfasted before departure. A glass-covered buffet – once the Ducasse mixologists’ creative station – sported a living kumquat tree, plus literally dozens of edibles and an oozing honeycomb. My egg white omelette arrived with a surprise extra, Oscietra caviar. What a final taste, especially since just-baked croissants were highlighted by Alain Milliart strawberry preserves.

Club Ocean suite, Raffles The Palm Dubai

The waiting Mercedes had pristine copies of today’s relevant world newspapers. The white-gloved butler, fresh from hotel school in India, came as far as airport security would allow. And then I boarded – an A380 as it turned out.

Mary Gostelow publishes the daily and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, both part of Almont Global.

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