Words by Kaspar Chambers
The Ritz-Carlton name is synonymous with refinement and hospitality, so it’s safe to assume you’re in good hands upon stepping through the esteemed doors wherever you are in the world. This location in the district of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) lives up to that high expectation and provides its guests with the best of some uniquely Dubai experiences. A world-class spa, standout dining options and a high-end nightlife buzz make this an ideal destination to base yourself while exploring all the city has to offer.
A regal, Art Deco building stands out from the surrounding ostentatious Dubai sprawl, setting a tone of sophistication that characterises a stay here. The main entrance via the central, internal courtyard is welcome relief from the relentlessly busy city streets and assured staff, suited in tails, are poised to put you at ease. Throughout the main atrium and adjoining spaces, your eye will be drawn to displays from the hotel’s impressive art collection, adding to an underlying sense of grandeur and imperiousness as you walk the hallways.
As you would anticipate, the rooms don’t disappoint. Walls and furniture are dressed with wood and leather, while soft lighting and a muted colour palette give a contemporary feel to the classic look; a kind of ‘modern majesty’. They are, of course, equipped with the full range of expected appliances and amenities. Deluxe rooms have cleverly integrated bathrooms set inside glass cubes that maximise the sense of space and allow natural light to flow throughout. Suites offer additional space and comfort, while the most exclusive residences even boast a private rooftop pool. Rooms start from around £170 in the summer low season and £310 in winter.
Well-researched foodie travellers will be aware of DIFC’s status as a must visit location for eating, and much of this reputation was built by the world-class dining options available at the hotel. The jewel in the crown is Le Cirque, a sister restaurant to the famed (now sadly deceased) NYC institution of the same name that served the city’s elite for decades. This Dubai location continues the French/Italian legacy marvellously with particularly memorable signature dishes that include their escargots: soaked for 12 hours in milk and baked with Asian spices, and a wonderfully moreish lobster risotto: a perfect rendition of a classic dish.
A huge staple of Dubai social life is the Friday brunch: an all-day heady carnival of excess with food and drinks freely flowing. The Ritz-Carlton DIFC knows how to put on a show at their outdoor bar and club, Flair 5. Expect DJs, dancers and bongos with the madness fuelled by seemingly limitless cocktails and tapas. For the rest of the week, the Flair bar is a trendy hangout for the city’s well-to-do and a good spot to enjoy a late-night drink or shisha pipe.
A huge pull for this hotel is the state-of-the-art spa, highly in demand for the extensive variety of treatment options and the outstanding quality of its facilities. Each session is tailored to the subject’s needs: whether you wish to be sent into blissful relaxation or perhaps your senses are in need of a little energising, there’s an array of restorative techniques coming from all corners of the world to choose from. Of special note, the diverse expertise of the therapy team have been put into crafting their East Meets West treatment (£155), integrating traditional massage styles from Bali to India, to Mexico. Recharging in the afternoon is a treat in the Moroccan-style hammams and saunas and finish up before a night out at the artisan Italian salon.
The desirability of the hotel location will be a point of contention depending on your travel preferences and needs. Certainly if you’re in town on business, there is no better option for refined comfort within walking distance of all the major institutions. The leisure traveller’s dilemma is the choice between downtown and beachfront: there is a second Ritz-Carlton in the ever-popular Dubai marina as well as a string of other upmarket options.
In my view, downtown Dubai and DIFC are the most characterful and exciting parts of the emirate. If, like me, you crave variety and want a little more from a holiday beyond artificial beachfront luxury, the DIFC location will definitely appeal, being only a short taxi ride to all the major attractions. The downtown setting is also at the heart of the city’s most exclusive district with swanky bars and clubs catering to those who have a taste for nightlife.
With Dubai re-opening to tourists after a coronavirus-enforced hiatus, now could be a good time for a welcome change of pace. Make sure you take advantage of the hotel’s weekend getaway offer on deluxe rooms.
Address: DIFC, off Sheikh Zayed Road, PO Box 482032, Dubai, United Arab Emirates