Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi… On pinching toiletries, Aussie chefs and club life

Hotel review – further details and rating follow the post.

BR pool towelsIt’s got to that time of year when every resident of the UAE is dreaming about vacations. Some get them, some don’t. Just two weeks ago, the weather does that thing it does every year – it turned from beautiful-every-day-and-even-better-at-night to it’s-so-hot-I-can’t-breathe. Those of us fortunate enough to have pools to use are now suddenly cursing our bad luck if the landlord hasn’t arranged to have it chilled. That blue water sits idly in the stark sunlight all tempting and inviting, yet has all the capabilities of providing heat respite as that of a hot bath. The ocean is just on the edge – three weeks, and it will be hotter than body temperature, almost warm enough to cause third degree burns on a baby. There’s no such thing in Dubai as a public pool, so if you want any chance of heading outside without suffering heat stroke, you’d better make good friends with someone who has their water sorted, book a day-rate at a local hotel, or do what we just did, and head out for an overnight stay, which is often cheaper.

The Beach Rotana is an Abu Dhabi icon. Before there were all those fancy-pants new resort-style hotels like the Shangri La Qayrat al Beri, Saint Regis Sadiyat and Jumeirah Ethihad Towers, the Beach was it and a bit. Back then, only the rich and famous could afford the Emirates Palace, and so anyone at all who wanted five-star and had discerning taste was at the Rotana. Not only that, they always had the best beach club, and so back when there were still Jumeirah Janes (and their AUH counterparts) and beach club membership was as much a right of passage in the region as owning a white Prado or underpaying your Flipino maid, the elite of western expats were invariably found drinking Pina coladas and iced European water by its gently lapping pool.

After an enjoyable visit several years back, I’d completely forgotten all about it.

But I’ve just spent a weekend wrapped in it’s arms once again, and I’m sold. Sometimes hotels just don’t date as fast as you think they will. In the surrounding glitz and shine of all the new venues that surround it, the Beach Rotana is still holding it’s own. There’s plenty of photos above (some my own – I only had my iphone, so please forgive me, I’ve included some of the group’s own pics that do the venue justice.), but I’d like to point out a couple of true highlights.

The Club. Rotana seem to do hotel clubs better than anyone else. I’m not usually one to use a club lounge, unless it comes for free, but with almost any Rotana around the world, I’d recommend it, particularly if you don’t intend on leaving the hotel to dine (and trust me, in this heat, you won’t want to). The club rooms are around 500AED more, but for that you get a room that is 40m2 (rather than 30), breakfast in either the club or the restaurant downstairs, afternoon tea, and canapes and free cocktails between 7 and 9pm. You also get to have kids stay in the room for free if they are under 12 and using the existing bedding, and they can also use the club lounge until 5pm. All this means that you get enough to eat and drink all day, so that your final bill will probably only include a room-service pizza for the kids and a bellini by the pool (and maybe some babysitting whilst you linger in the lounge sans enfants after dark.) For my family, this was definitely a cheaper option, as we could all fit in the same room, and we tend to drink our weight in margaritas when on holidays. I also adored the VIP check-in and check-out, which happens in the lounge, on the 18th floor, so you can sip chinese tea and eat scones while they sort everything out for you.

The bath. Bodyline bath with jets and L’Occitane condiments to flavour yourself with verveine and orange blossom. I would have got to enjoy these if my totally lush ten year old hadn’t completely hogged the tub all afternoon. But I do confess to emptying the tray of baby bottles and soaps just before I left. It’s rare to find good quality toiletries anymore, so that’s my feeble excuse.

The food. Prego’s is a bit of an Abu Dhabi Institution, and is the older sister of it’s also revered Prego’s in Dubai’s Media Rotana. Excellent trattoria-style food, with lovely terrace, and still booked out most Thursday and Friday nights, and weekend lunches. The shining star for us however was Finz. It’s a beach-front bungalow with that Pacific-Island peaked roof, and tropical wooden interior. Inside it’s blurring those lines between casual and fancy, making you feel both relaxed and revered at the same time. The food is mainly seafood, with some innovative twists and clever uses of ingredients. Chef Justin Wong has just joined the team, and if his seasonal asparagus menu is anything to go on, Abu Dhabi are in for a treat. He’s got free rein of the menu now, and big plans for the relaunch of Finz later this year after a renovation that will see the bar area taking the sweeping water views, and Finz more accurately sealing themselves into the most rewarding of dining experiences that allows a casual feel combined with elegant five-star food. With the stunning night-time view over the water and the dazzling architecture of the Cleveland Clinic on Al Maryah Island, the clever seafood menu and that beach-hut feel, its going to be Abu Dhabi’s version of my adored Pier Chic.

BR Finz pencilsStuff for the kids. Firstly, they love the whole VIP service in the club lounge, if you book that category. Secondly, the playgrounds and other facilities are very well suited, with shallow pools with good visibility, playground in an area where you can also eat and drink (poolside), and just about the best quality kids menus in the region. They blur those lines perfectly between what a kid actually wants to eat, and what a parent believes a kid should eat. This menu was accompanied by the cutest little pencil pack, which I really should have pilfered (but didn’t). They even got a smiley-face berry amuse bouche at the restaurant when the adults got a snapper salad.

The deals. Currently Rotana have this stupidly amazing deal running, where every time you spend 699 in a restaurant you get a scratchy card which guarantees a free night’s stay. We’ve just picked one up for Jumeirah Rotana. Runs until June 25 for stays until June 27. info here. Secondly, they have the Exclusive Rotana Rewards deal, whereby you sign up for 950AED, then immediately get a 250AED voucher for dining, up to 50% off your bill when dining for a year, 20% off room rates, late check-out to 6pm where available, 20% off beach club membership, and reward points. link here.

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Rating: 8.5/10

Beach Rotana Hotel Exterior
Beach Rotana – photo courtesy of hotel
  • Accommodation Style: 5* resort
  • Rooms: 413 rooms – from classic studios to junior suites, and the 240 m² royal suite. Connecting rooms and club rooms also available.
  • Price: from $140 US ++ (16% taxes) in summer to $2600 for the big suite
  • Facilities: Wifi, AC, Garden, beach and water sports, outdoor pool, playground and baby pool, day-spa, gym, sauna, restaurants and bars, swim-up pool bar, free parking, Meeting/banquet facilities, Fax/photocopying, hairdresser/beauty, shopping (onsite and attached to a mall), babysitting, laundry and dry cleaning, breakfast buffet.
  • Languages: Filipino, English, Arabic and more, depending on available staff.
  • Perfect for: family weekends, business trips.
  • Also not bad for: Girls on a break (the mall is next-door!)
  • Pros: Outlined above – the club, the bath, the food, the deals and the way they look after kids. Very good position in the heart of old Abu Dhabi and most offices, but also on the edge of a small beach. Great cocktails at the pool bar. Very good quality rooms for the price. Overall, lovely service and friendly feel.
  • Cons: Tiling around the pool very slippery and hellishly hot in the UAE summer. No pork at breakfast (not a big deal for most anyway though)
  • Nearest Airport: Abu Dhabi 30 mins, Dubai 1 hr 30 mins.
  • Things to do in the area: Visit the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Mosque, tour the desert, visit the heritage village, go to the mall or go shopping further afield, visit the Abu Dhabi Corniche, tour the Yas Marina circuit/Ferrari World/Yas Waterworld, play golf and more.

Bookings: via Website,Phone: +971 2 6979000 or toll free 800 7744. You can also try a booking site like bookings.com but I would suggest going direct first, to check the deals.

Notes:

*A guide to ratings: These take into account the price, quality, service and the facilities, and in effect are a value rating.

  • 0-2/10 = exceptionally overpriced. Avoid at all costs, even if it means travelling to stay elsewhere overnight.
  • 3-5/10 = overpriced in respect to quality. Don’t stay unless there are no other options.
  • 6-7/10 = reasonable value. Check other options in the area just in case, but not a bad choice over-all.
  • 8-9/10= worth seeking out. Great value in respect to the offer, one of if not the best option in the area.
  • 10/10= super place. Stop what you’re doing, book a plane ticket and go there now.

Some other suggestions or opinion to add? Please comment