Abu Dhabi’s newest luxury hotel is St Regis Abu Dhabi, part of Nation Towers, right on the Corniche – next to the comfortable-as-your-favourite-Ferragamo shoes Hilton. There are two towers, soaring up to 50 floors, where it looks, from the ground, as if a flying saucer has landed to join them (they are indeed joined, by a three-bedroom Abu Dhabi Suite, all of 11,500 square feet and with a private spa that is sometimes used as main-spa overflow). Having climbed around the 283-room hotel just before opening, the gal was thrilled to be going to stay.
I was greeted by Mustafa Sakr, the Egyptian-Turkish, with Aussie thrown in, hotel manager (his boss, Oliver Key, is away). The stage is set. Around is a theatre of marble and plush Afghan carpets, and rich fabrics, and flowers, and paintings by Sergei Yatsenko, a Russian who has a big local Emirati following. Continuing this internationalism, my butler was a young Dutchman, his first job and he was superlative, there when I needed him but never in the way. I certainly needed showing around room 4803 – it was big enough for Manchester City and several other football teams simultaneously, although the dining table only had ten seats. I looked far down, across the Corniche road to the hotel’s private beach.
They have gone for superlatives throughout. Take breakfast in Rhodes 44 (not sure if this is named to announce Gary Rhodes’ age, or if it is the 44th restaurant the scrubbing brush-coiffeured Brit has opened around the world). The chafing dishes, all 20 of them, are set in such military order that the local army would be impressed. We had dined in Villa Toscana, an absolutely gorgeous Florentine-style villa, with rich drapes and a popular outside terrace, where Sardinian chef Stefano Viola kept on sending out his specials, crostini, wafer-thin carasau bread that crackles when you break it, Puglia burrata with tomato purée, pressed and grilled herb chicken… ‘Italian’ restaurants are so much better when food is cooked and presented by Italians, and here there are three.
Want another superlative? This, dear reader, is the private underground tunnel leading to the hotel’s private beach. Take dedicated elevator down, walk 30 yards in a polished, shiny, champagne-coloured marble tube, and at the other end, take another elevator up or, for the ultra-fit, use some stairs (marble, of course). There, on the beach, there is a second Olympic-sized pool, complementing that next to the main hotel. As of August, there will be two more restaurants, Asia da Cuba, and Catch seafood. Already there is a large beach, with clean white sand – the only negative is the unwanted and environmentally unethical plethora of jet-skis that the authorities here seem unwilling or unable to ban.
The hotel also has three gyms. There are full-size and light and good Technogyms both on the beach, open from six, and, 24/7, in the main hotel. There is, for discreet ladies, also a small gym in the ladies’ locker rooms of the mammoth and gorgeous Remède Spa. Eight treatment rooms are for ladies, who before and after their what-ever have changing rooms and plunge pools and saunas in marbled areas with tessellated floor patterns and, overhead, inset gold leaf ceiling panels from which hang crystal chandeliers.
The spa (and entire leisure) team is headed by Christian Kiefer, who seems to have done everything except choose and hang those chandeliers. He went to Bali to hire his therapists, and he designed their uniforms. One of my happiest memories of this luxury hotel, indeed, was the face massage from Dwi. I felt an extra five inches tall when I left, driven away in a grey Bentley, WiFi-enabled, of course.