CROSS the causeway and the Burj al Arab enveloped you. The welcome ceremony set the tone: I was expecting superlatives and I wasn’t disappointed in 18 hours of total luxury in the Gulf’s most iconic building.
My favourite part of the experience? The high theatre of dining in an aquarium or drinks in the 27th-floor SkyBar – where the most inventive of canapés arrive on Burj-shaped trays – were enjoyable. The peek inside one of the royal suites (right) – where a bathroom has more marble than most throne rooms, one area has enough seating for a whole cabinet of dignitaries and a bed that rotates 360 degrees – was an eye-opener. The quiet moments admiring the design details of my suite were indulgent, but most precious was time spent in the high-level spa.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
It is seven star, what more do I need to say?
That should read “suite service” as the only accommodation option is two floors of sumptuous luxury – a living area as you enter, bedroom, bathroom and dressing area up a gracious sweep of stair. Its palette is rich blue and gold and even the bathroom taps conform. Every comfort has been thought of – from Nespresso machine (gold) to bathroom scales (with gold detail). My favourite feature is the circular shower with its dramatic mosaic floor and enough sprays and controls for even the most particular of bathers. I can’t imagine anyone would have time to use a computer but there’s a top-of-the-range Apple Mac – and, if you need one, just ask the butler for the gold iPad. Floor-to-ceiling glass turns the beach and skyscrapers beyond into a living mural. And, so as not to spoil this view from the bed, the TV sinks down into its cabinet. Yes, they have thought of everything.
WINING AND DINING
Exotic fish darting flashes of colour through the clear waters behind the glass wall could be distracting, but at Al Mahara the food soon wins back your attention. It is exquisite. Our tasting menu is a tour through chef’s repertoire: from Loch Fyne salmon “in two ways”, through steamed Maine lobster and gratinated clams, parsnip and lentil “du Puy” velouté to seared Angus beef on the “plancha”. Ghanaian chocolate crémeux and hazelnut speculoos are a finale topped with gold. The menu is unashamedly influenced by the aquarium and the meaning of Al Mahara – the clamshell. If more of a statement is required, Al Mahara’s private dinning room can become a truly romantic setting: table clothed in a thousand rose petals and a diver in the aquarium with your proposal.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
There’s certainly no need to leave the Burj. There are boutiques and more of the aquarium in the lobby, nine signature restaurants and the deceptively labelled 18th floor (each “floor” has two storeys) is a luxurious spa. Dubai, of course, is a leisure paradise waiting to be explored. However, on a short first visit you want to get the most out of the Burj.
The Talise spa is amazing. The vista of the beach 150 metres below is an added dimension as the therapist expertly banishes flight fatigue with an Arabian Desert sand scrub and patchouli oil massage. A dawn swim in the infinity pool in the ladies’ area is only surreal when you surface to that bird’s eye view of the beach below. Although staying in your suite and ordering butler-service breakfast is tempting, fresh fruit and pastries outside on the terrace at Bab Al Yam is a better follow-up to that swim.
For me, it has to be the luxury Hermès toiletries. The chocolates in their Burj-shaped box were close runners-up. The concierge service is amazing too. Ask for bubble wrap at 1am and 30 minutes later it appears, cocooning my delicate purchase. Anything seems possible in the Burj.
It’s extravagant, but a unique experience worth indulging in.
Suites from £820 (AED4,750) per night (deal valid until 22 September). Usually AED10,000 plus 20 per cent tax. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Beach Road, Jumeirah 3 (www.burjalarab.com). Arabian Journey treatment from £180 (AED995) per person at Talise Spa. Dubai Tourism (020 7321 6110 or www.visitdubai.com)