REVIEW: Palazzo Versace Dubai
It’s reasonable to suggest that Versace’s interpretation of fine living may not be to everyone’s taste. To take a stroll past the window of the Versace Home store in The Dubai Mall, for instance, is to be confronted by a gaudy vision of Romanesque excess in black marble and gold lamé, the kind of decor Caligula would no doubt have chosen for his Miami penthouse had he not been assassinated 1900 years before Florida’s real estate boom. It’s Trump chic, basically.
So, an entire hotel – and in a city that is hardly averse to over-the-top showmanship – has the potential to set the teeth on edge before the valet ticket has been passed through the driver’s side window. It is to the great credit of the custodians of Palazzo Versace Dubai that the brand’s aesthetic is, at most, merely hinted at in its capacious and wonderfully understated property on a slice of the Creek undergoing rapid transformation. There are unmistakable Versace notes and tones here, whether it’s the marbled floors, the elaborate foyer chandelier and the fashion-inspired prints on the corridor, but the design is one of incredible restraint – and the result is one of the most impressive hotels in Dubai. Your prejudices are obliterated long before you even see the rooms.
We slid the key into the door of a ninth-floor grand executive suite and were greeted by a generous, pitched-roof room bathed in muted golds, chocolate browns and salmon pinks. The prodigious bed, covered in a Versace print bedspread and a profusion of silken pillows, is the focal point, dividing the seated and dining areas, while two recessed doors lead out onto a terrace whose Creekside views that will only improve when the construction dissipates.
The bathroom, though, is perhaps the main highlight: it’s a mosaic-decorated circle with bath, twin-sink vanity, shower and toilet all radiating out in spokes. It looks like an opulent Turkish hammam. All in all, it’s the kind of room you want to check into after a particularly horrible week and not leave until Sunday morning.
Leave, though, you will – even if your destination is no further than the ground floor. The Palazzo Versace isn’t a beachfront hotel, so what there is to do here is more about what there isn’t – or shouldn’t. Obviously, if you’re not au fait with this corner of Dubai, then this is great base from which to explore the Creek, the Gold and Spice Souks and the ever-evolving Festival City. They also offer complimentary transfers to Nikki Beach and access for a minimum spend of AED200.
If, like us, that’s all been crossed off the list years ago, then the facilities amount to three enormous swimming pools and a 1,000-square-metre spa.
Of the three pools, the Capri is the most decorous, a perfect oval to the rear of the hotel with the Versace logo picked out in bronze tiles. Its infinity-style lip offers views of the property’s marina and the Creek beyond and, being kid-free, is the one for adults to recline beside as they mull their general good fortune. Portofino, or Western Lagoon Pool, in the shadow of the D1Tower is more family-friendly, with the white floating sunbeds offering relaxation for parents and, well, entertainment for their children. There is also a sandy area for beach-style amusement and plenty of shallow areas for you get companions.
Located in the West Wing, conveniently near the kids club as it happens, The Spa is a marble and granite pleasure palace of seven treatment rooms, thermal suites, spa pool and luxury Moroccan hammam, again where the taste levels are as a high as the service.
There’s a chance you might have been here already for their increasingly popular Giardino Brunch on Friday afternoons, which is definitely worth checking in early for. About the only part of the hotel where the theme overwhelms the senses slightly, this is a rain-forest-inspired all-day-dining restaurant where the wallpaper and staff uniforms are a dense thicket of Lincoln green. You’ll be here for an extensive and excellent breakfast – organic, gluten-free and vegan vie with eggs benedict and various forms of fried and grilled meats – but it’s the Friday affair that stands out.
It’s a traditional buffet set-up here, and offers the usual Asian, Indian, seafood and roast sections, but the quality of preparation sets it apart, with the likes of the grilled lobster and short-rib particularly noteworthy. Also, the dhal was as good as anything we’ve tried in city’s best Indian restaurants. At AED550 per person (with house beverages), it’s no surprise there were a few tables celebrating something special – a graduation, a 50th birthday – but it’s a place where staying the allotted three hours represents decent value for money.
For something a little more refined, Vanitas is the signature Italian restaurant and where chef de cuisine Andrea Gaia rustles up minimalist fine-dining dishes using select ingredients, including the herbs picked fresh from the hotels’ gardens. To start, the steamed and marinated king prawn in cold cherries soup was a fine example of the kitchen’s output, while a main of pan-fried halibut with puff halibut skin and carotene emulsion was a delicate medley of intricate flavours.
For more robust fare, Enigma might be more up your souq, with its upmarket take on the current explosion of interest in Turkish cuisine, while Quincy Jones’ Q Bar and Lounge is a rather appealing spot to see in the small hours – American jazz pianist Justin Kauflin is on stage until October 28.
Palazzo Versace is a hotel that, by its very name, might deter some, particularly those wanting a slightly less formal weekend break. But it shouldn’t; any connotations of excess can to be dispelled at a stroke. This is a refined place, yes, but one offering a more old-world interpretation of luxury, where the personal, attentive and genuinely warm service is as important as the facilities. It really is an example of hospitality that many other five-star hotels would do well to learn.
Where: Culture Village, Al Jadaf
Rates: Doubles from AED936 per night
Contact: +9714 556 8888