WRITER: Kate Hazell
As the saying goes, there are three things that matter in property: location, location, location. The new Four Seasons in Dubai, the second to open in the Emirate, fits the bill, as it can be found tucked away in the heart of the financial district.
Anyone who’s familiar with Dubai, who either lives there or has been a frequent traveller to the Emirate over the past few years, knows it’s a city that stops for no one, not even a global economic crisis. It just keeps forging on.
Just look to the main arterial roads come rush hour and you’ll see how bustling this place has become. Official stats paint the picture even clearer; the resident population has risen from 1.5 million in 2007 to 2.5 million this year. Then there are the tourists. A whopping 13.2 million of them visited in 2015 alone. And by 2020, when Dubai hosts the World Fair, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) expects 20 million guests to cross the UAE border. That’s a lot of people.
While it’s no secret that the city is rapidly building hotels to accommodate the growing number of visitors, the news that a new Four Seasons has recently opened in Dubai’s already-bursting-at-the-seams DIFC is, admittedly, a little surprising. It’s hard to picture the tiny free zone, which already hosts over 40 restaurants, hundreds of finance offices, 12 art galleries, a private business and social club, as well as a 341-room Ritz-Carlton easily accommodating another 106-room hotel. Yet, having a Four Seasons here (even if it’s not the first in Dubai – that honour goes to the one in Jumeirah Beach) certainly gives the place gravitas.
As I walk past the busy chatter and tempting aromas of two of Dubai’s busiest and most popular fine dining restaurants, La Petite Maison and Roberto’s, both filled with suits and loosened ties, I can see how convenient the location might be. Tucked away, right there in the heart of Dubai’s business hub, sits the entrance to the Four Seasons DIFC.
While I’m a regular in the area, usually for after-work socialising, I’m finding it hard remembering what was here before, if anything at all. But that’s because the 17,000-metre-square building in which the eight-storey hotel is now housed was already there. It’s just the 92.5 million USD makeover that’s the game changer, a deft move by Dubai-based development company H&H Investment and Development.
The new hotel, which is pint-sized compared to Dubai’s default super-sized titans of hotellerie, was built with the aim of being an intimately sized urban oasis for business travellers. And almost as soon as I set foot in the premises, the outdoor clatter dissipates and I’m surrounded by a sense of calm. The cool, serene ambience heightened by the stylish interiors, courtesy of American luminary Adam D. Tihany (widely regarded as one of the world’s preeminent hospitality designers) have a lot to do with it of course. In a city that often articulates luxury through opulence and brashness, Tihany has given this place quiet splendour at it’s best. Custom Cassina furnishings, bespoke Flos lighting and neutral-hued furnishings with a slight mid-century modern edge whisper welcome, rather than screaming it from the rooftops.
But I’m running late for my 8pm dinner reservation having battled rush-hour traffic (there it is again), so I’m swiftly checked in and shown to my room. Check-in, by the way, is a breeze and thoughtfully adapted to busy travellers: it can be done from the lower level, in the lobby lounge at DIFC retail level or even, I’m told, from your car. (Perfect if you’re stuck in traffic.) So, it seems they’ve put some thought into this.
While the king-sized bed laden with cool, white cotton sheets looks dreamy enough, personalised pillow and mattress choices are available. The giant monsoon shower and bathtub, stock piled with exclusive UK-based Roja Dove amenities, further illustrate they’re doing their best to make you feel pampered. Lights and curtains are all automated, operated from relatively user-friendly wall-mounted controls. And, as an added tech feature, hotel services, including ordering a limousine or the help of a concierge, can all be done from an in-room iPad.
But onto dinner, at the hotel’s signature restaurant Firebird Diner by Michael Mina, curated by the Michelin award-winning chef himself. The concept is hearty soul food with a contemporary update, all set in a traditional, albeit lavish, diner setting, complete with a fully operational jukebox. My guest and I wasted no time tucking into buffalo-style chicken wings with buttered hot sauce and blue cheese and foie gras doughnuts to start, washed down with the bar’s signature Moscow Mule gulped from the requisite copper mugs. Wanting more, I opted for Michael Mina’s Lobster Pot Pie for my main and had a generous bite of my dining companion’s All-American Burger, along with a few too many of his delicious duck fat chips. I’m told the chef has won prizes for his burgers in the US, and it’s easy to see why. Full to the brim, we forced our way through a Key Lime Pie and Mina’s take on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dessert – a banana loaf buttered with peanut butter mousse and strawberry jam. It’s fine dining, but without the stiff upper lip and straight-back chairs. Exactly what one might want after a hectic day of business in the boardroom.
Though it was getting late, we decided we needed to walk off our meal and since a trip to the 24-hour gym wasn’t physically an option by this stage, we elected to explore the rest of the hotel. At the rooftop we found an impressive aboveground, glass-walled swimming pool from where you can soak in some remarkable views of Zabeel. Oddly, you’re not allowed to swim past 6pm. And it seemed we were also too late for the 7th floor spa – if we’d arrived early in the morning, like many business travellers do, we could have opted for one of the three early arrival rooms, which offer guests the opportunity to shower and refresh with a 30-minute massage before checking in (or heading to meetings).
So we do the next best thing and head up to the eighth-floor at Bar Luna. Offering cocktails, outdoor cabanas (equipped with air-conditioning units to counteract the hot evenings) and notable Burj Khalifa views, it’s a sweet perch for winding down. We can hear the faint hum of DIFC’s merry work force starting to trundle home for the night and we opt to have one for the road ourselves. When in Rome, and all that. After all, tomorrow we’ll have to check out and the madness will begin again.