The art of modern living

CEO Middle East visits Abu Dhabi’s latest hotel offering, the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, to discover that its food is just as good as its service.
The art of modern living
By CEO Middle East staff writer
Mon 25 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

CEO Middle East visits Abu Dhabi’s latest hotel offering, the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, to discover that its food is just as good as its service.

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr is not your typical GCC hotel. There are no signs of Arabesque design nor are there any low rise Arabic-style villas. Instead Bab Al Bahr is a towering sheet of glass, which at night is illuminated against the backdrop of the more traditional Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Located on the outskirts of the capital and just a short distance from the Abu Dhabi International Airport and exhibition centre, the 369-room hotel is an ideal choice for executives in the capital for business, or for anyone trying to escape the hustle of city life.

Inside the hotel visitors are greeted in the vast glass lobby area by the obligatory UAE doorman, complete with a tray piled high with cold towels.

The doormen are the only traditional feature in a lobby, which features huge breakout sofas that tempt guests to sink into them and enjoy a cup of coffee rather than rush to check-in.

Sometimes modern can be cold but the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr boasts texture on every surface. While huge modern lights hang from the ceiling, ball-metal curtains drape the walls and the structural column’s jut out at various angles.

After the décor it’s pretty hard not to miss the staircase to the hotel’s restaurant area where the enfant terrible Marco Pierre White has two of his restaurants.

Other restaurants include an all-day buffet restaurant, Elements, and The Chocolate Gallery, a coffee shop that features an open chocolate kitchen as well as a huge selection of chocolate desserts and drinks.

Check-in for the Fairmont Gold, which is billed as a hotel within a hotel, is located on the top three floors of Bab Al Bahr. Here you are greeted with a choice of fresh juice and food from the lounge while you are being checked-in.

Executives in need of a quiet area would do well to check into the Fairmont Gold, which features 82 rooms. Guests can use facilities including a private lounge area — which serves complimentary breakfast as well as drinks and snacks throughout the day — free high-speed internet in the rooms as well as wireless internet throughout the lounge, and access to a boardroom. Fairmont Gold is currently only open on one floor but another two are scheduled to open in the new year.The rooms themselves are as modern and chic as the hotel’s lobby with dark wooden features throughout and crisp white bedding and accessories. Even the highly patterned carpet is surprisingly tasteful given the region’s penchant for garish carpets.

The room’s most impressive area is the open bathroom which, depending on which side of the hotel you stay on, offers fantastic views of the nearby creek and Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The huge bath is situated in a wet room, which also houses a huge rain shower. Unfortunately during our stay the shower’s power was intermittent. However, this was quickly fixed by someone from housekeeping who then followed up with a phone call to ensure that everything was once again working. This is just one example of Bab Al Bahr’s serious attention to detail in its customer service.

The hotel, which was opened just in time for the capital’s Grand Prix weekend in November, is still very much a new hotel and as such things are still being worked on. On the morning of our check-out we were woken up not by a gentle telephone call, but by hammering in one of the above rooms. However, all it took was one quick phone call and the problem was resolved. Both the shower and banging are teething problems given the hotel’s infancy that are likely to be solved soon, the level of customer service, however was impressive given such a new hotel.

The hotel’s two swimming pools, a lap pool and a covered children’s pool, are both located near the beach, overlooking the creek. Health enthusiasts can enjoy the health club, which features separate male and female gyms and a 26,000 sq m spa, Willow Stream Spa, which is due to open early this year.

Something the Fairmont does very well is its restaurants. Having previously interviewed Marco Pierre White at the opening of his steakhouse restaurant I was intrigued to sample the food. White is one of Britain’s most famous celebrity chef exports but famously gave his Michelin stars up and became a restaurateur in 1999.

Since then he has worked on developing his own brand of restaurants which include Frankie’s — his Italian restaurant with the jockey Frankie Detorri — and a range of steakhouses, both of which are in the Fairmont.

Ask any foodie what they think of White and they will probably say he sold out, “he doesn’t cook, but he still cashes in on his name,” they’ll say. His response — “at least he’s not lying like so many other chefs who put their name to restaurants and claim to cook there every night.” Try eating at one of his restaurants and you’ll probably agree he is as good a restaurateur as he is cooking.

The steakhouse itself is very masculine; all dark brown leather and dark wood. It’s not particularly romantic but who really expects a romantic setting when you are eating steak and drinking red wine? In fact, it felt very much like a restaurant in London — unpretentious and relaxed.

White might not be grilling the steaks but he sure knows how to train his staff, all of whom had vast knowledge of each cut of meat and offered each of us the ideal steak based on our preference. The restaurant’s sommelier was equally good, having personally tasted all of the wines on the menu, he advised both of us, and gratifyingly didn’t just opt to point out the most expensive wine as is so often the case when you ask for advice in the UAE. Between the two of us we each sampled a fish dish and a steak and both were thoroughly enjoyable and well-cooked. The service throughout was exemplary.

Our stay at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr was thoroughly enjoyable. While there were a few teething problems and not every facility is yet fully operational, neither should not deter you from booking in if you are looking for a modern hotel that boasts great restaurants and excellent staff.

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