- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
Dubai’s huge selection of hotels can make selecting one an overwhelming task. Stay by the beach or in the city? Close to shopping or entertainment? There is no ‘one size fits all’, and no hotel is all things to all people here in Dubai. These thoughts were going through my mind as my taxi drew up at the Raffles Dubai.
The only newly built hotel in the Raffles’ portfolio, its theme is an urban take on an Egyptian pyramid, with vast stone columns and carvings. It’s an impressive structure, built to make a statement. While not entirely my cup of tea stylistically, the personalised service and attention to detail for which the chain is known is just as apparent here as anywhere else.
The staff at Raffles turn what would otherwise be a stay at just a very good hotel into an altogether more memorable experience. The rooms are spacious, the views are some of the best in the area. It has plenty of dining options and good facilities. But Raffles prides itself on its service, and this city hotel is all about the staff and the highly personalised, nothing-is-too-much-trouble service mentality, for which the brand is so well known.
The layout of the hotel is such that its focus is very much on the rooms and interiors since the grounds are limited. There is a pool and a nice garden terrace but most facilities are inside. And while there are some glamorous areas, such as the entrance hall, many spaces feel dated (a minor refurbishment is apparently on the cards).
Having said that, with only a ten-minute drive to and from the airport, Raffles is in a convenient location, physically connected to the Wafi Mall. In a city with plenty of competition to keep every hotel on its toes, Raffles is right up there.
Entering Raffles Dubai is grand, dramatic, even spectacular. Its vast Egyptian columns and huge floor-to-ceiling windows make this space immensely bright. I was greeted by the delightful sales manager and taken through a very speedy check-in at the well-staffed front desk before being escorted to the room.
Rooms and suites
Something about the design of my Club Room, with its deep reds, burnt oranges, dark carved wood and velvets, was reminiscent of a richly furnished Bedouin tent but the light-coloured walls gave it a lift, making it welcoming and bright as well as warm and cosy. A plate of beautifully hand-crafted pastries and chocolates awaited – a nice touch.
The room had an open-plan layout with the bed and bathroom nearest to the door and the living area next to the balcony. The bed was huge (apparently king but it felt much larger) and incredibly comfortable.
The living space, complete with an L-shaped sofa, armchair and large desk, benefited from breathtaking views of the city towards the coastline (cleverly framed by the outline of my balcony). It was too hot to sit outside but during the cooler months it must be a lovely spot for a sundowner.
There was an adjustable, interactive television that could be viewed in the living area or positioned to watch films in bed. Wi-Fi was high-speed and everywhere, accessed with a room password, but most of the other tech could do with updating. Things that are quickly becoming industry standard (USB sockets, universal plugs, movies on demand) were not yet available but can’t be far off. The air conditioning was incredibly quiet and for the first time in a long time I woke up without even a hint of a sore throat.
Being purpose-built, the hotel has been cleverly planned to ensure everywhere is on a level, so it is very accessible for anyone with mobility concerns, and the room was spacious enough so that a wheelchair would have no problem accessing all areas in addition to being able to turn around.
The nomadic tent theme continued in the bathroom with carved door panels and mirror frame, intricate hanging lighting and luxurious marble tiles. There was a large corner bathtub, twin vanity units and a large shower cubicle.
My only gripe would be the slightly odd layout of the doors. There was a sliding main door, which was opaque. Fine during the day but at night there was no way not to disturb one’s companion. Then, in the bathroom area, the loo had no door and looked on to the shower, divided by a transparent glass wall. You would want to be fairly familiar with your travelling companion.
Bathroom toiletries included soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion, all made by Amrita and restocked daily. A dressing table in the bedroom provided a well-lit area for final touches in front of a mirror, with an adjacent socket for a hairdryer.
On the first evening I ate in the Italian restaurant, Solo, styled as a casual trattoria, where the beautiful carpaccio and incredibly tender rack of lamb were real highlights. The wine list is extensive, as you would expect, and not the slightest hint of a fuss was made about sending dessert to the room. There weren’t many other diners around but I’d expect this space to have a real buzz about it during high season from November through to Easter.
Breakfast is served in Azur, an all-day-dining, multi-cuisine venue and a light and airy space leading onto an outdoor patio and lawn, perfect for the cooler months. It’s out here that the Raffles Garden comes to life in the evening, with atmospheric lighting and spacious seating areas for taking drinks and snacks.
Other restaurant options
There are no fewer than eight dining outlets but of particular note is TOMO, the superb Japanese restaurant that also offers spectacular views of Dubai. Sometimes the restaurant hosts brunch days, a sort of high-class, all-you-can-eat set-up and it’s well worth looking out for these if you want to install yourself for a culinary marathon.
Spa and wellness
The spa and wellness area also has a spacious gym with Life Fitness equipment, and there is always an instructor on hand. However, the hotel doesn’t yet offer a weekly schedule of join-in classes of any kind. The spa felt a little dated and somewhat corporate but its six treatment rooms get booked up, so ensure you make your reservations in advance. Facials are carried out with Kerstin Florian products, whereas the massage therapies use aromatherapy oils. Most treatments take 90 minutes, with a mixture of Western and Asian themes. One rather nice feature is the ‘extra time’ menu, which allows guests to tag on mini- treatments such as a half-hour head massage or an express facial. Rather a good idea, which deserves to catch on.
The separate male and female changing rooms also offer steam, sauna and Jacuzzi and the gym has female-only sessions.
Next to the spa is an outsourced hair salon, one for men and one for women. Not that it had any effect on my own experience but the spa and wellness areas are open to non-hotel private members.
Pool and beach
On the fourth floor there is a good-sized outdoor pool with a swim-up bar. It’s a curved pool rather than a lap pool, with plenty of sun loungers and a continuation of the Egyptian theme with stone columns and a sort of sundial. The beach is a drive away but the hotel can arrange transfers and also book guests into one of the various beach clubs run by other companies or those in other hotels.
There are also plenty of interconnecting rooms but there are no specific facilities or clubs for kids; however, the staff seem to be child-friendly. With so many local diversions – waterparks, Legoland, Kidzania, Universal Studios kids’ beaches, aquaria and so much more – most families would probably be spending their time outside the hotel anyway.
Staff and service
Service, service, service. Without the wonderful welcome of the staff at Raffles, this would be another five-star Dubai hotel. Not to dismiss all the other things it has to offer, but it is the smiling faces, the attention to detail and the remembering of names that set it apart.
The profile of guests varies according to the time of the year: weekends versus weekdays, festival versus working week. It happened that my stay fell over both a festival day and a weekend but there was still a good mix of nationalities. At breakfast – possibly the best time to gauge the balance – there were large families (subtly encouraged to sit in one area of the dining room), couples, clients in suits, guests in sportswear and others clearly tourists. The mix of people created a convivial and relaxed atmosphere.
Efficient luggage collection, so much so that it was even in the car when I came down, and the briefest of check-outs meant I was twiddling my thumbs at the airport. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, staff in the lobby all remembered my name and were brilliantly professional.
How to get here
10 minutes by road from Dubai International Airport
252 rooms and suites