he first thing one notices when driving up the ‘trunk’ of the Palm Jumeirah is the sheer scale of the man-made archipelago. As the taxi progresses up the northern coast of the outermost ‘frond’, the sense of immensity continues when we arrive at Raffles The Palm Dubai, the second outing in the city from the luxury hotel group, which opened at the tail-end of 2021. It’s a hotel worthy of a Mughal emperor, palatial in detailing, both macro and micro.
Named Blüthner Hall in a nod to the Blüthner Louis XIV Grand Piano that presides over the space, the hotel lobby features gorgeous soft-peach marble Corinthian columns that ascend to a lofty domed ceiling generously filigreed with gold leaf. The centrepiece is an immense Venetian chandelier crafted from shimmering Swarovski crystals. It’s one of 6,000 commissioned for the property. During check-in, we’re assigned a butler for the remainder of our holiday. It’s our first taste of the peerlessly attentive service we’re about to receive.
I’m here with my wife and nine-month-old for some hard-earned beach time after a long period of isolation from… well, we all know what. For winter sun, Dubai delivers. Our room, a Premier Ocean Suite, is perched five stories above the hotel’s 500-metre private beach, which is encircled by a golden diadem of loamy soft sand.
It is one of 389 rooms, 56 suites and eight towering private villas, all painstakingly overseen by Italian designer Francesco Molon, with sweeping 180-degree views. Each room seems to recall gilded eras ranging from Versailles to the Taj Mahal. With twin vanities, a yawningly deep bath, separate rainshower, enormous bed, well-lit walk-in closet, a bountiful balcony and 62 sqm to move around in, it was more than spacious enough for a party of two-and-a-half.
During the day, the place to be is inarguably by the waterside. However, guests will have to make the challenging decision of whether to opt for mid-century-styled, candy-striped sun loungers by the ocean, or by the pool. The latter is hemmed in by stunning Moorish tessellated tilework, soaring date palms, three bars (including a swim-up), a children’s area and the excellent Amalfi-inspired restaurant, Piatti, which boasts breezy Italian cuisine, live performances and what must be one of the best-stocked wine cellars on The Palm.
The restaurant also provides the poolside fare. You can’t go wrong with its take on the Singapore Sling (famously created at the original Raffles hotel in Singapore). At The Palm, they blend sous-vide spice-infused Sipsmith Gin with acacia honey, lemon juice and aquafaba.
The pool is a great place from which to admire the hotel itself. From this aspect it’s redolent of a birthday cake for the gods with quadruple-tiered circular balconies in the centre and mirrored windows reflecting the azure brilliance of sea and sky. When dusk descends, the exterior and fountains are illuminated with green spotlights that glimmer like emeralds.
While breakfasting at Le Jardin, the main restaurant of the hotel, which offers an incredibly ample buffet and gorgeous indoor and outdoor seating, I find myself in impeccably manicured gardens. It’s here that I meet Khan, a falconry expert. He’s keen to show my daughter Isla the aviary, and we meet a flock of raptors running the gamut from saker falcons to Eurasian eagle owls to Harris hawks. I’m even encouraged to don a protective glove and have one of the latter retrieve from my hand.
The Raffles Club on the fifth floor offers breakfast as well as aperitivi, and is perfectly appointed for the job, with generous balconies on both sides of the building. We particularly enjoy it for aperitivo hour, when one can watch the sun touch down beyond the horizon.
Matagi is the hotel’s flagship restaurant, and destination dining at its finest. Sharing common DNA with modern Japanese restaurants like Nobu and Zuma, it’s deliciously dark. Its design equally recalls Tokyo and Bali, with a statement kintsugi bar overhung with gantry, exquisitely tiled walls inset with Asian artefacts, and hanging lantern chandeliers that cast a soothing light. The fare, overseen by the hotel’s culinary director Batuhan Piatti, skews from moreish nibbles, such as crispy Alaskan king crab tacos teeming with avocado, tobiko and lemon zest, to innovative sushi rolls to more substantial mains prepared on the robata grill – think miso black cod or Wagyu A7 tenderloin.
When the food is this good and the beach is so close, a visit or two to the gym might be prudent. Raffles The Palm boasts the largest indoor swimming pool in the Middle East, a yoga studio, and all the equipment necessary to offset the caloric intake.
The hotel can also attend to aches, pains and niggles at its world-class spa. Guests enter the 3,000 sqm Cinq Mondes Spa through an Instagram-worthy corridor that feels more decompression chamber than hallway. It’s been outfitted with leading-edge technology, hydraulic and air equipment, as well as 23 treatment rooms, seven scrub rooms, two private spa suites, two traditional hammams and Japanese bathtubs.
It’s here that we’re treated to a spa odyssey that certainly cleansed mind, body and soul after two years with little travel. After a 30-minute Tahitian scrub with organic Monoi, Tiaré sugar and coconut powder, we receive a traditional Thai couples massage for a cool 90 minutes. We leave feeling almost alarmingly relaxed and refreshed.
It’s a sensation that summarises the Raffles experience quite well. In spite of its immense scale, Raffles The Palm Dubai manages to provide a refreshingly intimate experience. For anyone looking for some easily-accessible sunshine and unbridled luxury, you can’t really go wrong.
Premier suites start from £290 per night including breakfast, raffles.com