Bulgari Resort Dubai hotel review
The Bulgari Resort Dubai opened last year in just about the most Dubai way possible: with a lavish, celeb-filled bash in Bulgari’s new property on Jumeirah Bay, a manmade island shaped like a seahorse. Bulgari have only recently branched out from the world of high-end jewellery and into hospitality, but their fifth hotel is a remarkably assured debut in the Middle East. With a superlative spa, hotel rooms and private villas, marina and beach, and an increasing number of dining options, you could spend all of your time (and money) here without interacting with the wider city.
The Bulgari is the only hotel that will be built on Jumeirah Bay. The remoteness guarantees peace and quiet, but also means that in a city where it’s already almost impossible to walk anywhere, there’s definitely no need to pack comfortable shoes. Despite the sand having just settled on this new island, the beach is golden, the waters inviting, and the sense of privacy matched only by the obvious expense of the resort’s construction. The marina at the heart of the property (Bulgari’s first) has proved to be instantly popular for affluent boat owners, too.
Given it’s new, it’s no surprise to learn that everything inside the Bulgari feels incredibly modern. No design element has happened by accident, and while the branding is everywhere (nowhere more conspicuously than in the boutique, of course) it never feels overbearing. The total complex features the 101-room, 20-villa resort itself, as well as six residential buildings of 173 sea-facing apartments, 15 private mansions, and a beach club. Altogether, the Italian designers have developed 130,000 square metres of virgin island for their property. The main hotel is perhaps the most striking building, with coral style cladding and a profile that looks, from certain angles, like an enormous luxury yacht.
When fashion brands dip their toes in the world of hospitality, they often err on the side of caution. A few kilometres away the Armani Hotel at the Burj Khalifa is a lesson in how to take two exciting ideas and make them boring. The Bulgari Resort’s room may be heavy on beiges, browns, and golds, but the arabesque design elements and bold bathroom keep it from feeling dull. The rooms overlooking the central marina are bathed in sunlight most of the day, meaning if you don’t fancy the beach, you can catch as many rays as you please from your own, inviting balcony. Possibly the most popular feature is the mini-bar, which looks like an upturned piece of Victorian luggage you’d love to have at home.
As the finishing touches are put to the entire complex, more and more third-party food and beverage outlets will open around the marina. Until then, you can walk or take a buggy over to the yacht club’s restaurant, or visit La Spiaggia on the beach, but you’ll definitely find yourself in Il Cafe, where an a-la-carte breakfast is served in a bright, airy space with tables inside and out. Their fine dining offering is Il Ristorante by Niko Romito. The Michelin-starred chef had a close hand in designing the menu for this restaurant, but it’s hard to imagine this iteration winning any stars, even if the Guide covered Dubai. It’s beautifully lit, feels suitably luxurious, and offers a tasting menu with wine pairing, but the quality of the food comes nowhere near matching its bloated price tag.
Even if there was somewhere to walk to on Jumeirah Bay, for half the year it’d be too hot to do so. The Jumeirah neighbourhood – Dubai’s classic expat commune – is a short taxi away and home to some of the city’s best cafes as well as a mall, of course.
There are hotel groups that have been in the business far longer than Bulgari and do a far worse job of presenting properties. Depending on your tastes, its relatively remote location will either be the hotel’s biggest asset or leave you feeling a little stranded. Nonetheless, those looking for luxury and something out of the ordinary will be well pleased.
Jumeirah Bay Island, Dubai. Rooms from $700 a night. See www.bulgarihotels.com
Even if you haven’t moored your private yacht in the marina, you’ll likely spend a while ogling the spectacular vessels which are there, probably while sitting in the sunshine over a lovely breakfast from Il Cafe.
The tasting menu at Il Ristorante started well, stumbled badly at the main, and ended with a whimper. Not having a pork licence is only a minor excuse when the price is over $200. Here’s hoping the menu is revised soon.