Disclaimer: In exchange for a two-night stay, I am writing this review.
Anantara, a Thai luxury hospitality company with properties throughout Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, has three popular spots in Dubai alone. And if you’re solely going by their website, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort is quite the place:
Lagoons where you can jump right in from your room and swim 24 hours a day? Food options ranging from Aussie steaks to satay and buffets? Thai longboats available for tours in the gulf? A spa, water and beach sports?
All of this in Dubai, yet completely detached from the hubbub of the city?
Sounds too good to be true. So let’s take a look and see what the real deal is.
I walked up the driveway through the porte-cochère, eager to get to breakfast. After a series of delayed flights — and a lost checked bag — I had basically missed a night of my two-night stay at the hotel. On the other hand, this also meant that the room was readier than ready for me to check-in.
A bit of background about the property. There are really three different reception desks. Of course there’s the main entrance, which was the most obvious place to check-in. Then, flanking it on two sides are low-rise apartment buildings (North and South), with their own reception desks, food, and markets, and a gym in the South building. There are full-time residents, and some of the apartments are used by the hotel. In any event, anyone staying in any part of the Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort can avail of all hotel facilities.
And now back to the show.
Although no one greeted me upon entering the main lobby, a nice woman by the name of Lolli helped with the check-in process. She also presented to me a gift of a candle (which I sadly forgot to take) and a universal power adapter. Sweet!
Following the succinct check-in, she brought me to a tuk tuk, further enhancing the impression that guests were in a small Thai enclave in the Middle East:
By the way, if you’re looking for more unique dining options, I found out by random lobby signage that you can take a speedboat to their sister property, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort.
After dropping off my bags post-haste in my room — we’ll get to those photos later — I darted to the buffet breakfast at Crescendo, located below the main lobby.
It’s a big restaurant, with lots of seating indoors and outdoors. Outdoor seating is ostensibly divided into non-smoking and smoking sections; however, I had to tell off a couple of guests smoking by my non-smoking seat, as some aloof hotel employee placed an ashtray half a meter away from my table. Seriously? That’s some major cognitive dissonance.
Nice view of the pool, though:
How was the food, you might ask?
As usual, it varies. For one, irrespective of the current pandemic climate, sneeze-guards would have been welcome. That said, the comportment of the average guest evoked more of a holiday-goer on spring break than anything else. Scrums to get omelets and baked goods, bare feet, and just general rudeness on the guest side of things.
More importantly however, waitstaff was nice. Two particular waitresses, Dian and Peninah, were helpful, and clearly listened to my ridiculously customized meal orders. Props to them.
Sorry, the food, the food!
Crescendo chefs seem to have gotten the Middle Eastern and Indian options down pat. As for bites from other parts of the world — including the croissants — it was something of a let down. Still, I was gobbling up the ful medames — a regional breakfast of broad beans with olive oil, tahini, and garlic — like no tomorrow.
I’m stuffed just by looking at that slideshow. OK, on with the room.
Premier Lagoon View Room
The room, a Premier Lagoon View room, was spacious, comfortable, and offered tempting views of one of the lagoons. The king bed made falling to sleep all too easy, and the workspace was adequate, even if the lighting wasn’t.
Now, the bathroom was huge … it was even larger than my dorm room in Hong Kong, and apartment in Tokyo, combined. (Hmm, can’t wax nostalgic about those spaces) The water pressure in the shower was surprisingly good, and although I didn’t run a bath, it looked awfully inviting. You could even watch tv from the bath, although given that it’s a Samsung, it was of inferior quality. (the remote was slow, volume barely changed, and the interface was ugly)
And the water is potable throughout the property!
I didn’t see a mini-fridge anywhere, so that was a let-down. However, the room did have a few (greatly overpriced, as expected) snacks to try, including ones with Thai influences. But on the merit of the bed, balcony, and bathroom alone, the room was very good.
Meanwhile, I was hounding the Concierge to check with the airport baggage services to see if they had located my checked luggage … and on top of that, my only backup shirt fell into the lagoon, so I asked Angeline at housekeeping to keep tabs. Adebayo and Kevin on the Concierge side were a big help, and followed up with me on everything.
There are a number of places to eat at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. You’ve got a carnivore delight at Bushman’s, waterside relaxation at the Beach House, cocktails at The Lotus Lounge, Mai Bar for swimmers and sunbathers, and of course, room service. In fact, there are even more options than those, but let’s dive right into the f&b star of the hotel, Mekong.
Quite a mix of designs at Mekong, borrowing from a range of Southeast Asian and Chinese motifs. The menu broadly emphasizes Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese food, in other words, three cuisines of the six countries through which the Mekong River passes.
Having foregone lunch, I really steamed in on the menu, eagerly anticipating a spicy blend of seafood and skewered meat. And peanut sauce.
Lin Lin was a particularly nice waitress, with whom I chatted about Myanmar (from where she hailed), and her extensive knowledge of the menu.
To start off, I went with the chicken and beef satay (aka sate), and received a bonus appetizer called miang kham (in Thai, เมี่ยงคำ). Miang kham, often translated as “a one bite wrap,” wherein you take a wild betel leaf (no, not that betel), and stuff it with some fun peanuts, coconut shavings, and peppers.
After savoring those two blends of grilled and sweet flavors, I went first with a tom yam soup, basically shrimp, lemongrass, galangal (blue ginger), and herbs in a sour broth. I asked for it “phet phet,” so it was quite hot (on the Scoville chart, not temperature-wise). It definitely earned a place in the plus column.
With my mouth on fire, and no milk, lettuce, or bananas in sight, I gave up and ordered a mocktail:
The Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger had a base of lychee juice, and contained maracuja (passion fruit), lime, grenadine syrup, guava, pineapple, and chilies. Too refreshing, and good enough as a dessert.
Unexpectedly, my last dish was a special for the month of November, Chinese salt and pepper squid.
Keep in mind that I did plan to have a dessert, but I was enjoying the umami of all of the mains so much that I went with another. Indeed, their Chinese salt and pepper squid didn’t disappoint, especially with chilies added (per my request) to the condiments tray.
I’d go back to the hotel just to eat at Mekong.
If sustainability is on your mind, you might appreciate a few things about the Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. Even though I generally look askance when sustainability and tourism are placed in the same sentence, this hotel tries where it can to be kinder to the environment. Hotel room keycards, for example, are all made of bamboo:
Plus, they’re in the process of eliminating single-use plastics. Paper and coffee pods are recycled, and soap is upcycled. Some food is composted, and they’ve even got a small garden to help supply their restaurants:
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort succeeds in a number of areas, namely its friendly staff, clean campus, tasty dishes at Mekong, number of activities available on a daily basis, and tranquility in spite of being in the always buzzing Dubai.
However, guest behavior — in some ways beyond the control of hotel staff — wasn’t pleasant, and I got the impression that some employees didn’t want to risk admonishing guests. Furthermore, although it may be a selling point to some, the distance from everything else in town, and lack of walkable off-site food/shopping options wasn’t appealing. The closest shopping area is The Avenues mall, part of the Atlantic complex, but everything is grossly overpriced there, too.
Still, I enjoyed my room and hotel staff for the most part; consequently Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort gets good marks from me.