Review: Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi - Setting Standards
I was sunning myself the other weekend in the new Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi when I noticed something peculiar.
No, my drink wasn’t empty (although, the small cocktail umbrella had blown somewhere in the wind), but there was something up with my fellow pool-goers. Most of them seemed to be staring intently, in the weird look-away-glance-back thing that people do when they don’t want to be caught staring intently at someone or something.
Curiosity got the better of me, and so I waded into the water and (not-so-subtly) began swimming towards the object of everyone’s attention – a group of men at the end of the pool. Many were sat about chatting, legs dangling in the water (the literal definition of ‘chilling’). That’s when I realised I was looking at roughly half the Brazilian football team – one presumes the other half were somewhere on the beach.
Two brave souls (one on crutches) walked over to the team, and asked for what I can only assume was a selfie. One member of the team obliged (eagerly, but somewhat begrudgingly) and the pair may as well high-fived they were so pleased with themselves.
A few hours later, I found myself sat in the hotel’s charming poolside Italian restaurant, Verso. Having moved on from drinks with tiny umbrellas in them, I was chatting to a friendly staff member about the morning’s poolside goings-on when I casually mentioned that it must be fantastic to be hosting such a celebrated football team.
“Sir, I couldn’t possibly talk about any other guest here at the property” they responded. Strange, I thought. Most hotels don’t miss a beat self-aggrandising their popularity, and here I was at one that seemed incredulous I would even bring it up.
Not that this way of thinking is strange in the world of hospitality. Luxury properties around the world pride themselves in hosting some of the most high-profile dignitaries, sportspeople and actors in the world – and to who secrecy is at the utmost importance; but I was at a Grand Hyatt.
Don’t get me wrong – Grand Hyatts are still upscale hotels, but generally, cater to mass-market guests. The one in Dubai, for example, boasts 682 rooms and suites. Mumbai boasts 547 rooms. And the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi has 428.
Now, luxury by its very definition is not mass-market; but it turns out the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi is part of a new breed of Hyatt properties that really wants to test those boundaries. From my short time there, I would say it certainly exceeds in that regard.
First, the rooms are exceptional. Yes, it helps that they are brand new (the hotel opened up properly in April this year), but they are spacious and well-designed. While the design has been kept rather neutral, they do help play to the hotel’s primary strength: that the entire building overlooks either Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace or downtown Abu Dhabi. The balconies are the real draw here, and you’ll certainly spend more time admiring the view than the cookie-cutter art that all hotels are known for.
The restaurants too deserve a nod. Verso goes from charming poolside hangout to upscale Italian restaurant when the sun goes down, although the design certainly lives in the grey area between kitsch and quaint. Food is good though, and it’s great to see an Italian restaurant not messing around trying to posh-up the food to the detriment of flavour. Lexx Bar is also a solid choice for a late-night drink, with a large old-school onyx bar, dedicated rooms for artisanal cheese and charcuterie and a reasonably priced drinks menu.
And so to the staff. Hotel managers love to way lyrical about how their teams are the difference between a luxury property and a bog-standard one. All I can say is they passed my obligatory “how quickly can you deliver an ice bucket to my room” test (a new record: seven minutes flat). Happily led me around the hotel each time I got lost. And were generally very attentive to my every need. In fact, the only thing they truly failed at was dish the gossip on the Brazilian team sat around the pool.
Still, my loss is ultimately the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi’s gain. It certainly sets the standard for larger properties here in the Middle East, and it will be interesting to see if future Grand Hyatts will learn to embrace the same larger-luxury thinking as the one here in Abu Dhabi.