Setting foot inside the seriously grandiose lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – chandeliers cascading overhead – you know you’re in for a heavy helping of that world-famous ‘Ritz glitz’. Happily, the Welcome Ambassador before me presents authentic Arabic coffee and a pyramid of plump dates, which gives me just enough time to drink-in the all-new surrounds and, in the distance, the Grand Mosque…
The capital’s sister city of Dubai already plays hostess to not one but two Ritz-Carlton hotels (take your pick from beach views at JBR or skyscraper-lined vistas at DIFC), so the opening of an Abu Dhabi outpost was always going to cause a stir. Thankfully, your patience won’t have to last much longer: before 2013 rolls in, you too will be able to set foot inside that lobby. A feature that the hotel’s manager, Pep Lozano, refers to as its ‘crowning glory’. “I really feel there is no other hotel in Abu Dhabi that provides the sense of arrival we do,” he told me, “the grand architecture, the design detail, the stunning chandeliers… it’s simply breathtaking.”
Get past that façade and its interiors will turn your head too. “Within the hotel, you will see rich tones and textures, intricate detailing in the marble and mosaic, and hand-selected art pieces,” revealed Lozano. And, fittingly for an American hotel brand in the heart of the UAE, Arabic influences are abound: “Throughout the hotel, including the marble flooring in the lobby, the design on the guestroom doors and elevator interiors, stitching in the bed linens, and on our plateware, you will see an acanthus leaf design which is a replica of a design from inside the Mosque,” Lozano shared.
More exciting still for foodies (myself included) is the bevy of restaurants set to not only serve stellar cuisine (the chef du cuisine of its Asian eatery Li Jiang is from the Michelin-starred kitchens of a London restaurant) but standout settings by international, award-winning interior design company Super Potato. “The Ritz-Carlton was committed to providing an elevated level of dining in Abu Dhabi and to do this, we needed to first set the stage with unique venues,” Lozano explained. “Super Potato designed our three signature restaurants – Asian, Lebanese and steak house – and it’s the first time they have done this for a single venue.”
Could Lozano give me a taste of what’s to come? “Super Potato is known for using natural materials such as wood, stone and fabrics, and also incorporating unique lighting – which they have done extraordinarily well in all three unique restaurant concepts,” he told me in hushed tones – mum’s the word, I promised. And for those reaching for the restaurant reservation’s number, my tip is to first try Li Jiang (“the restaurant we are anticipating most”). “We will have a specialty Asian noodle chef and guests will be able to watch all of the animation as Li Jiang has a gorgeous open kitchen in the centre of the restaurant,” Lozano revealed.
It seems there’ll be plenty to lock eyes onto, so which room takes the biscuit? “Our private villas. Each one has a private garden and terrace – perfect for a family barbecue created by a Ritz-Carlton chef – as well as butler service.”