Truly memorable stay - Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

The warm smiles as you drive up to the front entrance of this magnificent property heralded what would be our experience for the weekend: warm, friendly and sincere service. How those valets are able to keep that smile in the tremendous heat is a credit to their outstanding service ethos and Shangri-la philosophy.

Arabian touches permeate the hotel.

We were warmly greeted and then shown to the 5th floor for our Horizon  Club level check-in. I have written before about the club concept. I love it - personalized, extra pampering and value for money. Check-in was done in the lounge while I sipped on a glass of sparkling date juice. I love this. Very smooth and quick check in. Less time on these matters means more time for enjoyment.

The club lounge is spacious. That will be the first thing that strikes you. There are seating options a- plenty - the more typical lounge-like section with sofas that allow you views of the lobby downstairs, the middle section which is very sit-down-meal friendly and then seating on the terrace. The Horizon Club Lounge genuinely feels exclusive, so kudos to management here. I am pleased they have not followed the route that many hotels take which is to take standard rooms, throw in some nice amenities and call them club rooms, so as to increase revenue/ They really care about space and exclusivity here.

The room
After a few minutes of unwinding, we  went to our room. As we walked there I could not help notice the Arabian touches in the furniture that lines the corridors, the exquisite lamps and the heavy wooden  the doors. This continued as we went into our room. The warm neutral colours are complemented by lighting that does not dominate. Variations of brown dominate, without being dull. The curtains were then opened to reveal an oversized balcony that afforded views of the canal, and of course, the iconic Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
Another view

Arabian influences have a home here. 

Walking  through the hotel reveals some gems reflecting local culture.
Walking around the room reveals deft little touches that highlight the aesthetic appeal of the room, for example, little cupboard space for the kettle - simple but keeps the harmony in the room. Amenity- wise, everything you need is there. For the kids, there is an extensive DVD library, with ease of access a major plus factor. My daughter quickly rang them up and DVDs were delivered soon after. Finally, the L'Occitane brand of toiletries will ensure that you walk around with that extra feeling of being treated in a very special way.
Gorgeous L'Occitane toiletries. 

By the way, during turn down service, our attendant Malek tucked in my daughter's doll. What sensitivity.
Thank you Malek - very thoughtful.


Shangri-la has magnificent greenery. That in itself means walks are a must. I can only imagine a walk around the hotel in the November-Februaury months when the weather is so pleasant. If walking is not your forte, you can opt to take an abra boat ride that will lead you through the hotel surrounds, the residence and past the souk. Very tranquil. It also allows you to the landscaping around the hotel.

One of the swimming pools.
We mostly used the swimming pool located just in front some of the garden rooms. Even though we love the infinity pool for sheer beauty, we spent most of our time at the garden pool for convenience. By the way, the garden rooms are quite stunning too, giving the guest a bit of lush greenery and easy access to the pool and beach front. While the hotel has other recreation options, we were quite content to laze by the pool.

The oversized balcony was really appreciated. 

From my previous blog posts, you would know that the hotel boasts some of the finest dining options in the city. On our first night, I feasted on the 7 Course Degustation menu. Intimidated at first by the thought of 7 courses, I was set at ease by the pace of the delivery as well as the perfect portions. Restaurant manager Peter-Paul Kleiss  has instilled in his staff a desire to strive for excellence, beyond the usual 'warm and friendly Shangri-la service'. This was evident in his staff again. It was an evening of truly fine dining.

The foie gras - course 1 of 7 at Bord Eau.
The next day we had Friday brunch at Sofra, a  bumper version of the Saturday brunch. It really was a relaxed afternoon, with the added bonus of a jumping castle and clown for kids, leaving my daughter very happy. The food, drink and service of course was the usual Shangri-la standard, with  waiting staff like Meninho and Shariful ensuring that the afternoon went smoothly.

Superb oysters on the day at Sofra.

That evening we the headed to Hoi An, the under appreciated fine Vietnamese restaurant. Again, the staff delivered what was expected. In fact, I was a bit tired, so I asked my waiter, Than, simply to bring what he and the chef wanted to make for me. They did not disappoint me. The seabass wrapped in lous leaf, my favourite, was served.

Classic Hoi An dessert, the mango soup
Shangri-la is a destination in itself just for food, and this was proved in one day.

Club Lounge

We were in the good care of the Lounge Manager, Kopila Rai and between her and her team, we were pampered during our stay. It is so easy to overdo service. However, they managed to provide service that was pitched at the right level.

We enjoyed some canapés before dinner. There was a selection 6 canapés as well some cocktails and beers in addition to a choice of red and white and sparkling wine. On our second night one of the Bord Eau waiters, Saw, did a walk about and served some salmon tartar canapés. A nice touch. I would like to see more showcasing in the lounge of the hotel's fine eating options.

Loved breakfast.
Breakfast was a wonderful affair. In addition to the usual pastries and juices, there was a nice a la carte menu. Very nice indeed.

The Horizon Club Lounge is true to the 'hotel within a hotel' concept. Magical staff. Ibrahim, Lorna, Princess and Cherry, astutely lead by Kopila, show that a hotel's most valuable resource is not the Mumm Champagne, premium Caviar or  wealthy client base - it is their staff!

Final Verdict

When James Hilton used  the word 'Shangri-la', in his book Lost Horizon, did he have any idea that one day, his idea would prove to be less than utopian and more real; that a haven of peace and tranquility as he experienced it would be experienced by weary travelers 80 years later; that that place would be here in Abu Dhabi? No, he could not have imagined it would be here, but were I to meet him on a journey in another dimension, I will tell him that it is in Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi. It is still Shangri-la.

The finer details

Shangri-la at Qaryat Al Beri,
Between the bridges,
Abu Dhabi
02 509 8888