A great new addition to the hotel scene in Al Ain - Aloft Hotel, Al Ain.

Al Ain, the green part of Abi Dhabi, is a mere hour from my home in Abu Dhabi. Depending on where in Dubai you find yourself, it is also an hour from there. Feeling the need to have a short getaway, my daughter and I make our way to the newest hotel to open in Al Ain, Aloft Hotel. 

The drive from Abu Dhabi could not be simpler, with the E22 taking us straight into Al Ain. However, it is within 25 minutes that we already experience sand dunes and palm trees - quite a beautiful drive. The old adage that the journey is as important as the destination certainly rings true.

Location

The hotel is away from the city centre, ensuring, even more, peace and quiet as one escapes from the hurly burly of Abu Dhabi and especially Dubai. It is right next to the spectacular and ultra modern Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, home of Al Ain Football Club. 


Check in

There is a quirkiness to the Aloft brand - young staff in jeans, polo shirts and Converse type sneakers in a well lit, relaxed atmosphere go through check-in effortlessly, while I steal a look at the lobby area and surrounds. There are a pool table and a grab and go eating concept called Re:fuel where you can pick up light treats like sandwiches - a perfect concept for the budget conscious traveller. 




Our Room

We are checked-in to an Aloft Twin room, available on the day for around 220AED, a fantastic rate when you consider the brand, the newness of the hotel and the amenities. My daughter immediately logs on to the internet and she draws my attention to the speed, which is very good as a standard all-inclusive package. I test it, and see that the real download speed reaches 900kb/s. That means a song could be downloaded in around a minute and a half. The usual features that one would expect are also here. Take note that bathrobes and slippers are also available, on request. 



Recreation and Dining

Because I am travelling with my daughter, our main focus is the swimming pool! However, I have a quick look at the gym, but I forego the temptation to get into shape, and we continue to the swimming pool. Situated on the 4th floor, we pass through the rooftop restaurant, incidentally named The Rooftop. 

The pool gives lovely views of part of Al Ain and the lack of any skyscrapers reminds one of the beauty that there is in simplicity - something perhaps forgotten for those of us living in the big cities? 

Once we have taken a dip in the pool and cooled down sufficiently, we order from The Rooftop menu. 

As my eyes glance over both the bites and drinks menu, I can't help the lower prices compared to what one is used to here in Abu Dhabi. I order a bottle of sparkling wine - at 140AED it is a steal. There is something about bubbles, an ice bucket and swimming pool that has this charm about it. My daughter orders one of three mocktails at 25AED. Perhaps they can add some more variety with their mocktails? 





I have the Quinoa, avocado and spinach salad - a joy. The combinations work very well with asparagus, mozzarella, roasted yellow capsicum and a basil oil and lemon vinaigrette coming together to create a salad that is all about freshness and flavour. Mitsuki's dish, Wedges a la nachos - s atple fun dish that is well executed. Note that it is a healthy portion, good enough to satisfy me as an adult. Finally, not pictured but worthy of being mentioned, we share the Quarter meter octopus. One word - delicious. It is slow-braised for 8 hours, resulting in very tender octopus. The black pepper jam give sit a bit of kick, so beware! Again, delicious!



eat, sip, swim and repeat

With every intention of trying some dishes from the hotel's signature restaurant, Olive Tree, we continue to enjoy the pool. However, soon as the floaties are thrown in the water, we feel something fun about to happen. Just our luck - it is the launch of the eat, sip, swim and repeat afternoon -  a brunch meets pool party concept. We decide to stay. It just seems like the perfect family style 'brunch' idea. I use the word family because I see a decent mix of kids and adults and because it is not a heavy drinking occasion, it is just perfect for everyone. I am not sure when last I saw adults have so much fun with floaties!



For food, a  Grill station is set up and there is a very nice selection of items, from Beef sliders, Bacon kofta kebabs, Balsamic glazed grilled vegetables, Mac and cheese and many others - but my dish of the day, well two dishes of the day, turn out to be the Grilled ostrich and Tofu steaks. On the drinks front, each guest is given two coupons for drinks - a great idea. I always feel for hotels with their free-flowing drink concepts. The next eat, sip, swim and repeat is 28 July while it will be a weekly event in September.


Out of curiosity, I pop in at the bar while Mitsuki reads in the adjacent lounge, in eyeshot of me. It is cosy little space. It really is a good alternative to some expensive bars I have tried in Al Ain. Drinks are well priced and importantly, it is not a noisy space. I would like to see a bartender with a natural sense of engagement. Bars are becoming, as I have said often, sexy. It is about connecting.




More dining

For breakfast, we go to Olive Tree where a modest but full buffet awaits us. It is just the right size and has all the dishes you would need for breakfast. Sustainability and less wastage is something I care more and more about when I visit a hotel. They have got it right here. There is a cheerful vibe in the restaurant, which makes for a joyful experience. 

We both have some fruit, while I also have an Eggs Benedict and Mitsuki has some sausages and an omelette. Both dishes are nicely done!




After a brief check back at our room to put on some sunscreen, we head to the pool for one last session before heading back to Abu Dhabi. 

The water is as refreshing as the day before, and before we know it, two hours have passed and we are hungry again. We opt for salads, as they look very satisfying and filling on the menu. 

I start with the All-in Chopped salad - one of those salads that when served just looks so healthy. But it is not just healthy - it is fun and enjoyable. Roquefort cheese, avocado, candied macadamia, apple and asparagus are just some of the ingredients that make this a beautiful poolside salad. 


The only dish that does not strike a chord with me is the Fresh tuna ceviche - I simply find the combinations rather odd, with the main culprit a heavy mix of giant couscous. I find the texture very disconcerting, especially with the delicate tuna. That contrast is just a  bridge too far for me. 



Mitsuki, on the other hand, orders the Roasted pumpkin and Grilled prawns. She loves it. I try it and I can understand why - Shrimp that still smacks of the sea and is not over done, while the pumpkin has retained all its natural sweetness.  The added flavours of honey and ginger work nicely to create a contrast. 



Finally, she has the Crispy salt and pepper calamari, which she labels as 'very good'. The chipotle sauce is just the right amount to ensure it does not overwhelm the calamari. 

I am really happy with the menu and can see the creativity of Executive Chef Sudhanshu Nirmal is the dishes. There is an emphasis on quality poolside dishes. 



We reluctantly checked out soon after these light but filling dishes. Aloft Hotel in Al Ain just checked so many boxes and makes me wonder why people do not simply drive the hour and a bit to the hotel because, from a cost point of view, it really offers tremendous value for money. Not only are the rooms really inexpensive, but the food and drink cost is too. Add to this the great time to be had by the entire family, it simply makes a lot of sense to try it. 


The Essentials,

Aloft Hotel,
Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium Development,
Brandon Stoltenkamp

Comments

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