News, Culture & Society

Can you do Dubai in a weekend?

It may be a fiendishly hot hot 38°c in the afternoon sun, but I couldn’t be more delighted to be on solid ground, even if I’m about to melt. 

I’ve just come off a rather shaky six-hour flight from Zanzibar on a budget airline with rock hard seats, entertainment screens that don’t work and a scant in-flight service that makes Ryanair look luxurious. 

A visit to the Dubai has never been high on my list – despite numerous stopovers on my way to Southern Asia and Africa – but after two weeks of travelling around Tanzania, and the aforementioned rocky flight, I’m eager to break up the journey home. 

I’ve decided to find out if it’s possible to get a real flavour for the opulent Emirate, on a quick stopover of less than 36 hours, that – if successful – could make future long journeys home a lot more painless.  

Fast forward a few hours, and I’m sitting down to enjoy the best Japanese food I’ve ever tasted in my life at Akira Back at W The Palm, I’m surprised to find I’m already hooked. 

MailOnline’s Siofra Brennan ventured to Dubai for a two-night stopover at W The Palm to find out if you can experience the best of the Emirate in less than 48 hours 

W The Palm is located on the astonishing man-made Palm Jumeirah Island, pictured

W The Palm is located on the astonishing man-made Palm Jumeirah Island, pictured

Like many travellers, I’ve been through Dubai airport lots of times without ever setting foot outside the terminal, and I’ve never been particularly keen to. 

My ideal holiday is either a wildlife adventure or a city break with lots of museums and galleries, and Dubai’s reputation for artificial beaches and sprawling shopping malls has always seemed a bit too manufactured for me. 

But while arranging my summer holiday, I thought about the long winter ahead and decided that a final burst of sunshine on the way home would certainly be no bad thing. 

The prospect of a weekend there also intrigued me on the basis that it could be the ideal way to get a quick fix of guaranteed winter heat in the future, without having to jet all the way to the Caribbean. 

We arrive on Friday afternoon to see what we can pack in that evening and the next day, before leaving on Sunday morning, and W The Palm is our base. 

Located on the Palm Jumeirah island – a short 30-minute hop from the airport – it’s an ideal spot for a short break, and as we settle in to our Spectacular Room with views over the Arabian Gulf, memories of the rocky flight are already begin to drift away. 

Akira Back, which serves up Korean-influenced Japanese food under the direction of head chef Giovanni Ledon, was one of the highlights of the trip

Akira Back, which serves up Korean-influenced Japanese food under the direction of head chef Giovanni Ledon, was one of the highlights of the trip 

What I didn’t know about Dubai previously is that hotel bars are destinations in themselves, rather than somewhere you frequent on your way somewhere else, or for a nightcap – and the same goes for the restaurants. 

Before dinner, we stop off for a cocktail at SoBe, the rooftop cocktail bar inspired by the abandoned buildings of Miami’s South Beach – adorned with graffiti murals by a local artist. 

People are drifting up to the bar as the sun goes down on the brunch pool party that was in full swing as we arrived, while families gather to celebrate birthdays, adding to the party atmosphere. 

After sampling from the inventive cocktail menu, we head next door to Akira Back for dinner, still marvelling at the fact you only have to go a few floors up from your bedroom for Michelin star dining. 

The wet deck at W The Palm, complete with pods for relaxation, and pink sun loungers that are perfect for Instagram-friendly poolside snaps

The wet deck at W The Palm, complete with pods for relaxation, and pink sun loungers that are perfect for Instagram-friendly poolside snaps 

The day may have started with a miniscule portion of microwaved plane food for breakfast, but it ends on such a high note that I would go all the way back there just to eat this meal again. 

We’re treated to hit after hit from chef Giovanni Ledon starting with Akira Back’s signature tuna pizza – a crisp, light, bite-sized cracker topped with slivers of sashimi and truffle shavings. 

The grilled octopus is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before – impossibly tender, and melt-in-the mouth, as are the scallops, while spinach coated in the most moreish miso sauce is a surprise hit. 

We’re also treated to the Giovanni’s take on truffle rice, which isn’t on the menu yet, with our black cod, which he explains is on there to satisfy demand, despite worrying it’s somewhat clichéd.

It’s served as a meaty fillet, rather than the usual slivers of fish, and is all the better for it, again outshining any other version I’ve tasted. 

The Aquaventure water park is just a short cab down the road at Atlantis and is a great spot for families, making The Palm an ideal place to stay if you have limited time

The Aquaventure water park is just a short cab down the road at Atlantis and is a great spot for families, making The Palm an ideal place to stay if you have limited time

We float, or rather roll off to bed in a haze of foodie heaven, and if I had to get back on the plane the next morning it would have been worth the visit for that meal alone. 

Having realised that the best hotel restaurants are in such high demand, I’d recommend booking a table in advance, because they get snapped up fast. 

Next morning we enjoy a relaxed start to the day with a light breakfast at Liv, although there are infinite options to choose from if you have a hearty appetite. 

If you don’t want to venture far on a short visit, you can relax by the pool or enjoy treatments at the in-house spa. 

I also catch up with the very charming W Insider Sitora Rasulova-Skudutis, who is like a super-concierge for visitors with limited time, and big desires. 

The Lost Chambers Aquarium, is home to 65,000 marine animals, and its calming atmosphere provides a welcome break from the heat

The Lost Chambers Aquarium, is home to 65,000 marine animals, and its calming atmosphere provides a welcome break from the heat

She specialises in tracking down everything from sought-after concert tickets to reservations and booked-out restaurants, even if it’s a last-minute request. 

If you’re staying for a weekend and want to make something special happen, she’s the woman to speak to, although you will of course pay a premium for her services. 

We head to nearby Atlantis to check out the Aquaventure Waterpark, which has every imaginable water slide that adventurous types could hope for, and lazy rivers for those wanting something a bit more low-key.

Travel facts 

Room rates at W Dubai – The Palm start from AED 950 (approx. £210) per night on a Bed & Breakfast basis. 

To book visit wdubaithepalm.com. 

Return economy flights to Dubai with Emirates start at £329. 

It’s certainly a great spot for kids and an ideal activity if you want to be outdoors but stay cool in the XX heat, although some may be uneasy about activities on offer such as swimming with captive dolphins. 

To escape the heat, you can also enjoy bowling and lunch at the Wavehouse, where we stop for a welcome cocktail to cool off, before a fun session in the lanes.  

We opt for lunch back at The Palm in the pastel surroundings of Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura’s Torno Subito, which hark back to vintage Italian ’60s style.  

A delicate appetiser offers a twist on panzanella, with tomato sauce and cripsy crumbs, and while tagliatelli with wagyu ragu or a delicious stonebaked pizza will go down well, definitely leave room for dessert – a surprisingly light tiramisu made with espresso sorbet.  

The staff here are particularly charming and eager to talk you through the dishes, with the vast majority of ingredients imported from Italy, the passion and care for the food is abundant. 

Torno Subito Italian restaurant channels retro glamour while serving up fresh twists on classic Italian dishes

Torno Subito Italian restaurant channels retro glamour while serving up fresh twists on classic Italian dishes 

Later in the day, we’re back at Atlantis to visit the The Lost Chambers Aquarium, which is home to 65,000 marine animals. 

We enjoy a wander through, and enjoy the calming and mesmerising atmosphere, while watching small sharks and rays float by, and it’s definitely a good stop to add to the list if you have children in tow on a short visit. 

The evening finishes with a meal at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen, offering upmarket takes on classic favourites such as Cornish fish stew and lobster tagliata. 

It’s an early start the next morning, but we leave feeling energised after packing in so much fine dining and entertainment in less than 36 hours. 

I may have been cynical about Dubai before, and admittedly some parts of it do feel a little ‘style over substance’, but a fun weekend with amazing food has definitely been the perfect way to end a holiday.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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