Browsing Category

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Accommodation Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

The Most Luxurious Desert Hotel in the World: Qasr Al Sarab

June 23, 2017

Located on the edge of the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert, Rub Al Khali, Qasr Al Sarab delivers absolute luxury in a bucket-list location.  We visited to find out if it really could live up to the high praise it receives and we left every bit amazed.  Read on for our review of this spectacular Anantara property…

Since moving to Abu Dhabi almost two years ago, Qasr Al Sarab (“the Mirage Palace”) has been top of our wish-list.  This incredible property really is the incarnation of an Arabian dreamscape.

Can anywhere really live up to that level of hype though?  Though it’s hard to believe, yes!

Luxury in the Desert

Located approximately two hours from Abu Dhabi City (or three from Dubai), Qasr Al Sarab has been providing the very best in luxury (and the UAE sure knows how to do that right!) since it opened in 2009.

With a design that clearly mirrors its surrounding and gives a nod to the desert fortresses that once would have been prevalent in the area, there’s no denying where you are when you approach Qasr Al Sarab for the first time.

Everything about this hotel is beautifully considered – from the genuine Arabian antiques generously scattered throughout the property to the locally hand-crafted furnishings, this resort oozes warmth and romance.

Every room and common space offers expansive views out over the ever-changing sand dunes and let’s face it, it’s precisely those views that will spur your desire to visit Qasr Al Sarab.

As you would expect of any five star property, Qasr Al Sarab has a superb range of leisure facilities including a 24-hour gym, tennis, basketball, yoga, volleyball, spa services and of course, that bucket-list-worthy swimming pool.  When the sun goes down at night and the pool starts to glow, you’ll pinch yourself – it’s hard to believe that a place as beautiful as Qasr really exists!

If you’ve got a family to entertain there is both a kids and teens club and a wide range of organised activities that are designed to engage every single member of the crew.  Archery, nature walks, dune bashing, horse riding, fat biking, sand boarding and more – the resort is perfectly equipped, allowing you to be as active (or relaxed) as you like.

The resort offers a range of room types, from the beautifully appointed Deluxe Garden Rooms to the Royal Pavilion Villas, each serviced by private butler.  Should you opt for a villa, you’ll be treated to your own private pool, taking your bucket-list accommodation to the next level again – is that even possible?!

Why not take it a step further?  The team at Qasr Al Sarab can can even arrange a private helicopter offering a door-to-door service.  It’s all in a day’s work when you live in the lap of luxury!

Don’t worry though, if your budget won’t quite extend to private swimming pools, butlers and tailor-made chef tastings, they can also arrange a private chauffeur to transfer you from the city to the resort, or do as we did and drive yourself out in a rental car.

However you get there and whichever room you settle on, you’ll enjoy the facilities, service and views that make this undoubtedly the best desert hotel in the world.

Eat Like a King (actually, make that a Sheikh) 

With a number of restaurants and bars onsite, there’s an option to suit every occasion.

From the sumptuous but casual breakfast buffet, served each morning in Al Waha (including live cooking stations and donuts!) to the gorgeous fine-dining restaurant, Suhail, guests are able to treat themselves throughout the day.  We also enjoyed a lunch and casual dinner pool-side at Ghadeer – it’s a great place to unwind whilst making the most of the beautiful outdoor area.

Everything we ate during our stay was delicious and, as expected, the service was second-to-none.  You wouldn’t expect anything less at a resort like this.

Sunset Camel Trekking

Though we’ve rode camels on a number of occasions now, our experience in the Liwa Desert was by far the best.

Never ones to turn down an adventure, I must admit, we went in without particularly high exceptions – we are after all, a little bit spoilt by now when it comes to camels!

Not only have we ridden camels along the base of the pyramids in Cairo and through the towering valleys of Petra, but there was something special about this trek.  It felt more authentic than the rides that we’d been on in the past – almost as if we were trekking through the desert with our newfound bedouin friends.

Surrounded by massive dunes (literally, the biggest we’ve ever seen), we wove our way around and up through this sandy paradise, reaching for one of the highest peaks.  As we did so, we relaxed, soaking in the sights all around us, whilst listening to our guide impart his knowledge of the area to us.  He knew the desert inside out and was more than happy to explain the history of the area and share what he knew about the indigenous animals and plants.  Most of all, we enjoyed learning more about Islam through him – never in a forced manner, only ever sharing what we asked of him.  

It was such a pleasure connecting on a personal level and really did sum up our entire experience at Qasr Al Sarab; the team there care deeply about their guests and it shows in all of their interactions.

Back to the whole reason we were there though – to catch the unset in the most authentically Arabian of ways.

As we slipped over the crest of the huge dune, we were greeted with tea, coffee, fresh juices, dates and fruit kebabs along with cushions and stools from which we could perch and enjoy the slowly setting sun.

The more energetic amongst us decided to climb higher still, summiting the very top of the sand dune to catch the sun drifting below the horizon.

If you’re ever visited the Middle East, you’ll appreciate that there’s nothing quite like a sunset here.  The sun feels just that little closer here than it does elsewhere, glowing the most gorgeous shade of crimson – it has to be seen to be believed and where better than in the depths of the desert whilst being treated to the most luxurious of adventures?

With the last of the daylight fading away, we all pulled off our shoes and raced directly down the steepest bank to the awaiting 4WDs for the trip back to our Arabian oasis.

Why Do the Dunes Look So Different?

You’ll notice that the dunes look significantly different in each photograph.  In person, the colours change frequently, with the only real consistency amongst dunes being their inconsistent colouration!  This is due to the varying mineral compounds and the way in which they interact with the environment – iron-oxide, for example, gives much of the desert it’s obvious red/orange colour – it is quite literally, rust.

With the different colours of the dunes, the stunning Arabian sunshine and the winds constantly repositioning the sand, you’ll be sure to see a different desert-scape at each different time of the day, so don’t hide yourself away in your room – get out there!

Save Your Pennies – Qasr Al Sarab deserves to be on the top of your bucket list

Qasr Al Sarab is special, there’s no two ways about it.  Without doubt, this remote hotel will remain one of the most unique and memorable places we’ll ever stay.

Sure, you’ll need to reach into your pockets to book a room but we assure you the experience will stay with you long after the pain of looking at your bank account is gone.

If you have the opportunity to visit Qasr Al Sarab, snap it up!


Looking for luxury in the UAE?  Pin this post!

Qasr Al Sarab is the best luxury desert hotel in the world. Located in the Liwa Desert it offers world class restaurants, activities, relaxation and the ultimate in luxury. Don't visit Abu Dhabi or Dubai without heading out into the desert!Qasr Al Sarab is the best luxury desert hotel in the world. Located in the Liwa Desert it offers world class restaurants, activities, relaxation and the ultimate in luxury. Don't visit Abu Dhabi or Dubai without heading out into the desert!

Thank you to Anantara for inviting us for the purpose of this review.  As always all thoughts are our own.  We had the most amazing stay at Qasr Al Sarab and every single person we know that has visited has absolutely sung their praises.  A word of warning though – you’ll probably be ruined for all future accommodation – it’ll have a hard time living up to this!

Abu Dhabi Food Luxury Middle East Reviews

Abu Dhabi Eats: Todd English’s Olives – A Taste of the Mediterranean

May 15, 2017

With our time in Abu Dhabi coming to an end, we’re on a mission to try out all of the amazing restaurants in Abu Dhabi.  Well, maybe not all of them but certainly the ones that have been waiting patiently on our list.

First up?

Todd English’s Olives – a gorgeous restaurant that absolutely shone, keeping both Nathan’s adventurous palette and my significantly-plainer tastes perfectly happy.  With service that rivals any in Abu Dhabi, Olives may just become your new favourite restaurant.

Just Like Home – Only Better!

Once you’ve had your car complimentary valet parked (this is, after all, Abu Dhabi), you’ll find Olives within stumbling distance.

The restaurant itself is stylishly decorated with big comfortable seats and generously sized tables (which you’ll need for all of the food they’ll bring out to you!).  Alternatively, guests are welcome to sit outside in the open courtyard, only metres from the canal.  Even with the weather warming up, we enjoyed sitting outside with a light breeze so that would be our recommendation before we hit the peak of summer.

The staff are friendly and the atmosphere inviting so we instantly felt at ease.  Yes, this is a fine-dining restaurant but the team do a superb job of welcoming everyone in and making them feel at home.

If only we had food like theirs on tap each night!

A Thirst for the Finer Things in Life

The right drink can start a night off perfectly and our night out was to be one of the best we’ve had in a long time, so I suppose, the writing was on the wall.

Throughout the evening we enjoyed a range of drinks and each and every one blew us away.  At most we normally have one mocktail and then move onto soft drinks but drinks menu at Olives was too tempting to resist!

With options like the lemon cloud (Bacardi White, Limoncino, white chocolate, cream and sour mix), slingback (raspberry vodka, passion fruit puree and nectar, raspberries and mint), bubbly scarlet (my personal favourite – fresh raspberries, raspberry and almond syrup, ginger ale and lemon juice) and passion mangolada (passion fruit nectar, mango juice and coconut syrup), how on earth could we settle for a Coke?!

Let’s Get Started!

As all our meals out are, the dishes served to us are a tale of two opposing tastes – my more down-to-earth preferences and Nathan’s love of the finer things in life.  With that in mind, let’s get down to business…

The Basics

Let’s start by saying that my starter really was anything but basic – it was literally up there as one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten.

The Bronx Bomber flatbread (which I ordered in starter size) came loaded with a garlic tomato sauce, the most tender beef pepperoni, caramelised onions, mozzarella, parmesan and fresh basil.  It was so delicious that I genuinely had to hold myself back from eating it all before my main arrived!

The flatbread teamed perfectly with the homemade wedges and their accompanying sauces and though I shouldn’t have eaten quite so much of the bread starter, the rolls were impossible to put down.  The garlic scrolls were amazing.  Honestly, those alone made it worth visiting Olives.

Fine Dining

Though my food was delicious, most of you will be here for the fine dining review and I don’t blame you for a second.  Stick around as it didn’t disappoint.

In a bid to try as many things as possible, Nathan was presented with the chef’s tasting menu that was chock-full of all sorts of incredible dishes.  Not only was each presented beautifully but the produce was clearly top-notch and a lot of skill had gone into cooking each item perfectly.  Though most of Nathan’s dishes were beyond my limited (alright, fussy) palette, I couldn’t help but admire the creativity and eye for detail that went into each of them.

First up was the beef and tuna carpaccio – a beautifully balanced plate, both figuratively and literally.  Served as two dishes in one, the beef carpaccio peeked our from under a cocktail glass whilst the tuna sat on top.  Both components hit the spot with the beef nosing just slightly ahead thanks to its perfect combination of ingredients.

Following on, Nathan tried the chef’s variation on scallops vol-au-vent.  His version was a treat for the eyes with perfectly browned scallops sitting atop beds of squid-ink risotto and cauliflower puree.  The seafood was the standout of this dish so would be high on Nathan’s list of recommendations when paired with the puff pastry cups and lemon butter emulsion of the standard menu.

To be fair, his recommendation list would run off the page.

Finally, the veal agnolotti al plin arrived at our table and though it didn’t present as well as Nathan’s other starters, it bowled us both over with its perfectly balanced flavours.  Braised veal ossobucco, fontina fondue stuffed pasta and black truffle essence combined to form what became both of our favourites for the evening.

If you enjoy hearty and delicious food, this is the one for you.  Don’t be surprised if you see us at Olives alongside you, both munching away on the veal pasta!

Time for the Main Attraction

Just when we were sure we couldn’t possibly eat any more, our steaks arrived and we were proven wrong.

Steak in Abu Dhabi can be a bit hit or miss.  To get a good steak is often hideously expensive (which is to be expected when you live in the middle of the desert.)

That wasn’t the case here though with both cuts being perfectly selected and cooked to order.  Nathan’s lean prime beef tenderloin was paired with a delicious cracked pepper demi-glace (which I may just have stolen) whilst my rib eye was close to the size of a dinner plate and marbled to perfection.

Both dishes were served with a selection of tasty accompaniments but we were so full by this stage that we couldn’t do much more than have a little sample of each.  What we did try though, was delicious.

Just Desserts

With tummies full to the brim, it would have been easy to turn down dessert but who in their right mind does that?

Instead of opting for a full dessert, we were presented with a tasting plate each which offered a little sometime to suit everyone.  From the smooth, creamy and deliciously citrusy panna cotta, to the moist red velvet cake and the coffee infused homemade ice cream and tiramisu, these light desserts finished the night off beautifully.  Nathan loved the tiramisu and I devoured the panna cotta, both of which were clear favourites for us, but when we return, my eye is firmly on the apple pie.

Olives – Something to Suit Everyone

We had a fantastic evening at Olives with the food, drinks, location and amazing staff all playing an equally important role.  We loved that the menu was so diverse, featuring a range of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, making it a restaurant that truly caters to all tastes.

Their current menu is available online so you can salivate over your keyboard before you make it into the restaurant.

Don’t move too fast though!

It will be impossible not to see up some potential options before heading along to the Venetian Village but try not to mentally preplan your dinner in its entirety – our waitress was spot on with her favourite dishes so it’s well worth listening to the expertise of the Olives team.

With a little over a month left in Abu Dhabi, both Nathan and I have vowed to return to Olives which I think says everything we need to say on the subject!


Don’t forget to take your Entertainer too to receive ‘buy one, get one free’ on your mains.

Pin this post so you’ll remember where to go on your next special occasion in Abu Dhabi.  

Todd English's Olives serves up amazing fine dining plates alongside more homestyle dishes - a perfect combination in Abu Dhabi.  Check out why this is one of our new favourite restaurants in the UAE!

Thank you to Sociate for inviting us to put Olives through their paces – they well and truely passed!  As always, all thoughts on Exploring Kiwis are our own.

Abu Dhabi Accommodation Expat Life Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

A 2.5 Hour Drive from Abu Dhabi but a World Away: Jebel Dhanna’s Beachfront Paradise

February 9, 2017
danat jebel dhanna resort Abu Dhabi review

Only two and a half hours from the buzz of Abu Dhabi City, you’ll find Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, a welcome reprise from the rush of everyday life.

Located on the shore of the mainland, opposite Sir Bani Yas Island, guests benefit from many of the perks of being near this natural reserve without the often-hefty price tag of the resorts on the island.

We spent a weekend at the Danat Jebel Dhanna and wanted to share our honest thoughts with those of you living in the UAE or planning a visit to Abu Dhabi.  Read on to find out what we thought…

Arriving at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort

After a comfortable 2.5 hour drive from Abu Dhabi, following the coast West past the sand dunes, we arrived at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort to begin our weekend of relaxation (and fun!)

As you would expect from a hotel of this calibre, check-in was a breeze and from the moment we arrived until the moment we left the staff greeted us with wide smiles and open arms.  This resort perfectly combines luxury with an unpretentious ease – if you want to dress up, you won’t be out of place but if you’re there to unwind after a busy week, you’ll also feel comfortable walking around in your trackies.

The grounds of the resort are fairly extensive and there’s lots of grass to relax on (a surprisingly significant treat when you live in the desert) along with beautifully maintained gardens.  The star of the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort is, without doubt, the gorgeous seafront location though – the water was absolutely stunning and calm, both day and night.  It’s there’s an oil refinery that sits out on the horizon but it doesn’t impact the view badly – in fact, seeing it lit up at night, it was surprisinly beautiful out on the water.

Our own Private Oasis

The rooms at Danat Jebel Dhanna are generously sized and all benefit from fantastic views out over the gardens and opposing beach (which genuinely has the clearest, most gorgeous water we’ve seen in the Middle East!)

With plenty of room to lounge, a desk to work from and a beautiful deck, spending time in our room as a pleasure, though I must admit, it was hard dragging ourselves out of the incredibly plush bed each morning – it was definitely up there with some of the best we’ve slept in.

The bathroom was also well-sized and included all of the amenities a guest could need – a shave kit, loofah and moisturiser along with all of the standard inclusions you would expect of a five-star hotel.

danat jebel dhanna resort Abu Dhabi review room

Dining Options at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort

Zaitoun

Serving contemporary Italian fare in an intimate and homely setting we were delighted to find a restaurant serving such delicious food so far out of Abu Dhabi.  We decided on the three course set menu and with complimentary bread and nibbles and large portion sizes, came away very full and very happy!

L’Attitude

If you’re looking for a relaxed adults-only spot to enjoy your evening, you’ll want to head to L’Attitude.  Delicious food served pub-style,  a live band (that featured three amazing singers and lots of classic tunes!) and tropical cocktails, we had a great night in there.

Tides

Tides is the main restaurant servicing the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort and it’s open right through the day to ensure nobody goes hungry.

Every morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast which included a wide selection of options at the buffet along with freshly made plates (waffles, pancakes and omelettes anyone?) and for lunch we were pleased to see a range of options including curries, Arabic barbecue, meat cooked to order, salads, soups and much more.

Restaurants in other parts of the world could really learn a thing or two from buffets in the United Arab Emirates – they do them incredibly well!

C-View

The best option if you’re looking for a treat in between meals or need a coffee hit.  When the sun goes down, they also serve a full selection of alcoholic drinks – all with views out over the garden – what a spot to relax.

Who is Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort Best Suited For?

Familes with Children

The resort is especially well set up to cater to the needs of families.  With a playground, kids club and a wading pool, there’s plenty to keep the little ones engaged and happy.

Though there’s plenty for kids to do at the hotel we were never once disturbed by them – all of the children there were well-behaved, respectful and well-occupied, making it not only good for families but for anyone planning a getaway.

Those Looking to be Pampered

Nathan loves a good massage and when he comes out saying he’s just had the best massage of his life, you know you’re onto a seriously good thing!  We settled on a Swedish and aromatherapy massage respectively and for an hour let all of our worries melt away (though let’s face it, when your weekends look like this, you don’t have too much to worry about!)

Active Relaxers

If your idea of relaxing involves expelling a little more energy, you’ll have plenty of options at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort!

Over the course of our visit we jumped onboard their boat to go snorkelling out above their local reef and zipped around on the banana boat (which was really much more of a giant hotdog – fun!).  There’s also a basketball court, tennis and squash courts, volleyball, a swimming pool, kayaks, a full gym and the option of additional motorized watersports (wakeboarding or waterskiing, anyone?)

Would we Recommend Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort?

If we could be there right now, we would be, so yes, we definitely recommend you check this beautiful seaside spot out.  It’s not the newest of hotels but set out of the city, on a stunning beach, with fantastic activity options, tasty food and staff that go above and beyond to make you feel at home, it ticks all of the boxes for us!


Only 2.5 hours drive from Abu Dhabi, we found paradise!

We were guests of Danat Hotels and spent the weekend at the resort for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own and 100% honest.

Abu Dhabi Food Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

The Sweet Taste of Caramel – Abu Dhabi Restaurant Review

December 17, 2016
Caramel Abu Dhabi review

Abu Dhabi has a plethora of world-class restaurants, offering practically any cuisine one could desire.

American food may not traditionally stir up thoughts of fine dining but Caramel, on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, will challenge your perceptions of what American-inspired dining can offer.

Set in a moody but welcoming lounge-style restaurant, the restaurant will welcome you in whilst the food will have you coming back for more.

Here, traditional favourites are served with a flavourful twist.  Mac and cheese (with truffle oil and three cheese dipping sauce – you didn’t think this would be your standard mac and cheese did you?) and kobe BBQ beef sliders can be found on the menu, sitting alongside ingredients and inspiration taken from the UK and Asia as well.  At Caramel, the focus is less on one particular cuisine and more on delivering meals of the highest standard – the benefit of this is that everyone will find something they’ll enjoy eating.

Entrees

After much debate, Nathan decided on the marinated kobe beef tacos whilst I ordered Caramel’s signature ‘buffalo style’ chicken lollipops.

The kobe beef tacos were fresh and tasty, served with aubergine ra and stuffed with Wagyu beef – Nathan devoured them in no time (a sure sign of their quality).  Straight away, we knew we were onto a good thing!

Together we worked through my serve of chicken lollipops.  Neither of us had tried this style of chicken before but we’re both absolutely converted.  In essence, they were buffalo wings, but thanks to the chef’s handy knife work, all of the hassle of eating chicken wings was removed.  We were left with tasty morsels of chicken, with crispy skin and a tasty, spicy buffalo sauce, that were easy to cut apart.  Served with a mild blue cheese sauce which was appreciated to help put out the fire (though they were the perfect level of spice).

Mains

Next up were the mains and upon our servers recommendation we leapt at the chance to try two of the most popular dished on the menu – steak and frittes along with the seared Chilean sea bass.  We found out first-hand that they’re popular for a reason!

Fries.  Fries served with parmesan and garlic.  Seriously, this is absolutely the best way to eat fries, so I found out.  Everything about my main was spot on – from the delicious pommes frites to the beautifully cooked medium-rare tenderloin and accompanying steak and peppercorn sauces.  On the surface, the meal was relatively simple but all of the flavours shone through, creating a main that we both seriously enjoyed.

Nathan’s a real lover of seafood (me, not so much) and he was very pleased with his choice to order the seared sea bass.  The fish itself was served on a bed of rock shrimp risotto and lobster broth, topped with tomato, basil tapenade.  It was literally the best risotto he’s ever eaten and an option he highly recommends for seafood lovers.

Desserts

Dessert was a real toss-up with four options catching our eye.  The choice between a butterscotch bomb, baked Alaska, dark chocolate fondant and vanilla bean creme brûlée wasn’t easy but in the end we decided on the later two.  Thought I don’t doubt that all of the desserts would have been amazing, I can vouch for how special the two we had were.  

My chocolate fondant was cooked to perfection – rich cake on the outside with a gooey centre that somehow avoided being too sweet.  Normally served with cappuccino ice-cream, I requested vanilla bean instead and found it to offset the dark chocolate fondant beautifully.

Nathan’s creme brûlée (made with fresh cream, vanilla beans and caramelised bananas) was amongst the smoothest creme brûlées we’ve ever had and a real highlight.

Our Thoughts on Caramel, Abu Dhabi

Though Caramel isn’t exactly priced at the budget end of the spectrum, the servings are very generous, the food delicious, the setting very special and the staff professional.  It would make a perfect choice for a date night, special occasion or evening when you just want to treat yourself.

What a treat it was for us!


If you’d like to save this post, why not pin it for later?

Caramel Review, Abu Dhabi

Thank you to Caramel for inviting us along to review them.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Abu Dhabi Activities Dubai Expat Life Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

The Membership Card You’ll Want to Use: Privilee Review, Abu Dhabi + Dubai

December 10, 2016
The Palace Downtown Dubai Privilee review Burj

Over the years both Nathan and I have signed up to our fair share of memberships – mostly to various gyms, all of which are eventually relinquished due to lack of use.  Privilee is different though… we’ve finally found a membership card that we love using!

What makes this membership so different?  Read on for our Privilee review…

These magic little cards open all sorts of five-star doors for you, granting access to the hottest spots in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  Simply put, it’s an absolute pleasure to use.

A membership with Privilee lets you enjoy unlimited access to beach clubs, spas, gyms and sports facilities at some of Abu Dhabi’s and Dubai’s leading hotels and resorts, along with special deals and discounts at a wide selection of award-winning restaurants and bars.

With our leisure membership cards in hand, we can enjoy dozens of five-star hotel pools and beaches whilst receiving discounts at their hotels and bars.  At the end of a busy week, we really look forward to getting comfy on a sun lounger and swapping between a good book and refreshing dips in the pool.

For those of you who are looking to burn off a few more calories, there are plenty of gyms and exercise classes that are included in the membership, along with the use of tennis and squash courts.

If you’re wanting to relax even more, discounts for spa treatments are included in the card and I don’t doubt for a second that they would be glorious!

When you factor in what it would cost to visit one of these hotels or beach clubs on a Friday or Saturday (for those of you not in the UAE, those are our weekend days), the monthly membership more than pays for itself.  We love that having it gives us a little push to head out for a day of relaxation in the sun and with three visits under our belt, it’s already helped us to see more of the UAE.

The service at each of the hotels/clubs that we have visited has been top-notch, with staff being professional but approachable – exactly what we’re after on a day out.

The team at Privilee are on top of their game too, ready to help you with all the information you’ll need to make the most of your membership without any downtime.

The best part of the membership though?  Undoubtedly the amazing spots we’ve had the pleasure of spending time at and the knowledge that there are more to come.

Do your weekends look as good as ours?

Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah

The Palace Downtown Dubai

Saadiyat Beach Club, Abu Dhabi

Turn every weekend into a five-star beach getaway. Fill your days with family fun in the sun, water sports and poolside lounging, energising workouts, pampering spa breaks and award-winning dining experiences. Do whatever you want, when you want.

We love watching emails pop up, sharing with us the newest hotels and beach clubs to come onboard with Privilee!  If you’re an expat living in the UAE, we’d definitely suggest signing up – those little emails will come to be the amongst the highlights of your week.  That is, until you get to the weekend and can head out to the pool!


Abu Dhabi Dubai Beach Pool Club Privilee review membership

Privilee currently have the following properties on their books, with more being added each week:

Fairmont The Palm • Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa • The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club • RIVA Beach Club • Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights • Media One Hotel • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Beach • Shangri-La Hotel • Conrad Dubai • The Address Dubai Marina • InterContinental Dubai Marina • Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah • Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah • Sofitel The Palm Beach Resort & Spa • The Palace Downtown Dubai • The St. Regis Abu Dhabi • Saadiyat Beach Club • The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Our Privilee review was made possible thanks to their generous support. We highly recommend their membership programme to beach and pool bunnies and anyone looking to unwind in the UAE (which is everyone, surely?)  As always, all thoughts are our own.

If you do decide to join the Privilee family, we’d love it if you’d use the links above.  Doing so will let us enjoy another month of pool-side fun at no extra cost to you.

Abu Dhabi Food Reviews United Arab Emirates

Handsdown, The Best Desserts in Abu Dhabi

November 12, 2016
The Best Desserts in Abu Dhabi

Desserts in Abu Dhabi are serious business.  With such stiff competition and so many residents harbouring a sweet tooth, it’s not surprising to find that the quality of dessert treats in the city is exceptionally high.

If you’re looking a sweet addition to your day, read on to discover the best desserts in Abu Dhabi.  The best part is they’re all takeaway options so you don’t even need to get dressed up.

L’Artisan Gourmand

If you’re looking for decadent, uniquely beautiful eclairs, you can’t go past L’Artisan Gourmand.  Each pastry is an absolute work of art, overflowing with perfectly balanced flavour.  With flavours like passion flower, macchiato, Madagascar vanilla, pistachio and salted caramel, these are so much more than your standard eclairs.

Seriously, look at them – it’s no wonder they’re widely considered amongst the best desserts in Abu Dhabi.

Though the pastries are the main drawcard to L’Artisan Gourmand, they offer a fantastic range of additional products – tender macarons (literally the biggest we’ve ever seen with lovely little macaron feet), chocolate covered dates and a selection of carefully crafted teas and infusions; all perfect to take home for an afternoon snack.

Brownie Blues

Gooey, fudgey, flavourful and delivered fresh to your door; courier deliveries do not come sweeter than this!  Brownie Blues takes one of your favourite comfort desserts and ramps them up a level with flavours like red velvet, rocky road, ferrero rocher and peanut brownie.  As amazing as they are fresh, the classic is even better warmed up with a little ice cream.

Available in single servings of boxes big enough to share, there are plenty of options, all as delicious as the next… and the best part?  You don’t even need to get out of you PJs!

Nata Lisboa

Looking for perfectly formed pastry treat in Abu Dhabi?  Creamy, delicate custard combined with crunchy, light pastry these traditional Portuguese tarts from Nata Lisboa will put a smile on your dial.  Served with icing sugar and cinnamon, they’re absolutely delicious and can be served as sweet as you like with a little sprinkle from each sachet.

We’ve not tasted the real thing in Europe but we’ve heard from a number of people that there’s literally no difference between these tarts and the originals in Portugal and in my books that makes them even better (as we can pop down to the WTC Mall and pick up a box anytime we like)!

Fresh Bakes Cafe

Tucked away in a local mall, Fresh Bakes Cafe has well and truely won Nathan over with their cupcakes which is no small feat.  We’ve popped in store a few times now and every time the cupcakes have been perfectly cooked, moist and flavourful.

With a massive range of flavours, there’s something for everyone. The jaffa dark chocolate, apple biscoff and strawberry lemonade were all standouts but I don’t think you could go wrong with any flavour choice!

Their menu extends far beyond cupcakes with delicious cookies, cheesecakes, muffins and a full service mains offering – if you’re floating around Khalifa City, make sure you stop by Fresh Bakes Cafe.

Ready for your sugar fix?  You can’t go wrong with any of the above recommendations – trust us, we’ve sampled plenty of desserts over the years!

What our your Abu Dhabi favourites?

PS: If you’re looking for an amazing eat-in option, check out Tamba!


Do your sweet tooth a favour and pin this post!  It’ll let you keep tabs on the best desserts in Abu Dhabi.

Best Desserts in Abu Dhabi

We have no association to any of the above businesses, we just love desserts!

Abu Dhabi Food Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Tamba: Perfectly Balanced Indian Fusion in Abu Dhabi

November 3, 2016

Visiting gorgeous locations and reporting back to you all is without doubt, one of our favourite things.  Blogging is a real labour of love though – some posts we write come together effortlessly whilst others take a little more time to craft.  Then there’s this one – how do you write a post reviewing a restaurant when you’re left speechless?

I suppose, like anything, you start at the beginning… From the moment we stepped through the door of Tamba (until the minute we left) we were treated like royalty; not the uncomfortable level of attention that you get in some top-notch restaurants but like we were long lost friends, invited over for the most amazing of meals.

Tamba is a relative new-comer to the flourishing Abu Dhabi food scene, serving up Indian food with a unique twist.  Each plate pulls on traditional Indian flavours but is combined with a wide range of ingredients from around the world – the result is an exciting and sometimes unexpected dining experience.

The restaurant itself is absolutely gorgeous and carefully designed to match its own name.  In Hindi, ‘Tamba’ means copper and the warm metallic shades throughout the restaurant help to create a welcoming atmosphere.  An exotic rooftop restaurant with a sophisticated club feel, Tamba was everything we look for in a date-night restaurant.

As we looked over the menu we were instantly taken by just how knowledgeable the Tamba staff are – they know their food inside out and their passion for the concept shines through.  Trusting in the Tamba team, we shared some of our favourite foods and took them up on their offer to craft us a personal selection that we would love.

Did we love it?  Undoubtedly!

Each course came out as it was ready but for the most part we worked steadily though the smaller sharing plates before the mains arrived.  When you’re hungry, the idea of plates continually making their way out of the kitchen is great news!

From the mild but tasty ‘chicken 65’ entree to the memorable seafood starters that Nathan enjoyed, it was obvious to us that each and every ingredient at Tamba is carefully considered and then cooked by master chefs.  We found out later that every dish passes through the head chef’s hands, ensuring perfection at all stages (and they are indeed capable hands, having just been awarded Abu Dhabi Chef of the Year).

One of the surprise stand-outs from the first part of the night, for both Nathan and I, was the sweet and sour pumpkin paratha, eaten taco-style.  It is literally the first time I’ve eaten a vegetarian meal that hasn’t felt like an alternative to a meat based dish – this one stands on it’s own two feet, overflowing with perfect flavour.

Delicately flavoured chicken curry (their version of butter chicken, but shhhh we’re not meant to call it that), lamb chops marinated and cooked to perfection (how many times have I used that word?!), the biggest scallops we’ve ever seen; every dish that came out was tasty and a stand-out in its own right.

Thanks to the nature of Indian fusion, even those that aren’t huge fans of this style of cuisine will be happy; with so many different flavours finding their way into the dishes, some would almost trick you into forgetting their Indian roots.

No meal is complete without the addition of a refreshing drink and tasty dessert and fortunately, Tamba have both of these in abundance.  Fresh, fruity and beautifully presented, Tamba has a wide range of beverages on offer with the same high level of ingredients found in their food – homemade syrups and creative garnishes, they’ve thought of every detail… let’s be honest though, a great drink is one thing but a remarkable dessert is a whole different beast (in the very best of ways).

India is not traditionally known for its dessert offerings but Tamba has managed to hit theirs out of the park.  With five solid options on the menu (and a cute little story explaining how they were named), they’re large enough to share… though you won’t want to!  My personal favourite was ‘the Break-Up’, an amazing  dark chocolate mousse, peanut semifreddo, salted caramel, chocolate sauce concoction whilst Nathan loved the caramelised banana toffee cake which was served with pecan nut praline, fresh banana and homemade cardamon ice cream (known as the ‘Sticky Situation’).  All three were delicious – to be honest, I really don’t think you could go wrong with dessert there!

It’s a good sign when even with three desserts between the two of you, you’ve already chosen what you’d like on your next visit (cheesecake with ginger snaps, passionfruit curd, whitechocolate and honey shards and popping candy – seriously dessert heaven!)

I know this review sounds unbelievably positive but honestly, we mean every word.  If you’re currently living in Abu Dhabi or planning a visit, we’d recommend swinging by Tamba to see for yourself.  You won’t be disappointed.


The Hub at The Mall,
World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi (Level 6)

+971 2 672 88 88

reservations@tambarestaurant.com

Weekdays 12:00pm – 01:00am
Weekends 12:00pm – 02:00am


If you enjoyed this post please pin it for later so others will stumble across it too!

Tamba Abu Dhabi review

Thank you to Tamba and PurpleHoney for so graciously hosting us.  As always, all thoughts are absolutely our own.  We can’t wait to return!

Abu Dhabi Expat Life Food Middle East United Arab Emirates

U-Turn: An American Diner in The UAE

June 24, 2016

Let me start by saying how much we really love a good burger… our love for burgers is on par with our adoration of the United States and all of their ridiculously delicious (and naughty) food in general!

Imagine our excitement when reviews for U-Turn Diner started popping up all over Facebook – Abu Dhabi’s very own American styled diner.  Now take that level of excitement and turn it up a notch, when not only did we have the chance to visit U-Turn but we were invited to trial their new menu.  The stuff of dreams!

U-Turn opened six months ago and has brought a relaxed and fun atmosphere to Abu Dhabi’s casual dining scene.  In a nod to their American roots, they serve generously sized portions

uturn abu dhabi monster shakesAmazing desert treats seem to be popping up the world over, with one of the biggest trends currently in the form of calorific freak shakes.  We were lucky enough to get our hands on all of the new flavours and they didn’t disappoint.  Choose between:

  • Armadillo (46AED): A caramel chocolate shake, with peanut butter.  Topped with a snickers chocolate bar, M&Ms and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and loaded with chocolate and caramel sauce.
  • Chocolattack (49AED): An oreo choc shake, topped with whipped cream, brownie, muddy chocolate, pretzels and an oreo cookie.
  • Strawberry Fantasia (47AED): A strawberry shake, topped with marshmallows, colourful sprinkles, and a mini cupcake.
  • Cloud Nine (48AED): A strawberry cheesecake shake mix, topped with a slice of cheesecake, sprinkles, strawberry sauce and cream.

We were served these monster shakes as an entree but next time we’d order normal drinks to accompany our main and order a shake as our dessert.  They were delicious but definitely better suited to a post-dinner treat.

uturn abu dhabi monster shakesFollowing our shakes, we sampled a range of starters (as seen below), including chicken bites, ‘bang bang shrimp’, chicken quesadillas and ‘pepe fries’.  All of them were tasty – the shrimp got great reviews from the other diners and I personally enjoyed the cheesy chicken bites and U-Turn’s take on poutine.  The servings were generous (especially when you consider the size of the mains to follow) so be mindful that you don’t over-order.

uturn abu dhabi food

Just when we were starting to feel full the mains made their way out to us – though we weren’t very hungry, we couldn’t resist tucking in.  The bread was the perfect middle-ground between savoury and sweet, the patties perfectly cooked and the toppings flavourful.  Each burger was served with a massive pickle and a side of beautifully seasoned fries.

We sampled theMamma Mia Burger (Italian influenced), Este Punto Burger (Mexican style), the OMG Burger (a serious burger – triple patty beef (120gr each), cheddar cheese (real & sauce) , strips of beef bacon, hashbrown, grilled egg, red coleslaw and grilled onion!) and also had a little taste of their U-Turn AD Burger (with a camel patty).

For all of us, the OMG burger was the clear favourite.  It was cooked to perfection and the hashbrowns and bacon worked well with the other flavours.  It would easily have been the biggest burger we’ve ever seen and would be well suited to sharing with someone else, but is one we’d order again without doubt (though we would ask them to withhold a little of the cheese).

I was brave and tried a little of the camel burger but must admit, it wasn’t to my taste.  I found it to be too salty, but for all I know, that could be how camel should be served.  I’m not very adventurous with my food so really enjoying it was always going to be a long shot!

uturn abu dhabi burgersAll in all, the food at U-Turn was tasty, generously sized and great value for money.  The monster shakes were an awesome once-in-a-while treat and the burgers delicious.  The menu has a wide enough range to cater to most tastes, but even still, try to book your trip into U-Turn on a cheat day… there’s no point heading somewhere like this just to order a side salad and water!

uturn diner location

If you’re keen to check out the U-Turn diner for yourself (and we suggest you do), you’ll find them not too far from Al Wadha Mall.

Sunday – Thursday: 8a.m till 11:30p.m

Friday & Saturday: 8a.m till 11p.m

Please note their hours may change (due to Ramadan etc.) so give them a call if in doubt…

info@uturndiner.com
+971 2 666 8070
+971 2 666 8060

Thanks U-Turn for having us along!  Nathan and I both had a great evening munching on delicious food in a fun environment with great company.  As always, all views are our own.

Abu Dhabi Accommodation Holidays Middle East United Arab Emirates

Tilal Liwa Hotel – Your Desert Oasis

June 19, 2016

As much as we love Abu Dhabi, sometimes it’s nice to get out of here; as they say, a change is as good as a holiday… even if it is only for a weekend!

Tilal Liwa Hotel desert quad bikeFortunately, just shy of two hours from the city, Tilal Liwa Hotel lays amongst the dunes of the Rub al Khai desert.  This Arabian hideaway is a welcome respite from the hussle and bustle of the city, offering the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure for a weekend away.

Tilal Liwa Hotel desert road

The entrance of Tilal Liwa gives a modern nod to Arabia and opens out onto a beautiful (and air conditioned) deck with views out over the property and desert.  Once we were handed our room card, we couldn’t resist wandering down to our room via the deck and courtyard – the gorgeous pool was what caught out eye when we were initially checked out the Tilal Liwa Hotel and it didn’t disappoint!

Tilal Liwa Hotel courtyard

Our room was generously sized and opened directly out onto a little private courtyard which continued to the garden (a welcome sight in the desert!).  We had absolutely everything we needed for a relaxing weekend away; a large, comfortable bed, crisp linen, satellite T.V (with a good variety of channels), complimentary water and an incredibly well stocked mini bar.

The air-conditioning in the room was strong enough to let us open the door and enjoy a touch of fresh air.  We enjoyed sitting back and enjoying the sound of the local birdlife, something that all too often, we don’t get to hear in Abu Dhabi.

Tilal Liwa Hotel room

The 111 rooms of the Tilal Liwa frame the beautiful swimming pool – the jewel in the crown of this hotel.  With the Arabian sun beating down on the pool all day, it’s a good thing the pool is cooled to the perfect temperature for a midday dip.  Dozens of loungers and hammocks also line the pool and there was no shortage of guests keen to soak up the sun whilst relaxing.

Outside of Ramadan, I can imagine just how nice it would be to sit with a fresh juice at the side of the pool, however the time of year during our visit prevented food or drinks being served outside.  There was a secluded bar tucked just around the corner though so don’t let visiting at this time of year put you off – it really made very little difference to our weekend.

Tilal Liwa Hotel pool

Tilal Liwa Hotel pool sunset

Our package included full board which, even during Ramadan, was fantastic!  We were provided with a delicious cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.  Each meal was served buffet style, with the addition of freshly cooked eggs and pancakes/waffles for breakfast.  Lunch was fantastic with a combination of Asian, Middle Eastern and Western options on offer, whilst dinner was similar but with a more significant focus on Arabic food.  Iftar (the equivalent of dinner, served to break the fast during Ramadan – learn more here) began at 7.20pm (when the sun set) and was vast and equally tasty.

It’s not all about food at Tilal Liwa though; here you can choose to be as active or relaxed as you like.  Our levels of energy didn’t quite extend to the gym, but for those of you with an interest in health and fitness, there was a remarkably well appointed gym, along with saunas and steam rooms.  Guests can book themselves into the onsite spa for a massage or facial whilst the kids are entertained by the hotel staff in the kids club.

For those with a little more energy to expel, there is plenty to do out in the desert!    Mountain bikes are freely available for the whole family and a number of additional activities are on offer at surprisingly reasonable prices.  We got up close and personal with one of the many local camels and had a blast on the quad bikes, zipping up and down the dunes.

Sand boarding, horse riding, desert safaris and more; it feels like Tilal Liwa have thought of practically everything!

Packages vary but many include activities so be sure to check with the hotel to see if any of these offerings are included in your stay.

camel racing abu dhabi
Tilal Liwa Hotel camel ride
dune bashing quad bike abu dhabi
Tilal Liwa Hotel quad bike

The Tilal Liwa Hotel represents excellent value for money whilst delivering attainable luxury in a memorable location.  Less than two hours from Abu Dhabi City, a visit to the hotel is a glorious hideaway for expats and travellers alike.  Whether you’re an expat looking for a weekend getaway or a visitor seeking out a more traditional Emirati experience,  the Tilal Liwa Hotel is sure to fit the bill.

sunrise tilal liwa hotel

Thank you to Tilal Liwa Hotel for hosting us. As always, all thoughts are our own. 

 

Come back to this review by pinning this image…

Tilal Liwa Hotel Pinterest

Abu Dhabi Expat Life Food Middle East United Arab Emirates

Ramadan in Abu Dhabi – Iftar at Majlis Alfareej

June 6, 2016

Ramadan (in Arabic: رمضان, Ramadān), known as the Holy Month, is an incredibly important period of time for Muslims.  Over this time, Muslim’s go without food and drink during daylight hours, forsake desires and often help to improve life for others that are less fortunate, showing a great deal of respect and compassion.

ramadan-in-numbers-2013_51e55c598384d_w1500

Thank you to Wond for this infographic – though it is a few years old, much of the information is still relevant.

Today was the first day of Ramadan and over the Holy Month, Muslims in the United Arab Emirates will fast for over 15 hours, in temperatures of over 45 degrees celsius.   Those not observing Ramadan will show respect to those that are by eating and drinking only in private spaces which means the limited cafes and restaurants that will be open during daylight hours will be shrouded with black curtains and eating/drinking/smoking where someone else might see you is absolutely not allowed.

The morning meal, eaten before dawn is known as Suhoor, whilst the evening meal, eaten after the sun sets is called Iftar.  These meals are social occasions, where families and friends come together, united by their faith.

Imagine our excitement when we were invited along to not only our first Iftar but an Iftar preview (fancy, right?)

We were hosted by Majlis Alfareej, a new restaurant that’s opened in the up and coming foodie hotspot, Danat, where they serve Emirati fusion dishes in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Iftar (in restaurants) tend to be either set menus or buffets of traditional Emirati food.  The food tends to be a combination of beautifully cooked and spiced meat, served with traditional breads and rice.  Majlis Alfareej take these traditional meals and put their own special twist on them.

We started with a range of delicious soups – Nathan devoured his broccoli soup (enjoying the little surprise bursts of cheese) and I enjoyed a traditional chicken harees (a wheat and chicken broth) before being offered a range of traditional salads (which came jam-packed with all sorts of goodies, including strawberries and pomegranate seeds).

My favourite dish followed; khameer bread pockets, stuffed with flavourful meats (chicken, beef or lamb) and sauces, served with either Oman chips or fries – we will certainly be back after Ramadan to enjoy these for lunch!  Yum.

Clockwise from left: Peachy Loody, chicken and beef khameer sandwiches and broccoli soup.

Dinner came out in gorgeous traditional serving dishes, all with yoghurt and lemon and each one tasty and beautifully cooked.  The meat was tender and the rice flavourful without being overwhelming.

Fogah Samach – King fish and rice, cooked with Emirati spices and dried lemon.

Machbous Diyay – Chicken and rice, cooked with saffron and Emirati spices and a chickpea topping.

Like any good meal, we finished with dessert and were pleasantly surprised by the pistachio cake – it was velvety soft and a lovely light end to our dinner.  I’ve never really understood the inclusion of pistachio as a sweet dish in the Middle East but this cake absolutely had me onboard with the idea!

Of course, anyone that’s spent a reasonable amount of time in Abu Dhabi will be familiar with lgeimat; delicious fritters which are a staple over here (and one of my favourite local desserty treats).

Top: Pista Cake – Pistachio cake and icecream, Coffee Date Cake – Coffee infused sponge cake with a thick layer of cardamon cream cheese, drizzled with date syrup and batheeth crumbs. Bottom: Lgeimat – Fried balls with cardamon and saffron spices, served with date syrup and sesame seeds.

Throughout our Iftar we enjoyed a range of drinks, the best of which (in my opinion) was the ‘peachy loody’, an amazing concoction of frozen mango and peach with pomegranate syrup.  Honestly, one of the very best things I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.  That’s not an exaggeration in that slightest – it was that good!

We’d certainly recommend Majlis Alfareej to others, both as an Iftar/Suhoor option, but also as a great way to experience traditional Emirati food, which surprisingly enough is relatively difficult to come across in Abu Dhabi.

We had a fantastic evening chatting with others that have also made the UAE their home and enjoying delicious Emirati food; what a first introduction to Iftar!  We’re booked in to attend another few throughout the month of Ramadan and are looking forward to the food, the socialising and to learning more about the Muslim religion.


Apologies if I’ve made a mistake within this post; I am by no means an expert (in any way, shape or form) when it comes to Islam but I do feel fortunate to live in Abu Dhabi and to be experiencing my first Ramadan alongside my students, colleagues and friends.  Living in a country where religion is so closely linked to everyday life has been a real treat – these new experiences are what expat living is all about!  

Thank you to Majlis AlFareej and Q Communications for so kindly hosting us at this Iftar preview evening.  As always, all thoughts are entirely our own.

%d bloggers like this: