“The successful life is a balanced life and includes thought, action, rest and recreation.” Conrad Hilton
The grand old dame of the capital, the Hilton Abu Dhabi has been dolled up after undergoing a two-phase extensive refurbishment. This low-rise hotel which sits in pride of place at its prime Corniche location may now be surrounded by shiny newer rivals and office block towers but it’s not daunted, instead it embraces it’s years of history and heritage as the first ever hotel to open here in the capital over four decades ago in 1973.
While it may now be dwarfed by the neighbouring skyscrapers it’s not intimidated in the slightest, it’s a busy establishment bustling with international guests and those daily visitors who descend to enjoy the expansive beach club, health club, many restaurants and lively nightlife options. The modernisation has given some of the three hundred and twenty seven rooms, the Executive Club and restaurants a makeover whilst retaining its original charm. I love the wall of art depicting the hotel’s history in photographic form that documents the area and pre-dates the arrival of the majority of expats.
The other half and I enjoyed a very pleasant staycation here last weekend, our sixth floor deluxe sea view room was spacious and comfortable, the bathroom was clean with a good shower (the other half’s measure of a good hotel room) albeit with a whiff of newly applied emulsion paint or sealant, we couldn’t decide which. Alongside the comfy king-sized bed was a small sitting area, work desk, large screen TV and a stunning Arabian Gulf panorama.
A welcome gift of fresh juices, fruit and sweet treats awaited us when we arrived, a lovely gesture and a perfect pre-dinner snack after an afternoon at the beach club. Executive rooms (these rooms offer access to the Executive Lounge with a private check-in desk, breakfast and refreshments throughout the day and complimentary pressing of two garments) and suites are also available
Hiltonia Beach Club, which is accessed via an colourful tiled underpass, sits on a beautiful stretch of pristine beach overlooking the Arabian Gulf with spectacular Corniche and cityscape views. The private beach club provides members and hotel guests with a choice of three swimming pools, children’s waterslides and splash pools, a large beach area as well as a variety of dining options. For those more active folk there are watersports including sailing, jet skiing and windsurfing and a fully equipped health club which has a comprehensive programme of fitness options. Massage and body treatments are available at the Hiltonia Spa, although we didn’t try any of this occasion.
We opted for a couple of sunbeds under the shade of the many palm trees to relax, read and savor some cocktails from Escape, the straw topped swim up pool and beach bar that also offers snacks and shisha on its deck overlooking the water. If you are looking for an a la carte lunch, brunch or dinner the elegant award-winning Vasco’s restaurant is also located within the grounds of Hiltonia, named after famed explorer Vasco Da Gama. The East meets West menu features an international culinary feast of flavours packed with seafood, grills and fresh salads. Casual dining is also on offer at the Ocean Cafe with fresh juices, healthy salads and sandwiches made to order to go or to enjoy alfresco on the cafe’s terrace.
Alongside the beachside dining there are so many more options in the main hotel itself. An extensive buffet breakfast is served in the first floor La Terraza all-day dining restaurant, a busy place that offers international selections and is also open for lunch and dinner. We were invited to enjoy the hotel’s new Friday Brunch Around The World which is an amalgamation of global cuisines spanning across three of the hotels restaurants, international fare from all-day dining establishment La Terraza, Chinese favourites from Jade (formerly the Royal Orchid) and delicious Italian classics from Bocca (read more about that here).
Italian Head Chef Leonardo and his team serve up an excellent menu of classics from his home country at Bocca including delicious pizzas and fresh homemade pasta paired with a selection of the finest Italian wines, for the month of November a range of specialty dishes infused with seasonal black truffle will be on offer. Authentic Chinese cuisine is on the menu at Jade, whether it’s dim sum, sashimi, Peking duck or noodles straight from the wok there is something for everyone, this month the restaurant is offering Flavours of Nanjing, the chef’s hometown in China.
Always a popular nightlife spot in Abu Dhabi the Jazz Bar re-opened in August this year with its updated look, a revamped steak and seafood menu and introduced DNA, the new resident five-piece band. Partygoers and live music fans now have longer to dance the night away with opening hours extended until 3am, some things may have changed but many of the original features remain like the monochrome piano design dancefloor, the upbeat atmosphere and of course the ‘people watching’ is as much fun as ever.
It’s a haunt we used to frequent regularly back in the day and we really enjoyed our night here, great food, attentive service and non-stop entertainment from the group of talented performers. Awesome musicianship from saxophonist Wesly but it was all round showman and lead singer David that kept the party rocking all night long, DNA play nightly from 9:30pm so be sure to check them out. One of our gripes used to be that it was too smokey but if you are seated in the non-smoking dining area that’s no longer an issue.
Hemingway’s adjacent to the Jazz Bar gives guests that authentic pub experience with quiz nights, darts, pool tournaments, live music and sport streamed on the numerous screens dotted around the venue. It’s the place to grab a beer and bite with your mates whilst watching the game, enjoy a Saturday roast and with a daily eight-hour happy hour and five ladies nights every week you can see why it’s so popular. The nightlife doesn’t stop there, once you’ve been to happy hour at Hemingway’s, had a singsong with the band at the Jazz Bar you can boogie the night away on the dancefloor at Cinnabar until the wee small hours. Cinnabar is open every night of the week with theme nights to suit all tastes including Bollywood, Arabian, Deep House, R & B, Latino and Reggae – contact the hotel for the full line-up.
Fancy a coffee and pastry? Pop along to Vienna Plaza, the Austrian style cafe that is tucked away at one end of the lobby. As it’s enroute to the beach club underpass you can grab a speciality Viennese Julius Meinl coffee, Ronnefeldt tea, savoury snack as well as delicious home baked pastries, cakes and macaroon to go or take a seat in the air-conditioned lounge.
If you want to get out and explore the local area the hotel is ideally located for guests to take a stroll or cycle along the Corniche, explore the area by sea on the Yellow Boats, take the popular open-top Big Bus tour that leaves from nearby Marina Mall or visit the Heritage Village for a glimpse into the past and an insight into traditional Emirati culture.
With a great location, a private waterfront beach club and varied dining and nightlife outlets, the Hilton Abu Dhabi is an all-rounder. Whether you are looking to relax on a sunlounger or explore the capital you can’t go wrong with this hotel. From early morning to very late at night there is something to entertain all guests, it may not be the shiniest new accommodation on the block but it has withstood the test of time and represents the history and heritage of the Emirate in its own unique and refined manner.
The Nitty Gritty
Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: +971 (0)2 692 4247
Check-out: 12 noon
Check out all the Dining options and offers at Hilton Abu Dhabi here
Prime Corniche and beachside location
Hiltonia Beach Club facilities
Good and varied dining/nightlife options
The Not so Good…..
Odour of recent refurb in en-suite bathroom
Ripped bed linen
Thank you Hilton Abu Dhabi for the opportunity to stay and review this hotel. All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional photos used courtesy of abudhabi.hilton.com