Dubai: Exclusive Enclave
A well-manicured speedboat slices through azure waves propelling me towards a waterfront jewel: One & Only The Palm, for a weekend retreat that promises indulgence for the soul and a delicious state of numbness for the mind and body. I am led into one of the exclusive mansions fringing the 450-metre private beach and as I survey the depth of comfort opening up before me I wonder if I can dare to switch off my phone for two whole days. I decide to sleep on the thought.
Mansion 7 is like a luxury villa (and there are four of those too) where you share the space with a few other guests but rarely see or hear them unless one of us is waiting for a golf cart to trundle across to the main Manor House, itself an artistic melange of glass leaf and quartz crystals, water fountains and crystal chandeliers. Then you nod and smile and discuss the resort’s Moorish-Andalusian architecture and how cool it is to remain indoors while al fresco Dubai swings from hot, hotter, hottest.
Breakfast at the arabesque-styled Zest is a fulfilling experience especially if you are seated at a table overlooking lush lemon trees but dinner at the richly-textured Stay is elegance redefined. Two lovely ladies, Sarah Hameister and Katie King join me for a gastronomic journey masterminded by celebrated Michelin star chef Yannick Alleno. We begin with a Laurent Perrier Rose, accompanied by Girolle mushrooms with Beaufort cheese. And the lobster citrus salad kicks our appetite into full experimental mode.
The platters that follow brandish innovative culinary flourishes that turn us into avid food critics, all determined to bestow the menu with a grand five-star review. The wild sea bass fillet is smooth and firm in its shellfish butter sauce; the Black Angus beef tenderloin does a robust tango with pommes frites and black pepper and the milk-fed lamb shoulder confit is injected with the fresh flavours of carrot and onion with tomato concassee. A South African Chenin Blanc and a Bourgogne Pinot Noir see us well through the night.
And then we are privy to the real star of the menu: the dessert counter! Conceptualised as a Pastry Library, the unique ‘wall’ is lined with delectable balls of fire – berries, chocolate, macarons, fruits, candies and more. The attendant chef will craft a customised dessert with the ingredients of your choice. If your head begins to spin in confusion, especially after the warmth of wine in your veins, settle, as I did, for the elongated Meter, a gourmet selection of chefs’ specials and revel in the gooey-soft, creamy and sumptuous as you finally take in the surroundings of a restaurant flattered by a monochromatic palette of black, silver and bronze that almost touches the patterned vaulted ceiling.
While the resort boasts fine luxury comforts that include an ESPA spa, I whet my curiosity at the Salon to try for the first time, a tailor-made treatment fine-tuned by acclaimed podiatrist Bastien Gonsalez. The holistic philosophy rides on the principles of joint mobility, blood circulation and skin conditioning. As I succumb to the expert manipulations and massage of trained therapists, I already feel the approaching dullness of deep slumber. The 75-minute duo treatment for feet, nails and hands relies on synchronised movements and an interesting buffing technique that restore and rejuvenate taking the lightness of being to another dimension.
As I take in the skyline of a new Dubai from my private terrace, I know I will be back, if only to complete a small ritual in these enigmatic surroundings – to celebrate a special anniversary with an intimate group of friends in one of those air-conditioned private cabanas by the poolside!