Palm Jumeirah meets French Polynesia…

“Welcome back to the Sofitel,” says our waiter, as he pours water at dinner. My husband and I exchange a quick glance… we haven’t stayed at Sofitel Dubai The Palm before. Perhaps it’s a standard greeting given to all guests, I wonder, as he moves on to the next table.

When he returns with a basket of sourdough, he tells us that he used to work at the hotel’s World Eatery, and he remembers us from a brunch we enjoyed there some five months ago. That’s some seriously good recall. It’s a warm, welcoming exchange that sums up our overnight stay here perfectly.

This Palm Jumeirah hotel may not be Dubai’s newest, flashiest or biggest – but what it lacks in look-at-me bravado, it makes up for in genuine hospitality.

There’s a warmth and familiarity that’s often lacking in UAE hotels, and that vibe extends throughout the resort, where residents and tourists alike are relaxed and in full holiday mode.

sofitel palm

The interiors

In designing this beachfront resort, the French luxury hotel chain took a stylistic detour to French Polynesia, creating a tropical escape that strikes a balance between laidback and luxe.

Living walls of cascading plants line the walkways that lead from the lobby, and the hushed hallways feature nature-inspired artworks and stone carvings. It all adds to the sensation that you’ve left the shiny minimalism of Dubai behind.

We’ve been invited to spend the night in one of the Sofitel’s Junior Suites. The subtle Polynesian theme continues with slate floors, rich timbers, pops of magenta and orchid purple, and a huge bathroom complete with freestanding oval tub. Outside, two balconies offer a view over thatched roofs and lagoon pools to the Palm and Dubai skyline beyond.

Sofitel Junior Suite - Bathroom

The amenities

Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, some five-star amenities, such as minibar and turn-down service have been paused, but cards placed around the room inform us that these can be arranged over the phone.

Soon after settling in, I’m off to the spa for a massage. This is my first session since spas reopened in Dubai, so it’s interesting to see the measures in place. The receptionist spritzes sanitiser on every available surface, including the pen he hands me to fill in the questionnaire. I’m asked to place my shoes in a bag before entering the spa, and to shower before my treatment. The full-body massage using warm frangipani oil is soothing and restorative – after the first few minutes, I even manage to forget that the therapist is wearing gloves.

After my massage, we take our daughter down for a swim. At the main pool, families happily splash in the water and gather on sunloungers around the perimeter. It is, unsurprisingly, the busiest place in the hotel, but the Sofitel has a number of pools available, so if the main one is reaching capacity, seek out one of the more secluded options away from the beach.

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The food

It’s soon time for dinner at Porterhouse Steaks & Grills, a two-time What’s On Award winner. We share tempura shrimp, and salt and pepper calamari for starters – the plump, golden shrimp are pepped up with a piquant dynamite sauce, and the calamari gets its kick from sliced jalapenos. For mains, we order a medium-rare striploin with pepper sauce, and the grilled sea bass with carrot puree, a beautifully cooked piece of fish with crisped skin and flaky flesh.

We’re up bright and early for breakfast the next day, and marvel at how streamlined the buffet service at Manava is. As self-service is still off the menu in Dubai hotels, the restaurant has had to rework its breakfast offering. There are four omelette stations in the centre of the restaurant, separate stands for side dishes, and ample staff to serve fruits, breads and pastries. We’re told things get a little more hectic later in the morning, when the socially distanced queue snakes around the restaurant, but for us the experience is first-rate.

In what can only be described as a testing time for hoteliers, Sofitel Dubai The Palm has found a rare middle ground, balancing gold-standard safety with five-star service. We’re looking forward to being welcomed back once again.

Sofitel Dubai The Palm, East Crescent Palm Jumeirah. UAE residents rates start at Dhs500 plus fees and taxes. Tel: (04) 4556677.

Images: Supplied