An affordable, fashion-forward hotel in a prime location with well-groomed facilities is a rare find in Dubai. Add to that rooms with hammocks by the windows, an opulent rooftop pool bar and a signature restaurant with decking down to Dubai Creek and there are multiple reasons to choose this Al Seef stopover. Museum enthusiasts and foodies will be in their element here. Al Seef, running alongside Dubai Creek, is part 1950s heritage village, part container park, and an abundance of restaurants.
Zabeel House stands at the start of its wide promenade that meanders past the Museum of Illusions and Al Fahidi historic district (home to the Dubai Museum and the Coffee Museum), concluding at Shindagha, set to be an open-air museum on a mission to share Emirati culture like never before. The modernist seven-story block blends well in the urban setting.
The first encounter inside this 200-key design-led hotel is with statues of human figures, poised in greeting, with bowler hat hanging lights hovering above their heads. The open-plan lobby is flooded with natural light, and Chapters lobby bar – formed from repurposed stereo speakers – is surrounded by ceiling-high shelves stocked with a book collection curated by Dubai’s creative community. Two treatment suites, sleek saunas, and steam rooms are available for spa sessions.
It’s possible to swim laps almost the width of the hotel in the rooftop pool, narrow but long, and the gym has a well-curated collection of cross-trainers, treadmills, exercise bikes, and weights machines. Bicycles and rollerblades can be hired at the reception; though the staff was friendly, they failed to mention that to me. Various decades merge in the monochrome rooms, brightened by floor-to-ceiling windows and complemented by fashionable black accessories, including retro rotary dial telephones and Fifties-style Smeg FAB5 mini fridges.
By night, Forties-inspired film studio lights illuminate the word search puzzles on ceilings. Smart televisions, hotel tablets, kettles, and Nespresso machines bring the look up to date. While all rooms feature a Dubai skyline mural, only some Plush rooms come with hammocks. The en suites have huge tubs fitted with rain showers and tall designer sinks that look good and dramatically reduce splash-back. Nyon (opposite Chapters lobby bar, and sharing the same menu) is named after an olive from Provence.
Here is where you’ll find the daily breakfast buffet of Mediterranean deli meats, cheeses, and bread, plus hot fodder from the Indian subcontinent and eggs to order. Skafos is the destination restaurant that steps down towards Dubai Creek, with its final deck, a shisha terrace, extended over it. Dishes are inspired by the local spice souk, as the mussels steamed in saffron perfectly demonstrate.
Keep the heat rising at Sol Sky Bar with a house daiquiri, made with spiced rum, lime and date syrup, and count the number of record-breaking Dubai landmarks you can spy from this gratifying vantage point. Connecting rooms are available for accommodation in the Popular category.