If there was one thing that I’ve learnt over the years when staying at hotels, it is that a five-star hotel rating doesn’t necessarily mean the same in every country. Places such as Egypt focus on grandeur, but lacks finesse. France provides sophistication and glamour with vineyard views. London offers elegant, timeless experiences and places such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai focus on all of those things – but packed into one tidy package and no more so than Shangri-La Quaryat Al Beri. I’m not just in love with this hotel, but the Shangri-La brand overall. They have such a consistency throughout their properties and none of them do anything over the top, but instead in the form of understated luxury.
After a very enjoyable flight with Etihad Airways from London Heathrow Airport to Abu Dhabi, our hotel contact was already waiting for us in arrivals with a shiny new Mercedes to whisk us away just a short 15 minute drive to the hotel. The approach is very dramatic, climbing a veranda driveway to an equally impressive front facade and cascading water feature.
And then you walk into the lobby, with that similar fragranced Shangri-La hotel smell lingering in the air. If you stay in Shangri-La hotels abroad, you’ll know exactly what I mean. While the speedy check-in process took place, staff were quick to bring refreshing hot towels, Arabic tea and sweet dates. The perfect pick-up after a long flight and it gives you just a few moments to also appreciate the stunning lobby.
And then we were whisked away to our room. We stayed in one of the hotels one bedroom executive suites and it certainly didn’t disappoint. What was most interesting about the room is that similar room types in Abu Dhabi were half the size for the same price. You get a lot of space for your money. Over 1000 sqf of luxury accommodation to be precise. Mostly dominated by the huge living space where you can close the doors to the adjoining bedroom and have it all to yourself if sharing. There are two mini bars in the room too so it really can become secluded, with its own separate balcony.
All of the amenities you would expect are in the room. The classic bowl of fruit and some home-made chocolates were an added bonus provided for golden circle tier guests. There’s also the Nespresso machine (my one true love) and within moments of settling in your personal concierge fills your ice bucket and brings hot Chinese tea.
The room them seamlessly flows into the large bedroom with huge walk-in wardrobe, dressing room, second mini bar and an exceptionally beautiful bathroom with a stunning bath taking centre stage. There also some very lovely bath products and a sweet treat waiting by the bedside, filled with more of those lovely dates – this time covered in chocolate.
And the magnificent views from the balcony. Looking out across the pristine white sandy shorelines, swaying palm trees and the utterly transcendent Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It looks just as majestic during the day as it does at night.
We then went on to explore the rest of the hotel. It may look rather gargantuan from the exterior, but inside that size is actually made up mostly from the rooms and so instead the public spaces are designed spacious and to impress. Head back through the lobby into the lounge and you’ll find a terrace which looks back out across the beachfront and hotel pool. There’s also a lovely bar (which comes into its own at night) and freshly baked croissants for those wanting a quick snack.
We even sneaked in a cheeky mojito and some coconut ice cream down by the pool bar, post midday of course. The bar here serves up a DIY mojito menu where you can get very creative, though I opted for the lemongrass scented Asian mojito which went perfectly with my coconut ice cream. The cocktails are great value too, priced at around 45 AED (approx £9).
After our refreshing pool side pick-up, we took a walk through the building to catch the hotels very own resort boat! A winding waterway filled with Arabic boats known as Abras, which transport you to the local souk or as far as the north promenade which is a lovely place to walk down as the sun sets. It’s slow, tranquil and surprisingly relaxing.
After a good shopping trip at the souk we took a slow walk back to the hotel for lunch at its most esteemed restaurant, Shang Palace. A restaurant brand which can be found at many of the Shangri-La hotels across the world and for good reason – because the quality of the food is second to none. It’s a Chinese restaurant which offers familiar favourites, but cooked with precision and utilises quality ingredients. Crispy squid, outstanding dim sum and chilli coated prawns were just a few of what we ate.
In the name of research we admittedly had two dinners here at Shangri-La Abu Dhabi, though we’ll keep that one quiet. We not only loved Shang Palace enough to return for an unlimited dim sum feast in the evening (which you can read all about soon), but we also couldn’t resist trying a selection of dishes from the buffet. A buffet in the Middle East isn’t your usual all-inclusive affair, instead they’re of the highest quality. Sushi, seafood, meze, fruits, cheese and everything else you could imagine. All mostly cooked to order and to your liking. As well as the Chinese restaurant Shang Palace, there’s also a fine dining French restaurant named Bord Eau and Vietnamese restaurant Hoi An.
But dessert is where it gets really excited. Huge pans filled with syrup and toffee covered puddings. Sweet baklava, three chocolate fountains and cakes crafted with attention to detail. You can help yourself to as many as your stomach desires. I mostly spent my evening standing next to the white chocolate fountain.
Depending on your package you can also wash down your meal with free-flowing house wines, sangria and ice-cold beers.
If you still have room then I highly recommend a visit to the main Al Hanah bar during the evening as this is really when it becomes such a special place. The huge crystal chandelier directly above the bar is illuminated by a blue luminescence, which leaches out onto the balcony during the evening and the reflection from the crystal droplets shimmer off the Champagne glasses. It’s also yet another excuse to enjoy that fabulous lobby once again.
We managed to experience all of this Shangri-La experience in 24 hours and so a final visit to the pool area and it’s bar just couldn’t be resisted. The whole outdoor space is completely illuminated by night in hues of blues, purple and pink. It’s something that really needs to be seen with the naked eye and agin the mosque twinkles in the background. Head to the poolside gazebo for some fresh tea and fruity shisha, it’s the perfect way to relax before retiring to bed.
An almost silent slumber sleep and waking up still full from the night before, we popped downstairs for one final experience – breakfast. Served in main Sofra Bid restaurant, guests can expect a lavish offering which is just as generous as lunch and dinner. Everything you can think and dream of – including the chocolate fountains. There’s also an array of healthy choices for those seeking a lighter start to the day and freshly squeezed juices which have been conveniently bottled on site.
We had such an incredible overnight stay at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri and I really couldn’t recommend it any more highly. It has class, the food is incredibly indulgent and the service is immaculate. What’s also great is it’s perfect for just about everyone. Couples, honeymooners, families and even locals and ex-pats looking for a short staycation. Once again Shangri-La has gone above and beyond and not only has it given me utter pleasure, but a memory to cherish for a lifetime.