When our travels took us to Dubai, cocktails at the ‘7 star’ Burj Al Arab instantly made it onto our must see list.
From the moment we saw the spectacular images of the Agassi and Federer tennis game and Tiger Woods and Rory McIllroy driving golf balls into the sea, both atop the tiny Burj Al Arab helipad suspended some 200 metres above the ground, we were totally smitten with the Burj. The iconic sail shaped building dominates the Dubai skyline and it’s often described as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. In an Emirate where hotels are not exactly known for their understatedness, we were intrigued and excited to discover what awaited me inside!
How to visit the Burj Al Arab
The only way to gain access to the Burj Al Arab is by either booking a room (the nightly rate was around USD 1,500) or making a reservation for one of the hotel eateries. There are eight restaurants in the hotel and the Skyview Bar on the 27th floor is a popular choice, serving afternoon tea and evening cocktails accompanied by a small a la carte menu.
With afternoon tea in the Skyview Bar costing over USD 100, we opted for the evening cocktails, which came with a minimum spend condition of 250 AED per person.
Reservations at the Burj Al Arab
The hotel is located on an artificial island close to Jumeirah Beach and is connected to the mainland by a private bridge manned with security. Reservations must be made in advance, at which point we were provided with a security code allowing access through the security checkpoint and across the bridge. It’s recommended that reservations are made a few weeks prior to visiting as demand can be high. Window seats are at a premium and, although requests aren’t guaranteed, we requested and were granted a window seat for our visit.
The soaring atrium lobby is one of the most striking features of the hotel with a dancing fountain and a bright blue, gold and white colour scheme. The fountains are magnificent to watch and the choreography is perfect for the surroundings. There is some seating facing the fountains which are excellent for indulging in a little spot of people watching, I was fascinated with my 10 minutes spent watching the comings and goings in the lobby!
We made our way up the escalators to the Skyview Bar lobby passing luxurious shops and restaurants and over the top extravagance along the way. Not forgetting a 500,000 litre aquarium with over 4,000 fish, one of three aquariums in the hotel!
The Skyview Bar
As we were a little early for our reservation, we were seated for a few moments in the Skyview Bar lobby. There is a changeover period between afternoon tea and evening cocktails and we saw lots of happy afternoon tea goers pass through with their leftover goody boxes. The small lobby has beautiful views of the Persian Gulf and even has a Swarovski crystal replica of the hotel itself.
We were invited by the hostess to enter the elevator and travel up to the 27th floor. The hostesses were wonderful and always referred to us by our party name even though we weren’t the only guests there at that time. The express elevator ride in the outside elevator is magnificent with stunning views of the Persian Gulf and the Palm.
Cocktails at The Skyview Bar
The Skyview Bar is accessed through a short green panelled tunnel and, once inside, the decor was modern with green and blue lighting illuminating the roof. The decor is obvious, I’ll put it that way! We were one of the first parties to arrive for the evening cocktail sitting and we were seated by the window. From what I’ve read about other peoples experiences it seems the seating is allocated on arrival so it can be advantageous to be in the first sitting and arrive on time for your reservation.
The view was impressive from the 27th floor and, we were lucky, as it was still daylight for the first half an hour we were there. We couldn’t see much outside when darkness came, the Persian Gulf is a sea of black at night but there were still some twinkly lights of Dubai.
The RBQ Jazz Trio Band played from 8 pm and the vibe in the room was fun and relaxed with the jazz music in the background, cocktails being shaken and stirred at the bar and the buzz of conversation all resulting in an great atmosphere.
The Skyview Bar Menu
There was a vast selection on the menu with lots of cocktails, spirits and wines to choose from. Each cocktail was imaginatively named, had entertaining descriptions and listed the ingredients. The staff are open to creating cocktails or serving off menu classics such as Manhattans and Mojitos.
The most expensive cocktail is the wonderfully named ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and mixes L’Heraud Grand Champagne Cognac 1906, Luxor 24k Gold Flake Champagne, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters and brown sugar. It is served in a Swarovski cocktail glass with diamonds in the stem and the Swarovski glass is presented as a keepsake to take home! Imagine having one too many and waking up with a bill of over USD 1,000 for a single cocktail languishing on your credit card bill! Scant consolation but at least you’d have the glass! The ingredients are presented in a display case in the bar, I’m still curious if it’s ever been ordered.
Cocktails and canapes
The cocktails arrived with some complementary canapes and nuts and olives. I have to say I loved the three tier, sail shaped stand, a little reminder of the occasion and where we were. The nuts and olives were really good and were replaced later on in the evening. The canapes included a turkey and cranberry treat each which reminded me ever so slightly of a traditional Christmas dinner, and a cheese tartlet. I love having something to nibble on when I’m having a drink so it was a welcome gesture.
We each tried one cocktail from the menu and then ordered our favourite classic cocktails, mine a Mojito and himself a Manhattan. We finished up with a glass of Rosé. Our non drinker ordered one mocktail from the menu and for the second round, created a drink with her own choice of juices. The mocktails were given the seal of approval, however the second drink was served at room temperature, and had to be sent back for an addition of ice.
I have to admit, we’re tough critics after living in Manhattan where the cocktails are usually nothing short of amazing. We’re also big fans of the generous free pours of spirits that grace every New York drink! The Skyview Bar cocktails were nicely presented but taste wise were nothing special in comparison to the many excellent cocktails we’ve had before. Our general consensus was that the cocktails were ‘OK’, not the reaction I’d hoped for given my first cocktail was a pricey 195 AED. That’s 50 of my hard earned US dollars to put it in perspective!
The glass of Rosé was my favourite drink of the night, it was both delicious and refreshing.
I always consider the ladies bathroom a reflection of the overall standard of the venue. Maybe it’s just me but if I’m in a blinging venue, drinking blinging cocktails, I expect to visit a blinging bathroom! The Skyview bar didn’t disappoint. And some full sized Hermes toiletries to boot, ooh la la!
I was expecting great things given the hostesses amazing job leading up to our arrival at the Skyview Bar. Unfortunately the bar staff were, at best, average, for what is billed as the world’s most luxurious hotel. We had a table of three and when each order of drinks arrived our server had to ask who each belonged to. Surely it can’t be too difficult to serve each drink to the individual who ordered?
After the first round of drinks it was hard to find someone from whom to order our next round. There didn’t seem to be enough staff given the number of tables that were filled at that point. We were waiting at least 20 minutes with empty glasses to order a third drink and the same to ask for the check.
Minimum Spend at the Skyview Bar
As mentioned, the cocktails came with a minimum spend condition of 250 AED per person. I actually thought this was quite reasonable given a previous holiday in Vegas when a cabana at a pool party cost many multiples of this (and was worth every cent!). Visiting the top of the Burj Al Arab is no different to visiting any other tourist attraction and they’re usually pretty expensive. And hey, at least you get some nice drinks in return!
We didn’t really keep track of our spending as it was AED (the numbers were big!) and we ordered off menu for our classic cocktails so we didn’t know the price. When the check came it was presented as 3 minimum spends rather than listing each individual drink. We requested a breakdown of the bill and, lo and behold, we still had 70 or 80 AED left over. Enough for one beer, apparently, but we splashed out and ordered the Rosé.
I was disappointed that we had to request the breakdown and that our server didn’t voluntarily inform us that we hadn’t reached the minimum spend. I’m pretty sure if we’d gone over the minimum spend the bill would have adequately reflected this so why not let us know we didn’t reach it? Not impressed Burj Al Arab, not impressed!
The end of the night
We exited into the night, met with a beautiful view of the wave shaped Jumeirah Beach Hotel, a row of Bentley’s and many, many sparkly fairy lights. I’m an absolute sucker for a fairy light. If I had my way, I would only dine in restaurants with hundreds of fairy lights at the entrance. Unfortunately my husband disagrees with my selection methods. But what a lovely end to a lovely evening!
Visiting one of the most luxurious hotels in the world is never going to be a bad thing but there are definite areas for improvement. The Skyview Bar is distinctly touristy and very obviously capitalises on the Burj Al Arab name. The service was spotty, the non itemised bill annoying and the drinks were just OK compared to other cocktail bars we’ve had the pleasure of frequenting. The Ozone Bar on the 108th floor of the Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong (check out our trip to the Ozone bar), has many similarities to the Skyview Bar, offering access to an extremely luxurious hotel with top floor views, but the service and the cocktails leave the Burj Al Arab trailing in its wake.
The hotel is certainly luxurious but, from the perspective of having only visited the Skyview Bar, it is no better than many of the luxury hotels I’ve visited or stayed in across Asia and the Middle East. I have no doubt that the extreme luxury is reserved for those staying in the hotel and it is in this respect that the hotel is likely to come into a league of its own. For their guests, amenities include a personalised butler service, 24 carat gold iPads, full sized Hermes toiletries and duplex suites with stunning views.
We still had a fabulous evening and thoroughly enjoyed the over the top opulence that the Burj Al Arab offers. During daylight, the views from the Skyview Bar were amazing and the atmosphere was relaxed and fun. It’s also an excellent spot for some people watching, one of my favourite hobbies! And we’ve experienced the most luxurious hotel in the world.
The Burj Al Arab
It’s often described as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, markets itself as ‘the worlds most iconic hotels’, and is often touted as the world’s only 7 star hotel. It has 202 guest suites, eight restaurants and bars, four swimming pools and a private beach.
For the record, the 7 star rating is actually a bit of an urban legend as the official rating system only goes up to 5 stars. Apparently the seven star label came from a British journalist’s description in a press release and the hotel states that they neither encourage this label or use it in their advertising.
The Dress Code
The Burj Al Arab website specifies a smart casual dress code: ‘Gentlemen are required to wear a collared shirt, full-length trousers or elegant jeans and closed shoes (no trainers or sport shoes). Ladies are required to wear a suit or dress, long or short skirt or dressy slack and top. UAE national dress is welcomed’.
This dress code was well respected the night we visited and everyone was dressed smartly. It was more relaxed that many places I visited in Dubai and lots of ladies had shoulders or legs on show without looking out of place.
Bookings can be made by emailing the hotel. We used the services of our hotel concierge to arrange our booking and received an email with the reservation details under our door. Although advance booking is recommended we only made the decision that we would definitely go the night before we actually went and there didn’t seem to be a problem getting a reservation for either afternoon tea or cocktails. Requests are not guaranteed but I’m sure there’s no harm mentioning a special occasion or a seating preference.
The Jumeirah Public Beach is freely accessible and is pretty much next door to the Burj Al Arab, offering an excellent photo opportunity. And a chance to visit the beach! We used our rental car to get there and it’s also a stop on the Hop on, Hop off Bus Tour of Dubai, but we didn’t do the tour. The sea water temperature was similar to getting into a warm bath, beautiful but there was no escape from the 40 degree sunshine!