Travel Intel: Dubai Marina is having a moment, plus what not to put in a hotel room

Travel Intel: Dubai Marina is having a moment, plus what not to put in a hotel room

Expert insights with Sarah Hedley Hymers 

Welcome to my new column, Travel Intel, where I’ll share observations from tourism’s front line, flagging must-visit destinations and highlighting the hotels and airlines that are setting benchmarks – as well as those making mistakes.

This month, Dubai Marina in the UAE is having a moment. New hotels, dinners shows and upscale restaurants are making the tourist-friendly neighbourhood more appealing than ever. While its yacht-fringed promenades and soft sandy beaches have always attracted holidaymakers, Dubai Marina hasn’t been front-of-mind for a glam night out in recent years, with most well-healed socialites heading to DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre).

DIFC remains a worthy haunt, the fiercely proud home of many globally renowned restaurants, Zuma and LPM among them, but today there are options beyond these moneyed quarters. Thanks to the inspired hoteliers and restaurateurs shaping a new era, Dubai Marina is one of them.

The big news this month is Jason Atherton’s Row on 45 at Dubai’s Marina’s Grosvenor House, a Luxury Collection Hotel, entering the Michelin Guide Dubai, unveiled on 4 July, with not one but two Michelin stars. The accolade is well deserved. 

Row on 45’s elegant rooms are designed to make guest’s feel like they’re visiting Jason’s own luxury apartment, and his nostalgic playlist, including classics from The Smiths, feels hyper-personal, adding to the intimacy. Take a look.

It’s sublime tasting menus (AED1,145/US$312 per person) left me weak at the knees. I swooned like a lovesick teenager over melt-in-the-mouth cheese and onion foam, obscenely delicious buttery brioche and yuzu-cured silky scallops.

Jason Atherton at Row on 45

One floor below Row on 45, sits Jason’s larger restaurant, City Social Dubai. Its new Saturday brunch (from AED395/US$108 -AED750/US$205) is an absolute blast, with full table service, as well as tableside mixology and entertainment provided by crafty magicians. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show – and the chow, which includes sea bass sashimi, Black Angus rib eye and strawberry trifle.

Giving Zuma a run for its maki is Ronin at the new FIVE LUXE JBR, Five Hotels’ luxury brand debut in the Jumeirah Beach Residences neighbourhood sandwiched between the marina and the shore. The shiny 222-key tower’s premium accommodations include the Baller Suite and the Epic Pool Party Suite. Enough said.

Its buzzing ninth-storey signature restaurant is named after the rebel warriors of feudal Japan, with interiors inspired by irezumi, the Japanese word for tattoo, a controversial artform in the country, and a nod to this venue’s rebellious nature. Check it out here


Amid flaming Teppanyaki grills and walls writhing with hand-painted samurais, rich, smoky cuts of meat and fish are served at Pagoda-style tables. Comprising A5 Wagyu, lobster, caviar, truffle and gold leaf, the Chef’s Special ‘Ronin Beyond’ costs a hefty AED2,000 (US$545), but not all of the prices will make your eyes water. 

Other dishes include sushi, sashimi and maki rolls (from AED35/US$10) with homebrewed soy sauces, charcoal-grilled lab rack (AED160/US$44) and prawns with yuzu garlic jalapeno butter (AED180/US$50). 

For a sweet finale, the show-stealer is the ‘Bento Box’ sample selection of all the desserts (AED220/US$60), but I can see the Japanese donuts with salted miso caramel (AED55/US$15) becoming a best-seller.

A5 Wagyu at Ronin

If, like me, you love theatre, then The Showhouse Dubai is another welcome addition to the neighbourhood, hidden away at the InterContinental Dubai Marina. Its inaugural production, Down the Rabbit Hole, is currently wowing audiences with acrobats whirling through the air, ballerinas pirouetting en pointe and foot-stamping flamenco dancers cantering across the stage. Take a peek here.

Surprisingly, this dizzying display with show tunes and dazzling costumes doesn’t overshadow the food, which demands as much attention as the performers. Well-structured menus skip from prawns with olive oil and tarragon, to fillet steak with dauphinoise potatoes, to vanilla crème brûlée – olé!

The Showhouse Dubai

A three-course menu with two wines or cocktails costs from just AED395 (US$108) at the Showhouse, making it a more purse-friendly alternative to the pulse-raising dinner-and-a-show extravaganza at Dream Dubai, also in Dubai Marina, which operates a AED1,000 (US$273) minimum spend policy for guests who typically end up on their feet dancing along with the stars on the stage. For a big celebration, it’s worth the splurge, adding to the many marvellous options for visitors in this increasingly enticing neck of the woods. I'll see you there!

Dream Dubai

Inflight Insights: Emirates’ new footwear

Props to Emirates for upgrading their business class amenities. Bye-bye old socks; hello, new slippers!

Hedley's Hotelescope: Which hotel amenity do you need most?

This month, I checked into a hotel in Switzerland that doesn’t have phones, kettles, coffee machines, irons or ironing boards in its rooms, and the hairdryers supplied could barely blow out a candle – but, bizarrely, the rooms are equipped with Marshall amps, which cost around US$100 a pop.

Personally, I’d rather have a kettle, but – I thought – maybe that’s just me. So, I ran a poll and it turns out that most people would prefer a kettle or coffee machine over an amp. Take note, hoteliers.

Sarah Hedley Hymers is the Editorial Director of Connecting Travel. Follow her travels at www.instagram.com/hedleyhymers 

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