Calling the Jumeirah Garden a "guesthouse" really doesn't do it justice. Discreetly tucked away in a quiet corner of Jumeirah, this boutique hotel is housed in a pink villa with no front signage.
Calling the Jumeirah Garden a "guesthouse" really doesn't do it justice. Discreetly tucked away in a quiet corner of Jumeirah, this boutique hotel is housed in a pink villa with no front signage. Until now, people couldn't find out about the hotel from travel guides or advertisements — only by word of mouth. Co-owner Paul Gidley would prefer if his hotel, open since December last year, remained one of Dubai's best-kept secrets.
Once in the reception area, one can sense a strong British influence in the interior design and decoration. A nice round table with magazines, a chest of drawers painted with the English flag, a bulldog statue and other funky Britannia fixtures and fittings adorn the space. "It's tongue-in-cheek British. We don't take it too seriously," Gidley said. The ten bedrooms split across two levels are equally appointed and were all decorated by Gidley. Simple elegance is how I would describe them with French grey and British green walls, leather-cushioned chairs with matching footrests, classic headboards and huge beds with comforters and plenty of pillows in all shapes.
The room rates are surprisingly affordable — Dh450 including breakfast (except for the Garden Majlis, which is Dh550). "If we can charge less and give people a little bit more to spend out there, we're happy," Gidley said. The prices may reflect those of a cheap accommodation but the bedrooms and service are typical of luxurious hotels. More often than not, Gidley bonds with his customers and many become friends. And many of those who have tasted British celebrity chef Andy Campbell's food once, return for more of his cuisine.
A chosen few - Having cooked for stars such as Guy Ritchie, Michael Cain, Jude Law and Chris Evans, and appeared on TV-food programmes in England, Campbell is the only chef in Dubai to cook every night for a small set of diners. The best thing is that he comes out of the kitchen (where only he cooks) and casually talks to his guests. He's a friendly, down-to-earth and talented man. According to Gidley, diners at the Jumeirah Garden Restaurant are old-school expats, including bankers, those working in the media, and sons of entrepreneurs. "You want people in your restaurant who enjoy food," he said.
Fun for groups - The covered restaurant at the back of the villa can be reserved for wedding receptions, birthday parties, hen nights and other events. Guests staying at the hotel can have all three meals at the restaurant.
The garden is split into three areas: A peaceful croquet lawn in the front; the herb-and-vegetable garden to the side, where Campbell grows organic basil, garlic, aubergine and tomato; and the pool garden at the back, which has a nice swimming pool (with fountains), Jacuzzi and wooden loungers covered with cushions and printed with British flags.
The only missing touches in the rooms (maybe because they were designed by a man?) are that there are no lamps on the bedside tables — which means guests have to get up to turn the main light off before going to sleep. Although the bathrooms are spacious and clean, they don't have shelves or hangers.
A bar of soap is provided but shampoo, body cream and other toiletries are not. Each room has internet access and a TV but no channels — a nice touch in my opinion. Because the guests were never watching TV, Gidley decided to buy 500 DVDs instead and placed them all over the house. And there's no fridge in the rooms because they're noisy and don't look nice, Gidley said. But a large fridge is available near the kitchen and guests are trusted to put Dh2 for water and soft beverages. There's a classy lounge on the second floor for guests.
Just opposite the villa is the Whitehouse, a small separate building with four bedrooms. Each room is contemporarily designed in a "white on white" style. The Whitehouse is ideal for larger families or groups. It can be booked as a whole; individual rooms are also available.
Breakfast blues - One common complaint among guests staying at the hotel for four days or more, was that breakfast was the same every day, consisting of tea and coffee, juice, cereals, toast, preserves, and a choice of two eggs (poached, fried, scrambled, boiled) served with button mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. Although it was tasty, it was repetitive (and heavy). As a resident of Dubai, this truly tranquil stay (you can sleep with the windows open) turned out to be a welcome escape from city life. And if you want genuine friendliness and one-to-one service, you can't do better.