“Most hotels will have cushions like this because it’s high end,” said Sandra Tikal, General Manager and Executive, as she plumped a cushion into a diamond shape on the luxe Versace chair.
“But,” she continued whilst re-plumping the cushion into a cosy, comfortable square, “we have cushions like this because we think of this as a living room”.
This perfectly sums up Palazzo Versace Dubai. The luxury hotel certainly has that Versace va-va-voom but it isn’t garishly flashed in your face. And whilst their lobby is a bit of a statement-maker (more on that below!), it somehow also manages to have a wonderfully welcoming ambiance that makes it feel like someone’s (posh) living room.
This newest kid on the block is in partnership with ENSHAA and will be fully completed in Q4 2016.
Brand Presence and Identity
When you see Palazzo Versace Dubai, you immediately begin to envision being surrounded by fashionistas in head-to-toe Versace with face-swallowing shades, sussing you out whilst chatting over their high tea. But in reality, that is so far from the truth!
Yes, it’s about fashion and style and beauty and class but Palazzo Versace isn’t over-the-top; it’s about subtle sophistication and catering to an eclectic audience that is a mix of business and leisure, nationals and expats. They’ve put together various packages to cater to different crowds along with making efforts to support the local community by doing things like offering Iftar service during Ramadan
But make no mistake—the Versace brand and touch are present wherever you look. During the planning stages, there were meetings about the china and the shape of the glasses. The fabulous friezes in the lobby were hand-painted and the lush textiles with the peacock, horse, and falcon motif were designed with 3 variations. Versace is about luxury and that is what you will feel here.
Upon speaking with Sandra, along with Commercial and PR team members Patrick, Shaker, and Rosemarie, it was clear that they form a power team of experts with brand management and attention to customer service running through their veins. Their goal is to make the hotel a destination within a destination that’s an unforgettable experience.
Getting There & First Impressions
On entering the hotel, you’re greeted with a smile, a stonking 1.5 million piece mosaic of an original Gianni Versace design, and a 3000 kg Bohemia crystal chandelier imported from the Czech Republic. From the iconic Versace Medusa to the artwork to the more subtle designs inspired by their legendary prints, it’s clear you are IN the House of Versace.
(By the way, make sure you don’t miss those urns on the way to reception. They’re a limited edition with only 4 in existence!)
Check-in was super smooth and the staff were well-trained and gracious.
Staff & Service
The people here are what will make this place stand out in Dubai’s oversaturated 5-star hotel market. The team members’ collective passion and pride for the brand is evident, as is their dedication to building a team that thrives without an “us vs. them” mentality.
With so many organisations that could be deemed to have a rule-by-fear culture (personal opinion!), it was music to my ears to hear the Versace team talk about keeping the workplace inspired and happy. From their Attention to Service training to simply allowing voices to be heard, they make every effort to empower their staff and create a positive environment. In fact, in the middle of our conversation, the topic veered off into recounting the huge Versace staff party from the night before. It was so great to hear that it was simply about celebrating as opposed to a hierarchical bash!
Having spoken to a number of people, you could see that they’re creating a team of visionaries. They are adventurous without being mavericks and have come from some of the most exclusive hotel brands. However, there’s clearly something within them that wants to embrace the journey of putting Palazzo Versace on the map in one of the most competitive areas in the world—Dubai.
Where You’ll Sleep
The hotel is split into the east and west wings, with 150 rooms and 65 suites plus 169 residences ranging from one to six bedrooms.
The rooms are all based around a detailed colour theme (turquoise, blue, salmon, beige, with gold about to launch) and the interiors and furniture have all been touched by the artistic hands of Versace. These luxurious rooms are like mini palaces and the attention to detail is exquisite—think parquet flooring, proper bedspreads (not a bed runner in sight!), marble bathrooms. Look up and you’ll spot the design house’s signature Greek key motif. Stories of the legendary Gianni Versace and his keen interest in Greek mythology are peppered throughout the entire property, sometimes overtly and oftentimes so subtly that you wouldn’t realise unless you were looking for it.
A welcoming touch was the delivery of refreshing water from Enigma to my room and Patchi chocolates and a fresh fruit bowl.
The suites include access to the executive lounge with 24-hour butler service, a breakfast buffet, and Happy Hour refreshments.
If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the residences here (which are also designed around the signature colour palette), be prepared to be spoiled by a fully-equipped kitchen with Miele appliances and Versace-branded bed linens and crockery!
Unwind At: The Pool
We basked and relaxed in the cabana at the central pool area. Come Q4, there will be another pool with a pizzeria and garden, bringing it to 3 pools in total. Service was top notch and Fernan deserves a massive shout-out!
Where To Enjoy Sundowners
Grab a cocktail at Gazebo, the outdoor shisha lounge overlooking the pool, as you snuggle into your seat and enjoy the al fresco view.
Where To Have Supper
We dined at Vanitas, Palazzo Versace’s signature Italian restaurant headed up by Chef de Cuisine Andrea Gaia (read more about him here). Vanitas is surprisingly subtle and remarkably unlike Versace in terms of the in-your-face design. Whilst the food was fantastic, the lighting was way too bright. If they’d just do like Bob Marley says and turn the lights down low and bring in some live entertainment or turn the music up slightly, it would make all of the difference. When we were there, as great as it was that the restaurant was packed, the banging and clattering from the kitchen were a tad too obvious. This is very easy to counteract and certainly not a make-or-break factor among all the positives!
Another fantastic option is Enigma, the avant-garde restaurant that will feature a new Michelin chef every 3 months, plucked from the world’s 50 best restaurants. It is mysterious and unique and will likely please the palates of gourmands everywhere. Chef Björn Frantzén is in-house through June presenting Nordic cuisine. You can read more about this one-of-a-kind restaurant here.
The Morning After
Stroll down to Giardino for breakfast and settle in among the lush green jungle-themed decor with wallpaper that is both “whoa” and “wow”. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, as well as an international brunch every Friday where you’ll be able to fill your plate with everything from traditional brunch favourites to Arabic, Indian, Chinese, Indian, and Italian food. Diners can enjoy chatting with chefs at the live cooking stations or make good use of the pool access and amble outside for some sun.
Treat Yo’ Self…At The Spa
My massage with Gretchen at VSpa was above and beyond. Despite it being a temporary setup (the permanent spa will be completed in September), this was yet another demonstration of the brand’s dedication to both aesthetics and service. This was no half-hearted slapdash massage—it was clear that the staff were well-trained.
Bonus points for having my fave Carol Joy and QMS products.
For the Business and Event Crowd
For an event that will be remembered for years to come, this is the place to host it. The ballroom, a lavish and expansive space that holds up to 900 (!) people, has a carpet with a Versace scarf motif that is so plush your 4-inch heels will become kitten heels. And if you must hold a board meeting or presentation, might as well do it in a sophisticated boardroom that ticks the boxes for both form and function.
Considering they only opened late 2015, Palazzo Versace has already hosted over 100 events, including fashion shows for Velvet Magazine.
Upcoming features include a kids club, gym membership packages, and an in-house skin clinic.
The hotel’s convenient location makes it easy to get to and from several places throughout Dubai. Take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service and head out to Festival City or Dubai Mall where you can also admire the Burj Khalifa.
Fancy making the most of your time at the hotel? Then make sure to stop in at the Versace boutique (opening soon) so you can have your own Medusa blue china in the dining room, Versace-print cushions in the living room, and perhaps a gold bracelet on your wrist.
Events, Extras, Good To Knows
Keep an eye out for the September opening of Q’s Bar. Music legend Quincy Jones’s first-ever bar will be an intimate lounge and supper club featuring the best in live music.
Marco Pierre White may have said it best after his recent stay:
“The only modern built old world palace in Dubai … with really good staff.”