Whenever you're in Dubai, you'll be sure to come across a Jumeirah Hotel. A range of luxury Dubai hotels - from the iconic Burj al Arab to the family-friendly and recently refurbished Jumeirah Beach. We stayed at the Zabeel Saray in January 2020 (prior to the Covid outbreak).
Located on the very edge of the palm, this hotel has a definite resort feel. It's not the place to stay if you want to do some sightseeing in Dubai as it's quite remote and takes around 30-minutes to reach downtown places like the Mall of Emirates. It is however, aimed at couples and families who want to mix a beach experience with city break.
A choice of board ...
There's a choice of room only, bed & breakfast, half board or dine-around half-board. We opted for the latter. Although it could be a little more expensive to do the dine-around option it does mean that you can choose from the variety of restaurants from the forty or so restaurants within the Jumeirah hotel group and you're not just restricted to the hotel choice. The majority allow you to indulge in a 3-course dinner. Some restaurants offer a more limited menu and some incur a supplement and have limitations.
A choice of restaurants at the Zabeel Saray
Here's where you can eat.
Al Nafoorah - Lebanese:
Indoor and outdoor seating. The place to go for delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. Choice of hot and cold mezzeh. I recommend Shish Taouk (chicken marinated in garlic and lemon) and the Grilled Lamb Kebabs. The baklawa was disappointing and dry. Dishes are plentiful! My favourite.
Sultan's Lounge - located off the reception area:
A place to peruse and select an extensive tea menu or have an after-dinner drink. There's also a Turkish ice cream cart and exceptionally ornate display of cakes and pastries although we didn't partake!
The Rib Room - a cosy steakhouse.
The dine-around half board only entitles you to a two course dinner, unless you wish to pay a supplement. To be honest, two courses are more than sufficient. A very extensive wine list and we enjoyed some delicious Argentinian Malbec that perfectly complemented the steak. There is an outdoor seating area which is a great place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. It was cold and windy during our time there so we didn't experience this.
Amala - Indian
This has great reviews on places like Trip Advisor but to be honest we were both a little underwhelmed. Some of the dishes appeared to have been 'dumbed down' for Western palates and not as flavourful and spicy as we had anticipated. We left a little disappointed.
Imperium - buffet restaurant
This is where you enjoy a buffet breakfast and if you're on the half board package where the buffet-style dinner is served. There are some issues with food allergen descriptions here - in that there aren't any. If you're gluten free - don't expect a separate section of a huge choice (there isn't anything like this at breakfast). This was strange as all of the a la carte restaurants highlight potential food allergens.
There is indoor and outdoor seating. It gets very busy and congested especially at weekends. Watch out your table could get cleared and you return to find Goldilocks-style someone seating in your chair!
I found the indoor seating crowded and often felt that we were sitting in a corridor with people passing. Outdoor seating recommended (as long as you don't mind a few birds eyeing up your crumbs).
Lalezar - Turkish restaurant
Generous portions but beware if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance there's lots of dishes with cheese and yogurt. Recommend the Turkish Tea as a great palate cleaners after your main course.
Plaj - beachside snacks
We ate here one late afternoon, opting to take our half-board option at lunchtime rather than dinner. Service a little chaotic, but this restaurant did seem to appeal to a number of very demanding Russian tourists. Food was OK. Nothing spectacular. Fine if you fancy a burger or a pizza.
We didn't have a club room so didn't experience the lounge first hand. I would say that it looks a pretty soulless room and doesn't really feel that 'special' when compared to other rooms / restaurants. Given you pay a supplement (for club facilities) I would have expected more. Seems my opinion is shared by those on Trip Advisor too.
With the exception of the Rib Room, all of the restaurants have high lofty ceilings and don't have a cosy, intimate atmosphere. Some of the tables were located quite close together, so not ideal if you're wanting a cosy, romantic meal.
I didn't feel that the Zabeel Saray offered a huge variety in the types of food served. The Lebanese and Turkish restaurants have similar menus, which are very much focused on meat dishes / kebabs. If you're a vegetarian or vegan I think you'd be really limited with choice.
The Rib Room was our favourite in terms of service and food quality.
If you go for the dine-around package I would recommend that you experience other restaurants within the Jumeirah Group. For atmosphere in the evening, head down to Madinat. You can get a free shuttle bus from the Zabeel Saray and then grab a cab for the return journey.
Beware of noisy functions
For us, we got the impression that the hotel rather focuses on private functions than your paying tourist / hotel resident. I appreciate that hotels can command a premium for hosting such functions, whether they're a large, three-day wedding or a corporate do. Sadly, they can affect your overall experience, especially when restaurants are closed without warning (private function), areas of the beach are reserved (private function) and there's lots of noise when guests leave at around 3am in the morning (private function).
And so to bed ...
Rooms are spacious, but are a little tired in places. Dark Furniture captured the Arabian theme, but did leave the room feeling a little gloomy. Our bathroom had a large sunken bath which looked beautiful but was highly impractical for someone short like me!
They have all of the amenities you would expect.
FTM Top Tip:
Make sure your room is away from the reception area or if it is above the reception / courtyard, that it's on a high floor. Otherwise, you'll get woken in the early hours by noisy people (a little inebriated if I'm honest). Our bedroom was on the first floor above the music hall / reception area. I wish we had moved.
“Glitzy, Glamorous and Gold. But sadly we wouldn't return.”