Cocooned in white sheets in a capacious floating bed, I am woken by the sun rising over the skyline of distant Downtown Dubai. I’d left my curtains open, knowing this awaited me. It is Sunday morning and in a couple of hours I will be at my desk, but for now I am in the minimalist, achingly cool world of Dubai’s new Nikki Beach Resort & Spa.
The Poolside Terrace spills out from the all-day restaurant
With its studied simplicity, understated luxury and trademark white colour scheme, the hotel is a world away from the ornate, extravagant aesthetic of the majority of hotels that populate Dubai’s skyline – a slice of Miami Beach cool in the Middle East.
I had arrived the day before in the airy lobby of this bright modernist resort designed by DSA Architects International, replete with curvilinear forms, polished concrete floors and mid-century furniture. This is the favourite space of interior designer Gregory Gatserelia of Beirut-based Gatserelia Design. Here the “undulating forms of the white ceiling, free-form wooden benches, muted, soft furniture and natural light creates a pure and relaxing space,” he says. Certain key elements – the white walls, concrete floors, natural oak and tinted mirrors – are the “carriers of flow throughout the resort,” says Gatserelia, maintaining “a sense of intelligent homogeny that is subtle without being repetitive.”
The interior of one of the villas, with views out to the sea over the private plunge pool
If the vibe is laid back, every detail is considered, from the dinky tins of loose leaf tea in the rooms to the interplay of forms and different textures that recur throughout the hotel. Informing all elements of its design are the sea and sky, the floor to ceiling doors flung open to receive them. As Gatserelia says, “Bringing the beach, the sea, and the sky indoors has allowed us to enter into a dialogue between nature and design.” Earthy elements are key here. The natural softness and warmth of simple wood furniture offsets the polished concrete floors and the crisp white walls. Pebble-like forms return again and again, in light fittings, stools, and crockery.
The name Nikki Beach is synonymous with beach club cool, but underlying the calm white aesthetic is a tragic backstory. After loosing his daughter Nikki, entrepreneur Jack Penrod founded the first Nikki Beach
in Miami to pay homage to her memory. Everything about the hotel reflected her tastes and interests in music, dining, entertainment, fashion, film and art. That central principle remains the same across all the Nikki Beach resorts, from Koh Samui to Monaco.
The modernist, Miami-esque building offers something a little different to most Dubai hotels
At 117 rooms and suites and 15 villas, the resort feels intimate. On my visit in early February, the hotel is still a work in progress. Set on the outer edge of the Pearl Jumeria, the drive to the hotel is admittedly unprepossessing, a construction site paving the way for what will no doubt, with customary Dubai speed, be a new enclave of luxury hotels and villas. But do not let the approach put you off. Once within the hotel, looking out to the white beach cabanas where a glamorous crowd lies watching surfers catch the waves of the Arabian Gulf to a soundtrack of chilled beach beats, you’re in a different world.
The rooms, as you’d expect, are chic white, warmed by sophisticated concealed lighting and flashes of pastel colours and pale wood. The bed positioned decadently in the centre, so to make the most of the view through to the glass doors to a spacious balcony. The bathroom is a highlight, chic grey tiles offset by the soft marble and wood table holding his and hers sinks, and the white expanse of the free standing bath.
I drag myself away to the poolside terrace. Here, mid-afternoon on a Saturday, is a mixed crowd, from a low-key baby shower of ex-pats to a table of British holiday-makers having a lazy lunch, to the thirty-something couples sunbathing on the cabanas. Here they watch the sun go down, wander along the palm tree-lined beach as the surfers come in at the end of a long day.
The Nikki Beach Villas each have their own pool
The menu is international, a medley of influences from the Nikki Beach locations around the world, catering both to the weight conscious with its sushi and raw bar as well as the gluttonous. Much is fresh and light: the Artisan Bruschetta with Pata Negra and Bali Summer Roll starters or Nikki Beach Sashimi Salad. But much is not: the Wagyu Beef Sliders, Duck Confit Steamed Buns and, to finish, the World Famous Tarte Tropezienne, a brioche cake filled with thick cream and served with Creme Anglaise and ice cream.
I make my way back along the corridor lined with Lama Khatib Daniel’s murals and, after luxuriating in fluffy towels, climb into those pristine sheets. I sleep like a log, waking to that sunrise, half forgetting that sadly, this is a working day and I must move.
It feels almost sacrilegious to leave the beautifully presented breakfast, with its cascades of fresh fruit, fresh baked pastries and man whipping up omelettes. Still, there is time for a cafetière of mellow Ethiopian Nikki Beach blend by the pool, watching the early morning surfers through rustling palms. Half an hour later, I’m at my desk. My staycation was less than 24 hours yet it felt like another world, a retreat from the bustle of Dubai.
Luux room, from Dhs1,480 nikkibeachhotels.com