Hotel Review: Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm, In Dubai

There are many good reasons to experience India in Dubai. 3.5 million of them, to be exact. The largest ethnic community in the UAE, roughly 30 per cent of the country’s population, Indians have long shaped Dubai’s literal and cultural landscape.

Enter Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, The Palm: the esteemed Indian hotel brand’s first beachfront property in Dubai and the debut Taj Exotica in the Middle East. Here’s why its fusion of Indian and Arabian luxury ticks all the boxes for a superlative stay.

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm

Taj Exotica

SLEEP When the gentleman escorting me to my room informed me that the theme of the resort was “sun, sand, sea,” I rolled my eyes; isn’t that the theme of every beachfront resort? But this was different. The nuanced artistry with which hues of blue and brown are weaved into the resort’s luscious d?cor is magnificent, particularly when it comes to the lavish, vastly comfortable 258 rooms and 67 suites. Shades of aqua merge with mint green, blending with bronze carpets and an actual sea vista outside my window. I took a photo of the exquisite chandelier snaking across the ceiling of the lobby, casting shadows on azure carpets; upon revisiting it, I did a double take: wait, how did the sea get in the lobby?

EAT Eating is a viciously competitive sport in Dubai, and the bar is very, very high. Taj Exotica delivers. Its culinary crown jewel is Varq, which blessed me with the best Indian dining experience of my life: authentic to diverse regional flavors but playful with tradition–in the most scrumptiously avant-garde of ways. There was jasmine and gin prawn tikka masala, edamame paneer rolls with saffron gravy, jalape?o naan bread and a desert sampler seasoned by crushed, smoked rose petals–as much performance art as immaculate last bite.

The breakfast buffet at Palm Kitchen easily meets the rigorous Dubai metrics for grand buffet, complete with classical musicians serenading us each morning. Roaring Rabbit, meanwhile, is truly one of its kind: think English gastropub as interpreted by Alice in Wonderland–in India. There’s definitely no greasy-spoon pub grub on the menu. Instead, the welcoming staff treated me to chicken tikka, Punjabi samosa, shepherds pie and a lamb hotpot, and the mixologist blew me away with ingenious cocktails: a perfect blue cheese martini, a gin and tonic whose creation involved something resembling a school science experiment, complete with jars, tubes, fruit, smoke–and an impeccably infused final product.

Mornin Yoga at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm

Taj Exotica

LOUNGE It’s easy to find your peace at the longest pool on Palm Jumeirah. Or on a lounger at the beach, ogling mirage-like views of the Dubai marina. Or with a sheesha at The Coast bar, soaking in yet another divine Middle East sunset. The real Taj Exotica spot for sunsets, though, is on a private balcony at Raia Rooftop Bar and Lounge, billing itself as “From Mumbai to Marrakesh” and living up to it, with a menu that includes keftedes, halloumi, shawarma, baklava and a bevy of pan-Mediterranean delights. The charming resident DJ Mechanic keeps the energy of the place in perfect form each night.

SPA JIVA serves up a spiritual spa experience, tapping into Ayurveda, Indian Therapies, Yoga and meditation. Try the “Imperial Dahab” treatment, which includesan aromatic footbath, a scalp massage and a camel milk bath, followed by a massage using 24k gold oil. Or do yoga–and I don’t mean any old resort’s rudimentary morning classes: JIVA is home to the Bihar School of Yoga, headed by Suyog Jadhav, yoga aacharya, trained by Bihar School of Yoga founder Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

The record store: a speakeasy-style entrance to Honeycomb Hi-Fi in Dubai

Honeycomb Hi-Fi

LOCAL TIP The only thing that could lure me out of my heavenly Taj bubble was VKD Hospitality Group: the gurus behind my favorite hangouts in Dubai, Indochine and Miss Lily’s. They’ve done it again with Honeycomb Hi-Fi, which manages to be all at once hip record store, the Middle East’s first listening bar–complete with High-Fidelity sound system–and an utterly delectable izakaya overseen by Hong Kong-based chef of Yardbird and Ronin, Matt Abergel. The vibe, the ambiance, the commissioned Ojas speakers by Devon Turnbull, the outdoor bamboo terrace, the divine eats: Behold the coolest new spot in Dubai.


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