Following a succesful staycation at the Roda Al Murooj a number of weekends ago, we were looking for a place to stay while friends from the UK were in town for the weekend. Ideally somewhere located not too far from DIFC and the Trade Centre area, we settled on the dependable Roda brand again.
On this occasion we stayed at the Al Bustan property, in close proximity to the airport and the more traditional side of town. Now in our minds, Deira has always seemed too far (that may be the Abu Dhabi-ite in us talking) but on a weekend afternoon, the journey was a breeze. Taking into account the additional bonus of not having to combat the terrible Sharjah bound traffic, plaguing any journey north of Dubai Creek on a weeknight.
We had visited the property under its previous branding as the Al Bustan Rotana and purely for dining purposes. Remembering little about the hotel, other than the vague recollection that it was quite dated, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect this time around.
With the re-branding, Roda Al Bustan hasn’t undergone a facelift as such, more of a good clean. The focal feature is still the wooden gazebo. Breaking up the cavernous atrium of a lobby with its domed beams of polished wood, beneath which stands the shiniest grand piano you’re likely to encounter (what is it with piano’s in hotel lobbies anyway?). The problem seems to be an architectural one and despite a stained glass ceiling, the feeling is dark and slightly oppressive. Warmth is soon to found radiating from the staff (and those vibrant carpets) who are proficient in providing high quality service throughout our stay.
Greeted with a much needed welcome drink, we’re soon on our way up to the third floor for our private check-in. The room booked for us is a one bedroom suite with access to the executive lounge, offering a faster check-in/check-out process and a number of perks. As with our stay at the Al Murooj location, the lounge offers guests complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails and canapés. Unfortunately time constraints meant we didn’t get to try the latter two. The lounge here is more welcoming and comfortable than the one at Al Murooj and feels less like a soulless business centre, likely due to its suspended location ‘hanging’ over the central lobby and featuring plenty of floral bouquets and the sounds of trickling water features.
Roda Al Bustan is home to 279 rooms and our classic suite was easily one of the bigger rooms we’ve stayed in. Though lacking the coffee machine, pillow menu or touch screen controls of more upmarket properties, the suite was functional, with the decor balanced somewhere between semi-modern and Arabesque.
Rooms are comfortably furnished but don’t offer quite the same level of luxury as some of the more modern properties. Our suite was generously sized and the open-plan design is divided into living and sleeping areas via a defining wall and small step. Comparatively, we actually preferred this room to the one we stayed in at Roda Al Murooj.
We fully appreciated the walk in wardrobe, small kitchenette and writers desk, but the lack of plug sockets near to the bed proved a minor frustration. The en-suite bathroom required some modernisation and the clash of dark green tiling and off-white bathroom suite gave us flashbacks to the 1980s. The temperature control taps on the bath and the clunky air conditioning controls are also indicators that these rooms may be in need of some updating.
A mini bar, ironing board, safety deposit box and multi-channel television round out the features of the room. The best bit? The robes, slippers and towels were extremely comfortable and likely due to their newness (if anyone wants to gift us one of these plush robes, we would be more than happy to accept).
The perks of staying in the classic suite (in additional to executive lounge access) are the complimentary airport transfers, laundry allowance, two hours access to a dedicated meeting room and high-speed internet. Some rooms have pool views and balconies but ours had what was described as a ‘city view.’ In other words, our room overlooked the parking lot, metro line and airport terminal.
Roda Al Bustan’s predominant function is as a business hotel or a place for travellers on long layovers at DXB. With a high turnover of guests, it’s understandable that the hotel isn’t flashy but still offers recreational activities in the form of an outdoor pool and state of the art fitness centre.
The pool deck offers a small children’s pool at a depth of 1.5ft, a larger pool for more competent swimmers and an outdoor jacuzzi. It’s not the largest or prettiest pool you’re likely to encounter but it does the job and is nicely positioned as a sun trap for much of the day. Our only issue was that by midday the pool was full and there’s neither enough sun loungers or towels to go round.
Flow Health Club lies adjacent to the pool and is open from 6am – 11pm. Inside, guests will find a full gymnasium with free-weights and cardiovascular machines, steam room, sauna. two fitness studio, two tennis courts, and two squash courts.
Food & Beverage:
We had actually dined at the hotel six months prior (when it was still a Rotana) and despite the re-naming of the outlets, the concepts remain the same. Bambooda (formally Blue Elephant) is a Thai restaurant with a remarkable jungle-inspired interior of lush foliage and rushing waterfalls, evoking the feeling of dining on the Mekong Delta itself, Makan translating as ‘the place’ in Arabic, is home to the all day dining restaurant and there’s also a pool bar (Anees), coffee shop (Gazebo) and an outdoor shisha cafe.
We opted to dine at Hibachi (formally Benihana’s) having experienced a taster of the restaurant during our previous review of the hotels Imperial Night. From the moment it opened for the evening, Hibachi was heaving with guests looking to watch the teppanyaki show, with fire expelled from table tops and Japanese dishes prepared in a theatrical manner in front of hungry diners.
Diners will be entertained as raw ingredients are cooked on the communal hibachi tables (watch out they’re hot) and utensil are flung, caught and balanced in intricate ways. It’s a captivating experience, especially for those with children and seeing the transparency with which the chefs work is certainly interesting. The food covers everything from beef, chicken and shrimp, to Japanese salads and sushi and the quality is generally good. We would ask the F&B team to review the soundtrack of the restaurant, as a few profanities were present in the mainly hip-hop soundtrack which isn’t really conducive to a family friendly meal. Perhaps something more traditional would be better suited? Again staff were exceptional and we could find little fault with the service, our waitress even dutifully walked us from the restaurant to the elevators in a bid to receive our feedback on the experience.
Roda Al Bustan represents a good all rounder. Yes, it may not be the most luxurious property in the city but Roda’s strengths lie in customer service and the overall guest experience. As we mentioned in our last review, Roda is a brand to keep an eye on and with the former COO of Rotana at the forefront of the brands development, there are a number of new properties in the pipeline. Three new developments (or jewels as they’ll be labelled) are scheduled to open before Expo 2020 – Roda Jewel Jumeirah, Roda Jewel Creek and Roda Jewel Garhoud. Following these new developments, Roda as a brand has its sights set on expansion throughout the GCC. Having visited two Roda re-branded properties in recent months, we’re generally excited to see what a brand new luxury property conceived by Roda will look like. Watch this space…
We were invited to stay at Roda Al Bustan. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Cover and room images used courtesy of Roda Al Bustan.