Our first international media trip brought us to the Kingdom of Bahrain thanks to our friends at Rotana Hotels. Now, Bahrain has long been on our list of must visit places, especially due to its close proximity to the UAE. Our early morning flight with Gulf Air took just under an hour to reach Bahrain as we traversed the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf.
A short animated video on the aeroplane filled us with anticipation, conveying the experience of seeing Bahrain through the eyes of a young child. We may not be children, but this same sense of wonderment for Bahrain was instilled in us long before we left Abu Dhabi. With the coral-flanked waters spread out beneath us, we began our descent into Bahrain International Airport, as the archipelago of islands that make up Bahrain, appeared on the horizon. The immigration process was possibly the smoothest we’ve ever encountered and stepping out into the intense heat (even at 8am), we’re greeted with the most common symbol of Arabia, the camel, albeit a plastic one.
Greeted in style with a private car courtesy of the Rotana team, we’re soon connected to the wifi and zooming through the streets of Muharraq. For those of you who think driving in the UAE is bad, think again, for the traffic and road rules in Bahrain take things to a whole other level of uncertainty. As we cruise through the streets there’s time to pause and take in Bahrain. Granted it feels similar to the UAE (exceptionally clean streets, a mixture of Arabic and English signage), yet there’s a feeling of unmistakable vivacity that shines through. A promotion of culture that jolts us into remembering we’re in the Middle East and a feeling we’ve not felt in some time.
Our trip to Bahrain would entail two hotels and seven food and beverage experiences in a 72 hour period.
Our first night in Bahrain was spent in the Downtown Rotana, a property just over a year old (having opened its doors in March 2016) and located in the heart of busy Manama. Being Rotana’s third property in Bahrain (following the Majestic Arjaan and ART Rotana) and the latest five-star offering in the heart of Manama. The location may seem an unusual choice for a luxury property, as Manama is affectionately referred to as ‘Sin City,’ a party place where seemingly anything goes. The Downtown Rotana sits at a juxtaposition between the old world traditionalism of Bab Al Bahrain, a historic building marking the entrance to the maze of winding passageways of Manama Souk, and the modernity of the glistening towers of Bahrain’s World Trade Centre and the financial district.
The hotel’s glass facade has become as much a symbol of Manama as the aforementioned World Trade Centre. Being one of the tallest buildings on the skyline (standing 105 meters tall), the familiar Rotana branding makes for a handy landmark when navigating the busy streets. From outside, the property looks like a standard city hotel, but looks can be deceiving and stepping through the revolving glass doors, guests are transported into a contemporary space awash with vibrant colours. The open-plan lobby maintains a colour scheme of distinctive red hues, while vases of floral blooms punctuate the way to the main reception desk. Off to one side lies the City Lobby Lounge, a recommended spot for afternoon tea. Despite being the main thoroughfare of the hotel, the lobby promotes a feeling of tranquillity and calm which is reflected by the courteous front desk team and carries all the way through into the 26-storey’s of rooms.
Club Rotana Premium:
The Downtown Rotana is home to 242 rooms of understated luxury and we were lucky enough to be staying on the 16th floor in one of the Club Rotana Rooms. As long term fans of the Rotana brand, we’ve often mentioned our appreciation for these properties offering good value for money and a family friendly vibe. Though on occasion we’ve found the rooms to be a little on the small side. The ‘hotel within a hotel’ experience provided by the Club Rotana rooms here, certainly changed things, offering 55 SQM of space in a pleasing L-shaped design.
A small hallway opens out onto a small glass dining table with seating for two. A counter provides access to a mini bar and a Nespresso machine. A surprising rarity in many five star hotels, but one we truly appreciated. Like the lobby, the bedrooms feature an open-plan space and promote a nice ‘flow’ between living and sleeping areas. Separating the two is a lounge with a two seater sofa, leather chaise lounge, coffee table and 48-inch flat screen television. It’s unlikely that you’ll be gazing at the screen, for the views from the floor to ceiling windows offer 280-degree panoramas of the city and Bahrain Bay. We found ourselves frequently transfixed by the view of glittering skyscrapers with both the architecturally impressive Bahrain Harbor and World Trade Centre rising skywards like jagged pieces of glass.
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A comfortable king sized bed makes convenient use of the layout, tucked in an alcove at the rear and stuffed full of pillows. Bold floral designs are printed above the headboard to add a modern and upbeat look to the room. Successfully bringing a new sense of design to an area known for its tired hotel options.
The ultra-modern bathroom features both walk in shower and deep tub, double vanity units and a nice selection of L’occitane skin care products. It may seem insignificant, but product selections such as these really help to increase the comfort level of the property and we found the Rotana’s in Bahrain feel more upmarket than their counterparts in the UAE. It may seem ridiculous but we were grateful for the gap under the shower door, meaning a bath mat can easily fit without getting caught when opening the door, a typical #UAEPoblem that doesn’t appear to blight the Kingdom of Bahrain
As expected, a safety deposit box, hair dryer and IDD telephone can also be found within the room. Regular readers will know we have an obsession with luxurious bathrobes and slippers (if any hoteliers want to send us some we’d be forever grateful) and the darkest of dark blackout curtains — the Downtown Rotana delivers all of these.
Being a five-star hotel, the Downtown Rotana features a number of recreational facilities in the Bodylines Fitness Centre situated on the 9th floor. Home to a 24-hour gymnasium, separate fitness studios and a relaxation area complete with sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. Though not a fully fledged spa, massage options (Thai and Swedish) are offered in a number of private treatment rooms.
Being a city hotel, the swimming pool is located on the rooftop adjacent to the gym. It’s a pleasant body of water and the surrounding pool deck acts as a successful sun trap. Providing plenty of loungers and day beds upholstered in the traditional Rotana red. The pool may not be as picturesque as some of the resort hotels in the city but is perfectly adequate for an afternoon of tanning and relaxation.
Dance music pulsates throughout the pool area creating a Cafe Del Mar feel. A tactical glass partition separates the water from the busy streets below, presenting an excellent vantage point over the city that takes in skyscrapers, mosque minarets and the small streets of Souq al Manama. Mosaics of waves adorn the far end of the pool, while the glass facade of the hotel building rises from the other. Beneath this is the Sundeck Pool Bar, a small dining area of rattan style furniture shaded by the hotel’s overhang. Serving a number of snacks and beverages, of which we recommend the Caprese salad and mojitos.
Flavours On 2 is the Downtown Rotana’s all day dining restaurant, a pleasant space with a striking green colour scheme. The buffet is relatively small but retains a focus on quality over quantity and transforms well between breakfast, lunch and dinner. We dined at Flavours twice during our stay and found both the breakfast and the brunch to outperform ANY all day dining we’ve experienced in a Rotana Hotel in the UAE. A theme that seemed to become a common trend throughout our stay in Bahrain, with both quality of rooms and F&B seemingly taken up a notch when compared to their counterparts across the water. The brunch especially should be noted for its sushi, plentiful pork station, constant beverage refills and live grilling station.
Teatro is the hotels signature restaurant and a fixture at a number of other Rotana properties (including Abu Dhabi’s Park Rotana). Having enjoyed our dining experience at the Abu Dhabi location, Teatro in Bahrain has taken the concept and truly run with it. Scaling back on both the menu of mixed cuisine (providing a more concise selection of dishes) and the overly theatrical decor. A delightful selection of cocktails and international cuisine are presented in a dining room that feels part lounge and part exclusive members club, with pops of vibrant colour.
Diners at Teatro shouldn’t miss the Wasabi Coated Prawn Tempura, presented in an Asian-style wooden box home to some of the biggest prawns we’ve had the pleasure of eating. The Grilled Seafood Platter is also highly recommended, offering lobster, plump scallops, shrimp and hammour, in a light sauce that allows the delicate nature of the ingridients to shine through. Save room for dessert though, as the Big Show is not to be missed. Combining lemongrass creme brûlée, chocolate truffles, coconut gelato, matcha cake, watermelon snow and banana fritters, into one show-stopping platter. We found the service at Teatro to be proficient (especially being a lone diner) with the prices comparable to those in the UAE.
The Downtown Rotana surpassed our expectations, for offering an additional level of luxury to complement the strengths of the Rotana Brand. As is always the case with Rotana, the service levels throughout are exceptional and this key strength of consistency can be found across their numerous properties. The Downtown Rotana makes for an obvious choice for the business traveller or tourists looking to be in close proximity to the souk and other nearby attractions. Downtown is a shoppers paradise with a number of malls and luxury retailers close by, but for us, the hotel was enough. Providing the opportunity for uninterrupted relaxation paired with quality food and beverage offerings.
Location: Downtown Rotana, 110 Government Avenue, Manama, Bahrain
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Phone: +973 1311 9999
We were invited to stay at the Downtown Rotana. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE with some images used courtesy of Rotana Hotels.