Jumeriah at Etihad Towers is without a doubt one of the most luxurious hotels in Abu Dhabi, owned by the Jumeirah Group, the same company behind the world’s only seven star hotel, Dubai’s Burj Al Arab.
The hotel is situated on the upper level of a spiral podium and is an iconic glass affair. Five identical towers rise from the ground, like shards of glass, to penetrate the skyline for all to see.
The design of the lobby lounge here is one that exudes elegance and class. Think deep carpets, gold embroidery and gurgling water features. Though its the three spherical hanging lamps that are the focal point of the space – even more so during the evening when they are beautifully illuminated. Despite the location, It doesn’t feel as though you’re sitting inside the lobby of a busy five star hotel, in fact, the dining experience is surprisingly serene and disruption from hotel guests is minimal.
Having visited the hotel on a number of occasions during our time in the UAE, we have always found the service to me quite snooty and almost hostile – the idea seems to be, to leave the guests to themselves unless asked. Thankfully this was not the case in the lobby lounge and we were welcomed with courteous smiles and friendly conversation.
We seated ourselves in the centre of the large glass atrium, a perfect spot for soaking up the warm sunlight (that left us feeling like cats after a late afternoon nap). The vista from this vantage point is certainly memorable, as you gaze out across the small beach area to the calm blue waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Welcome drinks soon arrive in the form of a fruit cocktail, comprising of white tea, lemon, sugar and grenadine – a deep red hit of instant refreshment and a nice introduction to the elegance that we were about to experience.
The gold coloured menus hold an impressive tea selection provided by TWG teas, which stands for The Wellbeing Group, a company renowned for the finest luxury teas. Committed to offering teas directly from source gardens, TWG caters to the evolving tastes of the modern tea drinker, and has developed special varieties in collaboration with the most renowned tea estates. Despite the wealth of choice, we discovered that many of our selections were ‘unavailable.’ Which begs the question – why offer them?
The pots of tea soon arrived and it was certainly fragrant. Served in blue and white china, that just screams charm and grace, the aroma of freshly brewed tea leaves swirled around our table and certainly added some atmosphere to proceedings.
We had settled on the choco mint truffle tea, an infusion of sweet and intoxicating vanilla, mint and chocolate, hailing from South Africa. The taste was distinctly like a dessert in beverage form and comes highly recommended. In an attempt to be more ‘traditional’ we also tried the geisha blossom tea, combining green tea and ripe southern fruits to create a highly refined and fragrant cup. Two distinctly different teas, that were both altogether satisfying. It is a shame to note that there was no tea sommelier available to help with our selection, as we have found this a vital addition at other afternoon teas (we are talking specifically about the wonderful Al Bayt in the Palace, Downtown Dubai).
The three tiered marvel soon arrived at our table, complete with sweet and savoury treats. The finger sandwiches were small and elegant (as expected) and came in a variety of flavours – typically British cucumber on dark rye, creamy shrimp cocktail on white and cheese and pickle in a fruity and nutty bread. All were tasty.
The savoury tier also contained two smoked salmon rolls and two vegetable quiches topped with mozzarella and fresh tomato. We found both of these items to be welcome additions to the afternoon tea and far superior items to the sandwiches.
Afternoon tea is the most quintessential of English customs and despite tea arriving in the UK during the 1660s, the concept was developed much later. This history of the custom dates back to 1840 and the seventh Duchess of Bedford. It is said that she would become hungry mid-afternoon and ask for tea, bread and cake to be brought to her quarters. This soon became a habit and she would invite friends to join her. By the 1880’s the event became an upper-class phenomenon, with ladies specifically getting dressed up to partake in what had now become customary.
As British expatriates, we do love a good afternoon tea and couldn’t wait to dig into the layer of decadent sweets. The top tier consisted of four scones (two fruit, two plain) and two vanilla madeleines. The madeleines were soft and sweet, and the scones were good but slightly on the dry side. Cherry roulade, traditional Arabic honey cake, fruit cake (tasting like Christmas) and strawberry tarts were all present.
The standout on the afternoon tea is the vanilla filled cronut. For those not in the know, a cronut is a hybrid of a donut and a croissant that burst onto the dining scene in 2012. Originating from a bakery in New York City, these pastries are quite difficult to find in the UAE and the quality varies greatly. Thankfully the version available as part of this afternoon tea is as close to perfection as one can expect.
Hot beverages are unlimited throughout your afternoon tea experience and unlike many teas offered in the capital you can switch beverages as often as you like and are therefore not constrained to one flavour that you may not actually like. We were pleasantly suprised by the rich aroma of the cappuccino with its layer of silky, velvety foam.
The Good: The cronuts are simply wonderful. The view is one of the most picturesque locations for afternoon tea in the capital. Plus this specific tea often pops up on Groupon.
The Not So Good: Despite the expansive tea selection, it is a shame that such a large number of the teas are unavailable.
The service throughout was attentive without being obtrusive and was all the more impressive for the fact that it was one lady serving the entire lobby. Despite the large number of guests for one staff members, we did not feel at all neglected.
Currently, The Lobby Lounge at Jumeirah Etihad Towers is our favourite afternoon tea that we have sampled in the capital (we have also tried Le Cafe at Emirates Palace and Chocolate Gallery at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr) and we hope that there are many more to come.
The extravagance of such an establishment as Jumeriah at Etihad Towers attracts a wealth of high-profile guests, with the hotel becoming synonymous with ‘that scene’ in Hollywood movie Furious 7 – where a car jumps between two of the complex’s glittering skyscrapers. It is an brilliantly choreographed sequence and we were lucky enough to meet star of the film Tyrese Gibson who was also visiting.
Location: Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi
Hours: 7:00am – 1:00am
Phone: 02 8115 666
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.