For our maiden venture to Bahrain, Jumeirah Royal Saray was certainly a good introduction. it’s Jumeirah’s first foray into the Arabian island, with beach frontage with a side of peripheral city views not unlike Abu Dhabi, the outer Emirates beaches or to some extent, Dubai Marina resorts. It’s a newcomer on the scene, only being open since February 2018, and whilst it’s not 100% finished, it’s mostly completed.
Jumeirah have made it easy for holiday goers when it comes to choosing your room type, sticking to one main room type in the hotel for the most part. These standard rooms are a spacious 65sqm and are available in a choice of city or ocean view, with a king or double configuration – so apart from the view and bed type, the room design remains the same. There are suites too, but they are limited in number as it seems the focus here of the 77 rooms is the on the standard type. The standard rooms are definitely comfortable, divided into three main areas – a large balcony, the bedroom/living area and an expansive bathroom. The sand-and-ocean coloured decor is well suited to it’s beachside location, feeling very much in harmony with the sea views and adding to the resort vibes – something the Waldorf Astoria RAK also does very well and conversely, the Oberoi al Zorah in Ajman does not. Texture and pattern are used to great effect, with lush velvets and carved woods flowing elegantly into a bathroom luxuriously fitted out entirely in Carrera marble. The bathroom features a full size bath, separate shower and double vanities plus a dressing table. Toiletries are Chopard, as we’ve seen in the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, and while they do look and smell nice, the shampoo and conditioner did unfortunately turn our hair to absolute straw. We’re hoping one day that hair product brands will start working with hotels to put their amenities in rooms, instead of generic products being simply scented and deposited in hotels. We would recommend packing your own hair care, toothpaste and razor rather using the in-hotel amenities.
The main section of the room houses the bed, a couch and armchair, desk and large television, with a minibar and tea and coffee station housed in the entranceway of the room. A Nespresso machine is provided, and we’re very happy to see great quality barware including both wine and Champagne glasses and a sturdy corkscrew. We doubt you’ll be using that minibar, however, as the prices are out of control – a 40g jar of marshmallows will set you back 4.84 BHD, which translates to roughly 50dhs, 11 Euros, 10 pounds, 100 HKD or $20 NZD. When will hotels start pricing minibars sensibly enough that people actually use them?
When it comes to in-room technology, it’s a two-sided affair. On one hand, the rooms excel in many ways when it comes to connectivity – both sides of the bed have fantastic power facilities that offer double USB charging, bluetooth and HDMI linked to the (large) television, and the desk offers the same with the addition of an international powerpoint. Big marks for getting these simple things so right. The lights can also be controlled by touch panels, with master on/off and mood lighting settings. This we love. On the flip side, there’s no central automation by tablet or similar, or automated curtain controls, which seem to be quite commonplace in new build hotels. We struggled a tad with the heavy two layered curtains, with even the guiding rod breaking off one curtain as we grappled to open and close them. There’s a great phone system that has a digital display letting you select which department of the hotel you want to call easily, but there’s no in-room compendium so we couldn’t find out if there was a pillow menu or other services available.
Bedding again has its pros and cons – the sheets, pillows and duvets are really rather lovely, but beds are relatively firm and don’t deliver the dreamy experience offered by the likes of Fairmont Fujairah. We do have sensitive bones though when it comes to beds and we’re sure most will find these just fine. The balcony is very spacious, with a double day bed (the same as those in the fabulous St Regis Maldives) and separate dining area.
One of the highlights of the room? They have two robe choices, which is really what you need in climates as warm as the Middle East. Initially there is just one of each supplied in the room – one is plush on the inside and smooth on the outer (my fave), perfect for indoor lazing, and the second option is a waffle weave robe that’s better suited to enjoying your large balcony. We’re over the moon that a hotel has finally identified that guests may prefer different robes for different situations. Bliss. We’d love to see two of each in the room, as it took us three calls to housekeeping to get one of each for each guest, but housekeeping were lovely nonetheless.
Food of course is important in a resort like this, and surprisingly, we’ve got to say the food at Jumeirah Royal Saray was fantastic! They’ve only got The Palm Lounge, in the lobby, and the pool bar open as yet, but both really nailed it. Let’s start with The Palm Lounge. It was, well, deserted, and very cold when we dined (while we applaud the hotel for chilling you down from the hot outer climes, it’s utterly arctic inside the communal hotel areas so bring a jacket), but beautiful – resplendent in the yards upon yards of magnificent marble this hotel has imported. The marble here really is a standout feature (get in my house already). The menu is admittedly limited at the moment, but our hot and cold mezze were stunning. Yes they’re traditional, and maybe not elevated to the level of say Dubai’s superb Ninive, but they were really quite delicious. The burrata with peach, pine nuts and tomato wasn’t quiiiiite balanced but the burrata cheese was honestly perhaps the best I’ve tasted in Arabia when it comes to quality. Our short rib was tender but delivered almost cold and didn’t live up to the other dishes. Make sure you don’t miss dessert – we had been told that the pastry chef was a bit of a maestro, and our choices (Snickers Choux and their best selling vanilla mille feuille) were indeed expertly crafted and delicious.
The poolside food is a winner too – helped by the fact that they actually have a full kitchen by the pool dispensing meals, rather than the food making a long journey from a central kitchen and arriving soggy and luke warm. Our truffle fries were superbly crispy, served with truffle mayo, chives and parmesan cheese for dipping, and our chicken wings were also tasty (if a little small in portion), as was the accompanying salad and its fruity and refreshing vinaigrette. The wagyu burger was also a winner – happy campers all round.
Speaking of the pool, it’s large with plenty of double day beds and temperature wise, nice and chilled which is a relief as at the time of our visit (late September) the ocean was much too hot to swim in. The pool doesn’t really fit with the rest of the hotel, however – the design and colour choice seem noticeably dated by comparison – but the poolside music is good (even if the volume does go up and down with regularity). Poolside service is great, and there are two options of fruit infused chilled water as well as sunblock and newspapers for pool goers. The pool cocktails were also fab, but there’s no pool bar and guests on the more mature side of life may long for an adults-only pool given the number of families and screaming children that understandably also want to enjoy some pool time and respite from the desert heat.
There are also large air-conditioned cabanas available poolside, but these incur an extra cost of 95BHD++_ for in-house guests (rates higher for outside guests). At the time of our visit there were not any watersports activities available beachside, but there is a spa and a rather good gym equipped with the YouTube capable fitness machines we love.
Jumeirah’s new Bahrain retreat offers a comfortable and elegant stay by the seaside – we can’t wait to see what’s in store when all of the food and beverage options are up and running.