Abu Dhabi's newest hotel began welcoming guests on October 1.
The Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers marks a debut in the capital for Hilton's luxury Conrad brand.
Occupying one of the five high-rise buildings that make up Etihad Towers in the capital, the hotel was operated by Jumeirah from 2001 until its relaunch this year. Having reviewed the original property back in 2012, The National ventured out to see what Hilton's takeover means for the skyscraper tower and Abu Dhabi's newest hotel.
Friendly, genuine and very polished – perhaps thanks to Hilton retaining the majority of staff that were working here before the takeover. As well as being efficient, check-in is detailed with an overview of amenities and hotel facilities. My luggage arrives in my room shortly after I do, and comes with a helpful rundown of the various things I need to know, such as how to operate the electric curtains and where the minibar is located.
At the tip of Abu Dhabi’s corniche, the hotel has an enviable location. Not only is it within easy reach of Emirates Palace, the Sheikh Zayed Founder's Memorial, Qasr Al Watan and Marina Mall, it's also right by the Corniche, giving guests access to cycling, walking or electric scooter action.
There's convenient underground self-parking and direct access to Avenue at Etihad Towers, which is handy if you’ve forgotten any essentials or want to shop without leaving the building in the hot summer months.
The safety measures
The hotel has implemented Hilton's CleanStay programme, which has been rolled out internationally across all Hilton properties. Guest rooms are cleaned using hospital-grade products, with extra disinfection on all high-touch surfaces such as switches and electronic controls, handles and knobs, and major bathroom surfaces. A housekeeping inspector verifies the room meets CleanStay standards and closes it with a Hilton CleanStay Room Seal.
Upon arrival, I have to break this seal to gain entry to my room, which is a reassuring start to the stay. In public areas, there's an abundance of sanitising stations and face masks are mandatory, and there are also clear social distancing reminders throughout the hotel. Tables in the restaurants have been spaced to allow for physical distancing and when you're poolside, towels are delivered in a sealed wrapper.
At one point, I inadvertently entered one of the restaurants via the wrong door and was very politely asked to exit and come back in the other door to abide by safety measures. It's reassuring to see rules like this being enforced.
I was staying in a king one-bedroom suite, which came with the most striking views of Abu Dhabi that I've been privy to. From the living room, the view stretches beyond Marina Mall, dominated by the vast cobalt Arabian Gulf. From the bedroom, views reach over the Corniche and Abu Dhabi city, stretching to take in some of the capital's untouched islands.
In-room amenities are significant with two bathrooms, one with a shower and the other a large soaking tub positioned to easily drink in the views. The curtains are controlled by a switch next to the king-size bed, making waking up via Abu Dhabi's blue sky effortless the next morning.
On top of the friendly welcome on arrival, housekeeping staff manage to pop in and out to turn-down the room and deliver items without being noticed, something of a gold standard in terms of hotel service.
Waiters and kitchen staff at each restaurant were able to recommend dishes, with those at Bice – which has now reopened as Sole – taking the prize for being the most knowledgable. The hostess at breakfast also gave a very detailed rundown of the modified buffet, which is temporarily being served to guests by staff due to Covid-19 safety procedures.
Most guests were UAE citizens and residents, with a good mix of couples, families and groups of friends. There's a strong luxury undercurrent across the hotel – enhanced by marble surfaces and truly plush carpets – but with none of the familiar stuffiness that can often come along with that.
Outside, there's a private beach which is small but perfectly formed. A floating platform in the ocean is a nice spot for leaping off into the water. The adults-only pool is nice if you want to chill and there's a children’s pool in addition to the main infinity pool. The fitness centre overlooks the outdoor area and has a good mix of machines. Unfortunately, the Conrad Spa was closed on our visit due to the pandemic (however, it has since reopened).
As a newly opened hotel that's also navigating changing safety rules and regulations, things are still evolving at Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers.
During our visit, Li Beirut was closed, but it has now reopened, and Sole has taken up residence where Bice used to be. For dinner, we headed to the chic Tori No Su which is headed up by Kaiseki-trained chef Ando Takashi. Accessing the menu via a QR code on our phones, we opted for tuna sashimi (Dh65) which came served on a bed of ice, and soft shell crab sushi (Dh65) that was perfectly rolled. The Gindara miso yaki or black cod (Dh165) was delicious, but order a side as the portion isn't huge. The Hokkaido beef aburi (Dh380) was tender and well seasoned. If you have space for dessert, go for the chocolate pudding with matcha ice cream (Dh40). It takes 15 minutes to be prepared, but is worth the wait.
Highs and lows
Literal highs with a wow-factor view if you're lucky enough to book a room on the upper levels of this hotel, and even more so when you have a suite with 180-degree views over Abu Dhabi. The staff and service is also a high – nothing seems too much trouble and everyone is eager to please.
The only downside was that we saw a bit more plastic than we would have liked. In-room water bottles, the wrapping for the towels by the pool and the toiletries in the bathrooms were all made from plastic. Hopefully, this is a temporary measure due to Covid-19 as Hilton has committed to cutting its environmental footprint in half by 2030.
The insider tip
If you check in during the daytime, as most people are likely to, make sure you head down to the lobby after dark. It takes on a very different atmosphere thanks to humungous luminous spheres dangling from the ceiling, the glistening grand piano and the twinkling city skyline beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.
After nearly a decade as a Jumeirah hotel, Conrad’s takeover of this Abu Dhabi skyscraper seems to have come at just the right time. There’s a buzz of enthusiasm and an enhanced level of service at the hotel, alongside new restaurants and amenities. All of this is coupled with a solid sense of staff know-how that comes from not being entirely new on the scene.
The bottom line
Rooms at Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers start from Dh550, excluding taxes. Check-in is from 3pm, checkout at noon. Hilton’s Covid-19 policies mean guests can cancel reservations up to midnight on the day before arrival, without having to pay fees.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.