Hotel Insider: A stylish stay at the Zaha Hadid-designed ME Dubai by Melia

Predictably curvaceous, the five-star escape in Downtown Dubai blends the British-Iraqi architect's signature style with luxury touchpoints

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Zaha Hadid was an architect with a rich gift for bringing futuristic designs into the present with her progressive structures – including some UAE landmarks, such as the Sheikh Bridge in Abu Dhabi and Beeah Group's headquarters in Sharjah.

Her only fully conceived hotel project, however, was ME Dubai, where the influence of the late British-Iraqi creative runs throughout.

Besides delivering another famous structure to a city bristling with impressive buildings, the Melia-managed hotel brims with fluid lines and curious shapes, alongside plenty of comforts.

The National checked in for a stylish stay.

The welcome

The forecourt is bustling with cars and people as we pull in, having distinguished the hotel entrance – opposite Bay Avenue retail strip and apartment towers – from the residences side.

The reception desk hugs one wall of a huge open lobby dotted with curved seating areas and a cafe. First impressions are reminiscent of what a Star Trek set masquerading as an art gallery might look like.

Brisk check-in concluded, one of the hotel staff takes our luggage and leads us cheerfully to a fourth-floor suite for a quick tour of suitably unconventional accommodation.

The neighbourhood

Easy to spot amid the Business Bay skyline, next to the Burj Khalifa district, ME Dubai by Melia consists of two partially joined glass blocks with a seemingly melting hollow core. Not the tallest structure in the region, its sleek presence, “inspired by the geometry of nature”, has it standing out within walking distance of Dubai Metro and Downtown Dubai, as well as the shops, supermarkets and casual dining opportunities at Bay Avenue. Here, you’ll also find a running track and park with kids' areas. Head the other way to access Business Bay’s substantial waterfront footpaths.

The scene

The ME Dubai hotel occupies part of the striking The Opus by Omniyat building and comprises 93 rooms and suites across four floors. Enter the main doors from Al Amal Street and you will find yourself in an epic space that reflects the spatial fluidity technique redefined by Hadid. The extensive lobby space is contained by a glass ceiling, with each floor level fringing in the atrium courtesy of a deep balcony.

Art is a significant element of ME Dubai with Seth P Benzel’s large Cultural Connection Project canvasses featured on one level during our stay, contrasted by Power Of Seeing, Natalya Urmanova’s mono photographic exhibition, which is dominating another. The artwork changes regularly.

Wellness spa is tucked away on the fourth floor of the hotel, its distinctive waiting and post-treatment areas occupying a spot beneath a dramatic sloping glass and steel ceiling. From an extensive pampering menu that includes deep tissue, royal Thai and mother-to-be massages, we indulge in a couples signature massage for a relaxed session in serene surroundings before heading to the pool downstairs.

Flanked by plentiful loungers and cabanas, the setting is well placed for calm sunbathing, even if the atmosphere is interrupted occasionally by the soundtrack of nearby construction work. There’s an airy, well-stocked gym adjacent if you want to keep your fitness goals on track.

The room

Beyond a striking illuminated door lies a slick black-panelled corridor with contrasting light oak flooring. The entrance passage hides plentiful hanging and storage space, including a luggage recess, although the room’s wardrobe with a mirror-adorned dressing table is better placed for the bedroom.

Shiny dark doors also yield a stocked fridge and a ‘maxi bar’ complete with cocktail shakers. That, and a long lounge with an eight-seater table and long sofa, suggest a place to entertain friends.

Beyond a sheer curtain, beneath more sloping glass and metal roofing, there is further space with a high table and stalls, plus two low-back seats, ideal for observing the night skies. A widescreen TV, coffee tables, and writing desk complete the amenities.

Dark walls are etched with flowing gold grooves, a wave theme that extends to a lighting feature above a signature Hadid-style king-size bed. Another large TV and automatic curtains serve the space, as does silent yet effective AC. Mercifully simple touchpads control lights and curtains throughout.

White and grey marble lines the en suite bathroom where twin teardrop sinks and distinctive mirrors face a Jacuzzi bath. The glassed-off shower’s huge rain-effect system includes leave-behind CO Bigelow shampoo, soap and conditioning dispensers. Like the bathroom, an adjoining washroom toilet and bidet features Hadid’s bespoke Porcelanosa range of sanitary ware.

The food

Several varied and familiar restaurant names cater to guests at this hotel, including ground floor iterations of Salmon Guru and UAE brand, The Maine. Suave '60s-inspired Mediterranean outlet Basko and vibrant cafe Sfumato complete street-level offerings.

Central, ME Dubai’s second-floor all-day dining venue, wears its Spanish heart on its menu. With seating inside leading to the atrium balcony area, this is the destination for a memorable breakfast that includes home-made granola and baked goods, cold cuts, chia pudding, and basil hummus crudités. The menu offers eggs, including shakshuka, which is Dh75 if breakfast isn’t included in your rate. We enjoyed a perfectly cooked Serrano Benedict (Dh70), a revitalising fruit-laden açai bowl (Dh65), and a classic cooked breakfast featuring tasty chicken sausage (Dh90).

Dinner embraces Melia’s Spanish roots, not least with the new Friday and Saturday "Soul Night" (7.30pm-10.30pm), when singer Raena Lashae provides the soundtrack to a tapas menu that includes gambas confit garlic shrimps, ponchos beef skewers, irrepressible cheese croquettes, olives and charcuterie. Packages range from Dh125 for three tapas to a Dh399 three-hour drinks and food combo.

Soiree is the hotel's cool bar and restaurant with a sophisticated Manhattan-style interior that makes use of its airy third-floor balcony area to serve a mixed theme menu. Neighbour ROKO, meanwhile, is a stylish Japanese bar and restaurant with well-priced authentic dishes, and seating inside and out.

The service

There’s a relaxed but efficient vibe to most of the team we encounter, from check-in desk to spa reception, with Central’s breakfast staff notably keen to take our order. The only minor kink is a delay confirming minibar use after checkout.

Highs and lows

Besides the amiable staff, the star is the building itself; its inimitable architecture and quirky interiors guarantee you’ll remember it over many other hotels.

The insider tip

Take time to wander the hotel balconies, absorb the Insta-loving futuristic foibles of the place, and visit the art exhibitions.

The verdict

ME Dubai is even more intriguing on the inside than its curious exterior might suggest – but it doesn’t rely on looks alone and delivers a pleasant, comfortable experience that's as relaxing or lively as you want it to be. The hotel is a truly fitting epitaph to Hadid’s genius.

The bottom line

Room-only prices start from Dh984, including taxes and fees; check-in from 3pm, checkout until noon; www.melia.com

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future.

Updated: May 30, 2024, 6:15 AM