It may have opened its doors back in May, but the SLS Dubai ensured it fully arrived on the city's luxury scene with the party to end all parties in October, celebrating six months of operations.
Celebrities and influencers from across the region turned out to welcome this chic new player to the city, marking the first outpost for the luxury brand in the Middle East.
Extravagant, classy and with show-stopping views, the party set the tone for what to expect from the five-star offering. The National checked in to see for ourselves...
Entering the SLS is a grand affair. From the ground floor, you’ll need to take the lift to the 72nd floor sky lobby where you’ll find the reception, bathed in natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, offering stunning views across Dubai.
We arrive early on a Friday afternoon, and find a very friendly concierge waiting to greet us. He chats to us about a big football match happening that weekend as he checks us in, and also talks us through the hotel's amenities. He invites us to visit the sky lounge bar, to the right of the reception area, and tells us he also recommends coming back after dark, when things start to get lively.
You need to take the same lift back down to the rooms, which is a little confusing at first, but the reception here is all about the wow factor of being on the 72nd floor, and it’s worth the clumsy lift situation.
Although located in Business Bay, SLS Dubai is a little out on its own. It stands opposite the Paramount Hotel & Residences, on the edge of Dubai's busy Al Khail road. While there is little else in the immediate vicinity, it is only a short drive from the heart of Downtown, with the Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar a five-minute car ride away.
The safety measures
Covid-19 health and safety measures are in place at the SLS Dubai. There are hand sanitisers at the check-in desk, and all staff and guests have masks on. Our room is sealed with a sanitisation stamp, assuring us that everything has been cleaned before we enter.
We stay in a corner room, which offers incredible views of the Downtown Dubai skyline, with the Burj Khalifa towering directly in front of us. The bathroom features floor-to-ceiling windows, with a free-standing bathtub from where you can really take it all in.
The room itself is spacious, with a king bed, reception area and sizeable terrace with an outdoor sofa, again, perfect for taking in those vistas. Decor is fresh and colourful, and the television can be swivelled to be enjoyed from the sofa area or bed.
The room also comes equipped with smart features, so you can synch your phone to the television.
Service is impeccable from start to finish. From check-in, to making restaurant and spa reservations, everything is smooth, and when we need to change the time of our dinner booking it is no issue at all. Staff are great at explaining how things work, and attendants at the pool even come over to let us know when a comfy day bed becomes available to see if we’d like to move.
Speaking of the pool, the SLS’s two rooftop infinity pools are without a doubt its piece de resistance. Located on the 75th floor alongside the Privilege bar and nightlife venue, the pools are among the highest in the city, and offer incredible views directly on to the Downtown skyline. The sun loungers and day beds are plush, and more importantly, well spread out, so it never feels crowded.
Away from the pool, you'll find the Ciel Spa down on the 69th floor with light and airy treatment rooms, and separate changing areas for men and women. Each features a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and terrace, which again make the most of that incredible view. We are treated to the signature 60-minute Cloud-Nine couples’ massage, and that’s exactly how it leaves us feeling.
SLS’s main restaurant, Fi’lia, has been making headlines in its own right since opening its doors, thanks to its all-female team. The Italian-Mediterranean restaurant, helmed by chef Sara Aqel, gives hearty, home-cooked food a luxury twist, and the result is an authentic and varied menu that delivers on all counts. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Fi’lia’s vibe changes throughout the day, with its boho ambience making for a relaxed breakfast place for hotel guests, before transforming into a buzzy and chic dinner spot. Its terrace offers majestic views, making the restaurant a destination in itself.
We sample buratta (Dh88), beef tartare (Dh78), and at chef Aqel’s recommendation, the Insalata di Indivia (Dh62) to start, before tucking into Wagyu steak (Dh215) and grilled king prawns (Dh175) for mains. Despite insisting we are full, Aqel will not let us leave until we have tried her favourite desserts – the pannacotta (Dh42) and the pavlova (Dh47) – both of which are light and delicious. Aqel is not giving us special treatment, she is circulating and chatting to diners all evening. Her passion is evident, and it shows in the food.
For meat lovers, SLS is also home to Carna, a stylish steakhouse by award-winning Italian butcher Dario Cecchini. The menu is extensive, with a raw bar, a butcher's shop selection and Carna's signature cuts. Of course, it's the meat we are there for, and so we sample two of the signature cuts, the Australian Wagyu fillet mignon (Dh215) and the NY strip steak (Dh360). Both are cooked to perfection, and fittingly complemented by the array of sides and sauces we opt for. We agree we will definitely be back.
Elsewhere, there's cosy cafe Ellamia on the hotel's ground floor, which we make sure to swing by one morning for coffee and cake. The hotel will also soon be home to the 12 Chairs Caviar Bar, an exclusive tasting experience reserved for just 12 diners.
Highs and lows
The quality service is what sticks out from our stay at the SLS Dubai. The staff were incredibly accommodating throughout, and that really added to the feeling of luxury in the already impressive hotel.
The only thing we felt could have been improved was the seating at the pool. Options were limited, and while it was nice for it to not feel crowded, we couldn't help but think that hotel guests who arrive later in the day might miss out on enjoying one of the hotel's standout features to the fullest.
The insider tip
While all the rooms have great views, if you can request a corner suite when checking in, you will be rewarded with some of the the hotel's best views of the Dubai Downtown skyline.
The SLS Dubai is more than just another luxury hotel. Its infinity pools, restaurants and spas all feel like destinations in their own right so, checking in or not, this hotel should definitely be added to your Dubai bucket list. If you are lucky enough to stay here, prepare to be wowed.
The bottom line
Rates start from Dh768 ($209) per night, plus taxes, for a Signature King room with balcony. Check-in time is from 3pm and check-out is at noon. It's worth noting that children aged 12 years and below are not allowed at the infinity pools on level 75, but can instead use the pools on level 6. More information can be found at www.sbe.com