Located less than 20 minutes from the Expo 2020 Dubai site, The First Collection at Jumeirah Village Circle is the inaugural branded hotel under The First Group, one of the Emirates' major property developers.
Having opened in late September last year, the hotel has spent the last five months honing its offerings and adding to the facilities, including the Latin restaurant Sante Ria, in October.
With low room rates starting at less than Dh400 ($109) per night, we checked into the “lifestyle hotel” to see what staying here is all about.
The First Collection hotel opened at the end of last year, so everything is nice, shiny and new, including the sleek high-ceilinged reception area that offers us our first impression.
The space is stylish, but a little confusing — with two different sides of what appear to be check-in desks but only one side actually welcoming guests. It is also busy on our visit, with people checking in, checking out, waiting on taxis, offloading luggage or simply milling around. Despite this, we’re checked in swiftly and given the lowdown on all the amenities before taking the lift to our room way up on the 36th floor.
Located in the heart of JVC, getting here isn’t the most glamorous journey in Dubai, but it’s easy to find and there’s valet parking right out front. It’s a great location if you’re headed to Expo 2020 Dubai, which is a speedy 17 minutes along the E311.
There’s no beach nearby, but the hotel offers shuttle services to Riva Beach Club on Palm Jumeirah for guests who want some shoreline action.
The safety measures
Sanitising machines are visible in all the high-traffic areas of the hotel including the reception, elevators, pool and restaurants. Face masks are worn by staff at all times and we’re given a branded one by The First Collection to wear during our stay. Social distancing isn’t always easy to observe given the high capacity of the hotel during our visit, when it was more than 90 per cent occupied.
We stay in a Superior Double room on the 36th floor which comes with awesome views of JVC and onwards to Dubai Marina. The room is a slightly odd shape, with guests having to turn left and walk along a thin hallway to reach the bedroom but it's spacious, well-equipped and has a modern vibe.
Floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the view and there is plenty of wardrobe space if you want to unpack. There’s a huge smart TV, speedy Wi-Fi and handy controls for lights, but rather surprisingly for such a new hotel, there is a lack of plug sockets or USB points near the bed for easy phone charging.
One of the highlights of the stay has to be the staff. Almost everyone we interact with — from the lifeguards at the pool to the waiters at breakfast — are friendly, enthusiastic and show a bit of personality — asking questions and happy to have a chat.
The one exception is at the spa where we arrive for our appointment, have to wait 10 minutes for anyone to show up, then wait again while the receptionist answered two phone calls only to be told we have no reservation. But this is a small blip in an otherwise excellent performance.
It’s hard to categorise the scene at this hotel. There were families with babies and young children, older couples who may have been enjoying some retirement sunshine, young couples and groups of friends and plenty of people travelling solo.
The mezzanine-level swimming pool is one of the most popular spots in the hotel, with perfectly heated water, a nice waterfall feature and a lively atmosphere with good music. During our stay, we notice several guests unable to get a sun lounger at popular times as it gets too busy. Given the number of rooms in the hotel, it would be good if there was more than one swimming pool.
There’s a small gym on the 16th floor that has everything you need for a quick workout and the Rayya Wellness centre is also on this level. Village Bistro is another popular spot, with plenty of people working from the all-day eatery, which was as nice for lunch as it is to sit and catch up on emails.
There are two restaurants at The First Collection at Jumeirah Village Circle. Village Bistro serves an adequate breakfast buffet, a good lunch and a dinner menu with a subtle French theme. Up on the 29th floor is Sante Ria — now one of our new favourite eateries in Dubai.
This Latino spot is beautifully decorated with hand-painted murals, neon-lit artwork, cosy booths and tarot card drinks mats. The food is fantastic, inspired by the owner's Colombian and Cuban roots but also spanning cuisine from Brazil and Peru. Everything we try is delicious, but standouts include the vibrant ceviche Nikkei flavoured with passion fruit (Dh62) and the pescado frito y su parihuela (Dh140), consisting of a whole sea bass filled with cassava, chilli and a Peruvian spicy sauce.
A talented mariachi duo are also on hand to entertain diners with a violin and guitar set that gets everyone smiling. Upstairs, there’s a funky bar with a terrace serving up fantastic views of the city.
Highs and lows
Highs include friendly staff who take an interest in guests and Sante Ria, a hidden gem worth coming for dinner even if you’re not staying at the hotel. The hotel is also plastic bottle-free, with water provided in refillable glass bottles, something we wish more hotels would follow suit on.
Lows are all related to how busy the hotel is during our stay — long waits for elevators, valet services and some guests unable to find loungers by the pool. This obviously wouldn’t be the case for every stay, but it's worth noting if you’re travelling in peak season.
The insider tip
Bag a sun lounger on the side of the pool closest to the hotel if you want to enjoy sundowner sessions — the rays stay here much longer than they do on the opposite side.
Modern, welcoming and offering something a little bit different, The First Collection at Jumeirah Village Circle is a good debut hotel for the brand. It’s a four-star property, so don’t expect all the luxuries you’d get in a more premium hotel, but this is a good pick for a reasonably-priced stay with a chilled-out vibe.
Rates are from Dh350, excluding taxes. Half and full-board packages are also available. Check-in is from 2pm and checkout is at noon.
The First Collection at Jumeirah Village Circle, Street 1, JVC, Dubai; thefirstcollection.ae
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.