British artist brings flower power to InterContinental Dubai Festival City — Hotel Insider

The Claire Luxton designed, limited-edition suite features eye-catching installations, bespoke artwork and even a Spotify playlist to celebrate 75 years of the hotel group

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To mark its 75th birthday, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts is linking up with Claire Luxton for a flower-filled collaboration — and business is blooming.

The British artist, with a helping hand from Mother Nature, is taking guests on a sensory journey across three properties in New York, London and Dubai, with installations of fresh flowers and plants placed throughout the hotels. Alongside the stunning pieces, there are special beverages, afternoon tea and bespoke artwork; even staff uniforms have been specially curated.

At InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Luxton has transformed the Royal Suite with floral fun. It was launched on June 21 and is available to book for one month only. The National headed along to see what’s going on.

The hotel lobby has a 10-foot wall of floral beauty; the smell of fresh flowers makes for a wonderful entrance. Photo: InterContinental Dubai Festival City

The welcome

Smiling valet staff arrive quickly while a member of the concierge team offers to whisk our bags to our room — we make our way to the 26th floor where guests staying in the Royal Suite can check-in. The desk is located at the entrance to the Club Lounge; we're given a brief overview of dining options and opening times as well as what to expect during our stay.

The neighbourhood

The property shares the site with Crowne Plaza Dubai — Festival City and is bustling with a mix of guests, diners and shoppers as the hotels provide direct access into Dubai Festival City Mall.

It is a quiet enough location to guarantee uninterrupted rest and relaxation, while keeping visitors close enough to the action should a late-night lap around Ikea or at the myriad nearby restaurants take your fancy

The safety measures

All hotel staff diligently wear masks, hand-sanitisers are dotted throughout public areas and rooms alike. Due to its proximity to the mall, some members of the public are seen without masks indoors, which is still a legal requirement under UAE law.

The room

Buckle up: just exploring the enormous suite is a journey in itself. It feels five times bigger than my humble one-bedroom apartment and has a living room, open kitchen and dining room, walk-in wardrobe, deep bath, a huge shower and a private sauna, for those who don’t like to share with strangers.

The Royal Suite is fit for monarchy, with endless amounts of space to relax in. There are freshly cut flowers throughout, too. Photo: InterContinental Dubai Festival City

Luxton’s exceptional eye for detail shines throughout, with a gorgeous centrepiece of flowers on the coffee table and pretty bouquets dotted elsewhere. There are also several architecture, art and design books in the suite, hand-selected by Luxton and no doubt a key source of inspiration for her.

However, it’s not just her eye for style on show, as the suite's Bluetooth-enabled speaker links guests to a Spotify playlist created by the designer. Adopt the horizontal position on the lush sofa, turn the volume up and let the likes of Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi and Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer transport you to worlds unknown. It’s a delightful touch.

Unsurprisingly, the Royal Suite is fit for a king and queen; it’s sprawling, lavish and decorated with huge pieces of art, and a fully equipped kitchen complete with a double-doored refrigerator. For those wanting to take the plunge, the bath (nay, pool) offers sweeping sunset views out across Dubai Creek, towards the newly opened Mohammed bin Rashid Library, and beyond. It’s a top spot to watch life go by through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The scene

From the moment we first arrived and set eyes on the soaring living wall of flora in the lobby to the last as we waddled out the door following a sumptuous afternoon tea (more on that later), Luxton’s stroke of colour pops throughout. There are notes of her vision around every corner. In her own words, she “sought to explore the delicate equilibrium between humans and nature while celebrating the magic of wanderlust”. And, she’s captured it beautifully.

The resort is great for families, couples and everyone in between. There is a vast cantilever swimming pool overlooking the Dubai Creek. It is surrounded by comfy sun loungers and is finished with more custom artwork. There are a number of restaurants, bars and outdoor terraces to choose from including Anise, Karam Al Bahr and Pierre’s TT, from Michelin-lauded Pierre Gagnaire, which was recently listed in Michelin Guide Dubai's Bib Gourmand list.

Guests staying in the Royal Suite are also treated to two complimentary one-hour massages. The couple's area in the spa plays host, meaning you can share the experience with your other half.

It’s a perfect way to unwind before finishing off (or only just starting) your evening with one of two different cocktails, or mocktails, served in Vista. These have alsobeen specially created to mark the 75th anniversary of the hotel, and areincluded in the Royal Suite package.

Left, Claire Luxton is the brains behind the limited-edition suite; middle, rooms have vibrant soft furnishings throughout; right, even hats have been spruced up. Photo: InterContinental Dubai Festival City

The food

Breakfast can be eaten in the Club Lounge, however, we opt for the busier buffet in Anise. It’s a mix of live cooking corners and help-yourself stations. Traditional English breakfast, Indian, Asian, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, pastries, cereal or juice diet… however you prefer to start the day, you’ll find something here.

At 3pm, we make our way to Choix, the Parisian-style cafe from Chef Gagnaire. Luxton’s influence reaches the menu here with a delightful afternoon tea (Dh125 weekdays, Dh150 weekends and free for Royal Suite guests) served daily until 6pm.

On offer are finger sandwiches including avocado and black toast, croque monsieur and smoked haddock millette; delicate pastries including macaroons and handmade chocolates; as well as the obligatory English scones with clotted cream and jam. It’s all washed down with a selection of hot drinks and a mixed berry smoothie on arrival — which is a little on the sugary side.

Each bite-sized piece is excellently executed, staff are knowledgeable and provide tip top service while the setting is spacious, light pours in from the triple-height windows. The cafe is finished off with more of Luxton’s flower arrangements on each table.

Guests who book the Royal Suite package are also able to enjoy complimentary afternoon tea for two. Photo: InterContinental Dubai Festival City

The service

Staff simply cannot do enough from check-in to checkout: from the spa to the valet and the bar to breakfast, each member of the team is a joy to encounter. Service is energetic without being overbearing, while we see plenty of guests’ requests being handled promptly without hesitation.

While some staff do know we are joining them from The National, many do not and their welcoming demeanour, helpful attitude and charm is a real pleasure that’s as natural as the flowers they are surrounded by.

Highs and lows

Luxton’s vision has been executed with finesse, her flower arrangements, artwork and little touches fitharmoniously with the five-star hotel. It doesn’t feel forced and the bursts of colour are a welcome addition as the city’s outdoor temperature approaches unbearable summer levels. You’ll struggle to find a more impressive room for the night than the Royal Suite — made all the more special for just one month.

The low, albeit one that is more personal preference rather than an issue with the hotel team, is the afternoon tea is a food coma-inducing rush of sugar. It's a touch too much for us, however we acknowledge it comes with the territory of afternoon tea.

The insider tip

The Claire Luxton Experience - SPA InterContinental. Photo: The Claire Luxton

Check-in starts at 3pm, giving you just enough time to dump your bags in the suite, enjoy the marvellous massage and race back to the room to run a bath for sunset. Order room service, park yourself in the tub and soak in those sensational views to the sounds of Luxton’s Spotify playlist.

The verdict

If this is how InterContinental celebrates its birthdays, we can't wait to return every year.

The bottom line

Luxton’s collaboration will run in the hotel until July 24, with bookings for the Royal Suite priced from Dh5,575 per night, including breakfast, afternoon tea, two drinks, two massages and pool access. Check-in is from 3pm, checkout is noon.

InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Festival City, Dubai; www.ihg.com

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during the time, services may change in the future

Updated: July 02, 2022, 6:17 AM
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