Even in a city blessed with countless hotels, a destination flavoured with the French Riviera and a street where it rains year-round raises eyebrows.
As the long-awaited first opening of the huge Heart of Europe project – part of The World Islands development in Dubai – much is riding on Cote d’Azur Monaco.
And the adults-only property certainly brings something different to its mainland contemporaries.
The National checked in to find out if French Riviera vibes can really exist in the Arabian Gulf.
As arrivals go, disembarking at a pier after a 4km journey aboard a yacht from the jetty in Jumeirah ticks the sophistication box.
We are checked in before docking at the beach and our luggage is unloaded, allowing us to cross the sand, past the giant Grand Azur pool with its resident dancers, and go directly to our second-floor suite.
We pass a colourful circular check-in desk on our way to a lift lined with a seascape scene from where it’s a simple onward stroll to the accommodation. Our bags follow shortly afterwards.
Some of the Heart of Europe’s other projects, including neighbouring Portofino and remaining Cote d’Azur hotels Nice, St Tropez and Cannes, are still being completed, but the distinctively coloured exteriors of all leap out as we approach by sea with Dubai’s skyline behind us.
While there's not much in the way of a neighbourhood in the classic sense, the dedicated beach for the hotel is dotted with funky loungers, bright-cushioned seating and a bar with views of the Arabian Gulf and smaller undeveloped World Islands. It's an ideal sundowner setting.
There’s an immediate wow factor on entering our Monaco Suite, which, like the muted palette of the corridor, contrasts livelier tones elsewhere in the hotel without seeming disconnected.
Gentle Art Deco elements fill the space and mellow pearlised wallpaper synchs with plush rugs and curtains, and parquet flooring.
There's a guest bathroom and generous hallway leading to a spacious lounge with a concealed minibar, tea-making area and plenty of contemporary artwork.
Ribbed internal glass doors emulate the wooden wall panelling and wardrobe design, while brushed copper fittings continue into a bathroom that has a walk-in, push-button shower, toilet and twin statuesque sinks.
A stand-alone bath occupies a spa-style setting.
The bedroom also exudes luxury chic, spiced with hints of modernity such as touch-sensitive lighting panels and another widescreen TV.
On the spacious balcony, there are two loungers, chairs and a sofa, ideal for days spent drinking in the view.
The Cote d'Azur Monaco hotel is still in its soft-opening phase and this is clear at busy times in the restaurant, La Brasserie. Staff, however, are amiable and rapidly finding their groove.
Poolside snacks are slow to arrive on day one, but service improves as the weekend unfolds and Asma shines as one member of staff coping expertly with the increasing number of guests at the hotel's swim-up bar.
Like its European namesake, Monaco, the hotel yields talking points and photo opportunities aplenty.
In a region that experiences little precipitation, Rainy Street in the cobbled Plaza de los Al Maktoum is inspired.
Regular downpours land beside cafe tables opposite cute balconied doorways to deliver a well-imagined authenticity.
Splashes of colour help to fuel Monaco hotel’s joie de vivre elsewhere with varieties of red, orange and green branding three accommodation block exteriors set around a mammoth pool featuring a stage, DJ booth and inflatables.
Mediterranean-themed public area artwork perpetuates the voguish European vibe.
Grand Azur will eventually connect to the remaining Cote hotels, which will provide additional food and beverage options. There are plans for a new gym and spa to open after summer.
Red leather banquette-lined La Brasserie is currently the only restaurant at the hotel. Breakfast and dinner is served buffet-style, adding an outdoor barbecue with excellent tuna, prawns and lamb during evening service.
The kitchen also excels at salads – it takes willpower not to fill up on them – while meatballs in creamy mushroom sauce, a chicken provencal popping with capers, and a more-ish lasagne all stand out.
Crisp-meets-tender panko prawns and a well-filled club sandwich are big hits poolside.
For an adult-orientated hotel, closing La Brasserie’s bar service before 11pm on our Friday visit (later on the Saturday) seems odd.
That said, the just-opened Champagne Bar is worth visiting, not least to walk the extraordinary, opulent red velvet-lined corridor soon to lead into a nightclub and cabaret.
Highs and lows
That boat trip is a high. Albeit delayed by late-arriving guests, it proves a relaxing and sophisticated way to begin our stay.
And it’s hard not to be impressed by that mega-pool, even if it is currently underserved by loungers.
The Heart of Europe’s developer has made much of its sustainability credentials, including solar power use.
The discipline is evident in Cote d'Azur Monaco in refillable bathroom shampoo and body wash dispensers, but visibly let down by plastic straws and single-use water bottles.
The insider tip
Request a pool-facing room if you crave being more engaged with the much-touted party atmosphere – or go for a sea-facing option for a mellower stay.
And arrive early if driving to your boat departure as quayside parking is limited.
With so many UAE hotel options out there, Cote d’Azur Monaco has clearly devoted huge resources to bringing a slice of Europe to Dubai. This aims to go beyond novelty value, and is part of a broader, evolving concept.
The hotel combines a party vibe – the 198 keys include “party suites” – with excellent food and well-designed rooms, while arriving and departing yachts add much to the aspired Mediterranean mood.
The bottom line
Room-only prices at five-star Cote d’Azur Monaco hotel started from Dh612 ($166) midweek in August, including taxes. Check-in from 3pm, check-out at 12pm; www.thoe-hotels.com