Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah could never be described as poor in hotels or variety.
However, among a handful of new openings this year, Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm, Dubai was arguably one of the most anticipated. The National toured the third Taj brand hotel in Dubai, which opened to guests in March.
Freed from our car and luggage, we are shown to comfortable chairs in a huge, airy lobby that subtly showcases the resort’s main theme of sun, sea and sand. Featuring a central art installation and a stunning Preciosa Flow chandelier with more than 11,000 pieces of crystal, the atmosphere is continued throughout the resort through patterned carpets, other lighting creations and eye-catching wall art made of bubbles and pebbles.
Welcome drinks, chilled washcloths, and a garland of tiny seashells accompany check-in. We are also introduced to our “butler” Shapna, who shows us to a third floor ocean view suite while detailing the resort’s restaurants and facilities. Our bags beat us up, impressive.
Taj Exotica is a palatial white property near the end of the Palm’s eastern crescent. Elegant architectural details create a striking contrast to the neighboring buildings.
The resort is located on the Arabian Gulf, overlooking Jumeirah and downtown Dubai. At the rear, room balconies overlook the resort’s pool, private beach, expansive courtyard garden, and central fronds and tranquil waterways of the palm tree.
The security measures
As a rule, employees wear face masks. However, many guests exhibited poor mask discipline during our indoor stay. Restaurant and bar tables are well spaced to ensure social distancing, and the pool is large enough to avoid overcrowding.
The Taj Exotica has 258 rooms and 67 suites with balconies – two in the case of our elegant suite – with views of the resort and the palm tree beyond.
Hardwood floors lead through a lounge with sofa, coffeemaker, TV, dining table and chairs, and a separate marble washroom into a bedroom with similar beige upholstery paneling and wooden wall details.
A sumptuous bed faces another widescreen TV and a Dubai-style blue wall complemented by turquoise and green fabrics. A generous walk-in closet flanks a marble bathroom with dual vanities, dedicated walk-in shower and toilet areas, and a bathtub.
Commendably, refillable ceramic containers instead of plastic miniatures dispense Molton Brown’s laundry products.
For a new hotel that opened without a soft opening, Taj is showing no signs of the growing pains you might expect. The staff is well-trained, cheerful, and happy to help with anything, not least in the sleek new restaurants and serene spa.
If epic pool is on your wish list, this one will have your vote. At 70 meters, it is the longest palm tree.
The area is serviced by myriad loungers, including plush-cushioned options, and cabanas, while a dedicated beach area just steps away is also dotted with loungers. A supervised kids’ club, tennis courts, and a golf putting green are also available.
The furniture design excels throughout, adding elegance to public areas, restaurants and even a brilliant game room equipped with air hockey, billiards, chess, foosball and video thrills.
The Jiva Spa is located in a quiet corner on the first floor. In addition to a fitness center and yoga space, there are nine dedicated rooms for Ayurvedic therapies, facials, body scrubs and wraps, as well as head, body, and foot massages, and “Signature Experiences.”
There are seven restaurants and bars, each with a distinctive aesthetic. International buffet and a la carte spot Palm Kitchen serves breakfast until 10:30 am in spacious interiors and on the terrace, accompanied by a violinist. Salad, cereal, fruit, and hot dishes including shakshuka and Indian staples are supported by a live cooking station for eggs, omelettes, and dosa. Expect table visits from chefs with freshly baked croissants.
Upmarket varq (named for the gold leaf detailing and symbol of royalty) conjures up contemporary and often lavish takes on Indian favourites. Its ‘canvas is the plate’ message is demonstrated by the impeccable Hyderabadi Sunheri Nalli lamb shank with varq (Dh130) and Chilean sea bass. The decadent smoky chicken dish Murgh Sirka Pyaz (Dh 120) is only topped by an addictive Sukha mutton (Dh 130). Achari Haldi Fish Tikka (Dh120) pleases the eye as well as the palate.
Roaring Rabbit is presented as a British-influenced pub, but a quirky, expensively executed Alice in Wonderland theme elevates it beyond that shorthand. The friendly team offer imaginative cocktails and gastropub favourites, including refreshing Cornish crab salad (Dh95), delicious classic Scotch eggs (Dh75) and stunning BBQ wings (Dh85).
Rooftop bar and lounge Ria’s ‘from Mumbai to Marrakech’ ambience combines more inspired decor with indoor or outdoor seating. A central bar offers an extensive drinks menu, while food ranges from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, as exemplified by the lively Panorama Brunch.
ups and downs
So many highlights ranging from that game room and pool to the interiors curated by Hirsch Bedner Associates that give this resort a sense of intimacy and sophisticated playfulness despite its vastness. It would be good if there was less reliance on plastic bottled water – albeit free for bathers.
The insider tip
For slow, golden sunsets, head to the Taj Club Lounge (room quality permitted), your room balcony or, even better, to Raia’s Swing Chairs, perhaps followed by afternoon tea in the Lobby Level Emperor Lounge, to a soundtrack by a resident harpist.
With plenty of places to stay on the Palm, it’s comforting to discover that Taj Exotica is achieving something different. Attention to detail is extensive, giving this sprawling resort a warm personality that blends playful chic and high-end styling, while still being family-friendly.
The final result
Room-only rates at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa start at Dh650 ($177), excluding taxes and fees. Check-in from 3:00 p.m.; Check out at noon.
Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, East Crescent Road, Palm Jumeirah; https://www.tajhotels.com/en-in/taj/taj-exotica-dubai/
This review was conducted at the resort’s invitation during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects the hotel standards of the time; Services may change in the future
Updated July 22, 2022 at 6:02 p.m