You all know my dear friend K, right? Well, you should. K keeps me sane. Last week, I accepted an invite for a one-night staycation at The Manzil Downtown, and my friend K and her perfect little boy, Adam, joined me.
I’m usually wary of staycations unless they’re a super swanky 5* experience, because I’m most happy at home and if I’m willingly going to sign up to stay somewhere else in Dubai, the suite better darn be bigger and fancier than home is.
I bent the rule this time though, because K and I wanted to have a sleepover and have the whole place to ourselves with no husbands around, and The Manzil happened to invite me at just the right time.
The Manzil is a boutique hotel located right on Emaar Boulevard, a stone’s throw away from The Dubai Mall. Their theme is very Arabic, which is absolutely lovely, because there’s nothing I love more as a tourist than to be able to soak in as much of a land’s culture as possible. Even though I grew up around Arabic, I love how The Manzil have made their brand revolve around it. Their very slogan is “When Arabic is Home”. They truly celebrate the Arabic language, which is tangible throughout the hotel, yet they don’t have to resort to ornate decor in order to communicate their brand persona.
Let’s get to the important stuff:
Check-In– One thing that set The Manzil apart check-in from most other hotels was that not only were we offered a welcome drink, but in fact, some Arabic cookies and Arabic coffee too. We were smoothly checked-in by the very friendly Jay Ar, and given a free upgrade to a room with The Burj view.
Friday Brunch: We quickly left out luggage in the room, prayed the Friday prayer, and scurried down to The Boulevard Kitchen for the Levant Friday Brunch.
Now I’ve been quite the steady fan of the Boulevard Kitchen, especially because of how tangibly Arab it feels without looking staged, and over time I’ve tried their Levant Brunch, had Iftar there, two years in a row, which you can read about here and here, and I’ve ever been there just for lunch.
Right next to the entrance was a pedestal holding Arabic Gahwa and dates. What a welcome sight.
Shortly after, we saw an array of fresh juices, including little frappuccino shots that could seriously give Starbucks a run for their money.
This time around though, I felt that the quality has fallen a bit. The variety had definitely shrunk, and the brunch seemed to be a lot less packed than the last time I went. Perhaps it’s because it was summer vacation time? Regardless, we had a good meal, over some good conversation and a good time. I truly enjoyed the shawerma, cheese rolls with chimichurri sauce, steak with mushroom sauce, fish in harra sauce, and the Fattoush.
Room/Suite: There are 189 rooms at The Manzil which are 32 sqm. Not super small, but I do like having a separate lounge, so I did feel a little cramped. They do have 8 Burj facing suites though, which are 42 sqm, but I wouldn’t know what they look like from the inside or how spacious they are. We were checked into room 407, with a Burj View and lots of beautiful sunshine. There was no welcome plate of fruits or macarons, which felt unusual to me, perhaps because I’m used to staying in luxury 5*s? Wow, that didn’t sound “diva” at all.
The rooms have a very contemporary feel to them, and the mural of a splash of Arabic letters above the bed reinforces the Arabic aspect of the hotel.
The room had visibly signs of wear and tear, which is partly understandable considering the high turnover of guests and how popular the hotel is. I do feel that regular maintenance should never be taken lightly though, because a boutique hotel should still give off a homey, welcoming, and well-kept vibe.
What I loved the most about the room was the Arabic accents and even Arabic lessons throughout the room. Whatever is usually written in English (like In-Room-dining, Do-Not-Disturb, etc.), were also translated in Arabic. My favorite part was how the bathrobes were embroidered with a “Naieman”, and an explanation was written underneath on how it’s an after-shower greeting.
Even though the hotel did not have a luxury feel, it could still have maintained a more premium feel. The buttons on the thermostat, for instant, were completely worn out and we had to struggle to figure out how to lower the temperature.
The bed was a tad harder than I would have liked, and I noticed a gross green-ish stain on the corner of the bed sheet, far too late into the night and too deep into my attempted sleep. I did take a picture of it to make sure I wasn’t dreaming it, but it’s too unsavoury to share here.
Bathroom: The bathroom was sparkly clean, had a bathtub, a shower, and all the basic amenities. As per the new international hotel standards, toothbrushes and shaving kits are only made available upon request. The only thing truly lacking was…..a door. A sliding door could easily have been put into place, or at the very least (we were hoping) the shower door could open up to close the entrance to the bathroom. Our efforts were but in vain, and the number of times K and I heard each other peeing was too darn high. Very awkward, too say the least, and our closeness unwittingly leveled up.
View/Balcony: One downside was that there was no balcony (I love having a cup of tea in the balcony, especially when the view is stunning. The view was as stunning as can get, really. If I had been on the highest floor, I would have gotten to see the fountain show too! But on the 4th floor, I could only see the tips of the fountain show, which excited me nonetheless.
Amenities: The room has a nice wide desk to work on, as well as all the supplies you need to make yourself some coffee and tea. Sadly, no TWG can be found here, which I wish was a consistent Emaar Hotels’ standard.
One of the things I loved was the built-in power sockets in the bed-side table right next to the chair and ottoman. I don’t recall seeing this anywhere else.
The menu in the price-list in the minibar and the sleeve for the straws were completely worn out and should have been replaced months ago, and small details like this actually speak volumes to me on how seriously house-keeping is taken at a hotel. I did however like that the snacks were private labeled. That always helps align the color scheme of the room and is a small detail that goes very far.
The glasses, on the other hand, were absolutely gorgeous and completely in line with The Manzil feel that I’m used to and have grown to expect.
Facilities: The gym is open 24/7, and the pool is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Since this is a boutique hotel with very few suites, there is no Club Lounge, nor a spa. The Courtyard, which is where you can expect to find sheesha from 12 p.m. till 4 a.m., is one of the most bustling F&B outlets at The Manzil, however we skipped it because we had an underage (read infant) in our party of 3.
Location: The location is easily the most attractive aspect of the property. If you want to experience The Center Of Now in all its entirety, The Manzil, Vida and Palace Downtown are the best places to stay at. If you prefer a larger hotel and don’t mind staying on the other side of The Dubai Mall, then you might want to head to Address Boulevard. I’ve always wanted to borrow The Manzil bike and ride to The Dubai Mall, but K was pushing her son’s stroller, so once again, my dreams were
shattered put on hold.
Dinner: For dinner, M and I headed back to the Boulevard Kitchen. Only breakfast and Friday Brunch at Boulevard Kitchen is buffet style, otherwise its ala carte, but the options are aplenty! We ordered some lamb chops, some Indian Masala fried prawns, and I remembered the Salmon Du Puy at Boulevard Kitchen as being extremely memorable (read delicious), so I ordered that again.
Sadly, the Salmon Du Puy was no longer Du Puy, and came on a mound of (quite unhealthy but quite delicious) mashed potatoes instead. The lentils were served on the side, and the salmon could really do with a crack of salt.
The crispy fried Indian Masala prawns was ridiculously good though! It was unreal how good they were, especially since this was not an Indian restaurant. I made myself little saj bread shawermas with the prawns, some onions, some tomato, some of that awesome chutney they came with, and it turned out to be SO incredibly YUM!
Service was spectacular, especially since our sever (Akhil) had no idea we were there for a tasting. He changed our cutlery after every course, was super attentive, very pleasant, and treated us to 5* service, really.
The Boulevard Kitchen was sadly quite empty though, on a Friday night. Clearly it’s more popular with hotel guests only, who resort to it as the all-day-diner option, and not quite a weekend choice for non-hotel guests. All the outside traffic was going straight to The Courtyard.
Breakfast: For breakfast the next morning, we headed back to The Boulevard Kitchen (surprise, surprise).
We were delighted to see Maasa there again (our very sweet server from brunch the previous day), and she instantly put smiles on our sleepy faces.
I decided that breakfast would be my cheat(est) meal of the week, and I’m going to allow myself one pain au chocolat, because I can never resist one.
The one pain au chocolat turned into three, followed by two almond croissants. Yes, I am an animal with no self control. Yes, I have no ragrets, not even a single letter.
Check-Out: The check out was as smooth as the check-in. Jay Ar asked to follow me on Instagram (I love him for that), and the bellboy held on to our luggage till we were ready to leave. We were waiting for K’s husband to pick us up (he was caught up with a dentist appointment), but since the sun-kissed lobby lounge area offering a view of The Courtyard was so comfortable, we didn’t even realize how long we had to wait.
The Bottom Line: The Manzil is a great place to stay at if you don’t actually plan on spending your entire time at the hotel. I can’t imagine being confined in such a small space for extended periods of time with my husband- only one of us would come out alive. However, if you’re in Dubai for The Dubai Mall and The Center Of Now, this is a very centrally located hotel to stay at. Suggested areas from improvement would be small touch-ups in places experiencing wear and tear, and I’d love to see the bedroom slippers branded with some Arabic/English lesson as well.