As soon as I walked inside Manzil Downtown‘s surprisingly well lit lobby, I realized big changes had been made to the area; walls seemed to have gone down or been replaced by all-glass walls, and along with the very high ceiling, they allow sunlight to stream in and create a very homey atmosphere. A clear dominance of white -which I was not expecting at all- with brown and pastel pink matched the staff members’ coloured uniforms, which also sport local materials such as camel leather and pearl. I was welcomed by everyone with the famous Arabic “hello”, “marhaba”, behind wide, sincere smiles. The check-in process was easy: I entered my information on an iPad while enjoying a mint lemonade offered by the hostess, then was directed to my room.
The amazing view from my terrace gave on Souq Al Bahar, the Boulevard road, Burj Khalifa and parts of Dubai Mall. A good way to observe the bustle around the area from a distance. The room is very cozy: decorated with touches of simple Arabic patterns in shades of brown, beige and white, it is comfortable in its minimalist design. The bathroom is spacious: a pristine bathtub, separate shower room and toilet room, with fragrant soap, shampoo and conditioner available. A 42’’ LCD TV with a very convenient IPTV system for room service facilitates the in-room dining experience tremendously, while complimentary Wi-Fi and easy web browsing on the TV screen ensure connectivity throughout the stay. Being a very light sleeper, the only issue I faced that night was the noise from cars and motorbikes sneaking in on me from the Boulevard. So if you are a light sleeper too, I’d suggest asking for a room with a courtyard view in order to avoid being disturbed by exterior noise.
A walk on the sunny Boulevard lead me to the Qamardeen District where the famous Food Truck was stationed outside Vida hotel. I had been eager to try it out for a while and was disappointed to see it being moved just as I got there, to another location closer to Souq Al Bahar. So I opted for late lunch in my room -and happy I did!-, ordering my usual go-to dishes which I try whenever possible when staying at hotels: soup and club sandwich. The lentil soup was delicious, flavoured with the right amount of spices. The club sandwich came in a generous portion accompanied by a mountain of fries.
A few hours later, after having enjoyed the view from my room, I joined friends for dinner at The Boulevard Kitchen, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant. The restaurant boasts an indoors dining area as well as what I can only describe as indoors-out (roofed, half inside/half outside, with no walls, separating it from the terrace). We sat on the terrace by the main Boulevard street, between lit palm trees. The menu offers a wide range of Middle Eastern dishes, with a large “The Lamb” section priding itself on the fact that “All lamb is humanely, organically and locally sourced whenever possible.”
Starting off with the refreshing Passion Iced Tea, Doctor ABC and Red Dragon mocktails, we made a selection from the menu, taking the waiter’s recommendation into consideration. The Beetroot and Orange salad (roasted beetroot, fresh oranges, in a orange water sauce), Eggplant Zaalouk (Grilled eggplant, roast peppers, tomato, hint of garlic) and Hummus (rather small portion when used to big Arabic restaurant portions) freshen up our palates. The Sautéed Shrimps, flavoured with lemon, tomato, toasted almonds, capers and mint, are enjoyable, while the Baked Cheese, a crumble of feta, kashkaval, tomato and zaatar was rather bland.
Our middle course consisted of two types of manakish: the Lamb Bajeen -a flat dough topped with cooked minced lamb meat, tomato, parsley and onion, drizzled with pomegranate sauce- in a generous long, rectangular and unusual form that we found fun, and the Zatar and Cheese. We only chose one main dish, leaving space for sweet treats; the mouthwatering Salmon Fillet garnished with saffron artichoke, tomato, caper and potato, tasted as good as it looked.
Dessert had us divided on opinions: two of us really liked the Fig Tatin (fig tart, honey filo, pistachio, mint, cinnamon mascarpone) and Sticky cake (a date cake with date chocolate ganache, vanilla ice cream and caramel rose petal sauce), while one of my friends who prefers less sugary ingredients did not appreciate them that much. However, we all agreed that the presentation of both looked lovely. The Kunafa Khishnah and the Um Ali, two of the most popular and loved Arabic desserts, failed to impress. The taste of the Honey Comb did not match the adorable presentation of its creatively mixed ingredients: fromage blanc, oranges, pomegranate, fresh honeycomb, cinnamon sugar and mint, but it was a feast for the eyes.
The next morning, I was impressed by the breakfast staff greeting me by name: perks of the job or personal touch for all guests? Either way, it makes you feel like a valued family member. I sat in The Courtyard to catch some golden rays as the sun doesn’t reach the boulevard terrace before midday. Zen music and birds chirping create a very relaxing mood and the friendly approach of the staff complements the homey feel. Breakfast presents itself as a lavish buffet stretching from juices and milks at the entrance of Boulevard Kitchen, all the way to the terrace where desserts and sweet treats are displayed, passing by an array of mini manakish, cheeses, cold cuts, jams, breads, vegetables and Middle Eastern mezzeh, wonderfully placed on the counters surrounding the kitchen.
I sipped on my coffee and nibbled on a brioche, homemade black cherry jam and a mini thyme manoushe with labne on the side, while waiting for my Eggs Manzil, an Arabic version of Eggs Benedict. Heavy by description (poached eggs on halloumi cheese, spinach and basterma), appetizing by presentation and delightful to the palate, the “Arabized” Eggs Benedict are a must-try. The whole breakfast set up is a joy to look at and choose from, and it kicks off the day with a good mood.
Manzil Downtown comes highly recommended for its warm atmosphere, comfortable rooms, very friendly staff, relaxing pool, and easy access to the Boulevard, Souq Al Bahar and Dubai Mall. It definitely lives up to its name (Manzil = house/home), making you feel right at home!
Reservations can be made through www.VIDA-hotels.com / +971 4 428 5888
Manzil Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard
The Old Town, Downtown Dubai