Work is gaining pace at the Abu Dhabi Grand as construction of its two new extension wings and recreation deck nears completion, and the fitting out of new restaurants, ballroom, lobby and rooms begins for a scheduled opening in summer.
The hotel, opened in 1994 as the Forte Grand Abu Dhabi, was hailed as an architectural icon with its elliptical shape, blue glass frontage and a unique rooftop revolving restaurant, becoming a landmark on the corniche and becoming one of the the most well-known buildings in the UAE capital.
However, according to general manager Francesco Borrello, the interiors of the building did not quite match up to the extraordinary design, and the current expansion and refurbishment project aims to inject the "wow" factor throughout the property.
"When Le Meridien took over management of the hotel last year, the decision was taken to rebrand and rename it, recognising the high quality of the extension project which includes the most modern room designs and restaurant concepts, as well as state-of-the-art in-room technology," he said.
Utilising designs from world-renowned German consultants, Hirsh Bedner, and modern Italian furniture custom designed by the Italian group Consonni, the new-look promised at Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi - as it will be named - will be sleek, modern and airy, offering guests a very different hotel experience.
"While we have followed current trends in minimalism, we have not sacrificed comfort - but merely adapted designer style to the needs of the hospitality sector," explained Borrello.
The innovative look starts in the new lobby with its heightened ceiling, spacious public areas and inviting tea lounge, the latter an all-day meeting point where soft music will accompany a changing menu of breakfast pastries, lunchtime snacks, afternoon tea and evening canapés.
The gastronomic menu at Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi is another feature that will guarantee the hotel number one status in the city.
One of the two new buildings will be devoted to food and entertainment venues, with a dedicated entrance from the street, and views and terraces overlooking the new pool and recreation area.
It will contain a modern Italian restaurant, the capital's first noodle restaurant and a unique fusion bar/restaurant/disco, as well as a brasserie, all designed in minimalist style with use of glass, light woods and contemporary furnishings.
"We are keeping the restaurants small and intimate in terms of seating, but with a focus on space, to offer a very different dining experience," said Borrello.
Also new will be the English-style cocktail bar, located in what is the present lobby area which is currently being transformed to offer a clubby atmosphere and the finest in cigars and post-dinner drinks.
"Guests will find a venue to suit every taste, from the new restaurants to our old favourites such as the popular P J O'Reilly's Irish pub and the rooftop Al Fanar, where our chef has revamped menus to add an exotic flavour to the fine dining menu," he said.
For bedrooms in the new extension, again the designers have focused on space as a major attraction, adding in state-of-the-art technology that will appeal to the core business traveller audience.
"An average size of 40 square metres means these rooms are the largest standard guestrooms in any Abu Dhabi hotel, and we will be offering high speed Internet access, wireless keyboard, games console, dedicated fax/printer, data ports and a complete desk set-up as standard - as well as an on-call IT butler," said Borrello.
His personal favourite feature is the new bathrooms, which have been designed from scratch to move away from the standard unitised look of traditional hotel facilities.
And, adding in a new option, the hotel will also be offering ladies' rooms, where amenities will be tailored to their particular needs, from make-up mirrors and toiletries to magazines and other requisites.
The crowning glory of the revamped hotel will be its ballroom, with capacity to host dinners for up to 500 seated inside as well as a further 200 on the terrace.
According to Borrello, the hotel will be able to cater for receptions for up to 1,000 utilising the recreation area, making it a top favourite for weddings, business functions and parties.
"When rooms in the current tower are refurbished later this year, we will have a hotel of the 21st century, one that will be a majestic icon for Abu Dhabi and a standard bearer for the hospitality sector in the city," he concluded.
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