An overview of The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi
With our two-year wedding anniversary coming up in July, Geets and I wanted to treat ourselves to a little bit of Arabian luxury in June. We wanted a totally relaxed, 5-night break where we could literally kick back, relax and do nothing with our lives — so we decided on The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal.
It turned out to be even more relaxing because Abu Dhabi was super quiet due to Ramadan — the Islamic holy month when they fast all day.
It has a good mix of facilities like swimming pools, ESPA spa, a beach by the canal, restaurants and one of Abu Dhabi’s main attractions — the Grand Mosque — close by. Here’s my comprehensive review of our experience at The Ritz-Carlton.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel’s location
If you’re interested in peace and quiet — away from the hustle and bustle of the city-life — then you’ll be happy with The Ritz-Carlton’s location in Abu Dhabi. The only point of interest close by is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque opposite the motorway and the Grand Canal is very peaceful. Being on the Grand Canal means you’re not getting a real beach by the coast, however, if you’d really prefer sunbeds on the sand instead of cabanas by the pool, then the hotel’s private beach has perfectly swimmable calm waters. Personally, I stuck by the pool.
Don’t let the hotel’s location in Abu Dhabi fool you, because you won’t be that far from other points of interest and travelling by taxi is surprisingly affordable. Here are some examples of what we paid:
- 70 Dirhams / £15 GBP for a taxi ride from the airport to the hotel
- 50 Dirhams / £10 GBP from the hotel to the airport (the base fare from the airport is higher)
- 50 Dirhams from the hotel to Saadiyat Island
- 12-15 Dirhams from The Ritz-Carlton to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (be careful not to get ripped off on the way back; our taxi driver took a longer route on purpose to charge us more)
Getting to The Ritz-Carlton and checking in
The drive from the airport to The Ritz-Carlton hotel takes just about 20-25 minutes. If you want a private transfer you can arrange this in advance, but I found it more economical to simply grab a taxi. (There’s also the option to use Uber or Kareem — their local taxi-on-demand service.)
Once you see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on the motorway you’ll know you’re close, and eventually, you’ll drive past The Ritz-Carlton’s grand entrance to be greeted by the hotel’s very helpful team of porters.
Now the lobby at The Ritz-Carlton hotel is worth talking about in its own right. With tall columns, three grand chandeliers dangling from the incredibly high ceilings, lavish decor and shiny marble everywhere, it’s hard not to gawp at how beautiful this place is.
Having booked the Club Executive Suite for our stay, we were able to check into our room privately at the Club Lounge on the 7th floor. The team there simply took our passports and encouraged us to enjoy breakfast while they completed the check-in process for us. No stress; no hassle.
Executive Suite at The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi
Walking into the room, we were greeted with a tray of chocolate, sweets and macarons which was cute.
As for the suite itself: with over 85 square metres of space, the Executive Suite is far from claustrophobic. You’re getting a large living room with a lounging area as well as a work area with a desk; an expansive master bedroom with a plush and cosy king-size bed; and there’s a spacious all-marble bathroom with dedicated shower and toilet cubicles, two sinks and a separate bathtub.
I especially like the way The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi has created a view into the bedroom, allowing you to watch TV and relax while soaking in the bathtub. It’s certainly a nice touch for those who enjoy baths!
The Executive Suite at The Ritz-Carlton also has a separate wardrobe room (includes an iron and ironing board which was very convenient), and to top it all off, there’s a balcony overlooking the hotel’s pool and the Grand Canal.
All in all, it’s a fantastic suite with all the right facilities we needed. I loved it!
Let me know what you think of the Executive Suite in the comments section.
Restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi
You have three main restaurants to choose from at The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi: Lebanese cuisine at Mijana, Asian cuisine at Li Jiang or a steakhouse called The Forge (the only restaurant we didn’t try).
Mijana: Lebanese cuisine
If you’re in the mood for good Lebanese food, don’t hesitate to book yourself a table at Mijana. The service is fantastic, the restaurant looks great and most importantly, the food and drinks are very good!
We ordered a variety of starters on our visit including a salad (arguably the best-marinated salad I’ve ever had), hummus topped with small pieces of tender lamb loin, grilled halloumi cheese with a fresh pomegranate salad and the traditional batata harra, which is cubes of deliciously spiced potato. For drinks I’d personally recommend the lemon and mint juice; it’s super refreshing in the 40-degree heat!
For mains, I ordered a mixed grill which was accompanied by vermicelli rice and a wonderful pepper sauce. (Sorry, but I didn’t get a photo of this). Everything on this platter was impressive; the cubes of chicken and lamb were cooked to succulent perfection, the lamb kebabs were beautifully spiced and although there was only one lamb chop it was really tender and juicy.
Our desserts included baklava and pistachio ice cream — both deserving a high recommendation. The baklava was perfectly crispy and flavoursome while the pistachio ice cream was rich and creamy with actual pistachio pieces inside. It’s probably the best ice cream we’ve ever had.
To wrap up an evening at Mijana I’d suggest stepping outside for some shisha. If you don’t smoke then just enjoy some dessert and mint tea. The shisha maestro, Ahmed, provided exceptional service throughout our time there and regardless of what flavours we ordered, his shishas were great.
Li Jiang: Asian cuisine
Li Jiang is the Asian/Oriental restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton in Abu Dhabi. The food here is super tasty and they even have an in-house bar with some mean cocktails!
Our starters included vegetable & jade dim sum, duck gyoza and wasabi prawns. The highlight was definitely on those wasabi prawns with mango & avocado salsa — they were absolutely divine. The prawns were cooked to perfection with a crispy outside and soft inside, and the rich, creamy salsa coating the prawns left me drooling for more.
The Masaman beef curry with coconut, potato & peanuts was my main dish, and wow was it good. Head Chef Li explained that they use Wagyu beef that’s been slow-cooked for over 48+ hours (if I recall correctly) for a soft, pull-apart finish in the curry. The beef was so soft, in fact, that I could pull away at it with just my chopsticks which I think that says it all!
I have to admit that the dessert menu at Li Jiang was a little underwhelming, but we tried out the fried ice cream anyway. It was essentially a ball of vanilla ice cream fried in a doughnut-like batter, dropped into a bowl of thin chocolate sauce. Truthfully, it’s not something I would order again.
Facilities at The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi
Overlooking the entire resort, The Ritz-Carlton’s Club Lounge on the 7th floor is a great place to relax and unwind. (If you’re there on business, it’s also a nice place to get some work done.)
You can enjoy food and drink throughout the day and generally, the standard of food was pretty good. For breakfast, the Club Lounge has a dedicated chef making omelettes, eggs benedict and other dishes at your request. They can also make sweet options like waffles and pancakes, although I was very disappointed with mine. During the afternoon you’ll typically find wraps and sandwiches and over dinner, you can choose from variations of hot dishes — just in case you’re feeling lazy about going to a restaurant for a meal.
The quality of service up there is excellent too; the team regularly checks in to see if you’d like a drink or top-up and the ambience is super chilled.
Access to The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge means that you won’t really have to worry about meal times and alcohol is included, so if you’re intending on spending a lot of time at the hotel, it could be worth the upgrade.
There’s a mammoth swimming pool in the heart of The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Abu Dhabi. Parents will be happy to know it’s child-friendly with a separated shallow end covered with a canopy for shade, and there is even a children’s play area with fountains to keep them cool.
The larger deep end in the adult pool has plenty of space for swimmers wanting to get in some laps and alongside the pool, there are cabanas — if you’re early enough to grab one — as well as sunbeds too. If you’re trying to get away from the sound of children altogether for some peace & quiet, The Ritz-Carlton has a dedicated adult pool.
To keep yourself refreshed there’s a bar near the pool where you can order food & drink including alcohol, although you’ll hardly have to go to the bar yourself as the waiters conveniently float around taking orders.
Everything by the pool is great. My only negative was the quality of the food & drink they serve at the bar. The cocktails tasted watered down and lacked any real flavour, and considering how much they charge for food I didn’t feel it was worth it either; we paid approximately £30 GBP for a large sandwich, small fruit salad and Caprese salad. Add another £10+ per cocktail.
The Venetian village is a range of bars, restaurants (Indian, French and English/Irish) and a spa within the hotel grounds. While they’re not strictly part of the hotel, having a selection of restaurants and different cuisines to choose from — without having to leave — is convenient.
Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque is about a 5-minute drive away from The Ritz-Carlton hotel, and it’s a must-visit while you’re in Abu Dhabi.
Luckily, you can enjoy some seriously good views of the mosque from within the hotel grounds — just ask the concierge at reception to request a buggy to drive you to the “arches” for this sort of view…
If you want to get up-close and personal, the hotel organises regular complimentary tours (with a shuttle service) so that you can learn more about its architecture and history.
We had a few hiccups with this service which was unfortunate, especially for a hotel of this standard. One team member informed us the booking for the tours could only be made on the day itself. However, when I called the night before to confirm, I was told the next day’s tour was full up already — which went against everything I had been told. There was a lack of consistency/coordination and we wound up exploring the mosque on our own the next day! (Credit to a member of the concierge team who arranged a complimentary ride to the mosque for us as an apology/good-will gesture.)
For what it’s worth, you can get an audio tour or just grab a free guide when you arrive at the mosque and go at your own pace. We did, and it meant we could take our sweet time taking photos. And let me tell you: this place is really photogenic! Just look at some of the shots we captured on the day…
The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi: Verdict
Would I stay at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, again? Yes, without question.
The food & drinks could be improved at the pool bar and breakfast at the Club Lounge was hit and miss, but generally speaking, I was pleased with our experience. Everything from the location, quality of service, dining options and luxurious Arabian ambience was exactly what we needed for a relaxing anniversary getaway.