Posts tagged “service

Dusit Thani Cairo – easy access to the airport.

Review:

I’m not sure what it says about a hotel that has now had a soft opening that has lasted for over a year, but it’s certainly a good excuse for not providing 5 Star service at a 5 Star hotel.

However, the Dusit Thani Lake View in Cairo is certainly well on the way to getting things right.  During my stay there, my only criticisms would be that their service was a little slow, and that their showers are impossible to turn to the right temperature. As I had a bath which was functioning correctly, I wasn’t overly fussed –  I think because I wasn’t expecting a first-world experience in a developing city.

Rooms: You could be anywhere in the world when you step into the Dusit Thani’s rooms, they are utterly generic.  No traces of either Egyptian or Thai styling, which was a bit of a shame. Frequent business travel can be a monotonous schlep, and finding yourself in basically the same hotel room in yet another city, is actually rather soul-destroying. But it’s new, it’s inoffensive.

Rooms are large, beds too soft for my poor old bones, utilities functional, and it’s nice to have a balcony or terrace in each one.

Bathrooms: Far too dim to apply make-up successfully. As previously noted, the showers are almost impossible to get to the right temperature.

Public Areas: Good pool and a nice hot tub.  Huge lobby that is A/C’d to sub-zero temperatures, and there is the rather odd detail of putting the open bar in the lobby, which means that there are small gaggles of people standing aimlessly, cluttering up the thoroughfares hanging onto their glasses.

Food: The buffet breakfast was 5* standard and the food I had during my stay was all more than acceptable (the fresh Egyptian yoghurt was delish).

Service: There is a mix of European top management, Egyptian middle management, Thai/Egyptian operations/reception staff. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to Thai hospitality, but they were hands down more customer service focussed than the locals.

Location: The Dusit Thani is in the middle of what is called New Cairo – a half built mega-town of new huge single residences and the odd office tower, about 45mins away from Cairo proper. It is a building site and a cultural wasteland, so if you are not planning on going into Old Cairo much and just want to hang at a hotel, then the DT is a good option.

It’s also an easy ride into the airport – going both ways we got there within 30mins, which in Cairo is a massive blessing.  Taxi drivers don’t really know the hotel though, so it is worth ordering a hotel pick-up from the airport to cut down on any hassles.

To give some context – it takes a good 45mins-1hour to get to Al Khalili Bazaar from the hotel.

Price: At the moment as it’s still soft opening the prices are under US$200, but that was the best price we could muster from a travel agent – going to the hotel direct was more expensive.

A word of warning – if you are going at the weekend, then make sure to check whether there is a wedding booked during your stay.  The hotel holds them in the central courtyard overlooked by half the rooms – Egyptian weddings are awesome – like MTV awards ceremonies, but that means pyrotechnics, techno DJs and huge sound systems, and parties that carry on until at least 3am at top decibel.  Not a relaxing way to spend a night if you are just looking for a good kip.

*one extra note is that the Spa isn’t opening until 2010.

So would I go again?  If I was just passing through Cairo on the way to somewhere else I would definitely stay at the DT again, but if I wanted to spend a couple of days in the city then I’d look for somewhere closer to the action.

Address: Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, The LakeView, El-Tesseen Street, City Centre,Fifth Settlement, 11835 New Cairo. Tel +20 2 2614 0000

Luxe Guides Website – Dangerously Smug?

Ok – I’m a couple of weeks behind on this one, but Luxe Guides have stepped up their game and you can now book the hotels they feature through their website.

I’ll check out their claim of best online rates in the coming weeks, but I like the way they have grouped the accommodation into different categories, and the photos are pretty. There are a couple of glitches in the website, but I’m sure those are easily sorted.

The other function they have introduced is that you now have the option to plug in part of the ISBN number of the guide you have recently bought (so far the only guide this would work on I bought in the last 12 months), and the website will throw up any recent updates for you in that city.

Rather generously you can also get updates about any of the cities just off that one guide’s ISBN’s number.

Interestingly the blurb on the guides now says that they are updated each year rather than 6 monthly as apparently they were previously, and that online-updates happen monthly.

However, I’ve checked out most of the city updates on the website and they are a bit hit and miss. Venice doesn’t have any updates for example, and there are posts from back in 2007 on some cities, which seems a little at odds with the super-hot, super-current premise that their business model is based upon – not so smug now eh?

Bee in bonnet time Mr Luxe Guides  Grant Thatcher – If you claim to be the arbiter of cool, current, taste and service you better be damned sure you deliver on these yourself.  It’s a risky business stepping into travel provision.  Just hope you’ve got the right partners for the task, and keep your eye on the ball – a lot of your audience are as snipy and well informed as you.

I’m a fan – but I will be testing you.

Danang – Easily doable for a long weekend from HK

Getting to Danang in Vietnam is surprisingly smooth from Hong Kong.

If you travel with hand luggage only, you can leave HK early morning on a Friday and get to your resort in Danang or to Hoi An in time for lunch (the transfer is a bit of a squeeze in Hanoi but we made it no problem – you arrive at 9:40 and your next flight is 10:05, but if you miss that you can get the 14:30 which gets you in at 15:45pm). On Sunday you can catch a 16:35 flight back to Hanoi that connects to the HK flight that finds you back there at 22:50pm. So, very doable for a quick weekend away somewhere a bit different.

Danang Nam Hai Caustic Candy

Of the Danang resorts I would choose a villa at the Nam Hai (review here), although I do still have a soft spot for the Furama Resort as it was the first decent hotel in the area, cheap in comparison to the Nam Hai and very adequate. (The latest property someone tried to flog me was the Hyatt Regency Residences which look horrid.  Can’t believe the government have allowed 12 storey high buildings in this area. Very sad).

Nam Hai Caustic Candy

If you want to stay in Hoi An instead then I highly recommend the Vinh Hung 1 right in the centre of the old town. It’s an old teak Chinese merchant’s house and is really sweet, it’s very reasonable, staff are welcoming and the service is good.

Vinh hung1.jpg

In terms of things to do, you can either just chill out in your villa or on the beach, go into Hoi An which is very much worth a snoop around, take river trips, play at various watersports in the sea, visit the ancient Cham ruins, or in fact go into Danang, which I think is a thoroughly pleasant town and has some great street restaurants and some hilarious bars and clubs.

Restaurants.

The restaurants that I have been to and enjoyed (apart from the ones in the Nam Hai which are really very good), are thus:

Hoi An: Brother’s Cafe. Venue is lovely. If you go for supper and sit in the garden which is by the river, do load up with mozzie repellent and get them to light coils. This is the most expensive restaurant in Hoi An, but is not leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in terms of food.

Cargo Club – run by expats, good food, lively. Has a balcony that overlooks the river, went for supper.

Saigon Times Club – run by some guys from Saigon, has a large roof terrace and interesting interior. Food is good. Gives Brothers a run for it’s money.

Cafe des Amis and Tam Tam Cafe – tended to go to these for lunch and for daytime drinks – Cafe des Amis, hasn’t had great reviews for dinner.

All these restaurants (apart from Brothers which is a bit of a walk) are within about 150yards of each other and the Vinh Hung 1 Hotel in the two roads that run parallel to the river.

Danang:  There are loads of little street restaurants in Danang that open up at night. Just pick one that’s busy and sit down.  Even if the waiters don’t speak English or French, then fellow diners will always help out.

Apsara: Lonely Planet recommends this as the best restaurant to go to in Danang, but it was nothing special in terms of venue, ambience or food especially after dining in Hoi An, and was overpriced for what it was. Really don’t bother – I’d just as soon eat on a plastic stool on the street.

Camel Club: We also stopped by here for a drink as it had been touted as the best club in town by Lonely Planet again (they really didn’t get things right in Danang…) and it was absolutely hilarious. Riotous techno, seizure inducing strobes, sleazy old expats rubbing themselves up against young ladies of negotiable affection, and to our eternal but rather politically incorrect delight, a group of Little People who got really drunk and aggressive with one another on the dance floor.

All in all, for a weekend away from HK it’s very easy to find things to do around Danang, it’s incredibly photogenic, and of course you are in Vietnam so the food is bloody lovely.

M1NT, Hong Kong – like it despite myself.

Despite myself, I like M1NT – I abhor Dragon-i (except for dim sum)and all these other velvet rope clubs.  M1NT’s always laid back early on, with a really chilled vibe.

During the week people come here to chat, so they keep the music low til 11pm and folks just get on and do their thing, there’s no preening or flirting or ostentation, it’s actually really pleasant.

The biggest bee in my bonnet about HK bars is that I can’t hear myself think, let alone talk, and I get more and more uncomfortable and frustrated the louder and busier bars get. That’s probably why I like M1NT over other places.

Post 11pm, it gets louder, drunk and boisterous people arrive and a lot of the time the tunes really are mid 90s (but that’s my era, so I don’t care), but it’s always still a nice vibe.  There’s usually room to move, daft idiots to watch on the dance-floor, the service is really good, the waitresses are lovely and the bartenders are shit hot, plus they serve my favourite champagne – Ruinart Blanc de Blanc.

I’m just hoping that the main Chihuahua stays away from Hong Kong and doesn’t meddle so that this agreeable hiatus can continue indefinitely.

Location: 108 Hollywood Road, Central. Tel: 2980 3737

Dakota Prime/Opus Grill – same sorry restaurant?

Update 21.5.10:  Hmm, just come across a new opening “Opus Grill” which is in exactly the same location as Dakota Prime. Does this mean purely a new name and a bit of a redesign, with the same sorry service and management or something wholly different? If anyone knows, do please drop a comment by, I’d love to know that’s it’s gone tits up for all the reasons I gave below. It certainly didn’t get into the Michelin or Miele guides, so maybe they have decided on a rethink and rebrand…

Review:

Never publicly state your intention to be a Michelin starred restaurant and then provide the worst table service in the whole of Hong Kong. Dakota is a pretty new (opened late winter 2009) steak restaurant slap bang in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong, charging bull market prices.

Is this in fact Cova Coffee?
Is this in fact Cova Coffee?

This is quite possibly one of the most overpriced meals I’ve ever partooken in. There are many ways to review a restaurant, I think the most pertinent for Dakota is by timeline.

Consider:

7:30-7:33 Arrive at restaurant, seated promptly, given a cocktail and wine list.  Look about, decide it’s got all the ambience of an upscale mall restaurant – in fact now I think about it, it’s very Cova Coffee…

7:33-8:00 Catch-up with friends as we haven’t seen them for ages, and finally realise that no-one’s been over to ask us what we want to drink, nor have they brought us a food menu. Peruse wine list and laugh heartily about the preposterous and try-hard selection.

8:00 Catch waiter’s eye. Waiter comes over. Order a cocktail each and ask for the menu.

8:04 Menus arrive.

8:15 Haul waiter over to ask where the drinks are and tell him we are ready to order. He tells us he is only a drinks waiter so we have to wait for a food waiter.

8:25 Haul waiter over again to ask where our drinks are and that we still haven’t had our food order taken.

8:33 Drinks arrive.

8:45 The right waiter comes to take our food order – over an hour after we had arrived. Out of 4 diners, only 2 order a starter.

9:10 Starters arrive.  We order a bottle of wine.

9:13 Amuse bouche arrives for all of us (after the starters…?)

9:15 Bread basket arrives (after the starters and the amuse bouche…?)

9:30 Finish starters

10:00 3 main courses arrive

10:05 Last main course arrives.

Leave restaurant at 10:50 after main courses to go somewhere else for coffee and dessert!

7:30 to 10:50 to get through one aperitif, starters and a main course? With the pleasure of paying HK$1000 per head? Never again. You deserve to go bankrupt you incompetent, arrogant fools.

Outrageously overpriced for what it is.  You would go to the Mandarin Grill or the Intercon in a heartbeat over this place, and receive fantastic service in better surroundings.  Hell, I’d go to the Gallery in Lantau and have a good steak for a fraction of the cost.

Makes my blood boil again thinking about it.

One concession – the morel mushroom sauce was very tasty.