Hotel Review: Fairmont, Riyadh
Hotel Review: Fairmont, Riyadh
The un-matched all-rounder: Fairmont Riyadh is a luxurious oasis at the axis of the capital
The Kingdom's capital city has seen a proliferation of high-end business hotels. Yet one establishment stands out as an exemplar of exceptional: Fairmont Riyadh, with its strategic location and quality of service.
“What makes this hotel unique is its position at the axis of Riyadh,” concierge Satish Poojari says. “We’re on the airport road, close to the city, while being situated inside The Business Gate complex – home to corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft.”
When it comes to the second factor, Fairmont – a chain located in over 100 countries – takes prides in its “anticipatory service.” For instance, guests receive an email prior to arriving, asking about any specific needs or requirements, which are duly provided. Fairmont takes pains to understand guest preferences, including dietary restrictions and even mattresses and pillows for orthopaedic conditions.
“As a concierge, I have to be prepared for any kind of request,” Satish continues. “The most unusual thing I’ve dealt with was shipping a motorbike to Greenland.”
Hany Ismail, Fairmont’s executive lounge manager and head butler, elaborates on the concept of anticipatory service. “We try to provide what our guests want even before they ask for it,” he says.
For those coming across his job title for the first time, Hany explains what it means. “Those occupying our suites (of which there are 20, out of a total of 298 rooms) have a butler, so the guest does not need to communicate with different offices or departments,” he explains. “Most of our guests are VIPs who have no time to deal with minor issues – so the butler can meet them at the airport, with a limousine waiting outside the terminal, even arrange fast track through customs and baggage reclaim, and escort them straight to their suite.”
He adds the same butler can sort out check-in, unpacking and laundry, and familiarise guests with all the technology in the rooms. “It’s all about intuition – having the sense of what the guest might be wanting even before they ask for it,” he says.
Under the new management of Rolf Lippuner, this butler service is currently being expanded to every room in the hotel.
It’s clear why Fairmont’s restaurants and cafés attract a wider crowd beyond those staying at the hotel. The 365 restaurant hosts a buffet at every meal, with each food station – continental, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic – accommodating special items and adding some extra touches, such as fresh asparagus with a breakfast omelette.
Within The 365 is Café Connect, and the idea here, as Hany explains, “is to connect The Business Gate offices to our hotel. Anybody working there can enter the café directly, have a meeting and enjoy a selection of snacks, salads, and healthy drinks.”
With its indoor fountains, trees, and glass walls looking out onto the outdoor gardens, Café Connect has the feeling of a cool oasis, removed from the city outside.
Across from The 365 is Pesto, which as the name implies is an Italian eatery because, as Hany correctly points out, “Who doesn’t like Italian food?” With its 1950s Italian design motifs, Pesto also features a private dining area with an outdoor terrace.
And to satisfy meat lovers, the House of Grill by Michelin-starred French Chef Nicolas Isnard will be opening shortly.
Great food and service aside, it is the rooms that make Fairmont Riyadh the accommodation of choice for visiting dignitaries, sports stars (including the Barcelona and PSG football teams), screen icons, and media figures.
The ultimate offering here is the Royal (Al Malaki) Suite, with its own dining room, pantry, spacious living room, office, double bedroom, master bedroom with a big sitting area, third bedroom for staff, dressing room with vanity area, and vast bathroom with a big round hot tub. The design features are similar to the downstairs lobby, with a honeycombed polished stone floor design, dark wood veneering, and the added glamour of a mirrored concave ceiling over the living room.
The Junior Suite would probably be top-of-the-line in most other hotels, with its comfortable living room, large bedroom, bathroom, and glass walls that are a feature of every room in the hotel.
Tailored with business travellers in mind, Fairmont Riyadh is also the smart choice for tourists and staycation guests looking for a stylish and luxurious experience.