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Dubai’s Vida Downtown is an urban retreat

The hotel is the perfect staycation destination for those suffering from FOMO. The property harnesses its corporate partnerships to provide a unique leisure and dining offering

It’s a bold environment where guests can be as connected as they want to be, and where it’s easy to plug in but just as easy to switch off.

Staycations can be rather dislocating, given that you’re essentially on holiday but in an all-too-familiar environment. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing — you get to experience your hometown in a way the daily drudge rarely permits.

The Vida Downtown hotel benefits from this meeting of the known and the unknown. It draws on your acquired knowledge, like knowing to not visit The Dubai Mall on weekends — or if you have to, where to park to best traverse the crowds — and inspires an openness to new experiences, like visiting The Dubai Mall on weekends.

Situated just off one of the city’s biggest streets, yet cut off from it, it’s the perfect urban retreat and a great spot for those suffering from FOMO — the Downtown buzz is just beyond the perimeter, so you can bask in the sun next to the pool secure in the knowledge that you could join in whatever’s happening out there at the drop of a hat should you wish to.

Not me, though. The furthest I stepped out of my comfort zone was to tackle the mini people at the VR Park in the mall, which is well recommended. It brings virtual and augmented reality to the theme park experience, allowing even the most jaded of us to let our inner child come out to play.

It’s a bold environment where guests can be as connected as they want to be, and where it’s easy to plug in but just as easy to switch off.

In true Dubai fashion, this is said to be largest of its kind in the world, so caters to a wide audience. As expected, some of the rides would appeal more to younger visitors, but young-at-heart thrill seekers would enjoy immersive experiences such as dangling upside down on one ride, and a spinning roller coaster that’s more exciting than it sounds. Other highlights include the crime caper Payday: The VR Heist, The Walking Dead VR Outbreak, based on the popular TV series, and Dubai Drone, which lets you experience the neighbourhood from a new angle.

Back at the hotel (within walking distance during the kinder months) after an exhilarating two hours, it’s time for dinner at the celebrated French fine dining institution La Serre Bistro, in a modern block with a striking cantilever design that provides an architectural break from the uniformity of the area.

The aroma of truffle and garlic wafts headily from the first course: Meaty slivers of tuna carpaccio drenched in a citrus dressing and finished with shaved almonds and tarty black grapes, shrimp smothered in garlic and herbs, and a wafer-thin pizza with a generous helping of truffle Pecorino, a dish that would be a strong contender for my final meal.

There’s more garlic and truffle with the mains, specifically in a cheesy pasta dish topped with fresh white truffle. On a lighter note, Dover sole is presented with irresistible crispy skin, while on the other end of the spectrum a Black Angus ribeye steak is beautifully charred outside and carries the remnants of a butter painting.

Toko restaurant

After a day reading next to the pool, we head to another favourite, Toko, which has amassed a loyal following for its modern take on Chinese and Japanese dishes in a striking yet relaxed setting. Take, for example, the revelation that is its dynamite shrimp — a specimen worthy of the “jumbo” tag in a light batter that’s smothered in chilli mayo and peanut butter, with just the subtlest bite and an almost imperceptible hint of truffle. It’s no secret why it’s one of the most popular items on the menu.

Which is quite extensive, mind you. Honourable mentions include a seafood ceviche platter, maki rolls and chicken and shrimp dim sum. But my personal favourites are the velvety black cod (a dish many judge eateries on), the in-shell avocado that’s torched tableside, and the Peking duck, in which the tw-day marination process shows.

For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the delicately flavoured, dense and fluffy yuzu cheesecake, while the chocolate fondant (here with a matcha and chocolate filling) doesn’t disappoint.

If your downtime also revolves around food, you must know about La Serre Boulangerie, which takes a more casual approach to dining than its fancy upstairs. On the one side bright and airy, making good use of the double-height ceilings, and on the other more cosy, this is the perfect spot for weekend breakfast in an arty spot. The egg and foie gras on toast is easily my breakfast of the year. It’s served with a “beef sauce” that could have come from upstairs — it’s balsamic based, so tart but it adds sweet undertones with smoky qualities, and is soaked up greedily by the toasted bread.

Vida Downtown lives up to its brand philosophy of providing a bold environment where guests (called Visionaries) can be as connected as they want to be, and where it’s easy to plug in but just as easy to switch off. The hotel makes the most of its location to augment your deep-dive into the action, while it’s a discreet haven where you can escape from the world.

FOMO, be gone!

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