When it comes to restaurants, socialising and style, I sit firmly on the side of fuss-free, authentic quality. Fluff, glitz and bling aren’t my thing. One would assume then, that a UAE Grand Prix Paddock Club wouldn’t be on my bucket list. Not so. I doubt even an Isle of Skye Presbyterian minister could resist F1 Fever. Allow me to demonstrate:
I’m blessed with handy friends who take it upon themselves to equip me with VIP passes and uber luxe hotel stays that could bankrupt a Sheik. Lucky girl.
The Pit Lane
Relentless pit stop tire change sessions of Force India and Red Bull. 13+ men, 4 tires, 2 seconds.
Ferrari, McLaren and the super talented and magnanimous, Manish Pandey, writer and producer of the heartbreaking and critically acclaimed docu-film, Senna. I was so moved by this masterpiece (and a tiny bit in love with F1 demi-God, Senna) I blogged it in 2011. Manish is my new best friend, I may have followed him around all weekend. *Hangs head in shame*
F1 team villas. Apparently Lewis Hamilton walked within a hair’s breath of us here. I of course, was oblivious. #fail. And Yas hotel, so well located it straddles Yas Marina Circuit.
Where we cheered Man City against Norwich. Yup, we watched football at the Grand Prix. From the club owner’s boat no less, which thankfully, was much more civilised than the neighbouring party buses. And we had oysters. I like oysters.
Where to stay
Originally destined for Yas Hotel, my (ADORED) friend was forced to move me to Rosewood at the last second. And glad am I. Due to it’s perfect location, Viceroy status and hosting of celebrities and drivers, Yas lobby, and the yachts, are the heart of party F1. With that unfortunately comes Dubai on steroids: Formaldehyde faces, bling, Pick ‘n Mix perfume and pneumatic breasts the size of Timberland’s head – one of the weekend acts with Jay Z.
Abu Dhabi’s latest luxe hotel, Rosewood is the epitome of style, tranquillity, comfort and quality. I’m ashamed to admit, this may have been the highlight of my trip. That and seeing my ADORED friend.
Rosewood even hosts Michelin starred restaurant, Catalan and the prohibitively pricey Galleria Mall. L’occitane is as ‘high street’ as the planners have stooped to; Zara doesn’t even get a look in. From an architectural and design standpoint, however, these are undoubtedly some of the most impressive shop fits I’ve set eyes on.
What to do (other than F1)
My VIP sports whore brother used to live in Abu Dhabi and given my frequent trips to see him, I have lots of friends in the area, being awarded the title of honorary ex-pat. Free time revolves around water sports, brunches, ladies nights (yuck!) and pedicures (yay!).
Being on the water is is essential in summer: 45C+ and 90%+ humidity. It’s therefore virtually unheard of not to know someone with a boat.
Jones the Grocer
Five years ago I ranted relentlessly on the need for Root (my cafe from a former life) out here – call me crazy, but sometimes I’d rather a Kiwi barista coffee over a champagne chaser. When Jones appeared a couple of years later, ex-pats and Emiratis heaved a sigh of relief. And my brother called to incredulously announce someone had opened Root and re-named it. Any attempts to resist the Wagyu burger are futile.
Officially, there are five Jones’ in Abu Dhabi. In fact, there’s a sixth in the Crown Prince’s palace. If it’s good enough for royalty…
For more Grand Prix pictures, go to my 2011 Formula 1 Fever post.