Long-time residents of Dubai may already know the secret of Meliá Desert Palm, and horse-loving visitors need look no further for equine-related activities. A quick 20-minute drive, we arrive at the sanctuary of the palm-lined road to the main building of the resort. With a suitable amount of horse art and sculpture in the main building and check-in area, we’re given keys to our nearby Polo Suite. One of the things that immediately stands out to us is the amount of greenery and planting across the property. Lush bougainvillea, bubbling fountains, and clean slate marble pathways mark this as unique and private property. We also love the truly boutique quality — there are only 39 rooms and villas available, so the hotel never feels crowded. Our suite is spacious and includes a large freestanding tub, and an outdoor porch overlooking one of the main polo fields. We’re steps away from the pool and other amenities of the property.
After exploring our room, we head to the front desk, and a golf cart is arranged for us. It’s a short drive to the stables and Desert Palm Riding School. I meet with Ms. Kiara Hinterdorfer, the General Manager of the riding school. We discuss what my comfort level is with riding (I rode for most of my childhood, but the instructors can start with any degree of riding capability, for both adults and children). After ensuring I have the proper safety equipment for my experience (the riding hat was provided by the stables, and I wore jeans and flat bottomed boots), I met my horse, the lovely bay, April. The stablehands were helpful in patiently assisting me to get my stirrups arranged, then we were out for a tack around the massive property. Kiara was fantastic as an instructor — patient, professional, and she had plenty of practical advice. If possible, depending on the schedule, I would recommend riding near sunset.
Thanking Kiara and her team for a wonderful (and educational) evening, after cleaning up, we opted for dinner at onsite Rare, just a few steps from our Polo Suite. Although a pre-dinner drink at the Red Bar was tempting, instead, we’re seated by the window of the restaurant. In cooler months, we could easily see ourselves enjoying dinner or drinks on the extensive terrace, which also has stunning views of the polo fields and on clear nights you can see the twinkling lights of the Burj Khalifa.
When asked if it’s okay if the new head of the kitchen, Chef Gaston Silva Herrera, can send out dishes, we’re happy to oblige. Served with freshly baked bread and homemade butter (three kinds!), we’re first treated to a bowl of moreish Mushroom Soup. The portion size is perfect, and we appreciate the warm start to the meal. Next is our favorite course, the deceptively simple (and yet absolutely delicious) Quinoa and Egg. Something about the combinations of texture, mixed with the creamy yolk of the egg, make this a memorable dish. Next up is a beautifully cooked Cod, served with delicate greens. The piece de resistance is a lovely portion of Ribeye Steak, delicately sliced, and served with some grilled vegetables. We’re full, but not too full, as an individual Cheesecake with dulce de leche arrives at the table. Service is attentive, and we’re happy with the pacing of the meal.
It was also a delight to speak with Chef throughout the meal. Having visited Rare three times in the past few years, we feel Gaston is the overall best fit for the restaurant and would look forward to future meals with him at the helm. For larger groups, we recommend The Family Style approach, a menu which includes Tapas, Salads, Entrees, Sides, and a Dessert Tasting.
The following morning, after a workout in the wonderfully modern gym, we enjoy a late breakfast al fresco by the pool at Epicure. While the fare is a straightforward menu (with both indulgent and healthier options), we’re happy with a beautifully prepared Avocado Toast with Eggs. With that, it’s back to the room for one final look at the property, and then checking out and driving back to reality.
Would we return to Melia Desert Palm? Yes! As busy and hectic as Dubai can be, it’s good to know that a private sanctuary is just a few minutes away. Personally, we love the ultimate privacy of the one or two-bedroom villas — complete with private pools, but not every day is payday. Of course, after our amazing experience at the stables, are we tempted to take up horseback riding again? We are! For the size of the property, Meliá Desert Palm offers several unique experiences — spa treatments, Friday brunch and polo matches, all of which are worth stopping by.
Mushroom Soup, AED 30
Quinoa and Egg, AED 35
Ribeye Steak, AED 165
Cheesecake, AED 30
Rooms are available from AED 947, rates vary depending on seasonality.
Meliá Desert Palm Dubai, +971 4 323 8888