THE unique multi-million dinar chic Reef Resort is all set to open its doors to guests on Monday as the pre-launch team splash the last coat of paint, clean the windows, trim the lush lawns, rake the golden sands and put in place the final training sessions full of zeal, excitement and much anticipation.
Hospitality industry veteran Darryl Marsden is leading the charge with his senior management team in place for the destination’s restaurants and spas … as GulfWeekly became the first Bahrain publication to tour the fabulous five-star facility.
The opening comes as Bahrain’s hospitality scene continues to hot up with another major player opening today in near-by Seef. As exclusively highlighted last year in this newspaper, Jumeirah Group’s first hotel in the kingdom, the Jumeirah Royal Saray, has replaced the planned One&Only resort.
General manager Darryl, an Australian expat, is confident that Reef Resort’s touches of class will help it carve a substantial slice of the country’s tourism cake. He was convinced as soon as he met the visionary behind the project, Lulu Tourism Company chairman, Robert Mouawad.
“I had the opportunity to meet and discuss the project and role with the chairman,” Darryl explained, “and was very excited to join the team and help realise this vision of the resort and island that he has developed from the conception of his idea to now.
“It is inspiring to work with someone that has the vision and passion required to take on a project of this magnitude. Reef Resort was born out of a passion and desire to create an element of beauty for people to enjoy, with this in mind our chairman has created bespoke living spaces, each individually-designed and with handpicked fabrics, artworks and furnishings.
“This attention to detail is carried throughout the resort, not only in design but in the service and offerings.”
In 2000, a plan was proposed to develop a new housing project in Bahrain and construction started in August 2004 on Reef Island led by investors, Lulu Tourism Company, a subsidiary of Mouawad Group. The cost of the project has been estimated at $1.5 billion and it is now well established as one of the most sought-after residential locations in the kingdom. The resort has always been a prominent part of the concept and it was simply a case of timing for it to be finally unveiled.
Robert is the grandson of the founder of Mouawad, an acclaimed international jewellery giant. Although he initially studied in Europe to become a doctor he returned after being convinced by his father to join the family business.
In 2006 he established the Robert Mouawad Private Museum for his collections of books, ceramics, architectural elements, pottery, ancient weapons, carpets, jewellery, objets d’art and rare precious stones and four years later left the family firm to focus on his real estate group.
His passion for the arts has influenced the stunning décor of the resort and, in particular, the interiors of the rooms.
There are 102 rooms in the resort spread throughout 39 individual residences, including 11 luxuriously-appointed two-bedroom villas, featuring a king-size room and a double room, kitchen facilities and large living space.
Rates range from BD130++ for a Superior Room to BD220++ for a Luxury Suite per night, with several types in between, and the Royal Suite at BD700++, inclusive of buffet breakfast and high speed internet.
One of the star features of the resort is a cleverly-designed softly-sanded artificial beach leading to an enormous temperature-controlled infinity-edge pool, close to another sandy-beached children’s pool.
Darryl, who recently celebrated his 52nd birthday, comes from Queensland and boasts 35 years of extensive global hospitality industry experience with a focus on operational management. The positions he has held include vice president operations, general manager, director of operations, director of food and beverage and executive chef for opening and established up-scale resorts and hotel facilities.
In his three months here, his eye has firmly been on the opening ball with the first guests booked in shortly. As for the competition, he said: “As I have only been here three months, it is difficult to make an informed decision about the hospitality sector here but I have seen some beautiful properties, with superb facilities and offering good service. An additional 15 hotels currently under development will create an even more competitive market, placing further pressure on rates, occupancies, recruitment and staff retention.”
That’s why he’s particularly delighted to have Ahmed El Sandoby, director of Spa & Recreation, and executive chef Steven Hill, by his side.
Ahmed, from Egypt, knows the local hospitality scene well, having joined after a successful, award-winning spell at Starwood hotels’ Westin & Le Meridien City Centre Bahrain’s Complex Spa & Recreation director.
Reef Resort will be home to Reef Aqua Spa with sauna, steam rooms ad Jacuzzis and two separate facilities for men and women, along with health clubs fitted with weights and the latest cardiovascular and resistance machines.
British Chef Steven has arrived on the scene more recently but boasts extensive European, Asian, African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern experience and has picked up numerous culinary accolades along the way, including nine gold and six silver medals.
Although he has managed at an executive level he still adapts to a ‘roll the sleeves up’ policy and says he is ‘passionate about high-class cuisine’.
Dining destinations for guests and visitors include Pool Delight. With direct access to the poolside, it looks like a bright, lively, interactive restaurant which will offer lavish breakfast and lunch buffets with diverse international fare, including fresh pizza from a show oven and offer a welcome addition to the Friday Brunch scene as well as cater for corporate events, banquets, conferences and weddings.
Chocolaterie features a stunning, white and dark chocolate interior and lagoon backdrop. It’s a lobby café planning to be perfect for coffee mornings and sophisticated Arabian and English high teas.
Fine Café will have an à la carte menu offering healthy Mediterranean cuisine, the Tokyo Reef will serve freshly-prepared sushi, sashimi and maki in addition to other authentic Japanese fare, the Sunset Club will offer a tapas-inspired menu and there will be a lounge featuring Lebanese grills and Arabian desserts.
And the little ones haven’t been forgotten either. The resort has two play areas for different age groups with activities run by a team of hosts and guides.
Reef Resort has around 300 staff members and Bahraini Safa A. Redha in guest relations will be among the first that newly-arrived visitors will meet. The 21-year-old former Al Hoora Secondary School pupil, said: “I’m just so excited to be involved in such a prestigious opening – we’re going to make sure our guests enjoy every moment of their stay.”
The kingdom’s expanding tourism sector is providing great opportunities for young people to carve out successful careers, and Darryl knows that better than most.
“The hospitality industry gives you the opportunity to help someone else have a memorable experience that may last a lifetime, whether it be a superb dining experience, an unforgettable holiday, or simply a moment of magic in someone’s day,” he said.
“It has also given me the opportunity to travel and work in many parts of the world over my 35-year career.
“The hospitality industry is a great career for any young person and with the number of luxury properties in Bahrain and the region, it is a fantastic opportunity to enter an industry that has so much potential for those that wish to excel and grow.”
The first guests are booked in for Monday. The GM added: “We will be ready to greet them with a welcoming smile.”
If they are as warm as Safa’s, Bahrain will have another sure-fire winner in the sector.
For more details, please visit www.reef-resort.com or call 13110110.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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