Gulf Hotel - Manama, Bahrain: Located just a short walk from Adiya, the hip nightlife area of Bahrain, and where a lot of great restaurants are located, Gulf Hotel is a good option for those looking for something other than the international hotel chains that dominate the Bahrain 5-star market. While this 40-year-old property and independently operated hotel does not really have any cultural significance in terms of structure and interior (leaning instead to contemporary Western aesthetics and sensibilities) it prides itself in being the hotel of choice for most locals.
First Impression/Lobby: The hotel's public areas are elegant and modern in design. The entrance to the hotel is impressive and grand looking. The lobby has a huge chandelier which adds posh and luxury. Because of its numerous bars and restaurants, mostly frequented by locals, the hotel can get crowded at times. The hotel staff, however, is efficient in moving and facilitating traffic.
Reception: Our check-in was fast and easy. They seemed used to dealing with a lot of people, but then, that didn't really translate to good service. For instance, we booked a King Executive, but for some reason, the receptionist put us in a twin smoking room. When I called the front desk regarding the confusion, she said our room wasn't available even though it was already after 5 p.m. It seems she failed to notify us about this detail while checking us in.
Instead of waiting for our room to be ready, I asked to talk to the duty manager and we were quickly moved to our correct room. Not impressive on the part of the front desk
Concierge: On the onset, the concierge service was helpful. They were quick to respond and quick to make reservations. However, when it came to giving good suggestions or to know which places to recommend, they were not much help.
There were a couple places that we had heard about and wanted their input as to what the places were like "the atmosphere, food, dress code, things of that nature" and they simply said they had never been to any of them and thus didn't have a clue.
In another instance, we were looking for good sushi restaurants that were on the upscale, chic and trendy side. One of the concierge staff recommended Sushi Co. It ended up being not at all what we had in mind that we left after just a couple minutes looking at their menu.
So was their service good? You could say that. But were they knowledgeable? No. In effect, they were almost useless, seeing that know-how and expertise are key traits for effective concierge service.
The Room: Our Grand Room Deluxe had a pleasant and attractive color scheme of purple and tan, giving the room a rich and elegant atmosphere. The motif may remind some of royalty, while others may find it too Roman Catholic for their taste. A particularly interesting contrast was the couch with its deep eggplant color, the chair covered in tan suede, and the carpet with tan, purple and orange patterns running through it like waves. One wall was painted a dark tan, giving the room a modern and enigmatic feel. Near the entrance, on the right-hand side, was ample closet space that provided plenty of room for clothing.
The room had a luxurious king-sized bed with immaculately white linens and a snazzy flat-screen TV. The headboard on the wall was a modern painting with eggplant purple, peach pink, yellow and green accents, bringing the décor of the whole room together. The room also had a floor-to-ceiling view overlooking the pool and the lower part of the hotel. It was a mediocre view at best, even slightly annoying, because you could see the roof of a part of the hotel, as well as part of the city, and part of the sea.
The robes and slippers were pretty standard and not extremely plush and elegant, but still quite nice. There was also a complementary tray of fruit and water waiting for us.
The bathroom was chic and contemporary in design, beautifully tiled with various shades of browns and tans. It was fitted with one standalone basin sink, a large deep soaking tub, and a standalone shower with a rain-shower shower head, and was amply supplied with Bvlgari toiletries. There was also a small flat-screen TV mounted on the wall in front of the tub so you could relax in the tub and watch TV, a movie, or the news. On the negative side, the shower doors leaked, and so every time I got out of the shower, there was always a big puddle of water on the floor (it's the little things that can make a big difference).
Room Service: Room service had a good selection of foods. Not only did they offer a wide selection from the room service menu, but they also offered many different specials from the hotel's wide array of restaurants. The one thing lacking was their selection of wines and champagnes. Theirs was definitely not a selection that you would typically find at a true luxury hotel.
The orders always came on time and were accurate. They did a decent job of setting up the food but I wouldn't really say it was five-star hotel service. Still, it was better than some five-star hotels I've been to.
Housekeeping: Housekeeping was decent at best. They did the basics that were expected from a three to four star hotel housekeeping service. However, they did not go the extra mile and do such things as neatly folding our clothing or putting the slippers next to our bed.
Restaurant: Gulf Hotel Bahrain is frequented by locals for its clubbing scene and nightlife, and thus can get pretty crowded with the young party-crowd during week nights. It also has more than a dozen restaurants that are also fairly popular among the locals. Their dining options range from Middle Eastern cuisine to Asian and European specialties including Japanese, Thai, Lebanese, Chinese, and Italian restaurants.
Pool/Spa/Activites: Their lagoon-style pool was appealing enough. The main pool area had lounge chairs around the pool, as well as up on a higher grassy area. It had a special area for children, which had shallow water, sprinklers and slides.
Service at the pool was slow; I often had to ask for the same thing two or three times. As pools go (in this region), this is my least favorite when compared to the Sheraton and the Ritz Carlton.
Besides the pool, other recreation offered by the hotel includes a health club with a sauna and steam room, tennis and squash courts, and manicured gardens.
Overall Impression The Gulf Hotel Bahrain has some worthy points: good variety of restaurants, comfortable rooms, classy and attractive public areas, and within walking distance of the Adiya area, but overall, their service does not rise up to the level of first-class, five-star.
Is this a place I would stay at again? Probably Not. If I were to recommend a place, I would recommend the Ritz-Carlton; even though the Ritz does not get a rating of bombastic, it still is the best of the hotels I stayed at in Bahrain. Overall I rate the Gulf Hotel somewhere between bombastic and not.