Social grazing

When Team TMN were invited to experience Michelin-stared British chef Jason Atherton’s first foray into the Middle East, we couldn’t wait to see how the venue lived up to Atherton’s extraordinary reputation… 

What: Marina Social Dubai

Where: InterContinental, Dubai Marina

When: Open for dinner everyday between 6pm and midnight. Open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays between 12pm and 3pm.

The Promise: “Marina Social is Dubai’s hottest new restaurant by acclaimed Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton. Situated in the InterContinental Dubai Marina, the restaurant celebrates deformalised dining within a relaxed, social atmosphere and offers stunning panoramic views of the waterfront, overlooking the buzzing marina.”

Did it deliver: The entrance to Marina Social wouldn’t be out of place in a modern art gallery – with bright, angular walls and bronze statues that tower up from the ground to the walkway making the space bright, minimalist and interesting. The intrigue evoked by the entrance continues into the warmly lit restaurant, with its cleverly used open space, dotted with intimate dining areas, dotted with interesting objects, towering wine cabinets and service trays brimming with unique drink ingredients and utensils. The atmosphere in the dining room is incredible; cosy and welcoming but also stylish with a buzz of conversation blending with the noise from the huge open kitchen.

Settled into our table in front of said kitchen, Team TMN were immediately offered drinks by our charming sommelier, who was happy to recommend tipples based on our tastes and preferences. We were then left to peruse the restaurant’s substantial and well-varied menu, which included snacks, as well as raw and cooked starters from land and sea, pasta and rice and a selection of mains. Our knowledgeable waiter took us through the ingredients, flavours and cooking methods for each dish. Staff in Marina Social are very friendly, with an excellent knowledge of the menu and ability to cater to personal tastes – something to be commended in Dubai, where many high-end eateries rely on pushy staff to sell more expensive dishes.

Our starters of wood-fired garlic flat bread with caponata, pistachio and feta, Italian beef tomato with burrata, 25 year aged balsamic and tomato salt and Hamachi, mizuna salad with a citrus dressing all looked stunningly beautiful. The tomato, particularly, stood out as a dish that was pretty in its simplicity but with a wonderful depth of flavor – with a brilliant twist on the preparation of ingredients. The Hamachi, a type of fish similar to tuna, was also prepared in a way that demonstrated exceptional skill from the chefs. Main courses lived up to expectations set by their predecessors entirely. The squab pigeon proved a favourite with Team TMN – full of flavor and cooked to perfection, the dish combined unusual ingredients in a wonderful way. The Boston smoked lobster won major points for presentation, arriving at the table in a small chest with smoke still billowing out when opened, and the social dog was an exquisitely decadent take on a junk food favourite. Each of the dishes brought to the table were equally tasty – with unexpected flavor combinations and great use of ingredients.

Following such indulgent mains, we felt it would be rude not to sample just a tiny bit of dessert, and so we found ourselves ordering the Bergamont and lemon verbena with olive oil conserves and a lemon sponge, despite our already full stomachs. The dessert did not disappoint, with a refreshing lemon flavour that was strong but not overwhelmingly acidic, and a standout lemon granita offered on the side. The size of the portion also meant that it was ideal for sharing as a sweet end to the meal. A cart of homemade sweets was rolled around, providing a wonderfully original (and very British) memento of a delightful meal.

The verdict: Marina Social is an excellent restaurant that manages to stand out in a city rammed full of impressive eateries. The food on offer is thoughtfully prepared and presented, and the ingredients used are of the highest quality. While not the cheapest of venues, this is the place to go for a celebratory dinner or romantic night out, and the excellent use of space as well as attentive staff mean that couples and small groups are catered for as well as large parties.

Hello, petal!

With Dubai reaching perfect outdoor temperatures, Team TMN finds the perfect way to relax and boost beach-body confidence – all in just 90 minutes…

What: Shrinking Violet Body Wrap

Where: Talise Spa, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah

When: Every Day from 09.00 – 22.00

The promise: “Shrinking Violet is a revolutionary and effective wrap treatment that removes fat cells from problem areas. The main ingredient, a phospholipid solution, blended with essential oils, works by breaking up fat cells, up to 72 hours after treatment. Results are visible immediately…”

Did it deliver? A separate building from the main hotel, Talise Health Centre is a beautifully appointed, very serene-feeling area with stunning views over the waterways. After a warm welcome from the staff at the front desk, Team TMN were promptly lead to the fitness side of the centre to have a set of measurements taken prior to our treatment. Following a day of grazing in the office, being measured comprehensively by Talise’s impressively high-tech body scanner was not exactly a welcome task. However, when left in the capable hands of trainer Natascha, who calmly explained to us the machine’s many readings and what they meant, the process was painless and incredibly informative. With problem promptly being identified to be targeted during the treatment, we were given a tour of Talise’s fabulous facilities before being lead to one of their beautifully-appointed private rooms.

Once changed into the fetching disposable underwear provided, therapist Shani explained to us the process involved in a Shrinking Violet wrap, before she had us stand over heated towels to apply the treatment’s specially developed oil. A mixture consisting mostly of phospholipids and soy bean extract, the oil was thoroughly massaged into the skin. We were then snuggly wrapped from head to toe in what looked (and felt) like industrial-strength cling film.

Feeling mummified and rather warm, we were carefully – as completely unable to move our joints – moved onto a bed and wrapped in a heated blanket (to increase the treatment’s effectiveness).  As the part that we dreaded most, this was a surprisingly comfortable experience. The heat mostly affected areas already under wraps, which meant that it wasn’t particularly unpleasant and felt more like being tucked up under a duvet on a cold day, a strange feeling considering Dubai’s climate. Once settled, we were treated to a wonderfully stress-busting taster facial using Swiss skincare line Bellefontaine, which is exclusive to Jumeirah Hotel spas in Dubai. The relaxing and rejuvenating facial, combined with Shani’s friendly chatter and careful explanation of all processes involved, quickly put all worries to rest and soothed any feelings of overheating or claustrophobia.

After a further 30 minutes or so of drifting in and out of sleep, we were woken to find our cocoon being cut away to reveal sweaty but detoxified bodies. Thankfully the juniper, cyprus and lavender oils used in the treatment meant that we were left smelling wonderful – especially important as it is advised that you don’t shower for 24 hours post-treatment. Following further measurements and another consultation with Natascha, Team TMN were left feeling smug in our detoxified, slimmer states.

The Verdict: Though this isn’t the most sustainable way to slim down – nor, at AED849 a pop, is it the cheapest – the Shrinking Violet body wrap is an excellent way to boost confidence and lose an inch or two from problem areas. The minimal fuss involved in the treatment makes it a fantastic way to kick-start a detox, or get ready for a beach holiday. With Talise’s expert therapists proving friendly and attentive service, the whole process feels reassuringly relaxed and far more therapeutic than alternatives.

System Reboot

Fancy a fuss-free way to initiate healthy eating habits, and sort out your system? Team TMN have found a truly delightful detox..

What: Detox Delight

Where: Delivered to your door

When: Your chosen morning time slot

The promise: “Detox Delight is a holistic approach to the long-term improvement of our nutrition and thus our metabolism and well-being. Our products are designed for people who, despite their demanding professional, private and social lives, don’t wish to neglect their well-being.”

Did it deliver? Team TMN could not wait to begin our Detox, especially following a summer of indulgences, and starting the programme couldn’t have been simpler. After filling out an order request online, we were contacted by Nicole, Detox Delight’s charming Managing Director, who made some notes and recommendations for our juice package, based on personal health, diet and preference. We decided on the recommended three-day Juice Delight detox, consisting of five different fruit and vegetable juices, as well as a nut milk. The process was explained to us in great detail by Nicole, who also warned of possible detox side effects, and recommended that we avoid strenuous exercise, particularly cardio, during the programme – though we were told that should we wish to continue exercising for the three days, this could be accommodated by taking protein enhanced juices.

The first morning of the detox felt almost like Christmas! A nifty cooler was delivered to the door, filled with an array of juices to last for two days, as well as straws, a leaflet explaining the detox, possible symptoms and how to cure them, and even a pot of spicy crackers just in case we felt the need to chew on something over the three days. The juices themselves arrived in an array of beautiful jewel colours – each one raw and completely unpasturised to maintain maximum enzymes and vitamins, all prepared by Detox Delight’s team of nutritionists and raw food chefs. The effort gone into preparing the juices and developing combinations to maximise flavor as well as health benefits showed. The first juice of the day – a bright, warmly coloured lemonade – felt almost like drinking sunshine, and all of its vitamin-filled goodness. The beautiful packaging and informative guides were also reassuring, and helped us to feel slightly less apprehensive about the detox period ahead.

By day three, and our second delivery of meticulously prepared juices, we were already feeling healthier. Luckily, many of the possible side effects we had been warned about didn’t occur, although there was a slight feeling of fatigue. The generous amounts of juice supplied meant that we barely touched the spicy crackers, although they were tasty and they did curb the instinctive need to chew on something. The fact that they were raw, vegan and organic also meant that we didn’t feel guilt on the rare occasion that we did have one. The lemonade juice remained a firm favourite amongst Team TMN, though all the juices were tasty – our only criticism would be of the nut milk, which was enhanced with activated charcoal and consequently had a slightly alien, chalky taste. The green juices we tried for day three were all very refreshing, and tasted incredibly healthy.

The Verdict: At the end of our Detox Delight experience, Team TMN were left looking and feeling healthier and slimmer – even dropping down one jeans size in the process! Obviously it takes a little while to adjust mentally to the concept of not eating solid food, though Detox Delight do a fantastic job of preparing you for this, and the volume of juices supplied means that actual feelings of hunger are few and far between. The time saved by having someone else take care of preparing the juices also means that there is ample opportunity to asses how the detox is affecting positive change, and reflect on usual eating habits – which is a definite bonus, as it inspires positive change post-detox. We would definitely recommend Detox Delight, as a healthy way to feel and look better in a relatively short period of time.

Mighty Mughlai

In the mood for some extravagant North Indian cuisine? Team TMN has found just the place…

What: Amala tasting menu

Where: Amala, Zabeel Saray, Dubai 

When: Every night from 6pm to 1am

The promise: “Every evening Amala serves an exceptional a la carte menu where guests can choose from an abundant array of indulgent dishes freshly prepared from an open style kitchen.”

Did it deliver? There are few entrances more grandiose than that of the Zabeel Saray – the opulent hotel oozes high-octane glamour from every fibre in its structure. In Amala – luxurious space dedicated to cuisine from North India – the chandeliers and intricately tiled floor offer a more subtle nod to the glamour, creating an atmosphere that is altogether more relaxed. Soft lighting adds to the ambience, making the cavernous space seem less imposing and, somehow, warm.

Once we were shown our seats, Team TMN were immediately immersed in Amala’s main event – the food. Hailing from the North of India, Mughlai food is influenced by flavours from Persia and Turkey, and is notoriously rich and creamy, often incorporating exotic spices and dried fruit. As the concept of the set-price menu was explained to us, we were asked if we would like to select the dishes we sampled, or leave this in the capable hands of Amala’s head chef. Opting to try the chef’s selection of food, we tucked in. The selection of starters we were presented with were delectable introductions to the cuisine – salads were refreshing and crisp, and smaller hot places were tasty and well-spiced. The tandoori that followed was even better, with meat cooked until tender and full of flavor – the lamb chops were a definite winner with us, with meat so beautifully cooked that it fell from the bone.

Following the selection from the tandoor grill, we were presented with three types of bread to accompany the curry dishes. The naans were soft and pillowy, proving an exceptional accompaniment to the standout dish on Amala’s menu; butter chicken. Amala’s version is rich without being overwhelming, well spiced and completely delicious. Other curries – notably the Goan prawn curry and the jalfrazi, – were also fabulously flavourful and incredibly moreish.

By the time we were presented with a small selection of deserts, even the most sweet-toothed of Team TMN found it difficult to find the room to properly sample them following such generous mains.

The Verdict; Amala is the perfect restaurant for someone who loves Indian cuisine and is looking to sample a variety of dishes. The restaurant’s grand yet casual feel makes it a relaxing venue and the value for money the menu represents is exceptional. For AED 325, the selection of dishes and quality of ingredients is hard to beat. The sharing style in which food is brought to the table makes it the kind of menu perfect for a large group yet it is equally welcoming for a romantic meal.

Ooh la la!

When Team TMN discovered that Michelin-starred chef Frederic Vardon would be opening his first international restaurant in Dubai, we couldn’t wait to find out whether the food matched the creator’s impressive reputation…

What: La Résidence Restaurant & Lounge

Where: Raffles Hotel, Dubai

When: Open for dinner every day between 7pm and 2am

The promise: “Inspired by Parisian luxury brasseries, La Résidence Restaurant & Lounge brings French elegance and accessible haute cuisine to the centre of Dubai.”

Did it deliver? Upon entering La Résidence Restaurant & Lounge, you might be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled upon an English stately home – with its Chesterfield-style furniture, paneled walls and warmly lit chandeliers, all the space lacked was some stuffed animals and genteel men and women sipping tea. It was only upon noticing the quirky and distinctly French artwork and detailing that Team TMN realised we had entered a luxe French bistro. Following a warm welcome from our hostess, we were quickly led to our table, which was pleasantly intimate, without being cut off from the rest of the bustling restaurant. The high ceilings and warm atmosphere, while on paper seem to be at odds with each other, meant that La Résidence provided an atmosphere that was cosy and rich, without being imposing or overly fussy – in total contrast to the 40-degree heat and shimmering pyramids outside.

La Résidence is a restaurant built on the reputation ofFrédéric Vardon and it is easy to see his influence in all of the food we were presented with – beginning with an amuse bouche taster of miniature cheese soufflés, uniquely disguised as small spheres. The starters we sampled: a green pea soup, and soft-boiled egg ‘royale-style’, were both utterly delectable. The green pea soup was served chilled, offering a unique tasting experience which further enhanced its velvety texture, while the egg – though totally unrecognisable as an egg, beautifully reconstructed as a foamy mass – was deliciously rich thanks to the inspired mushroom addition, a pleasant surprise for a vegetable-based course.

For mains, team TMN chose a beef tenderloin and Dublin bay prawn ravioli. The beef tenderloin stood out as an expertly cooked and flavourful dish presented in a way that we had never seen before. Sliced elegantly, it appeared as two pieces of meat and truly melted in the mouth, while the homemade ravioli – with its generous filling and wonderful sauce – was another winner with us. Sides of seasonal vegetables and French beans were the perfect accompaniment.

Although completely full, we miraculously managed a little room to sample La Residence’s signature dessert of crêpes suzette. Rolled into small straw-like tubes, the paper-thin pancakes were utterly delicious. A panna cotta-like topping, and thin strips of candied orange peel balanced the sweet and citrusy flavors permeating the crepes, making the dessert a truly decadent and resplendently French way to end our meal!

The Verdict: La Résidence Restaurant and Lounge is a charming venue. It serves food that is both beautifully presented as well as truly delicious in a setting of genial ambience and warmth. As the first international venture from Frédéric Vardon, this restaurant definitely reflects his attention to detail and unique visions of French cuisine. Team TMN would highly recommend the venue as a place for a celebratory dinner, romantic date or simply a classy evening out.

A Cut above

Team TMN couldn’t wait to discover the latest in refined brunch offerings, from one of Dubai’s most decadent restaurants…

What: Friday Brunch at CUT

Where: CUT by Wolfgang Puck, The Address Downtown Dubai

When: Every Friday from 12pm – 4pm

The promise: “At the pinnacle of the fine dining experience, CUT by Wolfgang Puck invites visitors to indulge in an impeccable brunch that is beyond fulfilling. CUT offers an elegant dining experience with a menu that will make you crave more.”

Did it deliver? CUT by Wolfgang Puck has long been on the to-visit list here at TMN. Helmed by famed Austrian-American Chef (pronounced ‘pook’), the Dubai outlet is the latest addition to a family of world-renowned restaurants famed for their excellent steaks.

With enormous bay windows offering world-class views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai fountains, the restaurant itself is quite simply stunning. Team TMN loved the light and airy feel of the space, with its high ceilings and clean décor, and the restaurant was intimate enough for a good catch-up without feeling stuffy or cramped.

Opting for a table with a window view, we took our seats, and were made to feel thoroughly welcome. Promptly presented with a basket of delicious home-baked breakfast breads and croissants, a create-your-own Bloody Mary cart was also wheeled before us. As conversation (and cocktails) flowed, food began to arrive at our table – we began with canapé-sized portions of steak and miniature grilled cheese sandwiches, and both were devoured keenly, with the bite-sized steak acting as a tantalising glimpse of the mains to come.

CUT completely avoids the eternally disappointing buffet-for-brunch concept, and offers a selection of starters delivered to the table in a steady trickle, before one main course per person is selected from an a-la-carte menu. This meant that the quality of the food remained exceptionally high and we managed to try a little bit of everything, including some of the restaurants signature dishes – highlights from the starters we sampled included smoked salmon blinis, a wonderfully light scallop carpaccio, and an expertly prepared, utterly delicious steak tartare. By the time it came to order mains, team TMN were already feeling thoroughly spoilt by both the decadent food and excellent drinks list.

Obviously, going to a steakhouse for brunch meant only one thing when it came to mains: steak! Although we were provided with a surprisingly varied menu of mains, including incredibly tempting fish and vegetarian options, team TMN couldn’t pass up the opportunity to unleash our inner carnivores and we all ordered the prime rib! Our mains arrived, tender and cooked to perfection, with a selection of equally delicious sides – perfectly crisp French fries, well-dressed salad and a selection of sautéed greens.

Following our mammoth mains we requested a short break to enjoy the terrace and its stunning views, cocktails in hand, before heading back inside where we were presented with a trio of deserts and coffees to round off the meal. The blueberry cheesecake and rhubarb pancake were both light and fruity, but the standout of the trio was a chocolate egg which, when covered in a light sauce, melted away to reveal a delicious fondant dessert – the added touch of drama in its presentation, and its luxurious taste making this the perfect ending to such a refined Friday brunch.

The Verdict: CUT is not the liveliest place for brunch in Dubai, so if you’re looking for a debauched Friday afternoon, this is not the place for you. Having said that, the wonderful setting and variation in dining space – with small, romantic nooks as well as the large, open tables – does make this the ideal place for couples and groups alike to be social/celebrate an occasion. The excellent quality of the food alone makes this a brunch worth visiting, particularly for carnivore-enthusiasts, and the free-flowing beverages are at a level that is superior to many brunches Dubai has to offer. Packages start from AED290 for soft drinks and go up to AED650 for premium-selected beverages. While this isn’t cheap, when you consider that the average dinner at CUT without alcohol is around AED1,000, it is excellent value.

The Gourmet hub of Dubs

When Team TMN stumbled across a certain venue in the heart of Media City promising home-style gourmet grub at purse friendly prices, we were powerless to resist…

What: 1762 The Gourmet Deli Co.

Where: OMD Building, Dubai Media City, Dubai

When: Sunday-Thursday, 7.30am-6pm

The promise: “You will find our deli shops rustic, warm and homely; somewhere you know you can escape to when you get a moment to pop in and relax over some good food & freshly made brew”

Nestled in the heart of one of Dubai’s busiest business hubs, 1762 is only a stones throw away from most of Dubai’s media companies. A seamless blend of two settings – one, a cosy indoors with exposed brickwork and intimate tables, the other a relaxing, open-aired, conservatory-style room (which avoids the oppressive summer heat with a retractable roof, that closes to create one large, indoor space). Making the most of the last great weather of the season, we opted for the conservatory. Surrounded by greenery and the low-rise buildings of Media City with a glass of fresh pink lemonade in hand, you could easily imagine that you were in New York or London.

Having passed the deli counter as we walked in, tummies were definitely rumbling as we got settled – seeing the food presented in such a tantalising way was a real feast for the eyes. We left our ordering in the capable hands of the venue’s Outlet Manager, Charlotte who decided to showcase some of 1762’s more popular dishes from the extensive menu of delicious-looking deli food.

We began with 1762’s signature dish, traditional, home-cooked roast beef wrapped in a delicious Yorkshire pudding; truly comfort food at its finest! Who knew a Yorkshire pudding could be used instead of humble wrap-bread? Another stand-out dish was the chicken and leek pie – a traditional recipe which managed to provide the perfect blend of chicken, leeks and cream. In contrast to the comforting, carb-laden traditional foods sampled, was the wonderfully light ginger-lime salmon nori roll, which triumphed as team TMN’s favourite dish on the menu. On top of all these mains, we also sampled a selection of the deli counter’s eight salads – freshly prepared daily.

Even filled to the brim, we were informed that we simply had to sample some of the desserts, and who were we to argue? Happy to hang around, we noticed just how busy 1762 gets. Having arrived bang-on midday, there was a steady influx of human traffic, with the queue edging outside – a sign of success if ever there was one.

After sampling the decadent millionaire’s shortbread and twix brownies and the lighter, but equally delectable Tunisian orange cake slices, we finally left, stomachs groaning and in unanimous agreement of a lunch hour well spent.

The verdict : This is definitely a venue worth getting out of the office for, whether for lunch or just a quick bite to go. 1762 caters perfectly to Dubai’s professional crowd. With affordable prices and excellent-quality food, 1762’s three venues (also in DIFC and The Galleries, Jebel Ali) have definitely found their niche. Our only critique is that their opening times are reflective of business hours, and we would love to get a hold of the menu for dinner and brunch! While this may be a possibility at some point, for now at least, it’s remaining the business community’s little secret!

Beauty is more than paint deep

An SUV seems to be a pre-requisite for expat life in Dubai, but finding one that not only looks the part, but comes with all the mod-cons necessary for urban everyday life seems to be almost impossible. Until Team TMN discovered Lexus’ latest luxury compact offering that is…

What: The Lexus NX F Sport 

Where: Showrooms across the Middle East

When: Launched February 2015

The promise: “The Lexus NX F Sport combines design, intuitive technology and a potent turbo drive engine to take on whatever urban adventure comes your way”

Did it deliver? Driving in the UAE can be a stressful experience, especially at rush hour on the infamous Sheikh Zayed Road. So when we heard the tech wizards at Lexus had created the new NX F Sport’s four door compact SUV with a two-litre turbo engine, 235 brake horsepower, four-cylinder engine and some fancy new gadgets to make our driving experience more enjoyable, we just had to check it out.

The F Sport has a futuristic and aerodynamic look, with curves in all the right places and a body that will certainly turn heads. The old saying could go, ‘beauty is only paint deep’, but this compact crossover has a beautiful interior to match that’s both practical and slick. The hand-stitched leather seats have built-in air conditioning in the headrest and base for those extra hot days, with heating elements for when it gets cooler.

Just hit the NX F’s ignition button and you’re automatically maneuvered into one of three pre-sets for your preferred driving position. The smart-steering wheel allows you to effortlessly control the CD, radio or Aux and talk hands free via the built in blue-tooth. Some dashboards can be guilty of being over-complicated, but Lexus have combined practicality and style in order to produce easy to navigate cockpit controls and functionality. The built-in computer can take a bit of time to work out but, after a little time and patience, becomes as user-friendly as the rest of the car.

The Lane Departure Alert (LDA), with steering control, warns the driver with a buzzer and on a multi-information display if it judges that the vehicle is about to cross the lane markings without using turn signals. Blind spot sensors in the wing mirror are incredibly helpful, as they flash amber when other vehicles are sneaking up on you. The ‘Heads-Up’ feature is also a nice touch, and means you can keep your eyes on the road because vital information like speed and navigation are projected onto your lower windscreen. This car even tells you when your tires need a top-up!

State of the art reversing technology makes the trickiest of car-parking spaces an absolute piece of cake, and there’s plenty of boot space for the weekly big shop, or round of golf, and the rear seats fold almost flat so it’s even easy to throw the bikes in! Luckily team TMN didn’t need to experience the airbags, but we’re assured they are there and ready for action if called upon.

The Lexus NX F Sport is a very smart and intuitive car, with dynamic radar cruise control to automatically match your speed with the vehicles around you. The pre-crash safety system will automatically tighten your seatbelt if an impact is imminent, making the vehicle extra-safe, and with boundless energy thanks to the 2-litre turbo engine it’s also eco-friendly. Multiple USB ports to charge mobiles and even a wireless tray compatible with numerous devices make the car functional and perfect for those of us who are constantly on-the-go.

The Verdict:  In a world of smart phones and predictive text, Lexus have produced a compact SUV to match our lively and hectic lifestyles. With prices starting from AED 160,000 for the regular model and AED 180,000 for the F Sport model, they are both luxurious but affordable, effortless and fun.

Gone in (hopefully) 60 minutes

Always keen to partake in a little investigative work, Team TMN metaphorically donned the detective caps to go play Sherlock in a fun new adventure game gripping Dubai… 

What: Escape Quest

Where: HDS Business Tower, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai

When: Seven days a week, 10am-11pm

The promise: “Forget Google! Forget Wikipedia! It’s a race against time and you have 60 minutes. Full of twists and turns, this is a real life brain teaser, a test of brainpower and a test of willpower”

Did it deliver? “You have 60 minutes and the clock is ticking. You must find the clues, solve the puzzles and crack the codes which will ultimately lead to your escape…” were the words that rung out as we dared to enter the Escape Quest headquarters on the 20th floor of a standard JLT skyscraper. Apart from our cryptic greeting, there wasn’t a whole lot to go on, which was all part of the fun and definitely part of the challenge. The one thing that we could be certain of was being locked in a room, with the only way of escape by finding seemingly random clues, solving unseen puzzles and cracking inexplicable codes… in an hour.

Even with the combined brainpower of Team TMN, we were feeling the pressure.

Led into the room channeling everything we’ve learnt from Benedict Cumberbatch, we knew that there was much more to the room than an obvious affinity for all things Africa. After being made aware of the bell, which could be rung at any stage in the hour for a clue, all energy went into working on team strategy – communication and combined effort cannot be overstated in a game like this. Running around like headless chickens at times with a mind twist at every corner, time crept up and we suddenly had eight minutes left before we succumbed to asking for our first clue. Things that had no meaning eventually began to make sense and the excitement (and tension) became palpable, as we got closer to the escape. Working right to the end, we made it out of the room with barely 30 seconds to spare – not sure whether we were more proud of completing the game or more relieved that we had managed to uphold the TMN name!

The verdict: Whether with family, friends or colleagues, if you can round up a group of up to five then Escape Quest is something that has to be experienced. Incredibly clever and a challenge without being frustrating, it’s a great way to relieve the stresses of the day by forcing you to refocus your energy. While it’s certainly not a walk in the park, don’t be fooled into overthinking it either – there’s a beauty in the balance of complexity and simplicity that’s achieved. There’s only one quest available at the moment, which means you can only try this out once; but with a new one set to launch in the next couple of months, it will be a welcome opportunity to get our detective caps on again!

Oh boy, Oberoi

Media professionals in the UAE certainly take the ‘work hard, play harder’ mantra to heart, with little or no time in between all the deadlines, meetings and events for a bit of me-time. But when we were promised rejuvenation in just an hour, Team TMN simply had to squeeze the time in…

What:  Sodashi Pure Radiance Facial

Where: The Oberoi Spa, The Oberoi, Business Bay, Dubai

When: Every day from 9am – midnight

The promise: “We will take your skin on a journey of total renewal. This facial experience is tailored to your skin’s needs and is enhanced with the Sodashi Facial Massage. The luxurious Sodashi Plant Esss needs ence Synergies will leave your skin revitalised and fresh”

Did it deliver? Tucked away on the third floor of The Oberoi hotel, we felt totally separated from the city’s chaos as we entered the peaceful calm of the reception.  Welcomed by the delightful front desk, no time was wasted as we were led to the private changing room, complete with a steam shower and complimentary products, which adjoined the treatment room – think hotel suite, spa style.

Donning white fluffy towels, the treatment began with adjusting the massage bed to suit personal preference, which was a great touch if you suffer from any back troubles. While advertised as a facial, the experience proved to be much more than that as our therapist Ruma put her skills to work, beginning with a decadent hot towel foot wrap. This combined with the intoxicating oils that Ruma held over to gently inhale left you entirely relaxed.

Eagerly anticipating the effects of the reputed Australian skincare brand, the treatment began with an aromatic warm facial compress, which left the skin feeling tingly and soft, as well as lightly exfoliated.  A light yet velvety facemask followed, and the accompanying Sodashi Facial Massage achieved new heights of luxury – the treatment really made the most of every minute. Topping it all off with a head massage, the hour was over before we knew it. Coming back to reality with a cup of herbal ginger tea, it was much more than just our face that felt revitalised.

The verdict: If you have a spare hour and you’re looking for a bit of me-time, this is the perfect treatment to indulge in. Efficient without feeling rushed and utterly luxurious, at AED400 the Sodashi Pure Radiance Facial offers so much more than a simple facial scrub. While more convenient for those who are in the Downtown area, for a stand out facial it’s worth the trek.