I first wrote down my recommendations for everything from handymen to hairdressers more than two years ago. Times changes, people leave, new experts arrive, and it’s time for an update.
Over the last eleven years I’ve tried and tested a lot of services from the good and bad to the very ugly – never forget my Alistair Darling eyebrows after a heavy-handed tint – and am often asked for recommendations. To save repetition, I thought it would be useful to share my little black book of the team I trust, from waxers to removal companies, which is kind of the same thing, when you think about it.
BEAUTY & BODY
I’d rather go to the dentist than the hairdresser and formerly had zero loyalty when it comes to my barnet. I’d merrily cut my fringe after a few drinks while getting ready to go out, and loathed paying more than Dhs200 for a cut and blow-dry, but after complimenting may colleagues on their new dos, I went to see Ali at Headkase and really rate her. It’s a fab salon on Umm Suqeim Street and they have a very cool following (I feel like a bit of a square there, but hey ho) and her cuts are amazing. She’s also famed for balayage, bright hues, and great craic.
I’ve been seeing Lily at Sisters Village Mall for years. She’s super-sweet yet business-like, and I really don’t know what else you want from a waxer. I’ll even forgive her for patting my pregnant tummy before our wedding and saying ‘You have a good party with your big belly’. She does great eyebrow threading and tinting too, if you’re short on time.
I can’t be doing with manicures (they chip too quickly then I fixate on the chip and it gets me down – this is the reason I couldn’t get a tattoo), but for a great pedicure and Gelish I’m yet to find better than The Nail Spa. Mercato is my local branch and I’ve never had a bad experience. They get extra points for free jelly beans, great shoulder massages and bargain lash extensions, but lose points for showing Fashion TV on a loop. No-one needs to see models while eating jelly beans.
If I’m off for a pamper with Phoebe then we go to Chloe’s together – they have super cute butterfly chairs and a menu of well-priced services for little ones. She’s had haircuts and mani-pedis there, and it totally smitten because they give her Oreos, apple juice and an iPad. It’s also on The Entertainer.
I’ve never really been sure when to take kids to the dentist, so we had a family trip to Dr Emma Casey at Kings College Hospital recently, and she was fab with the girls. Phoebe asks about going back regularly… I’ve seen her for scale and polish, as well as some fillings replaced, and she’s absolutely lovely.
I also really rate Dr Neil Mitchell at Dentist Direct in TECOM (sorry, I mean Barsha Heights) and am planning to see him about some orthodontics. He’s great if you’re afraid of clinics and could put anyone at ease.
I’m seeing Dimitri at Be Strong, who I really like for his depth of knowledge and dead pan wit. The Be Strong team are as far from the meathead trainers of Instagram as you can get, with them all having a history in both professional sports and university education.
Dr Jozsa at Health Bay Clinic, delivered both of the girls. He’s very calm, pro-natural births, and was amazing on the day eg he approved all the drugs. I adore Dr Kiren at Health Bay too, as a GP for me and the girls, though she’s in the Marina branch and the parking is atrocious.
I have nothing but good things to say about the midwives at Health Bay, and highly recommend their antenatal classes (great snacks, too) as well as the home visits and baby clinic for weigh-ins, vacinnations and checking up on you after the birth.
Kings College Hospital on Beach Road has some great GPs, valet parking, a coffee bar, kid’s room playing Frozen and pharmacies downstairs, so we go there too.
I also rate Dr Caspar at Infinity Clinic, though it’s not direct billing for our insurance company, which is a pain.
If you have lingering health issues (and can get an appointment) the doctor to see is Dr Heather Eade at Novomed in Sunset Mall. She’s a naturopath physician, and is all about treating the whole self, so ideal if you need hormone profiling, overall tests, or something just isn’t adding up.
I’ve just realised how many doctors I go to…
Over the years I’ve been to see the wonderful Helen Williams at Mindful ME at key points in my life (when my dad wasn’t very well, when I got engaged and married in quick succession then freaked out, and when I became pregnant unexpectedly and really freaked out). She’s just amazing at getting to the root cause of your feelings in record time, and while it’s around AED700 a session, I truly consider it well spent.
Leaving the kids with someone is a serious decision, so finding a nanny you can trust is crucial. Word of mouth or recommendations is definitely the best way to go (we met Loreta through her sister, who was working for a friend). For short-term care, maternity nurses and support for you, I have had great experiences with both Malaak (we had the fantastic Cecile de Scally come to the house for a hypnobirthing class too) and Babies & Beyond, who have a great sleep consultant called Julie Mallon.
There’s only one man for the job – Rick from Mac Pack. When we moved last year I got numerous quotes and not only was his the best, but he’s an awesome guy. His cheerful team dominated our villa and set us up perfectly at the other end, and didn’t stress me out at all (despite the fact I was 7 months pregnant). Just treat them well please eg feed them Cokes and doughnuts.
I’ve always been impressed by the level of service from We Will Fix It – they’re organised, friendly and fast. While they’re not the cheapest, jobs get done right the first time, the parts they use are under warranty, and communication is excellent. They have also recently launched an annual contract called Essential Maintenance. We have booked them for AC maintenance, water tank cleaning, painting, electrics and more, and always been impressed.
If we ever need an extra pair of hands or cleaning while our nanny is away, SMS Maids have been great. We always struggled with cleaners who weren’t afraid of dogs, but it hasn’t been an issue with their team.
There’s no other word for it. We adore Rai at the oddly named Energetic Panacea near Safa Park, and followed him from his previous practice. He’s a wonderfully kind, funny Portuguese guy who my mum is rather fond of for non-professional purposes (I don’t think she cares about his neat stitches, just his cheeky smile). He has neutered both of our dogs, and we trust him implicitly.
Dog boarding and grooming
We have always taken our spaniels to Shampooch in Al Quoz for boarding. While it’s not as good as it used to be, it’s convenient, a nice size and in The Entertainer (bonus). They also do a good cut, and we’ve used them for daycare too.
One for the chaps, my husband is basically putting the children of Santoba Tailors through college. He has been a loyal customer for years, getting work shirts and suits made, plus black tie for our wedding (they stitched the date inside as a special touch) and casual blazers.
If you’re a parent in Dubai, you’ll have a favourite soft play – by which I mean, one you hate the least. We’re regulars at Fairytales in Town Centre (it has natural daylight, is small enough not to lose children, and Baker & Spice is nearby). We have done fab classes with Baby Sensory and Music Monkeys, and always get the AED99 deal at Fun City for 100 days of play. I’m also totally addicted to the fishbowl game in the arcade there.
Our kids are seriously spoilt here. Back home there’s a park by the river, a farm, and soft play at the local leisure centre of very dubious hygiene. But within 15 minutes of our house here in Dubai we can meet sloths at an indoor jungle at The Green Planet, see Barney and his friends at Mattel Play! Town, play in nature at X Park Junior, explore cafes, a weird white trampoline thing, go to the beach and bob around a lazy river at La Mer, and have a dip hotel pools across the city with Privilee membership. Yeah, we’re never leaving…
I was conflicted about having a party for Phoebe’s third birthday – the hassle of invites, food, party bags, entertainment, chit-chat with other parents, the (very real) threat of a tantrum as a result of too much cake and attention. In honesty, I very nearly didn’t bother.
But she’s friends with a lovely bunch of kids who had all invited her to fab parties, from lovely at-home affairs to treating everyone to big bashes, and she started asking about her own birthday. Could she have a cake? Would all her friends come? Could Barney the Dinosaur be there?
Barney has long been used as a source of bribery in our house, with promises of taking Phoebe to see him at Mattel Play Town when she sleeps through the night, to telling her that he’s friends with Lucy our dog, so she has to be kind to her (thankfully in one of is songs the name ‘Lucy’ is mentioned, so it seems a bit more legitimate).
Whenever Phoebe sees him, her face lights up, the songs are on a maddening loop in our cars, and we have a LOT of photos of her hugging him – one of which she frequently falls asleep holding.
So when The B Word was uttered, I knew where we’d be going for her birthday: Mattel Play Town. It’s a fab place for kids, and we’ve spent many a happy hour there, enjoying the shows, exploring the soft play, dancing with Angelina, stacking bricks with Bob the Builder and watching the Thomas the Tank Engine cinema show, complete with bubbles.
The staff are fab, it’s on The Entertainer, the food is good, and there’s parking right downstairs. And there are family toilets so dads can do their bit when it comes to changing nappies and the false poop alarm for the umpteenth time.
We hadn’t been to a party there before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was FANTASTIC – and everything Phoebe had dreamt of for her celebrations.
We took over Barney’s playhouse on the second floor from 10.30am, so the kids could run and climb and play for an hour. They especially loved the interactive lights on the floor, the kitchen area and the slide, while there were sofas (and coffee) for the parents, who could join for free.
There was a huge balloon arch at the entrance, a dining area for the children complete with Barney placemats, a table for presents, and special decorated area for the cake.
The staff were brilliant at getting the little ones dancing and playing games (adults were also roped in), then Barney and his friends, BJ and Baby Bop joined. Phoebe’s face was a picture! They joined in the dancing, posed for photos and were next to the family while we cut the cake.
Mattel Play Town prides itself on serving healthy, homemade food, and had sent out a menu ahead of time for us to choose from. Options included pasta with tomato sauce, breaded chicken strips with potato wedges, and sandwiches. Phoebe chose the pizza, and it was a big hit, and we provided a cake and cupcakes (from Spinneys).
After the party in Barney’s playhouse, everyone was free to stay at Mattel Play Town to have more fun, so we stayed until everyone was well and truly partied out. I think I did 18,000 steps that day….!
I loved that when we arrived there was a photo of Phoebe on the screens above the desk, and it made her feel really special. Personalised e-vites were also sent to me ahead of time, so I could send them out via email or WhatsApp, which saved a headache. They can also provide party bags, face painting and vouchers for the kids.
We’re so glad that we had this party for Phoebe. She talks about it ALL THE TIME, and loves looking at the photos. Prices start from AED115 per child, and the birthday boy or girl goes free, plus parents/guardians are included. I just wish I could get the songs out of my head…
Here’s the dilemma, big man, I can’t talk yet, so my parents are having to guess what I’d like to find under the tree. Also, I have an older sister and they seem to have bought her ALL the stuff. They’re uninspired, I can tell. I saw the lady them looking at a stuffed camel the other day with genuine consideration.
So I thought it best to outline in a letter what I actually want this year. And it’s pretty straightforward. I’ve been dropping hints for months, through the medium of grabbing, crawling and crying.
Specifically, I want to eat that phone that the one called Mum is always holding/talking into/making me smile at. I’ve tasted its wonders a couple of times when she wasn’t looking and I WANT MORE.
Those things you stick in the car
Keys? They’re delicious too. Especially that black one with the buttons. Gimme.
The TV buttons
The lady gives me these when she doesn’t want me licking her phone, and they’re pretty good. Chewy.
Plugs glorious plugs
I learnt to crawl to drag my tiny body across foam matting in order to touch the plugs. But the big people watch my progress, and see my delight when I finally touch the power source, only to cruelling move me away. What’s the worst that can happen?
Voucher for an experience
How about unrestricted access to the dogs’ water bowl? It’s fun, it’s free, and so refreshing. Or five minutes of peace and quiet to rearrange the bookshelf? Or some quality time pulling my sister’s hair?
Thanks Santa. I’m just an uncomplicated baby. I don’t need toys, just household item with a hint of danger.
See you on Christmas Eve – we have big plans to stay awake all night (no changes there).