I haven't been to the Hilton in maybe a year. To say that the management has changed would be an extreme understatement. I don't know if you can call it "management" from what I saw this weekend. Chaos and uncleanliness perhaps, but not management.
I wanted an out-of the way place to go and talk with some friends over dinner. I thought that the former Blue Elephant was still an Asian-style restaurant and that it would be quiet and a suitable environment.
Driving into the Hilton is now a little confusing because they have erected barriers and not painted the road arrows. As we were going in (one-way), someone was coming out in the opposite direction. No one (like security guards) was around to assist the other driver. Actually, other than at the parking gate, I didn't see any security personnel at all.
Before we even got to the front door of the (renamed) restaurant, we had to walk through crowds of roaming, giggling teenagers. (I learned a new derogatory Kuwaiti-trend term this weekend: MacChickens. Immature teenaged girls.) Upon approach to the restaurant, the smoke hit us. It now appears to be a greenhouse; growing smoke. Sheesha, that is. I didn't venture in. My male friend said, "Wait here...." ominously. I could see that it was full of people. He came back at a quick pace and told me the bad news.
So we decided rather than getting ourselves into weekend traffic and going further down the coast, we would try Teatro on the other side of the hotel. But in order to do that, we again had to walk through a passageway of teenagers and stare-ers. Music at the (once-quiet) Bluebird cafe was blasting and people were talking very noisily. Gone were the hushed tones of yester-year. One in particular kept shouting, "Mariiiiiaaaaa!" (Waitress? Long-lost-love? Friend of Steeeeeeeeeeeeellaaaa?) Very classy. We passed fishtank upon fishtank of dirty, murky water with goldfish that I wished I could rescue; most seemed to swim close to the top, looking for a way out.
Teatro was ok, but not worth the 35KD we paid for 2 people (buffet). The food could have been replenished in the buffet and the fish a little fresher, but it wasn't bad in terms of noise level (and no sheesha). The service was very friendly when it was there, but several times, we had to physically get up from the table to go find the waiter and our dirty plates took quite a while to be removed.
I stopped by the ladies room on the way out. NOT a pleasant experience. Hilton Kuwait bathrooms used to be nicely scented with room freshener. Not now. The only "freshener" you are going to get is.... nevermind.
Hilton Kuwait may just fall into the same modus operandi that so many other formerly internationally branded hotels have gone: 51% Kuwaiti ownership means 51% decision-making capability. Hotels like Hyatt Regency, Kempinski, Missoni, and others have pulled their names. If a local hotelier doesn't follow their branding guidelines, gone is the name (and the standards of quality).
It really is a shame because the Hilton Kuwait used to be a classy place to go to on the weekends.