Monday, March 9, 2020

Does Sofitel Legend Metropole lives up to its lofty reputation?

Currently the best hotel in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi is Sofitel Legend Metropole until Four Seasons opens its door in the coming year or two.  With that said, there are lots of things to be like with Sofitel Legend Metropole; the history, the Indochine charm, and the service.

Sofitel Legend Metropole has been around since 1901.  This French colonial style hotel has hosted the who's who of the world: George Bush, Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Jane Fonda, Charlie Chaplin to name a few.  Of course recently it was the venue that hosted the infamous meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.  Famous writers are known to whip up a novel at the hotel as well; Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Parlour at the hotel; Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American during his stay at the hotel in 1951.

The hotel actually has two entrances.  One is the original one and the other is located at the new wing.  Like all hotels, this hotel hosts conferences.  While I was there, every night there were lots of conferences/parties going on.  I understand that's part of the hotel function but it certainly doesn't make the hotel feels exclusive or luxurious.

The new wing is where the renovated rooms are.  They are renovated to a nice quality but unfortunately the room that was allocated to me was facing directly to an elevator bank.  While normally it would be ok.  But given large conference crowds I'm seeing in the lobby area, I start to think I will have very late nights with lots of noises coming from drunk conference attendees waddling out of elevators.  In addition, the windows in my room were facing some kind of department store which looks like it was going under some kind of renovation.  I ended up requesting to move to a different room due to these reasons.  Management was very reluctant to move me which again, I guess is indicative of brands at this level.  Once again, I'm reminded I'm not staying at a Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental but a Sofitel.  Eventually the management moved me to Somerset Maugham Suite which was very lovely.

The suite is essentially a one bedroom suite with a large interior courtyard balcony.  This is lovely as one can take in tea or breakfast facing interior courtyard which is a lot quieter than facing outwards.  The bathroom is on the dated side but certainly serviceable.  The room is quiet which is important for any travelers as that allows one to rest without waking up by traffic noise either from elevators or traffic.

Restaurants at the hotel are very lovely especially Le Beaulieu.  This was my first foray to Sofitel brand.  The hotel, while nice, doesn't seem particularly high end thus I had my doubts about their restaurants.  I was very happy to be proven wrong.  The wait staff couldn't be any more attentive not to mention food, while traditional, is delectable and on point.  In fact, I liked it so much I came back the second time!  I guess it shouldn't be a surprise as Vietnam is a former French colony.  The Spices Garden, which is their Vietnamese food restaurant, is also delicious with great attentive staff!  I wouldn't hesitate to eat at either hotel upon my return visit.

The hotel is within a stone's throw distance from a local high end mall called Trang Tien Shopping Mall.  Thus if you are in need to shop at international brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, or Cartier, you are in luck.  If music is your thing, then Hanoi Opera House is also within a short walking distance.  In addition,the hotel is close to a lake called Hoan Siem Lake which is a perfect for a morning run if you are into that.  For a closer shopping experience, hotel has couple gift shops on the ground floor which have a wide variety of local made goods that looks expensive but easy on the wallet.

Overall I had a nice stay at the hotel.  I thought the service level was quite high and food was delicious.  I'm pleasantly surprised by Sofitel brand.  Next time when I come back to Hanoi, I will probably stay at Four Seasons Hanoi to see how it stacks up to Sofitel Metropole.  I'm sure the finishes at the new Four Seasons Hanoi will surpass Sofitel Metropole but the real test will be the level of service.  With that said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend my friends and family to stay at Sofitel Metropole especially if they like to stay at historical hotels.    

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