The Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra was in the early soft-opening stage when we visited, but there was little evidence of teething pains—the overall impression cool, confident and decisively opulent.
Phnom Penh is slowly shedding its laid-back reputation and making its weight felt as an increasingly dynamic, must-see Southeast Asian capital. The Sofitel Phokeethra, with all its swank trappings, is helping to raise the bar considerably on the city’s luxury hôtellerie.
When we arrived, the sunset was pouring pure gold through the windows in the marble lobby, so the Lobby Bar seemed a good place to enjoy it. Space and light feature throughout the hotel, as do colonial whirring fans, dark boiserie, coffered ceilings and wrought-iron chandeliers. The mostly local staff is charming, quick with a smile, genuinely interested in guests and obviously proud to be at the hotel.
Diners will be impressed by the fine array of gourmet restaurants. We tried three: the Italian Do Forni, the Japanese Hachi and the international La Coupole. Have a sweet tooth? Chocoholics will enjoy Chocolate, a cozy tearoom-cum-confiserie in the lobby.
|The Opera Suite, the hotel’s top accommodation, has views of the Mekong and Bassac rivers.|
General manager Didier Lamoot ([email protected]; 011-855-2399-9200) says Chef Sakal turns out a majestic Florentine T-bone steak in the signature Do Forni restaurant. We had ravioli with aubergines, which, our Italian friend swore, was as good as any she had eaten back home. Le Coupole’s show kitchen has live cooking stations for pastas, grills and Asian soups, as well as a do-it-yourself Caesar Salad bar. Food and Beverage Manager Giuliano Callegaro told us it’s smart to book for the popular Sunday Champagne Brunch.
Wanting to dine out, we asked Head Concierge Mr. Peng, who promptly suggested Malis. We loved the elegant courtyard and had Cambodia’s traditional Fish Amok, a delicate banana-leaf-wrapped monkfish in a yellow coconut curry with tangy ginger and lemon grass. Peng recommends La Résidence for fine French dining, and to book ahead.
The hotel’s rooms, particularly the 11 Prestige Suites and the three-bedroom Opera Suite, are spacious and in muted colors. Top View: The Prestige Suites are positioned on corners of the hotel and, as such, have great views. They also have separate living and sleeping areas and dedicated butlers. Tip: For clients who like to enjoy the sunset in their room, ask for a city-side suite.
For families, the Prestige suites connect with superior rooms and 14 of the superior rooms with deluxe rooms. Nice Touch: All room lights have dimmers. We like soft lighting, but for those who don’t, a twist of a switch gives an immediate floodlit effect. There are L’Occitane amenities in the bathrooms, all with double sinks, bathtubs and separate showers, and Hermes in the Prestige and Opera suites.
The 12th-floor Club Millesime Executive Lounge has breakfast, evening drinks and wine degustations for guests staying on floors nine to 11. It is of arresting proportions and has stunning views over the city and the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. Luxury travel advisors can ask Lamoot or Resident Manager Frederick Demand for VIP arrangements, such as special treatment at Phnom Penh’s international airport and Mercedes transfers.
|The Pool is an extension of the So SPA by Sofitel.|
Note: The best way to get around Phnom Penh is by tuk tuk. These auto rickshaws can buzz you to the riverfront Sisowath Quay, the hub of Phnom Penh’s nightlife, to the Art Deco Central Market, which is great for souvenir shopping, or to the Wat Phnom hill to enjoy the sunset. Lamoot says the Sofitel will soon have a boat for cruises, and that helicopter tours over the city can be arranged. Most visitors take in the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, the National Museum and the two main thanatourism sites: Tuol Sleng Prison and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. Concierge Peng can arrange all of these and also city walking tours.
The So Spa has 10 treatment rooms, all with steam rooms, but we chose a relaxing foot massage at the pool. Kids will like the Mommy and Me Facial and Spa Manager Stephanie Cherbakow ([email protected]; 011-855-2399-9200, ext. 6521) recommends the soothing So Exhilarating Body Massage with Clarins or Ytsara products.
The ballroom, the largest in the country, can take up to 1,900 and looks perfect for swish weddings. Miss Bunna says any size party can be catered for and receptions can be set up on the main pool deck.
Before heading to the airport, we enjoyed a BBQ lunch at the pool in the Sports Club, which has tennis, squash, a gym with Life Fitness machines, a Kid’s Club, an activity studio for yoga, kick boxing and Khmer dance lessons and the Fu Lu Zu Chinese restaurant.