Iconic Asia: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is one of Asia’s iconic hotels, and it has grandeur and class to burn. Toss in prestigious restaurants, nostalgically heritage and coolly neo-colonial rooms and suites that have welcomed a who’s who of the world’s rich and famous, and voilà you have a legend. We’re just back from a stay; here’s our report.

The hotel takes up most of an old city block in downtown Hanoi, the original Metropole Wing blending effortlessly into the contemporary Opera Wing, both of which wrap around the courtyard garden and the pool. The two vintage Citroëns on the leafy street outside the old entrance to the historical wing set the mood. Good to know: One of the Citroëns is in working order and can be hired to tour the city’s most famous iconic sights.

The old lobby is much as it was when the doors opened in 1901, with wood paneling, club-like leather couches, ceiling fans, a handsome chandelier that dangles all the way down from the top floor, and a complimentary shoeshine chair. The Opera lobby, around the corner or through the courtyard, reprises the heritage style but is more contemporary with Art Deco-look pale marble flooring and pale wood paneling.  

In the original wing, the 106 Luxury and Grand Luxury rooms and the three suites have high ceilings, hardwood floors and whirling fans that are activated by pulling a tasseled rope. The Luxury Rooms are 344 square feet — the Grand Luxury Rooms are larger at 400 square feet — and all have spacious, beautifully outfitted bathrooms. Good to know: For guests who fuss about soaking up history, make sure to ask for one of the rooms on the first or second floors, as the third floor was added in the 1960s. 

The three suites are named after former guests who sit high in the pantheon of greats: W. Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene and Charlie Chaplin. All these suites have original oak floors, antique furniture and separate living rooms; the apricot and orange upholstery and cushions add touches of vibrant color. The second-floor Graham Greene and third-floor Charlie Chaplin Suites (the actor spent his honeymoon here with Paulette Goddard in 1936) have small balconies, and the first-floor Somerset Maugham Suite has the hotel’s only garden. This charming grassy corner overlooks the courtyard and has a small paved deck with a wrought-iron table and chairs.     

Spices Garden is the hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant, which serves local specialties using a wide range of spices, herbs and seasonings.

In the seven-story Opera Wing, the Premium and Grand Premium rooms are plush with French windows and hardwood floors, and 12 of them have small terraces. The Grand Premium rooms, on the fifth to seventh Club Floors have Hermès amenities, access to the exclusive Club Lounge and enjoy butler service, as do the suites.   

The Prestige Suites, 689 square feet in size, have spacious living rooms and Nespresso coffee machines; some connect with Grand Premium and Premium rooms. These, too, have 24-hour Club Lounge access and 24-hour butler service. The Grand Prestige Suite, at 1,895 square feet, has a master bedroom, a large living room with a dining table for eight, and an individual spa room and it can connect with a Grand Premium Room. Altogether the hotel has 76 connecting rooms. 

Luxury travel advisors can reach out to Anthony Slewka ([email protected]; 011-84-438-266-919), the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, who told us the person to contact to make advance bookings for the Le Spa du Metropole is Le Bac Ha ([email protected]; 011-84-438-266-919 ext.8709).  

There are three restaurants: the French Le Beaulieu, the Vietnamese Spices Garden and Angelina; while La Terrasse cocktail lounge has tables on the sidewalk and is a great people-watching spot. Le Beaulieu, which was Hanoi’s first French restaurant, is open for breakfast and lunch — the Sunday brunch is magnifique — but it is in the evenings that its sophisticated Parisian glamour comes into its own.

Executive Chef Paul Smart ([email protected]; 011-84-243-826-6919 ext. 8240) told us that he varies the five-course Chef’s Daily Market Menu depending on what seasonal products he finds in the local markets. He suggested we try the Lobster Bisque, and this was flambéed with cognac at our table. It was silky smooth and packed with chunky pieces of lobster, and we indulgently followed it with Crêpes Suzette, which meant more fireworks at the table.  

The Spices Garden has a Vietnamese menu and buffet lunches that feature street food favorites and live cooking stations. The Angelina Bar Lounge and Restaurant has raised Hanoi’s culinary bar with its new menu. This is one of Hanoi’s trendiest haunts with a floor-to-ceiling bar and an intimate whiskey lounge. Seated at the upstairs tables, Anthony Slewka introduced us to the New World menu from which we picked a lobster roll with caviar and gold leaf.     

History does not gather dust at the Metropole. In the 1990s, many of the guestrooms in the old wing were taken over by foreign embassies and, just a few years ago during work on the pool bar, they discovered the bunker that had been used to shelter the staff and guests during the war years.   

The Hotel has 364 rooms and suites spread over two wings, the original Metropole Wing and the contemporary Opera Wing.

Every evening, a local guide takes two small groups of guests on the complimentary one-hour Path of History tour, ending in the bomb shelter. Photos and mementos along the Path of History corridor bring history to life and Joan Baez  who, like Jane Fonda stayed here during the war, left a painting that is now hanging in the lobby. 

Note: These tours are very popular, so guests are advised to book at the tour desk in the lobby as soon as they arrive.  

Hanoi is a great walking city, and the Sofitel Metropole Legend is close to many of its most famous attractions like the Hoan Kiem Lake, the Opera House and the Water Puppet Theatre. Ask Chief Concierge Pham Cong Thrinh ([email protected]; 011-008-443-826-6919) to arrange transfers for the Noi Bai international airport. Thrinh steered us toward the exclusive shopping in Trang Tien Plaza and, for superlative Vietnamese cuisine he said it has to be the Cau Go Restaurant ([email protected]). Top Tip: Book well in advance to get one of the tables on the second-floor outdoor terrace overlooking the iconic lake, which is where Britain’s Prince William dined while staying at the Metropole on his visit to the Vietnamese capital.  

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