Sofitel Saigon Plaza hotel review
Sofitel Saigon Plaza has been a part of Ho Chi Minh City’s tourism scene since the 1990s, but it has continued to push the envelope with renovations in 2012 (guest rooms) and 2017 (lobby and meeting rooms), along with an annual gourmet cooking event. The sister property of the stunning Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel, this hotel has a lot of things going for it, including well-appointed rooms with dreamy beds and a location that keeps guests a short walk or taxi ride from the delicious food, abundant shops and tourist sites of this bustling and beguiling metropolis.
Traveller: C. James Dale
Room: Prestige Suite (with Club Lounge access)
Address: 7 Le Duan, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 700000, (+84)28/38241555
Date: August 2019
Best for: A calm and upscale home base with eye-catching art, excellent food and beverage options, and top-notch staff located in one of Southeast Asia’s most frenetic, vibrant and exciting cities.
The Signature factor
Spend part of your afternoon soaking in the rooftop pool before moving to the Club Lounge to enjoy drinks, light bites and superior service. Then head to dinner at the hotel’s French restaurant, L’Olivier, where the team can design an unforgettable menu for you. Later, enjoy a nightcap on site at Boudoir Lounge (where smokers still get a bit of real estate) or head out to see how Saigon shines even brighter after the sun goes down.
Sofitel Saigon Plaza pays tribute to local and foreign cultural influences, with nods to former colonial masters China and France. The property has 286 rooms, of which 10 are Prestige Suites and one is an Imperial Suite. One decor touch you’ll see over and over again is the birdcage, which is meant to represent luxury, given that years ago in Vietnam only rich people were able to keep birds as pets. In some of the rooms, these black-painted birdcages are clustered in corners and have small lights in them. Elsewhere, it’s the birdcage image etched into reflective plates used to mark room numbers. Hallway walls are beige and adorned with black and white photos primarily depicting scenes of Vietnamese life, while the dark grey carpeting in the hallways has pops of purple and yellow-coloured fans. On some floors, you’ll exit the elevator and see a display of elegant calligraphy brushes of varying sizes, once used to write Chinese characters. In another reference to China, the mini-bar area is found inside a large grey cylinder that has a top designed to resemble a dim sum box. Here and there in the hotel, you’ll also see stunning colour pictures of Vietnam’s people and places by French photographer, Réhahn.
Pulling up to the property, I wasn’t overly impressed by the exterior, but I started to warm to the hotel soon after walking through the main doors. The lobby area, while not as striking as the ones (both old and new) at the Sofitel in Hanoi, still has its charm. It feels light and airy, with a soaring ceiling and a winding staircase that leads guests or visitors to the restaurants on the second floor. What did impress me was the staff, who have the luxury routine down pat and were on point from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. While we waited for our room, we were whisked up to the cosy Club Lounge, which has nice views of the city and something to sip or nibble on regardless of the time of day.
I found myself really digging my 68-square-metre Prestige Suite from the moment I opened the door. A thick carpet runner, grey and decorated with beige outlines of flowers, leads the way to a well-appointed living area, complete with couch, chair and desk. Separated by a wall with two sliding doors are the sleeping quarters, which are dominated by a soft yet supportive king-size bed from Sofitel’s MyBed collection. The sleek bathroom can be seen from the bedroom through a glass wall, next to which sits the deep and inviting claw foot bathtub. Behind an adjacent mirror is a hidden (but very big) walk-in shower. The shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion are by Hermès.
At 231 square metres, the Imperial Suite is certainly befitting of an emperor or empress. It has everything a high net worth traveller or visiting dignitary needs: a couple of bedrooms, living and dining rooms, a kitchen, an office and pretty good views. It’s no surprise it’s the go-to spot for high profile visitors who pass through Ho Chi Minh City or for corporate events. But it’s long overdue for a renovation; it looks the same as it did when the hotel opened a quarter century ago.
On my plate
The hotel has some pretty solid options in this area. The refurbished Mezz Restaurant, with its lovely high ceilings and East meets West decorative touches, is a bustling spot. In the evenings, it offers an interactive buffet where staff make international and Asian dishes on the spot at different live cooking stations. In the mornings, guests will enjoy the breakfast spread, from paper-thin crepes to dumplings and noodles. There are plenty of healthy options too, including detox juices. Up in the Club Lounge, we snacked on canapes, sushi and various cheeses while we sipped wine, bubbles and the odd cocktail (the Gin Fizz: thumbs up; the Bloody Mary: thumbs down).
The highlight, though, was a carefully curated dinner at the award-winning L’Olivier restaurant, where Chef Tran Minh Cuong and his team raised the bar with each successive dish. I started with a briney Canadian oyster bathed in an onion-ginger-chervil-vinegar-soy dressing and then moved to a tender blue baby lobster paired with Mekong River prawn, draped over some of tastiest asparagus I’ve ever had. Following that were the pan-fried Japanese scallops and chanterelle mushrooms surrounded by a truffle foam and broccoli and parsley puree, with potato wafers resembling sea fans standing to attention in the middle of the plate. My main was a poached Atlantic monkfish medallion sprinkled with sesame seeds and accompanied by a delicate cocoa waffle that was simply amazing. It was one of those meals that made dessert feel impossible, but we somehow managed to find room for a winning creation: a meringue cup with a white chocolate lid decorated with lemon dollops, filled with strawberries and sitting atop a bed of raspberry sorbet.
I wish I could take home…
The dynamic and fascinating snapshots of Vietnam and its people by Hoi An-based Réhahn, considered one of the world’s top travel photographers.
The spa at this hotel is run by a third party, the Natural Rendez-Vous Spa. The menu includes a variety of massages, body scrubs, facials and toning treatments. My wife thought her massage was only so-so, but I thoroughly enjoyed my gentlemen’s facial.
Aside from our multiple trips to the Club Lounge, we were quick to take advantage of the hotel’s fabulous rooftop pool. Ride the elevator to the 18th floor, tear off your robe and jump right in … the water’s just fine. Plus, the panoramic views of the Saigon skyline are great and there’s a bar that serves drinks and food. The pool is also the venue for Sofitel’s New Year’s Eve countdown party: DJ, drinks and a couple of hundred people crowded together to usher in the year to come and watch fireworks light up the night.
Get your fill of Vietnamese cuisine at Secret House, Lemongrass or the venerable Pho Hoa Pasteur (though some locals will also tell you the fast food chain Pho 24 is worth a try). Feast on street food-inspired dishes at Anan or drink in the French bistro flair at The Refinery. Still hankering for more? Challenge your senses by dining in the dark at Noir.
But Saigon doesn’t just take food seriously; coffee is also a big deal in this city. We enjoyed the brew at one of the L’Usine locations, which also doubles as a retail outlet, offering casual clothing, trendy sunglasses and localised versions of the Monopoly Deal card game (Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, with text in English, French and Vietnamese). There’s also The Workshop, located down a side road in a building that has a clutch of those ubiquitous Saigon scooters parked on the ground floor and a quaint cigar shop you’ll pass as you trudge up four flights. The cafe itself is delightful, with long wooden tables, big windows and a soaring ceiling. The sound of the tropical rain hitting the peaked roof drowns out almost all conversation. On the menu: all-day breakfast, tasty soups and sandwiches, plus a must-try pesto pasta.
Just down the street from The Workshop is the only Ho Chi Minh City location of my favourite shop in Vietnam, Hanoia, where we spent way too much money on the store’s stunning lacquerware and jewellery. We were also wowed by the wobbly, uneven looking ceramics at nearby amaï. For a more frenetic shopping experience, gather up your Vietnamese đồng and take the Sofitel’s shuttle to the Ben Thanh Market, where you can find almost anything (from clothing and accessories to animal offal). And make sure you bargain. A rattan purse I was interested in cost VND350,000 at one stall and VND175,000 at another.
When you’re done with retail therapy, take a stroll through one of the city’s many parks, some of which have outdoor exercise equipment. Or check out some of HCMC’s architectural highlights: the well-preserved late 19th century Saigon Central Post Office, which blends Gothic, Renaissance and French colonial design; the Saigon Opera House; the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, with its distinctive red brick exterior (sadly under renovation during my trip); Saigon City Hall, modelled after the city hall building in Paris (Hôtel de Ville de Paris); and the 1960s-era Reunification Palace (formerly Independence Palace).
If you’ve still got energy when night falls, head to a rooftop bar (among them the iconic Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar, a meeting point for journalists during the Vietnam War). One night, I ordered a Grab scooter, hopped on the back and raced across town to a back alley, where I found Acoustic Bar.
- 2019: Best Business Class Hotel in Vietnam by Asia Pacific Tourism & Travel Federation
- 2017: Award of Excellent as Honored by Guests by Booking.com
- 2016: Most favoured hotel as voted by readers for elegance and service in a French style by The Guide Vietnam
- 2015: Top 15 hotels in SEA by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine; Top 5 Best Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City by DestinAsian; Best hotels of the year by Luxury Travel Guide’s Global Awards
In 2016, then US Secretary of State John Kerry accompanied Barack Obama when he visited Vietnam. Kerry stayed in the Sofitel Saigon Plaza’s Imperial Suite. Obama, by the way, bedded down at the InterContinental Saigon. Another Sofitel VIP was François Hollande, who was President of France from 2012 to 2017.
For the past few years, the hotel’s been leading Saigon Gourmet Week, bringing in celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs from around the world to design innovative menus for guests and visitors. This year’s event (15-20 October) is tied to Vietnamese Women’s Day and it features an all-female lineup of star chefs, from Germany’s Julia Komp and France’s Flora Mikula to Australian-British chef Angela Brown and Cambodia’s Kimsan Sok. The event includes cooking classes, a gala dinner complete with a chefs battle and an all-star chefs brunch.
Green thumbs up?
Sofitel Saigon Plaza takes part in AccorHotels’ Planet 21 sustainable development program. One focus is reducing food waste, another is their push to get guests to reuse their towels, with the savings made on water and energy used to fund tree planting. For the first time in many years, the housekeeping staff did not take my towel away after I left it to dry in the bathroom. A small, but welcome step.
…the spa were run by the Sofitel itself. The reception desk is shared with the gym and the waiting area is right next door, which really takes away from the Zen-like experience one seeks and craves at a spa. The colours and decor aren’t cohesive with the rest of the hotel and the treatment rooms need to be bigger with soundproof walls. But I’m told a renovation plan is in the works.
The Sofitel Saigon Plaza works for a number of reasons: good location, diverse and impressive food and beverage, Club Lounge, appealing room and competent staff. Travellers visiting Ho Chi Minh City for business or leisure should definitely consider checking in during their stay. And once the spa and gym area is renovated, this hotel will be even more appealing.
Where to find Sofitel Saigon Plaza
When traffic is light, this five-star property is roughly a 30- to 40-minute drive to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Vietnam’s busiest air travel hub.