The Reverie Saigon is the city’s newest, and only six-star, hotel and was officially opened on September 1. Brett Davis packed his bags to spend a night among the rarefied atmosphere atop the Times Square Tower.
The check-in lobby of the Reverie Saigon is on the seventh floor of the Times Square building, which straddles a parcel of land between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi streets in District 1.
On first encounter it is almost overwhelming to the eye, it is all soaring windows, ornately mosaicked columns and walls, with overstuffed Louis XVI-style sofas at one end and a giant antique clock from Czarist-era St Petersburg at the other.
Later on, as I am given a tour of the property’s many, uniquely furnished rooms and other equally elaborate facilities, I’m reminded of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser. It is the story of an ambitious young man who goes on to build a hotel empire, with each new establishment more extravagant and endowed with creature comforts than the last, until he creates a hotel one need never leave.
Wandering the halls through the hotel and residence wings on the startlingly deep plush carpet, it feels a little like you could never leave this place even if you wanted to, such is its labyrinthine qualities. The gliding of the cage, however, may not to be everyone’s taste.
Because, let’s be honest, there is an assertiveness to the decor of the Reverie. It is not subtle, it is in-your-face luxury. From the lobby, to the guest rooms and the dining establishments, it is making a grand statement. Yet regardless of personal tastes, the statement cannot be ignored. Is this what it means to be a six-star establishment? Perhaps so.
However, what is unmistakably six-star at the Reverie Saigon, by anyone’s standards, is the service. From the staff who greet you at the door on arrival, the check-in and concierge staff, to everyone working in the hotel’s food and beverage outlets, the quality is impeccable. I cannot think of another instance in Vietnam where the staff was so uniformly professional, pleasant and well presented.
This dedication to service was never more apparent than in the spa, where I was greeted by the friendly reception staff and served a fresh juice while the treatment options were presented. Then it was up to the treatment rooms which were somewhat at odds with the rest of the hotel, the floors and walls all being a warm natural timber. The size of the treatment room was larger than many a hotel room I have stayed in.
I opted for the butterfly and bamboo fusion treatment, a combination of traditional massage with essential oils and a treatment with hot bamboo. The latter part involved warmed pieces of bamboo being used like a rolling pin to subdue knotty muscles. It was something I had not tried before, but after ninety minutes I walked out of there one pretty relaxed piece of pizza dough.
There are a handful of eating and drinking establishments at the Reverie, including The Royal Pavilion (Chinese), R&J (Italian) and Café Cardinal (French), as well as The Long, a casual dining cum bar venue which runs along the side of the building between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi.
Although it is outdoors, The Long is still reasonably pleasant thanks to a system of tubular fans strung along the ceiling that creates a gentle wind tunnel effect. The pizza here is more or less the signature dish and there is a good selection on offer. If you are game enough I recommend the spinach and six cheese pizza (that’s right, none of this quattro formaggi whimpishness here).
Dinner was at the excellent Royal Pavilion Chinese fine dining restaurant on the fourth floor. The menu is expansive, but the ever patient and ever smiling restaurant manager was happy to oblige with the ordering. And, honestly, it was impossible to fault her selections.
Peking roast duck three ways, king prawns with garlic and chilli, honey glazed barbecue pork and bok choi with mushrooms in oyster sauce. It was classic and it was superb, and easily the best Chinese food I have had in Vietnam.
At the end of the evening, after retiring to my 31st-floor suite, as I sat in the generous window-side tub sipping a glass of champagne and looking out at the striving edifice of the Bitexco Tower and the Saigon river beyond (don’t kid yourself, this journalism gig is tough sometimes), I couldn’t help but think again of Martin Dressler and his pursuit of hotel grandeur.
In the novel it proves a bridge too far for the fearless entrepreneur, the downside of perusing the American dream. Yet in this dawning Asian century, and particularly in Vietnam’s economic engine that is Saigon, perhaps the Reverie is a place suited to its time in history.