In May 2019, I checked into the Rosewood Suite at Rosewood Phnom Penh, which occupies the top 14 floors of the 39-storey Vattanac Capital Tower, the tallest building in the Cambodian capital. Located in the heart of the city’s central business district, the 175-room hotel is a short tuk-tuk ride away from local attractions such as the Royal Palace, National Museum of Cambodia, Central Market and Wat Phnom, as well as 25 minutes away from Phnom Penh International Airport.
One of the earliest Rosewood hotels in Southeast Asia, the ultra-luxury property has since emerged as one of Phnom Penh’s top hotels alongside Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra and Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Ultra-luxurious experience with unbeatable panoramic views of Phnom Penh.
The must-dos (if any): Luxuriate in your room, take a tuk-tuk city tour, have sunset drinks at Sora Sky Bar.
Blessed with floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides, the hotel boasts formidable 360-degree views of the city as well as the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The 39-storey steel-and-glass building’s visually striking architecture – the monolithic structure with its cantilevered rooftop is inspired by traditional naga mythology and shaped like a Chinese dragon – comes courtesy of TFP Farrells, whose projects include Singapore’s Punggol Station as well as the Singapore High-speed Rail Terminus. Melbourne-based BAR Studio, known for designing Rosewood Phuket and Beijing as well as various Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt properties around the world, is behind the hotel’s classic-meets-contemporary interior design which combines elements of traditional Khmer and French colonial styles.
Past the fleet of leather-lined tuk-tuks and giant Hanuman monkey god sculpture at the hotel entrance, discreet elevators directly transport you to the lobby level. The elevators are of the modern office building variety – your keycard unlocks access to specific floors via panels at the lift lobby, with nary a button in sight within the elevator itself. Located on the 35th level, the lobby floor (which also houses breakfast venue Brasserie Louis as well as The Living Room and the Patisserie) reminds me of sister property Rosewood Bangkok, not just because of its distinctive sloping exterior but also its luxury residential touches and art gallery aspirations.
The hotel’s Sense Spa uses Maison Caulières products (i.e. the luxurious French wellness brand you would recognise from your room at Rosewood Hong Kong) across its various treatments. My “Phnom Penh Retreat” package came with a 60-minute signature treatment at Sense Spa, and although I heard plenty about their Khmer herbal massage, I eventually opted for a bespoke treatment with a focus on relieving my geriatric upper back and shoulders. While my therapist was ever the consummate professional, rarely showing hesitation and routinely checking that the pressure was of a suitable level, it must be said that this is probably my first massage whereby the bones on my back and those on my therapist’s hands forged a strong covalent bond during the course of the treatment. There were multiple instances of my toes positively curling in macho-striving efforts not to squirm every time one of my calcium plates was prodded, which was of course a wonderful experience for a male in the audience of a modest lady.
Elsewhere, the 24-hour fitness centre was well-equipped and energetically illuminated, while the beautiful indoor swimming pool and non-heated (!?) jacuzzi were stunning in their glossy emerald glory but curiously possessed an arctic quality that made access ill-advised for living beings other than penguins, leopard seals and polar bears. (I understand they have since installed a heating system for the jacuzzi, but the temperature situation of the indoor swimming pool remains uncertain.)
Boasting a bird’s eye view of the city and the winding Mekong River through floor-to-ceiling windows, the 95sqm Rosewood Suite delivers the signature Rosewood brand of ultra-luxurious, residence-style comfort. The living room comprises a sofa with coffee table, a dining table which doubles up as a work desk and a 65″ LCD television set. The pantry includes a state-of-the-art DeLonghi Nespresso coffee machine with the ability to make milk coffee beverages as well as TWG tea options. The kitchen is equipped with a stove and microwave oven, while the private wine cellar in the kitchen and the pantry minibar (which stocks local spirits such as Seekers Mekong dry gin and Samai rum) take good care of your snack and alcoholic needs. A powder room situated neat the entrance foyer provides extra restroom facilities in case your travelling group decides to sample some of the local delights recommended in the room’s (very helpful and informative) Rosewood Phnom Penh-curated city guide, including the “crispy tarantulas with black pepper and lime sauce” and “stir-fried red tree ants with beef fillet and holy basil“.
Unlike the California King Bed I had in my Grand Harbour Corner Suite at Rosewood Hong Kong, the bed in the Rosewood Suite is decidedly un-American in its regality, but the Frette 600 thread-count linens manage to strike a magical balance of air-conditioned cool and skin-caressing cosy. (A quick browse and price scan in the Frette store situated within the lower-floor shopping levels of the building would helpfully enlighten you on just how luxurious Rosewood’s slumber arrangements are.)
The bathroom comes with double vanities as well as a cavernous rain-shower space. The bathtub has its own in-wall television, but push open the sliding door next to the bathtub and you have a clear view of the large extendable television screen in the adjacent bedroom. The Rosewood Phnom Penh-branded bathroom amenities, as well as the essential oils responsible for the gloriously perfumed fragrance in the air throughout the suite, are from Christophe Laudamiel (who also created the signature scent for Andaz Singapore).
My reservation was booked under the “Phnom Penh Retreat” package, which generously takes care of my every conceivable need – breakfast at Brasserie Louis and dinner at Iza, a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy at the rooftop Sora Sky Bar, as well as a 60-minute signature treatment at Sense Spa. Rosewood Suite guests also get to enjoy a city tour on one of the hotel’s Rosewood-branded tuk-tuks.
After having dinner at Iza, I returned to my suite and was greeted by a Rosewood Phnom Penh-branded bottle of Negroni, created in collaboration with the local Samai Distillery. Aside from appreciating just how much the Rosewood team seems to know me and my cocktail preferences, it is really impressive how every single Rosewood hotel I have been to thus far take their libations extremely serious, each having its own range of bottled spirits or cocktails.
REMORK CITY TOUR
One of the benefits of being a Rosewood Suite guest is a guided city tour on one of the hotel’s Rosewood-branded tuk-tuks (which I have since learnt are properly called ‘remorks’), and you can opt for a one, two or four-hour session. You are ferried to various destinations in the city such as the Royal Palace, Central Market, Wat Phnom, Wat Ounalom and National Museum of Cambodia, and the guide either waits for you to finish exploring the attraction on your own or parks the vehicle and escorts you around the premises, based on your preference. It was a highly educational tour, spanning across vastly different aspects of Cambodian history and culture from naga legends and Buddha trees to ASEAN flags on a gong and ancient Vishnu, Garuda and penis (?!) sculptures in the National Museum.
My city guide was an affable gentleman called Pang Sokkroeun. Aside from ferrying me to the various destinations in the stylish remork, he also personally escorted me around the grounds of Royal Palace, regaling me with anecdotal titbits and tales about the history of the royal family. The guide elevated my city tour experience with his expert knowledge, good communication skills and commendable hospitality, and was overall a stand-up fellow. (The same city guide is specifically named and glowingly regarded across other Rosewood Phnom Penh reviews online.)
Breakfast is served at Brasserie Louis, the all-day French dining concept situated on the 35th level which specialises in both French and Cambodian cuisine and boasts sky-blue panoramic views of the city. While the breakfast buffet is fairly modest, comprising a selection of exotic fruits, cold cuts as well as the usual hearty and meaty Western breakfast sides, the a la carte menu is the breakfast’s main draw, offering both Western/French and classic breakfast selections (sample items: Eggs Florentine, Galette Bretonne, Avocado Bagel, Belgian Waffles) as well as Khmer specialties (sample items: Rice Noodles in Pork Broth with Sliced Beef and Fried Garlic, Rice Porridge with Chicken, Fried Scallions and Sprouts). My favourites from the Khmer section were the smoky, lean and tender Marinated Grilled Pork on Steamed Rice as well as the sweet, comforting and mee rebus-eque Fried Noodles with Chicken, Sprouts and Chives.
The premises of Brasserie Louis segues seamlessly to the space of The Living Room, the casual dining space where hotel guests can enjoy twinkling ivory tunes and house pour wines whilst enjoying the sunset views. Elsewhere, the Patisserie on the same floor offers a selection of colourful and delicate treats and sweets.
The highest restaurant in the hotel, steakhouse concept Cuts plays it all sleek, residential sophistication with potted greenery, electric fireplaces and plush furniture, comprising not just distinct dining spaces but also a wine vault tasting area with around 200 varieties of wine. I sat myself at the seafood bar and paired my customised Seafood Platter – commendably fresh oysters, salmon and swordfish sashimi as well as massive prawns, paired with a variety of condiments – with a glass of bubbly as well as a special order of Cambodian kampot pepper sauce for my sashimi. Admiring the dreamy night time views of the city whilst enjoying the fresh seafood catch made for a contemplative, lovely evening.
Situated on the 37th level, the casual Japanese izakaya-style Iza offers a robatayaki-style meal experience with various cocktail, sake and shochu pairings for your consideration. My “Phnom Penh Retreat” package came with dinner at Iza, and I went for the teasingly spicy poké-esque Salmon Namero (spicy salmon tataki and black sesame cracker), fragrant and sweet Honetsuki Buta Kakuni (camarelised pork ribs with garlic chips) and the indulgent Chocolate Ginger Brownie, additionally pairing my meal with a oil-slick Sanma Shioyaki (grilled Pacific saury with sea salt) and washing the izakaya comfort down with a Perilla Rickey.
Your stay will not be complete without a visit to the supremely popular Sora Sky Bar, the sprawling bar concept on the 37th level which has become the evening address for luxury travellers and glamorously-dressed expat urbanites alike. Whilst Sora has an abundance of indoor seating for both couples and groups, most guests would make a beeline for the cantilevered outdoor terrace which boasts wind-in-hair carefreeness and unparalleled sunset views as well as an electrified atmosphere after dark.
In contrast with heritage mainstay Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh, which I spent two nights at prior to this stay, this hotel offers a decidedly more contemporary and sophisticated ultra-luxury experience, with confident dining options and unbeatable views of Phnom Penh and the Mekong river. Save for minor issues with the swimming pool and jacuzzi, which I trust could be rectified easily, the property delivers with an assured hand the distinctive Rosewood brand of ultra-luxury, and it is certainly an essential luxury experience for your next Phnom Penh visit.
Rosewood Phnom Penh
Vattanac Capital Tower
66 Monivong Boulevard
Sangkat Wat Phnom, Khan Daun Penh
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia