In November 2019, I checked into the Rosewood Suite at Rosewood Yangon, an ultra-luxury hotel situated at the junction of the former Myanmar capital’s Strand and Sule Pagoda Roads facing the Yangon River. The 205-room riverside heritage property is a hop and skip from popular tourist dining destinations such as Rangoon Tea House, Sofaer & Co and The Pansodan, a short drive from local attractions such as the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Inle Lake as well as forty-five minutes away from Yangon International Airport.
Primed to be the crown jewel of Yangon’s redeveloping colonial old town famous for its distinctive colonial architecture, Rosewood Yangon joins the ranks of Yangon’s famous heritage hotels which include Strand Hotel (founded by the Sarkies brothers behind Raffles Hotel Singapore), the Belmond Governor’s Residence and the Savoy Hotel. This would be my fourth Rosewood property after Rosewood Hong Kong, Rosewood Bangkok and Rosewood Phnom Penh.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Ultra-luxurious heritage colonial charm in Yangon.
The must-dos (if any): Enjoy the luxurious suite amenities, laze in the outdoor terrace of the Rosewood Suite, enjoy sweets at the Living Room, have cocktails at the Courtroom.
The property has the honourable distinction of being the only existing Rosewood hotel set within a heritage building. Designed by Scottish architect Thomas Oliphant Foster, the building was built in 1931 as the New Law Courts before serving as the Police Commissioner’s office, Parliament’s Chamber of Nationalities and the headquarters of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party from the time of Myanmar’s independence in 1948. The ultra-luxury property retains most of the building’s original features, from its bronze doors and teak handrails to the quaint elevators and other design features such as the scales of justice motif visible throughout the premises. The colonial building’s exterior – in particular the visually arresting row of three-storey high Ionic columns above the single-storey colonnade which faces the traffic-heavy Strand Road near the Yangon riverfront – leaves quite the striking impression (the colonial building’s architectural leanings remind me strongly of The Fullerton Hotel Singapore), while the building itself incorporates features such as two beautifully landscaped internal courtyards as well as the Heritage Salon which occupies the double-height hall on the fourth floor.
I visited the property for cocktails at Courtroom days before my actual stay. As I took my first steps past the arrival portico into the property after walking the streets of the colonial old town and its glorious – albeit crumbling – architecture, I must say that the juxtaposition between heritage old-world and Rosewood ultra-luxury was stark as heck. After staying at Belmond Governor’s Residence and having visited Sarkies Bar at The Strand Yangon for happy-hour cocktails, I can officially confirm that this property is indisputably the most luxurious hotel experience in the city.
The hotel boasts two main entrances, both of which involve climbing a flight of lamp-lit carpeted stairs to the lobby level in manner of glamorous arrival at celebrity gala, intimate high society soiree or similar. The ground floor comprises designated spaces available for the display of artistic works and installations, and during my stay, I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the Opera Omnia Leonardo, an exhibition organised in conjunction with the Yangon Embassy of Italy which showcased high definition and full-scale images of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. The art gallery aspirations of the property – and indeed, the Rosewood Hotel Group in general – are visible throughout the premises, most markedly from the various interesting artworks on display in both public areas of the hotel as well as within the guest rooms which depict facets of local life and culture.
As of the date of my stay, the rooms and facilities above the 2nd storey – which include the fitness centre, Sense Spa as well as rooftop “Y” Bar and infinity pool – were under construction and not available for guest use. While the fitness facilities are expected to be available within Q1 2020, the Chinese Restaurant is only expected to be ready as of Q3 2020.
Located on the 2nd level, the 90sqm Rosewood Suite plays it all elegant governor’s residence with tall French doors with heavy curtains and sophisticated sheer blinds, high ceilings, tasteful artworks and artefacts adorning its walls and shelves, bold splashes of colour across its contemporary furnishings as well as luxurious suite amenities. The suite consists of a spacious living area, a bedroom with walk-in wardrobe as well as a bathroom with an enclosed rainfall shower and built-in bathtub from which guests enjoy a clear view of the large extendable television screen in the adjacent bedroom. The herb garden-redolent bathroom amenities from Italian perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi are created exclusively for Rosewood Yangon.
The living room is furnished with various couches as well as a work station equipped with a leather workpad with multiple power points and USB ports. The private bar – a Rosewood staple – is reliably impressive, carrying bottles of premium spirits (including a Rosewood Yangon-branded 350ml bottle of Easy Negroni) along with the usual selection of champagne (Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve), white and red wines (I spied a bottle of 2015 Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf-du-Pape). Lavazza coffee and Jing tea-making facilities are available in the pantry.
French doors in both the living room and bedroom provide access to the dramatic garden-style outdoor terrace balcony which faces the Yangon River in the distance and extends across the entire length of the second floor (partitions separate the private balcony areas of the various rooms). Three-storey high Ionic columns and European-style lamps line the two respective sides of the terrace, giving the space a most surreal and romantic flavour. The balcony’s sofa area as well as dining table provide opportunities for al fresco dining and lounging, with the sunset experience being particularly memorable.
Breakfast is served at Nova European Brasserie, the European-style restaurant which offers wondrously high ceilings and a skylight that welcomes energizing streams of natural light, a live kitchen setting, crudo bar, dessert station as well as an international wine list. The breakfast a la carte menu is an impressive showcase of Burmese staples, with the comforting Malay mee rebus-esque Ohn No Kauk Swe (coconut broth golden noodles with chicken, shallots and boiled egg) being my favourite. Elsewhere, the Mohinga (Burmese fish chowder, fermented rice noodles, boiled eggs, chilli and pea crackers) had a particularly thick and textural broth, while the Crab Omelette possessed a pleasurably vicious chilli (not unlike the tart-spicy sort which accompanies Singapore oyster omelettes) that came across as fairly brazen by Burmese food standards. I would strongly recommend that coffee-drinking guests go for the brilliant French Press.
While the restaurant’s dinner a la carte menu showcases both Western (sample items: Grilled Octopus, Bouillabaisse, Lobster Linguini, Pak Chong Farm Duck Breast) as well as Burmese and Southeast Asian flavours (sample items: Pickled Tea Leaves Salad, Myanmar Chicken Curry, Stir-fried Minced Pork with Holy Basil and Fresh Chilli), its signature dishes would be from their Josper, Rotisserie and Raw Bar menus. From my dinner experience, the Porchetta from the Rotisserie menu was a highlight – a seamless blend of salt-indulgent fat and juicy flesh, while the porchetta’s thick and cracklingly crispy skin deserved its own billing.
Situated in the lobby area next to Nova and helmed by rockstar French pastry chef Guillaume Coulbrant, afternoon tea lounge Living Room serves a range of sweet treats (recommendations include their mousse-light Yuzu Cheesecake and fragrant Ispahan) as well as ice creams (their Earl Grey Ice Cream is assertively fragrant in its caffeinated agenda).
Sporting smoky gentlemen’s club vibes with its dark teak, leather seats and live jazz music, Courtroom delivers serious cocktails inspired by all-time classics such as their Banana Old Fashioned and Paris Mademoiselle (an expressively botanical take on the G&T). Aside from their signature cocktails, the menu also boasts a formidable whisky selection and a series of whisky flight experiences. An intimate cigar lounge (which formerly served as a judge’s chamber) provides opportunities for hazy private conversations between cigar enthusiasts.
Rounding up the dining concepts – and unavailable at the time of this review – are rooftop concept “Y” Bar, which will boast live DJ beats and panoramic views of the Yangon River along with cocktails inspired by local Yangon streets, as well as the intriguingly named Chinese Restaurant, which will pair classic Chinese favourites with a curated tea, cocktail and wine selection.
Given its heritage building setting, the property presented a rather unusual (but no less ultra-luxurious) Rosewood proposition, and I am curious as to how much the infinity pool, rooftop bar and Chinese restaurant would add to the overall guest experience. I would be back.
14 Strand Road