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REVIEW: Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao, Club Luxury Room

Travelling to the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, I had the chance to stay at the Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao together with some of my colleagues.

The luxury hotel is located close to the Hongqiao CBD and within a shrt ride away from the Hongqiao international airport and railway station. Located near by was also the National Expo and Convention Centre, the venue for the CIIE.

The location is somewhat off if you are visiting the city for leisure, as most of the places of interest are closer to the Bund. However, many companies and larger enterprises are starting to move towards Hongqiao, so that part of the Greater Shanghai area has been developed at a fairly quick pace over the last few years.

The hotel

The hotel is a magnificent building constructed not too long ago, having only started operations in 2016. Boasting 354 rooms and suites, the eight-storey hotel is located what is called Hongqiao CBD. Within the same compound are some private residences which also boasts some of the most expensive properties in the area.

When you first walk through the revolving door, you will find yourself standing in a grand lobby, adorn in class and grandeur. A large chandelier hung down from what seem to be a double volume ceiling, adding to the elegance.

I was booked into an executive floor room for the next four nights. Upon arrival, executive floor guests had a choice to check in at the Club Millesime if they wanted to. As I usually prefer to get check-in formalities done quickly so I can get to the room and dump my bags, I stayed at the check-in desk while my check-in was processed in record time. Soon, a bellboy was guiding me to my room on the eighth floor.

The room

The room for my stay was on the top floor of the hotel, where Club Millesime was also located. I was booked into a Club Luxury Room. According to the hotel, there’s only 61 club rooms over the top two floors of the hotel, which tips about 20% of all available rooms.

Measuring 44 square metres, the room has a high ceiling, with an incredibly large window, extending from the ledge to the ceiling. The room is designed in a modern French style, but if you honestly ask me I couldn’t really tell the distinction. The room was made to look even more spacious with a see-through bathroom, equipped with a privacy blind that can be pulled down if you are staying with another person.

Each room comes with Sofitel’s signature MyBed, a King-sized bed generous in size too, soft to the touch yet slightly more firm, which I found very comfortable. The pillows are excellent too. I had very good sleep for the few nights I was there.

Probably one of the disappointment was a lack of view from the room. Funnily, the windows sit slightly below the facade walls, so what I saw when I looked out of the window was a little service balcony which was pretty dirty by the way.

The room is fully packed with a mini bar (albeit not complimentary), as well as free coffee and tea packs. But if you are staying in the club room, save yourself the trouble and just walk over to the club lounge if you need a coffee or a drink in the middle of the day.

The bathroom consisted of a full bathtub, a large vanity and a separate shower and toilet cubicle. The rug at the vanity was fluffy and comfortable to step on (excellent for cold winters). Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao uses Lanvin amenities, and that comes in a range of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.

The bathroom is right beside the glass pane separating the bathroom and the bedroom, so I reckon that’s pretty good for watching TV while you are soaking it up.

If there’s one thing lacking from a luxury hotel, that was a double vanity, although that’s a tad too minor a point to dent the experience.

The hotel also offers daily turn down service, and each day I received a fruit platter, which I thought was rather elaborate. As it was the week of CIIE, there was also some extra treats in the room as well, such as pastries and chocolates.

Club Millesime

One word to sum up my experience: excellent.

The club lounge, which Sofitel styles as Club Millesime, is an exclusive lounge only for guests staying in rooms and suites on the executive floors. Guests staying in these rooms can check in and out at the lounge as well, if they prefer.

The decor is immaculate, with modern European furnishing. There was a good array of seats, from sofas, to armchairs, dining tables and chairs, and even bartop tables. There was even a glass wine cellar in a corner, although I’m not sure if the wines are actually used or part of the decoration.

There’s also a meeting room that users could book, although every room is limited to a two-hour slot per day.

Club Millesime offers all-day complimentary beverages, including soft drinks, coffee and tea. There’s also high tea available from 3pm to 5pm, with an array of savoury and sweet snacks available. In the evening, free cocktails and hor d’oeuvres are available from 6pm to 8pm. Alcohol on offer include red, white and sparkling wines, as well as spirits and beer. I personally liked the fact that they have sparkling wine (even though it’s not champagne), given that not many hotels offer that in their lounge.

There was a mini buffet for both high tea and evening cocktails, featuring both sweet and savoury light bites. The lounge seem to fare better in its pastries, as I recalled going back for second servings of its cakes and puffs. The savouries however was pretty much forgettable, but then again, this is not meant to be a full meal but instead an accompaniment for your drinks.

The first night I was in the club lounge with my colleagues, both Peter, the Director of guest services, and Guido, the General Manager, came by to say hi to everyone in the lounge. I reckon that was also because it was a big week for Shanghai, given that it was the inaugural CIIE, held at the National Exhibition and Convention Centre minutes away.

I spent quite a fair bit of time in the club lounge throughout my stay, given the lack of amenities nearby, as well as the distance from the main city. I reckon I had at least two dozen beers during my stay there and many more sparkling wines.

One thing to note though, the lounge doesn’t serve up breakfast for executive floor guests. According to the hotel, the lounge wasn’t quite ready to serve breakfast yet, so all guests had to go down to the main breakfast restaurant, Kwee Zeen, instead.

The restaurants

Kwee Zeen is the mainstay restaurant of the hotel. For those familiar with the Sofitel brand, you’ll note that Kwee Zen is usually a buffet restaurant which also serves up as the breakfast restaurant. While I’m not a big fan of hotel breakfast (I think there are only a handful that serves up quality hotel breakfasts for the price you pay), Kwee Zeen was pretty impressive.

First, the space. It’s a double volume, spacious hall decked in the basement of the hotel. Glamourously adorned with some of the most ridiculously ornate decorations, the restaurant is pretty classy and not really tacky as I thought it might be.

For the executive floor guests, the hotel has kindly cordoned off an area in the breakfast restaurant for their exclusive use. Apart from the exclusive seating area, there are also dedicated wait staff for the area, making the service really attentive.

The breakfast spread is probably one of the best I had in China. There are ample live stations, including an egg station and my favourite noodle station. Apart from the usual Oriental and Western food options, what I liked was how they included local delicacies as well, such as the famous Shanghainese egg pancakes.

Of which, I thought the pastries were the best. I couldn’t resist a croissant every morning even though I was stuffed. There is also ice cream and waffles available, if that’s what you fancy as part of your breakfast.

Outside of breakfast, Kwee Zeen offers an international ala carte menu during lunch and dinner, as well as buffets on special occasions.

Beyond Kwee Zeen, the hotel also has two other restaurants: Le Chinois, a modern Cantonese restaurant, as well as Ocho Tapas and Wine, a Spanish tapas bar. There’s also a lobby bar which was opened from late afternoon if you need a tipple and had no access to the lounge.

I managed to check out Le Chinois with several of my colleagues one evening, which I found was excellent value for the price you pay. (RMB250 for a Peking Duck!) The food was top-notch, and I couldn’t find much fault with any of the dishes we had.

The facilities

As a full service hotel, the facilities were all present and in tip-top condition. The hotel features So Fit, their signature gym, tucked away in the basement of the hotel.

Don’t let the location ‘basement’ fool you, because the back of the gym walks out to a back common space shared by the gym, swimming pool and Kwee Zeen, featuring an outdoor mini waterfall, making the entire place so picturesque.

Back to the gym. It’s probably one of the largest I’ve seen in a hotel, with equipment fairly spaced out so there’s no fear of the guy running on the treadmill next to you peering over wondering how much (or how little) you have run.

There are plenty of machines available, from cables, to free weights and cardio, enough for half the hotel to be there and still not feel overcrowded. (Of course, I kid.)

Next to the gym, there’s an indoor swimming pool. By the side of it are some aqua deck chairs in the shallow part of the pool which I believe has some bubble jets coming out of it for a good water massage.

There’s also a spa, Le Spa, in the hotel, which was unfortunately closed during the entire time I was there. However, there’s also a sauna and steam room in each of the changing rooms, so you can still enjoy some relaxation facilities without heading into the spa.

Final thoughts

This was indeed one of my most memorable hotel stays in Shanghai – Gorgeous property, impeccable service, excellent dining.

While it could have been a one-off instance due to the CIIE happening nearby, but the extra mile in the hospitality is very much commendable, and also not an easy feat given the large team needed to ensure that all guests’ needs were met.

The rooms were incredibly well appointed, and everything works – the bed was incredibly comfortable, the bathroom was very enjoyable. The rest of the hotel, from the lounge to all the other facilities, were also very impressive.

The only shortcoming of the hotel was the distance. Being in the heart of Hongqiao CBD, that also means that you are terribly far from everything else downtown. A taxi ride from the hotel to Jing An district (where most of the shopping would be), took me about 30 minutes and almost RMB100.

The sheer distance in itself limits the possibility of recommending it to other people who goes to Shanghai for leisure, but if you ever have business in the Hongqiao area, this is certainly the hotel to choose next time.

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