Hotel de l’Opera is a two-minute walk in Hanoi to Vietnam’s famed Opera House, in the arty Hoan Kiem District. The ambassador for the brand is English movie star Kristin Scott Thomas, which is apt for this ultra-feminine hotel where the interior was designed by a woman. It also has a theatrical presence, unlike anything I’ve ever stayed in.
Oscar-winner Scott Thomas was flown in from Paris for the soft opening party in late January 2011. The hotel still had a bit of work to do before it was ready for visitors. I was there for that party and wow, this hotel, even in its state of dress rehearsal, was as glamorous as its ambassador.
With just over 100 rooms, it’s considered to be a boutique hotel, and part of Accor Hotels’ M Brand collection. The collection is not a ubiquitous brand, but hotels retaining the cultural identities of the countries they’re in. There’s only about 100 of them worldwide, and Scott Thomas is the face of the label. The hotels are all over Europe, Morocco, Yemen (!), South America, South-East Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand.
The foyer, featuring velvet couches and a ceiling to floor chandelier, leads to the La Fee Verte Bar at the back, adjacent to a central courtyard/atrium overlooked by all floors of the hotel. The night of the party it was pumping with guests, a Parisian DJ mixing music and Vietnamese acrobats doing heart-stopping stunts without a safety net.
Hotel de l’Opera in Hanoi showcases the best of modern Vietnam. In the bedrooms, cool wooden floors compliment the finest Asian textiles, velvets and silks in vibrant colors.
In the rooms – and this is a girl thing – makeup mirrors to die for. Men can slap on aftershave in the half dark, but women need top quality lighting for applying makeup. Hotel de l’Opera is the only hotel I’ve ever stayed at, that realises a woman needs good lighting in front of her to put on her makeup, and delivers. The wide bathroom mirrors look like something out of a theatrical or Hollywood dressing room, with bulbs all the way around. Perfect!
Scott Thomas ordered one of the beds to be delivered to her home in Paris. They are high off the floor. It’s the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. The mattress looks to be over half a metre thick. I would have liked to have taken one home too.
The French left Vietnam but their culinary influence remains, and the food at the hotel reflects that. Cafe Lautrec on the ground floor is open all day, and specialises in fresh-baked baguettes, pastries and coffee. It also has a buffet and an a la carte menu. Ask for coffee Vietnamese style. They run it through a small drip filter and serve it black with condensed milk either pooled at the bottom or served on the side. It has smooth, chocolate undertones and a velvety after taste. You’ll never visit Starbucks again.
MORE ABOUT HANOI:
- The Vietnamese capital is home to six million people and is increasingly popular with tourists.
- The Hoan Kiem District is where the Opera House, a lot of contemporary art galleries, glossy French boutiques and other top hotels are located.
- The Old Quarter, a short walk from the hotel, is 50 streets crammed with shopping, whole families slurping pho noodles on the pavement, and traffic!
- The expression “cheek by jowl” was never more apt than here. Or try Dong Xuan Market, on the corner of Hang Khoai and Dong Xuan.
- If you’ve been desperately scouring the city for a technicolor portrait of Ho Chi Minh complete with sound effects, this is where you will find it. The market is the destination for all the stuff you never knew you wanted.
- Hotel de l’Opera, 29 Hang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam. Call +84 4 6282 5555. Email: email@example.com. More info: www.mgallery.com
- Hanoi’s climate is clammy and very cold in winter, and humid and hot in summer
- Vietnam’s capital is a blend of old and new with many fine, French colonial buildings, ancient pagodas and temples, and modern boutiques in the shopping mix
- Street food is cheap, delicious and safe
- Tour guides at Exotissimo Travel are highly recommended. The hotel can arrange one from Exotissimo. Ask for Mrs Thinh Le – she was my guide for a day and so practical and no-nonsense and witty, I wanted to take her home too. 26 Tran Nhat Duat Street, Hoan Kiem District, tel (844) 828 2150. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org