The newly relaunched Regent Hotels and Resorts intends to reclaim its crown as an ultra-luxury hospitality brand and re-establish itself among the travel cognoscenti. Ong Chin Huat visits its first flagship property in Southeast Asia, the Regent Phu Quoc, in Vietnam and discovers this once coveted hotel chain has risen again.
Growing up in the seventies in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the Regent Hotel in Kuala Lumpur was the very first five-star establishment I had experienced, and it was my first impression of what luxury hospitality and fine dining were all about.
Fine French dining, juicy cuts from the steak house and hotel employees who remembered your name were just a few things I recall when I reminisced about the Regent Hotel.
Fast forward fifty years, and I was invited to try out the brand new Regent Phu Quoc in Vietnam -the very first resort in South East Asia for the Regent Hotels and Resorts group since its acquisition by IHG Hotels & Resorts in 2018 and its subsequent rebranding. For me and those who remember this stellar hotel chain, it was a special moment which completed the circle.
Arriving at the Regent Phu Quoc just after sunset was both a plus and a minus. A plus because the shimmering lights on the water cast a magical and almost surreal glow to the resort and my spacious Lagoon Pool Villa, while it was a minus because I couldn’t see the views or the entirety of the resort, which made me even more curious as to how the place looked.
But come daybreak, everything looked incredible in the morning light. From the diaphanous strips of material shading, the main pool to the intricate pattern on the wooden screens found in my bathroom, which is an interpretation of a traditional Vietnamese wooden truss, every well-thought-out detail, inside and out, revealed itself in all its splendour of my first day.
Waking up on the soft and smooth sheets of my king-size bed, I was hesitant at first to press the button which would electronically open both curtains of the sliding glass doors for fear of the sudden intrusion of bright light, but I did it anyway, the lure of jumping into my own private infinity pool was impossible to resist.
With the immediate view of the lagoon populated with water lilies and dragonflies right in front of me, swimming a length of two just before breakfast was the best decision I made on my first day.
My tastefully decorated villa was warm and cosy, complete with a fully equipped kitchen that was well stocked with snacks and drinks and a Nespresso machine ready for when I needed a dose of caffeine during the day.
What I found the most impressive in my villa was the bathroom, furnished in luxurious marble and wood with a separate vanity to prevent any squabbling between a couple over sink time and a sensuously shaped bathtub taking centre stage. The delectable citrusy-smelling Aqua Di Parma toiletries added to the allure of my favourite area in my villa.
Located on 130,000 square meters of prime beachfront land fringed by the white, pearly sand characteristic of Long Beach on the idyllic island of Phu Quoc, the Regent Phu Quoc has a selection of villas and suites which range from Beach Pool Villas and Lagoon Pool Villas to Ocean View Suites and Garden Pool Suites making a total of 126 villas and 176 suites.
The Regent Club is a private sanctuary and refined holistic space which offers its members special privileges, exclusive activities and amenities such as round-trip transfers to the airport with a luxury car, access to the Regent Club Lounge, all-day gourmet offerings and complimentary beverages, including champagne.
With the well-designed and luxurious hardware in place, I was also looking for supporting software in terms of the service and attitude of the staff and not once was I disappointed during the entirety of my stay. Genuinely warm and sincerely friendly without being intrusive, everybody I encountered treated me like I was the only guest in the resort, and my comfort was their primary priority.
Perhaps the most telling was on my last morning, just before I left the resort for the airport at 6.30 am, when the hotel receptionist asked if my sore throat was better, and he asked the kitchen to prepare some warm water in my packed breakfast in case I needed it to soothe my throat.
Strolling to breakfast, I walked past Regent Kids, a designated area featuring imaginative zones for children to play, learn and interact with one another. Featuring a colourful climbing playground and a mini-theatre, it’s an impressive children’s retreat for couples who like travelling with their children yet wish to have a quiet moment together.
Breakfast at the Rice Market, the Regent Phu Quoc’s main restaurant, is a veritable exercise in restraint as the morning offerings are both wide in choice and options. From healthy options like vegetarian rolls, freshly squeezed juices, and blended smoothies to local Vietnamese dishes like steamed rice paper rolls and caramelised pork with sticky coconut rice, those who wake up for breakfast are set up well for the day with the vast array of food.
A fresh bakery on-site gives carb lovers and those not on a Keto diet more choices of croissants, brioches, pain aux raisins and chouquettes anywhere east of Paris.
If luxuriating in your own villa is what you desire, then there would be no better place to do that than in one of Regent Phu Quoc’s private villas. Having just opened in April this year, the latest mod-cons you could think of are available, and if they weren’t, you could easily request them with just a single phone call.
If you are more adventurous and crave some activities, you could indulge in some of the specially curated activities organised by the resort – from sea kayaking and a rooftop aerial yoga class to a visit to their very own art gallery featuring established and emerging Vietnamese artists or a tour of a pepper farm on the island.
However, my adventure for the day was no further than a few steps from the Rice Market, where I had the most satisfying breakfast. The Spa at the Regent Phu Quoc is located below the lobby on the ground level, and to enter it, you have to walk over a placid pond populated by colourful koi fishes, an experience which is both calming and soothing in itself.
After a few brief minutes of waiting in the tastefully decorated waiting area of the spa, where you fill out a questionnaire and peruse the spa menu, you are led by one of the therapists to your treatment room, where you can relax, unwind and be pampered.
Opting for the Alpha Quartz Sand Cocoon Therapy, this holistic treatment massage combines state-of-the-art technology with time-honoured natural remedies with the quartz bed contouring my body to alleviate any muscle stiffness by creating a cocooning effect. Balinese and Hawaiian massage techniques further reduced my muscle tension, bringing about an overall sense of well-being.
After this hour-long massage, I was led to a relaxing area with a day bed and served warm herbal tea. Leaving the spa on cloud nine, I noticed my slightly stiff neck was no longer hurting, and I felt like a brand new person.
Lunch at a different section of the Rice Market – this time, I was seated facing the main pool – was excellent, especially in the hands of Chef de Cuisine Tran Duc Huan.
With an innovative take on Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, Chef Huan recommended the Avocado and Prawn Soft Rice Paper Rolls for starters, followed by the tangy and super refreshing Hokkaido Scallops, Green Papaya, Heirloom Tomatoes with Aromatic Herbs, Lime and Palm Sugar Dressing as I requested something light.
A bonus came in the form of an amuse bouche, something off the menu and specially created by Chef Huan – deep-fried sour pork with a dollop of spiced mayonnaise. Not wanting to, but eventually giving in was the irresistible dessert of Mango Pudding with Coconut Sago and Mango Chips.
A decided a short stroll on Long Beach, the name of the stretch of pristine white beach fronting the Regent Phu Quoc after lunch was the only sensible thing to do.
With cabanas, sun loungers and hammocks, the cool afternoon sea breeze beckoned me to flop down on a hammock and admire the azure sea laid right in front of me while meditating on the blue sky with fluffy white clouds.
I was practising being a human being (as opposed to a human doing!), and even though it was only short of an hour, this short break did wonders for my state of mind.
Catching the sunset at the Regent Phu Quoc was something not to be missed, and the ideal place to witness this spectacular nature show was at the Ocean Club Bar, situated facing the beach, right at the edge of the resort. This oceanfront venue has a rum-inspired cocktail menu and an international wine list to ensure no one gets thirsty while watching the sun go down.
I ordered a Beach and Serenity cocktail made with Zacapa ámbar 12 años rum, ginger of the Indies, and Orgeat syrup with lime juice, making watching the sunset a heady and pleasurable experience. Before long, it was twilight, with the Vietnamese sky turning into a palette of varying hues of dark blue, violet, magenta, orange and pink, marking a colourful end to a delightful day.
The food at this laid-back restaurant is appropriately Mediterranean, with a strong focus on seafood. Being offered an amuse bouche of Honey Crepe Codfish slathered with cream, pâté, truffle sauce, and seaweed powder was only a mouth-watering prelude to what else was to come.
The King Crab Salad made with Alaskan King Crab Meat, Avocado Puree, Mango Chilli Sauce, Yuzu Gel, Sweet Corn Sorbet, and Dujiangyan-farmed Amur Prestige Caviar was just perfect with the corn sorbet, giving this invigorating starter an icy cold dimension with a nice sour kick.
The Phu Quoc Rock Lobster came highly recommended as this crustacean was found in the local waters. Simply chargrilled with a lashing of lemon butter herbs and served with broccolini, the tender and succulent lobster meat couldn’t have been juicier or tastier.
The Ocean Club also hadn’t forgotten meat lovers and the Black Angus Tenderloin from Australia was grilled to perfection with the creamy black pepper sauce, bringing out the flavour of this prized piece of beef. Served with seared foie gras and whisky morel mushroom fricassee, and a side of fluffy smooth mashed potatoes, this dish, plus all the rest I savoured at the Regent Phu Quoc, is reason alone to make a trip to this wondrous and welcoming resort.
For further information on the Regent Phu Quoc, please visit https://phuquoc.regenthotels.com/.
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