The Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour has an odd history: having previously been the Westin, and then taken over and turned into an MGallery, it's now established as a cornerstone of business travellers' top-end hotel choices in New Zealand's economic capital.
Almost entirely surrounded by water and boats, and situated towards the Wynyard Quarter district to the west of the CBD, it's a beautiful, zen-like modern setting for a hotel.
With yachtie marinas surrounding it and visible through the windows, it reminded me of an exceedingly swish beach club.
The signature Sofitel "bonjour" from the staffer at the desk had me heading up to my room swiftly, although I did get lost in the rather indistinguishable and not particularly well signposted corridors.
My Luxury room was unusually shaped: an entry hallway with wet bar (plus espresso machine) and double wardrobe to walk through, then the desk and sofa on the right, balcony ahead, bed to the left and expansive bathroom back to the left from the bed.
Floor-to-ceiling windows let in a lot of light — perhaps too much in the mornings, since the doors are slatted rather than being blackout-friendly.
The Sofitel bed was sumptous as ever (if slightly oddly aligned to the headboard), and I enjoyed falling asleep listening to some relaxing music on the bedside Bose speaker system (with 16-pin connector-enabled iPod dock).
I appreciated the velvety low bench at the foot of the bed — perfect for opening up my clamshell four-wheeled hard suitcase fully.
The flatscreen TV is really oddly positioned, though, facing neither the bed nor the sofa, and with no option to move it to be visible without shifting the heavy TV stand.
A comfortable sofa with very handy side table mini-desk, reasonable work desk and massive bathroom (with separate walk-in shower and tub) rounded out the room.
L'Occitane toiletries, though, are feeling a little old and non-special now.
Apart from the light not really being filtered out by the curtains, my only complaint with the room was that just about all of the wooden fittings were looking very much worse for wear. Chips, dents, and nicks show up very easily on dark furnishings — and did very much in this case.
Everything just felt a little bit too bashed-about for a Sofitel.
The desk in the room was large, leather-topped and refreshingly free of clutter.
However, the chair wasn't up to more than an hour or two of laptop use — certainly not a full day or even a half day of work.
The sofa, though, has a C-shaped side table that's suitable for some light duty.
Disappointingly, the Internet situation was the dreadful Reivernet rort, which is one of the worst ripoffs in business travel. Extortionately priced and appallingly slow, the system is a huge minus to the Sofitel's appeal for business travellers.
I managed a paltry 1 Mbps down, and 0.46 Mbps up — for a charge of NZ$30 for 300 MB at the deceptively named "full speed" and then 700 MB at "slow" (which didn't seem any slower).
As with many Sofitels, the Auckland Viaduct Harbour really shines on the food side. The wonderful Sabrage champagne bar is a real draw, and the fine French food on offer at Lava is absolutely top-notch. Room service is equally good.
Brilliantly selected wines, with a focus on NZ and French vintages, are a big plus. I'd return just for dinner and/or drinks.
Breakfast, too, is excellent, with a relatively small, high-quality buffet and a choice of additional dishes. The French pastries were especially great.