Of all Macau's luxury hotels -- and there are many -- the Sofitel is perhaps the most centrally located for the old town of Macau, sitting as it does on the western side of the island's main residential and business area.
It's most definitely not one of the glitzy skyscrapers on the Cotai Strip, but that's its real selling point: a location where you can wander around the fascinating side streets of old Macau, and an absolutely magical top-floor executive lounge that overlooks them.
Location & Impressions
The Sofitel Macau perches on top of the Ponte 16 casino complex, a handy ride in one of Macau's very reasonably-priced taxis away from both the ferry port and the airport, which is how most business travellers arriving in Macau will get there.
The lobby is pretty odd -- a kind of 1990s Las Vegas blown glass theme abounds -- but the staff are multilingual and helpful. As usual in Sofitels around the world, you're greeted with a "bonjour", which sounds a little odd in a thick Macanese accent the first couple of times.
Since I had Executive Club lounge access, I was whisked straight up to the top floor and checked in swiftly.
The Sofitel's rooms, while small by Macau luxury hotel room standards, are well-outfitted with comfortable beds, well thought out touches (like a dressing rack) and a luxurious bathroom.
Only the glass wall between the bathroom and the bedroom was a surprise in terms of layout, which is otherwise fairly standard: a hall area with the bathroom door, and the room beyond.
Furnishings are bronze and black, with fabrics in the same palette and a particularly attractive intricate curtain to accent the large windows.
While there's no sofa, the single (and very squashily comfortable) armchair has an ottoman footrest -- a real plus.
(The room did, however, lack a luggage rack for anything larger than a carry-on, and it was a huge production for the staff to bring one up -- one staffer even tried to tell me that there was no such thing as a luggage rack in Macau.)
Top marks for a Bose CD player with a simple slot-in option for iPhone/iPod connections, which also allowed any other device to be hooked in via the usual 3.5mm headphone jack. Marks off, however, for no power points beside the bed.
The bathroom was equally lovely, with a walk-in shower (both rain head and wand), separate bath and old-school classy Hermès toiletries.
A large glass desk and comfortable upholstered chair served well for a few hours' work, although the room's wifi continued the "Macau has dreadful Internet" theme of my trip with 1Mbps down and 0.88Mbps up when I tried it. Internet is included with Executive Club Lounge access.
And the lounge is real place to get cracking on work. It's perched on the top floor, with helpful staff and all kinds of spaces -- from dining tables to sofas to a boardroom -- where you can get things done.
There's also free wifi, although one of the wifi boxes in the lounge wasn't working and kept disconnecting me, and as the staff were trying to fix it for the rest of my stay I couldn't get a good speed reading. It felt slightly faster than the lounge, though.
Breakfast and lunch in the Mistral buffet restaurant was filling but overall not especially gourmet in terms of quality -- especially for a Sofitel, where the food is usually excellent.
The pastry chef, however, is a complete patisserie genius. I haven't had cakes and macarons like that since I was in Paris.
Room service, too, was an immense improvement: I had the best steak I had anywhere in Macau, with a fantastic foie gras starter and a fascinating glass of Chinese Cabernet Merlot from Grace Vineyard in Shanxi Province.
And equally delicious was the afternoon tea in the Lounge, which came in a gorgeous handmade box containing sandwiches, cakes, juices and more macarons. A wide variety of tea was offered -- and it was fantastic.
The Lounge is the place to be if you're staying here, but if you need to work off the macarons (trust me, you'll need to) then there's a choice of swimming pools and a decent gym area too.
Evening cocktail hours from 5.30 to 7pm in the Lounge are well worth it, with a good buffet, decent sparkling wine, a pleasant choice of red and white, and a decent spirit selection. Watching the sun set and the lights come up over Macau was one of those magical business travel moments that I'll savour for quite some time.
I stayed at several top-notch Macau hotels, and the Sofitel was my favourite -- mainly for the fantastic Executive Club Lounge, but also for the interesting French influence and seeing how the mainland Chinese business travellers (who are almost certainly why you're coming to Macau) encounter them.
Neutral talking points like French patisserie are a great way to break the ice, and the Sofitel's are fantastic. But make sure you spend at least one sunset up in the lounge -- you won't regret it.
John Walton was a guest of the hotel