What I liked most: the lounge, including its views and table service, and the massage chairs in the gym. I love that they gave us the welcome package of champagne and macarons and made us the hotel’s ‘Guest of the Day’.
What I liked least: the lack of other recreational activities inside the hotel like a swimming pool, spa, massage, etc.
Reason for the stay
We decided to do a staycation in our hometown of Melbourne, Australia to celebrate our wedding anniversary. My wife and I chose to stay at the Sofitel, which boasted the highest floor for any hotel club lounge in Melbourne. The club lounge is hosted on its 35th floor. My score and final comments are at the end of this post.
The Sofitel draws a lot from its French history. We were greeted by our hosts with a friendly ‘Bonjour’ and were offered many French inspired dishes during our stay, including croissants and baguettes. Many of the adornments around the hotel are French inspired. The moment I entered the foyer, I felt like I was walking through a luxury hotel. The color of the hotel was primarily a shiny gold, which was present in the walls, foyers and atrium, and the ambiance was just right. I was particularly impressed by the atrium, because I could see my reflections in the gold and in the floors above/below as I walked towards my room door.
We booked our room on Black Friday and scored a 40% discount on the usual room rates. Given we normally appreciate the added lounge when there is one on offer, we couldn’t go past booking the Luxury Room Club Sofitel with the Kind Size Bed and City Views for AUD$324. In the week prior to the stay, we received an email offering an upgrade for $104 to stay in the Premier Suites on presumably their 50th floor. We decided we would keep to our reservation as it was, since all we really wanted to experience was the club lounge.
By reserving certain rooms, namely ones with Club in the room title, you can score yourself access to the Club Sofitel and along with that, access to the Club Lounge. The Club Lounge offers some of the best city views in town. This lounge offers unique views of the St Patrick’s Cathedral, Yarra River and MCG and there is abundant natural light provided by floor to ceiling windows. The Club Lounge is shaped in an L-shape so you can see the east and the south-east of the Melbourne central business district. I thought the circular fireplace in the center of the room was a nice feature as it made the lounge inviting and served as a good backdrop for a couple’s photo.
Guests that are part of the Club Sofitel, e.g. people who book the Club rooms, can get access to private check-in and check-out at the lounge, the usual all-day refreshments, open bar with canapés in the evening, wireless workspace, private meeting rooms, plasma televisions, newspapers, a playroom with video games (Xbox), a quiet room for sleeping and table service, which includes the host serving their delightful tea offerings. Essentially you get a fancy room with the added bells and whistles.
Getting to the Sofitel
The Sofitel is on the Paris-end of Collins Street on the east side of the city. In terms of streets, you need to be on Collins Street heading towards Spring Street. The Sofitel is housed within a hotel, restaurant and shopping complex called Collins Place. This is home to several takeout and convenience stores, a cinema called Kino and various clothing stores. If you are keen to try some well rated food establishments, I recommend paying a visit to Pope Joan near the entrance to the hotel. Pope Joan serves British inspired cuisine. The other option is of course No. 35, which is located within the hotel, which offer a modern regional cuisine with French inspirations on the hotel’s 35th floor. There is also a bar called the Atrium in the hotel’s atrium and you will walk past it if you are heading towards No. 35 and the Club Lounge.
I’ve noticed that during the weekend the Collins Place and this side of the city in general was quieter than the rest of the city.
If you are keen to stretch your legs around the hotel, here are some options to consider:
Shopping: if you want to use your legs, head west from the hotel on the map and you will venture into the shopping district. As you head towards Swanston Street, the busy street, you will walk past luxury brand stores like Gucci, Armani and Hermès. If you are short on time, my advice is to take the underground station at Parliament Station and head towards Melbourne Central and there you will be dropped in the center of a major shopping complex.
Walking/Jogging: you could go for a 3.3km walk/run around the Fitzroy Gardens or an 8.5km walk/run around the Royal Botanic Gardens. You could even do a run around the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG within 30 mins, which I have done occasionally during lunch period.
Checking in to the Sofitel and going to the Club Lounge
We arrived at reservation counter to check-in and welcomed with a friendly ‘Bonjour’. We were surprised that we were selected to be the ‘Guest of the Day’ by the manager. We were thrilled. Guest of the Day entails some added benefits such as a room upgrade, a free movie of our choice and some nice amenities in our room. We were also allowed to check-out at 2:00 PM. We were really excited and felt very lucky.
We were also given a sheet that explained what being part of Club Sofitel entailed. Here is the full list:
- Personalized express check-in and check-out within the Club Lounge
- Signature Club Breakfast from 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM
- Light Luncheon from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
- French Afternoon Tea from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM
- Evening Beverages and Canapes from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
- Sweet Dreams Selection from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM
- Complimentary one-hour use of the Club meeting room
- Selection of international and local daily newspapers and magazines (via the PressReader app)
- Unlimited wireless internet and local telephone calls
- Shower facilities for early arrivals and late departures
- Access to the Concierge and business services
- Complimentary shoe shine service (upon request)
- In-room wellness kit (upon request)
We arrived at 1:45 PM and were offered the chance to go straight to the lounge to eat the light luncheon before it finished at 2:00 PM and they offered to take our bags to our room. After check-in, we went straight to the lounge. I was impressed to see that there were 6 elevators. Throughout our stay, we never spent long waiting for any elevator. The lounge is located on floor 35.
When you arrive on floor 35, you get greeted to a large foyer. The signs will direct you to go left if you want to go to the lounge. As you walk towards the lounge, you walk past Atrium, a bar that usually opens from 5:00 PM onward, and windows that allow wanderers to peer into the lounge to see what they could experience.
When we arrived in the lounge, we were greeted with a friendly ‘Bonjour’, we gave my name, and were taken taken to our table by the window. Here we were able to catch the sight of the city and suburbs. It was a really stunning sight, since Melbourne has so many green wedges in between all the concrete buildings. The view from up top definitely made us feel special in that moment. You can spot and follow the trams, cars and buses from above as they come into and out of view.
The light luncheon consisted of some salads (coleslaw and a mix of pumpkin, eggplant and capsicum salad), selection of delicatessen meats, cheese board and some crusty bread. You could also help yourself to drinks from the bar fridge, like soft-drinks, carbonated water and juices or order one of their teas. I opted for some Organic Mint tea and my wife went with the Green Jasmine and Pear. Both teas were really well brewed, but the highlight was the jasmine and pear tea since it was truly a perfect balance of flavors.
Not too long after we settled into the lounge, the afternoon tea was rolled out for the Afternoon Tea session from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Out came a selection of cakes, tarts and cut-up baguettes with your choice of nutella, butter or jam. I highly recommend trying the vanilla cake, it was very satisfying, the flavor was on point and just the right size.
We then decided to visit our room to see what we had booked and also how it was upgraded.
We were given a corner room on floor 39. The hotel occupies floors 35 and all the way up to floor 50. As you walk towards your room, you will get to the see the atrium and the gold reflective walls. The place did feel grand in a way, but like all places there were some obvious marks and wear-and-tear.
On entering our room, we went straight to the tablet that control the lights and pressed the ‘All On’ button. With a press of a button, Lo and behold all the lights came on in the room.
We realized that our ‘Guest of the Day’ privilege meant that our room was upgraded from a 3 window room to a 6 window room. This allowed us to get differing views of the cities, albeit one side’s view was blocked by the Aon building.
The rooms themselves are well laid out, but not as big as the other hotels in Melbourne for the equivalent type of room, e.g. The Langham and Pan Pacific. We also had a yoga mat and weights in the wardrobe and a coffee machine with some Nespresso pouches. We also had a selection of their branded ‘Madame’ tea bags, hot chocolate and bottled water. You can also purchase things from the bar as well, but I never do. I’d rather pop downstairs and buy the things from the convenience store or local Coles or Woolworths.
The room had a work desk and on top of it sat a Samsung Tablet, which served to provide in-room dining on request, hotel information and access to heaps of magazines, like The Monthly, PC Gamer, the Guardian newspaper, APC, etc. I found flicking through the device fun during some of the free time.
After dropping our luggage, we decided to visit the gym on floor 36 and then head out for a walk in the city.
The Sofitel gym had all the basic essentials for any person wanting to stay in shape, weights, treadmill, benches, mats, etc. Apples, water and towels are provided in the gym.
The one thing that surprised us were the two massage chairs. One was faulty and you couldn’t adjust your position in the chair, but it still worked. The other chair was fully functional and allowed for a full recline as we got massaged. We managed to fit in a few massages during the day.
Evening Beverages and Canapes
We got back to the hotel around 7:00 PM for the evening beverages and canapes. We dropped by our rooms first to leave some items behind. We were surprised to see on entering a bottle of wine, champagne glasses and a bowl of macarons, and card from the manager. It was a nice gesture. It really made the day feel even more special.
The lounge was full when we waltzed in around 7:00 PM. It wasn’t completely full and overflowing, but all the nice tables were taken (e.g. window tables) and there were some kids now wandering around.
The alcohol was now accessible. There were some French wines and beers and classic favorites like Midori, Baileys, Jim Bean, Johnny Walker, etc. The food selection was a mix of hot and cold foods. Be warned that if you are here for the alcohol, the alcohol is only available at this time otherwise it gets locked away after 7:30 PM. Make you order or get what you want before 7:30 PM.
Here is what the canape menu had:
- Beef & Vegetable Pastie with Onion Relish
- Asian Peking Duck Pockets
- Prawn Gyoza
- Japanese Oyster Shooters
- Smoked Salmon & Potato Salad with Herb Mayonnaise
- Cheeseboard, Fruit & Crackers
- Charcuterie Selection of Cured Meats
- International Cheese Board
There was also chicken karaage with chilli mayonnaise, grilled bread and antipasto. For some of the items, you couldn’t picked them up (given the limited space) but rather the hosts came to each the table and offered servings of the gyoza and pasties.
I recommend the Prawn Gyoza, because it was delicious. It came with a nice sauce and the texture of the feeling was really delicious and succulent.
You can also order your own drinks like teas, coffee or alcohol (as mentioned), which are made to order. The staff were very attentive and came by our table several times.
For the Sweet Dreams Selection session which started at 8:00 PM, you could pick up a bowl with a macaron, a chocolate cream puff (with chocolate cream filling) and a turkish delight. The macaron was a nice treat to finish the day.
The lounge closed at 9:00 PM and we were asked to make our way out.
Late night movie
We decided to watch the movie The Farewell starring Awkwafina. It’s an American comedy-drama film written and directed by Lulu Wang. The movie is centered around a Chinese family discovering that their grandmother has only a short while left to live due to cancer. It was a touching comedy and really shed some light on some of the dilemmas faced by Asian Americans who need to balance their traditional customs and modern sensibilities. I thought it was a great film to round off the night.
The last thing to do at the hotel is to enjoy the breakfast before checking out. Although we had until 2:00 PM to check-out, we wanted to just go home after breakfast. We were happy to learn that we had access to the breakfast buffets at both the No. 35 and the lounge, we just asked and they were happy to accommodate us. Mind you, the food is predominately the same since it comes from the same kitchen.
We visited No. 35 first. No. 35 is L-shaped restaurant and has floor to ceiling windows facing the Arts Center and Flinders Street (not that you can see it well) on one side and the other was facing Collins Street and the CBD, but many of the views were blocked by the other high rise buildings.
I’ve been to the Langham (Melba) and Pan Pacific (Pier) breakfasts and this one seemed to have less options and was less interesting. There was a station to have eggs your way, pancakes and waffles, but the food was your standard fare, e.g. sausages, button mushrooms, hash browns, etc. The unique thing were their own concoction of exotic fruit juices and yogurts/smoothies.
After trying some of the items at No. 35, we then went back to the lounge to see their offerings. The lounge is smaller and hence, there wasn’t much on offer that was much different from No. 35. The big difference is that, unlike other lounges, we also had access to the following food that were made to order, such as:
- Eggs your way: choice of poached, scrambled, boiled or fried. Toasted sour dough, hash brown, spinach & tomato.
- Classic eggs benedict: two poached eggs on lightly toasted English muffins, Virginia ham, hollandaise sauce.
- Smoked salmon: potato rosti, buttered spinach, lightly poached egg, hollandaise sauce, chives.
- Coconut porridge: cinnamon poached pears, figs, apricots, cranberries.
- Savoury croissant bun: scrambled eggs, grilled maple bacon, melted Swiss cheese, tomato chutney
- Warm Belgian style waffle: strawberry compote, whipped vanilla cream, passionfruit, Australian honey
We could also order tea and coffee. I ordered the savoury croissant bun, which was a nice surprise as it had a nice filling of bacon and cheese in the center with a crusty croissant on the top and bottom. My wife had the warm Belgian style waffle which was nice and crunchy with a nice strawberry flavored jam (compote). I had a mocha to go with my food and was impressed that the barista balanced the flavors of chocolate and coffee in a nice subtle blend.
Overall, it was a magnificent stay. We checked-out and went to Lune for a croissant. You need to come here if you like French pastries. There are usually queues to order their treats.
My rating: A
Staff: the staff were very attentive and proactively helped us with things. I would give it a higher score, but unfortunately I have been to Japan and it’s hard to top Japanese service. A
Facilities: the lounge was excellent with nice views and had a nice selection of seating options and views. The gym was fine, and its score increased with the inclusion of massage chairs. Unfortunately, the biggest letdown is that there are no massage options, swimming pool, spas/saunas, etc. B+
Cleanliness: we didn’t have any issues with the cleanliness of the hotel. Although there were some wear-and-tear and poor paint jobs, we weren’t turned off. B+
Comfort: the beds were nice and big, but the pillows were difficult to sleep on. B+
Value for money: Definitely for us given we paid the Black Friday rate. A+
Location: the location of the city was good, since it was located on top of a small shopping complex with a cinema and it’s close to a train station. Unfortunately it is a bit of a walk to get to the action from where it’s located in the city and many of its city views are blocked off by other tall buildings. B+
The Sofitel is located at 25 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000: