I’d already been visually amused by the staff uniforms, colourfully fruity numbers across the board with pantaloons and wraps and tunics all looking like a crosspatch designed by Christian Lacroix. I find out very soon afterwards that the uniforms ARE in fact a Christian Lacroix creation, meaning he’s the one designer I can apparently pick out of a line-up. Must be all that Ad Fab watching.
SO Sofitel is a new brand, with only a handful of properties worldwide, and there’s a lot going on, conceptually. Indeed you could say SO many themes and layers that it takes a while for them to sink in.
The rooms are divided into three elements – Water, Earth and Metal – with Fire comprising the main restaurant. Four famous Thai designers were let loose on each, resulting in very distinct aesthetics, though the rooms in each element conform to the same basic designs.
My Water Room on the 22nd floor poked me in the nose with lemongrass as I entered, which wasn’t altogether an unpleasant experience (depending on how you feel about lemongrass, I guess). High-end Asian hotels love their glass bathroom walls, and this room is no exception. The reflective surfaces are arranged in such a way that it looks like there are six of you as you enter, which can be discombobulating the first few times.
A paperless ethos means that everything from hotel information to room service is accessed through the TV, though it doesn’t go as far as letting you order food this way – you still have to call your order in, though it’s reassuring to have it verbally confirmed. If hell exists, I imagine it’s probably waiting for a room service club sandwich that never actually arrives.
I casually loitered around the other elemental sections and they each had their own feel, from capacious atriums to wooden sculptures. Overall, the public spaces come across as evolved and urbane, and there’s a solemnity about the colours and shapes. It’s not overpowering, though, because the colourful staff in their flamboyant outfits are there as light relief – it’s a weird balancing act but somehow it works.
Bangkok does do rooftop bars exceptionally well, the bar here is no exception. There’s something about the undulations of the city – enough low rise to afford expansive views, but enough high rise to make it interesting. The bar at SO has the standard-issue glass walls around a terrace that is forever serenaded by the strains of ambient house. My New Orleans sensibilities recoiled at their French 75 cocktail being served in what was essentially a large test tube, but the scenery was suitably distracting.
Breakfast in the Red Oven restaurant is a suitably grand affair, if only because of the park view that lords over the proceedings. Buffets, even at high-end hotels, can often be clamorous affairs but something about the dynamics in this room result in a tranquil start to the morning. Perhaps the adults-only design means that less families book into the place, or maybe they screen the children and only accept the best behaved.
SO Sofitel balances its elements confidently – the unabashed masculinity of the colours and overall design is mocked by the cheekiness of the uniformed staff but like any good double act, it’s a pleasing mix. Levels of service stood out even for Thailand, with levels of friendliness as unexpected and satisfying as a barroom magic trick.