08 May 2015
Sofitel: French excellence in hotel glamour
As France’s only international luxury chain of hotels, Sofitel never stop inventing, holding high the banner of elegance and French culture with 120 hotels in forty countries.
Sofitel proposes different and original luxury hotels, mixed with French sophistication.
It offers a knowing blend of elegance, savoir-faire and the art of hosting, always accompanied by the best of local culture.
This week, Plume Voyage encourages you to familiarise yourself with all the specialities of this brand, which celebrates its 50th birthday next year!
Two labels that distinguish its most iconic hotels have enriched the Sofitel brand. The first is the Sofitel Legend, which is a club of exclusive, timeless establishments, including legendary spots printed with history. Each Sofitel Legend is a precious jewel that embodies the purpose of a journey, taking you beyond the country in which it is located. The first hotel to receive this label was the Metropole in Hanoi, becoming the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in July 2009. Since, The Grand Amsterdam (Netherlands), the legendary Old Cataract Aswan and the Winter Palace Luxor (Egypt), the People’s Grand Hotel in Xian (China), the Palais Jamaï Fès (Maroc) and the Cartagena Santa Clara Hotel (Colombia) have joined the Sofitel Legend collection.
Launched in 2011 and at the heart of the Sofitel range, Sofitel So is the second award, usually given to ultra-contemporary boutique hotels in popular destinations. Each Sofitel So seeks to express the essence of its location and possesses its own ambiance, devised by international figures in fashion, art or design. The first hotel to earn this stamp is the Sofitel So Mauritius Bel Ombre, whose interior was dreamed up by Thai architect Lek Bunnag. Then came the Sofitel So Bangkok in 2012, decorated by famous local designers who took inspiration from the 5 elements. The latest addition is the Sofitel So Singapore, overseen by a bureau of French interior designers based at the Singapore Miaja Design Group in 2014. And this will soon be followed by Sofitel So in India (Sofitel So Mumbai), Brasil (Sofitel So Rio Ipanema) and New Zealand (Sofitel So Auckland)…
The Sofitel brand regularly enlists the services of figures from the realms of fashion and design to add a personal touch to their hotels. Such is the case for Kenzo Takada, who oversaw the artistic direction of the Sofitel So Mauritius Bel Ombre. And Christian Lacroix, who brought a “French touch” to the Sofitel So in Bangkok. Jean-Charles Castelbajac also created several pieces of art for the Sofitel Casablanca. And even Karl Lagerfeld designed the logo for the Sofitel So Singapore in 2014. Let’s not forget Marisa Berenson, who is now the ambassador for SoSpa, having concocted a special offer for all Sofitel spas, first in Morocco and then for Sofitels in Marseille and London…
Even the most celebrated French architects are often invited by the chain to devise brand new hotel using their skills. Take as an example French architect Jean Nouvel, who designed the avant-garde masterpiece that is the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, the hotel’s first establishment in Austria. At night, the hotel becomes a lighthouse that lights up the city with horizontal explosions of coloured lights, designed by Swiss Pipilotti Rist. Interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, known for his contemporary designed enhanced with a classic twist, injected a hint of timeless chic into the Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah, whilst bringing a vintage club atmosphere to the Sofitel London St James and marrying French elegance and Art Deco at the Sofitel Buenos Aires Arroyo. French architect Jean-Paul Viguier was left in charge of the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, imagining it as a prism made entirely of glass. This remarkable mix of art, architecture and contemporary style makes this one of the most notorious buildings in Chicago. Finally, the Sofitel Paris Arc-de-Triomphe, by French Studio Putman, embodies a symbol of contemporary Parisian chic. Just put: the Sofitel yearns to be the flag bearer of luxury and design à la francaise and repeatedly invites its best representatives to take part in these thoroughly inspired collaborations.
Sofitel maintains close ties with the world of art and design. Thus, photographic exhibitions are regularly organised in these hotels’ living areas. For instance, the “Brigitte Bardot Forever” exhibition revitalised the BB myth in the Sofitel Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and New York in 2012, and then around Asia the following year. Or the compétition created las t year une partnership with Wallpaper magazine, proposed to designers, artiste and students to interpret their idea of the bed in the Universe Sofitel MyBed.
The “Escales Littéraires” is an event during which renowned French authors spend a week at a Sofitel hotel of their choice and write a new account inspired by that destination. These stories are then published in Le Figaro and distributed through each hotel in book form. Authors who have taken part include: David Foenkinos (at the Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt), Jean-Christophe Rufin (Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi), Patrick Chamoiseau (Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg), Tahar Ben Jelloun (Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam), Philippe Besson (Sofitel London Saint James), Patrick Poivre d’Arvor (Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor), Jean-Paul Enthoven (Sofitel Lisbonne Liberdade), Yasmina Khadra (Sofitel Marrakech Imperial) and even Jean-Marie Rouart (Sofitel Essaouira Medina).
Seeing as their hotels are there to offer us shelter at night, Sofitel sought to develop an offer geared towards cosmopolitan and adept travellers keen for new experiences – their perfect clients.
La Nuit by Sofitel is a concept of night-time events that perfectly combine its three main principles: culture, design and gastronomy. These parties take place during prestigious international cultural events, such as contemporary art and design trade fairs or cinema and music festivals and even Fashion Week. The first edition of La Nuit by Sofitel took place in December 2014 at the Sofitel Marrakech (Morocco), alongside the opening evening of the International Film Festival. On the La Nuit programme: a live concert and DJ set. In Marrakech, it was DJ Cut Killer and the Brigitte duo singers who first inaugurated this new concept. To compliment the music, a selection of cocktails was especially created for the evening, offering five alcoholic cocktails and one non-alcoholic. The recipes and themes of the menu were inspired by Paris’s most famous nighttime haunts: Pigalle, Bastille, St Germain des Prés, the Champs-Elysées, the Marais and, as their signature cocktail: Paris La Nuit. Once again, the brand strives to be France’s herald around the world, where our country enjoys more prestige than could have ever been imagined!
We have no doubt that gastronomy, as an essential emblem of the French style of living, holds an important place at Sofitel. If you need any reminding of this, just taking a quick look at the Sofitel Paris le Faubourg, the latest addition to the chain, which opened in March 2015, following a total refurbishment by Didier Gomez. It is here that triple-starred chef Yanneck Alléno chose to set up his restaurant STAY, where many enjoy his large although slightly softer style kitchen, including the subtle addition of the famous patisserie library where all the celebrities play…At the Sofitel Le Grand Amsterdam, decorated by Sybille de Margerie, you come across another revered chef: Joris Bijdendijk at Bridges restaurant. This former contestant on France’s Top Chef 2013 clinched his Michelin star in 2014. In Marrakech, whose Orangerie restaurant boasts a superb shaded terrace that overlooks the hotel gardens, the French and Moroccan chefs combine their talents in order to offer the best of both gastronomic cultures. At the Sofitel Saint James in London (one of our favourites) designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, its Brasserie and Balcon restaurants delight all with its authentic French products at the charcuterie bar, after a drink at the St James bar, whose décor takes inspiration from Coco Chanel’s apartment in the 1920s! At the Sofitel Vienna, an original glass tower designed by Jean Nouvel, the Das Loft restaurant is a genuine belvedere that dominates the Viennese skyline and whose large 10m-high bay windows offer an impressive view over St Etienne’s cathedral, the Prater and the Giant Ferris Wheel. Here, chef Fabian Günzel favours an eclectic cuisine, mixing Asian, European and middle-eastern inspirations. Lunch itself is worth the trip at the Sofitel Hambourg! In Dubai, Sofitel Downtown boasts trifling total of 8 restaurants and bars! We simply don’t know where to lay our forks. Foodies will love Les Cuisines: with its different international buffets and numerous special delicacies: cheese, bread, sushi pizza…essentially offering a trip around the world everyday! And check out the children’s own kid-size buffet. And let’s not forget the Thai restaurant, with its view over the city and Red Grill, a steakhouse perfect for lovers of high-quality meat!