Hotels of Cambodia - Rosewood Phnom Penh

In our ongoing search for the best hotels in Cambodia, we pay a visit to the Rosewood Phnom Penh, which occupies the top floors of the capital's iconic Vattanac Building

Name: Rosewood Phnom Penh

Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Date of Stay: 25-26 July 2020

Good for: Business travelers, city explorers, staycationers

Pros: All the accoutrements of a big city hotel

Cons: Indoor pool, lack of local street life

Club Sandwich Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: Rising high above the city, atop Cambodia’s tallest building (for now), the Rosewood provides a stay like no other in Phnom Penh. As part of a global collection, it combines world-class service and all the expected mod-cons for a truly six star stay.

Historically, Phnom Penh has been a very flat city. Despite famously being named after a hill (the legend of ‘Penh’s Hill’ involves a rich grandmother, a floating tree, and three Buddha statues), for centuries there was nothing higher than the hill’s 27 meters. Then came the development boom of the last decade or so, and the capital’s preponderance of cranes, with high-rises under construction as far as the eye can see. On one hand - and as longtime residents will bemoan - the quiet charms of what was once heralded as Southeast Asia’s prettiest city are long gone. It’s a fair point, but also overlooks that development was probably inevitable (although could have been managed better), and the amazing views you get from the top of buildings like the Vattanac Capital Tower.

Occupying the building’s uppermost 14 floors, the Rosewood Phnom Penh opened in 2018, and instantly became Cambodia’s tallest hotel. It’s also one of its most modern, with all the finesse and fine touches you’d expect from the Rosewood group. (Caveat: I wrote the in-room destination guides for Rosewood hotels in Phuket, Bangkok, Luang Prabang and Guangzhou, though sadly not for Phnom Penh, so have a familiarity with the group and their ‘Sense of Place’ philosophy). You arrive at their ground floor lobby, before being whisked up to the 35th floor - and I do mean whisked, your ears will pop - and their main reception. As the elevator doors opened, we were greeted by a phalanx of staff, and the smiles and welcomes kept coming through the check-in. After taking in the birds-eye views we were then escorted to our Mekong suite six floors down.

We had two adjoining rooms - one for the kids - with a shared ‘front door’, which is perfect for families, while the suite has a living room overlooking the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers. The views are impressive (a repeated theme), but the bedroom was the real scene-stealer, with floor-to-ceiling windows facing both east and north, meaning you never really want to put the curtains down (indeed, we went to sleep to the city lights, and woke up to the sunrise). The space is so comfortable that you don’t really want to leave (the bathtub even has a TV, cunningly disguised as a mirror), but then you’d be missing out on some of the best eating and drinking in the city (and the pool).

I know what you’re thinking, it must be time for the much-anticipated club sandwich rating, but before we get to that important criteria, let me first take you on a tour of the hotel’s numerous F&B venues. Breakfast for guests is served in Brasserie Louis, a contemporary French bistro that is also a popular destination for lunch and dinner. In fact, all of the outlets attract well-heeled clientele from outside the hotel, whether it’s a meal with friends at Iza, afternoon tea at the Living Room, or celebratory drinks on the Sora terrace that juts out precariously over the city (this distinctive promontory that resembles a beak is also why I long ago dubbed the building the ‘Angry Bird’). However, our special focus was on the hotel’s new Chinese restaurant Zhan Liang.

At first, the location seems off - the outlet is not actually within the hotel itself, rather it’s in the adjoining luxury mall - and because it’s in the basement it has no views at all. However, the lack of windows means your attention is all focused on the design, a smart affair of turquoise tiles, atmospheric lighting, and decorative rope, which all put together somehow made me feel like we had gone below the deck of a traditional Chinese junk - albeit a well-stocked boat complete with roast meat station. Headed up by Malaysian chef David Pang, the menu is a mix of Cantonese, Sichuan and northern Chinese dishes, meaning you will find yourself with a table full of dishes like sesame prawn toast, xiao long bao (delicious soup laden dumplings) and mapo tofu. The latter is an iconic spicy tofu from Sichuan, but if you want that true tongue-numbing spice, be sure to tell the chef before ordering, otherwise it’s adjusted for more sensitive palates.

We ate so much for dinner that breakfast the next day was a light affair, but there was still room for one more meal - yes, that’s right, a club sandwich. As I have previously established, the humble club sandwich can be seen as a barometer of a hotel - do they serve it in the classic way or put their own twist on it, and what type of bread do they use? The Rosewood version made the bold choice of going for just two slices of toast, but the choice of a multigrain was a good one. The stacking of ingredients is generous, though I would have liked more mayo, but the addition of avocado and a traditional pickle on the side made the day. All in all, a very good sandwich and a rating of 3.5/5.

Have you stayed at Rosewood Phnom Penh? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.