BACKGROUND Conrad Manila opened on June 15, and its striking design has already earned it Best Hotel Architectural Design and Best Hotel Interior Design at the fourth annual Philippines Property Awards. The hotel is managed by Hilton Worldwide in partnership with the building’s owner SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation.
LOCATION & LAYOUT The property is situated on the seafront side of the SM Mall of Asia – a 42-hectare complex that is part of the Bay City development area earmarked as a major new shopping, leisure and business hub. Direct airbridges on the second floor connect the hotel to the SMX Convention Center, the country’s largest conference space, and the Mall of Asia Arena is close by, which hosts international shows and major sporting events.
It’s a relatively easy 20-30 minute drive from the international airport, the journey taking you past the City of Dreams complex, under the concrete pilings of an overhead expressway and between a number of vast, empty, muddy lots waiting for development. To be honest it’s not the most picturesque of surroundings, but you forget that on arrival at the hotel, whose sweeping white lines – inspired by the vessels that ply the waters of Manila Bay – are an arresting sight.
Sitting on top of the two-level S Maison high-end shopping mall, the hotel’s enormous main lobby is on the third floor, with rooms on levels 4 to 7 (the top floor, level 8, is occupied solely by the presidential suite). Huge amounts of window space present panoramic views out over the sea – particularly beautiful in the late afternoon and at sunset (the hotel faces west).
The shipping theme continues throughout the hotel, with broad corridors, curving walls and marine-themed works of art everywhere – there are more than 600 artworks, all by Filipino artists.
ROOMS The 347 rooms are split into five categories: deluxe, premier, executive, suite and presidential suite. During my stay only rooms on levels 4 and 7 were completed (levels 5 and 6 were not fully finished) and the hotel was already operating at more than 90 per cent capacity (of available rooms). I had a bay view deluxe king on the seventh floor, with Executive Lounge access. The décor is minimalistic, using a variety of light woods and recessed ceiling lighting. Side tables and the work desk sport thin legs – my desk faced the wall and is a little narrow if you’re the type to do heavy work with multiple papers to spread out, but the ergonomic chair was very comfortable. The TV faced the bed but was not articulated, which was a shame as the sofa by the window was a great place to sit – the view shows a quiet road, a small waterfront funfair and straight out over the bay water to the horizon.
The bathroom offers aromatherapy products, and I appreciated the oversized walk-in shower area, meaning no painful elbow cracks while washing.
LOUNGE The Executive Lounge on the seventh floor has room for more than 50 people to relax, eat and drink. It’s split into a range of comfortable areas, some with tables and chairs, others with sofas, easy chairs and coffee tables. On the left is the food station, where breakfast is served, as well as all-day snacks and canapés, etc during the evening cocktail period.
F&B Brasserie on 3 is the hotel’s spacious all-day dining restaurant, offering a comprehensive breakfast buffet, and à la carte lunch and dinner menus. The restaurant bakes its own breads, and tables are well spaced to give an airy, relaxed feel. I ate a delicious evening meal here, with service from the waiting staff of a very high standard for what is usually the least “high end” of a hotel’s culinary venues.
China Blue by Jereme Leung is a signature eatery, offering a “modern Chinese dining experience”, curated by the celebrity master chef, that incorporates “contemporary cooking techniques with local flair” in a classy environment. Three private rooms are available, and the ocean views are splendid.
The same can be said of C Lounge, located behind the front desk on the third floor. This long room is split into sections, from a cocktail bar to a wine tasting area and at the end a lounge where live music is played in the evening. Afternoon tea sets can be had, but sunset is the time to go and relax with a locally inspired cocktail as you gaze out over Manila Bay. At night it becomes a sophisticated bar/nightclub, and an alfresco area adds to the appeal.
LEISURE OPTIONS On the third floor, within the two curving wings of the hotel is the outdoor pool area, which has a beach resort feel, a large coral-shaped pool (it’s possible to swim “laps” of more than 30 metres – there are separate kids’ areas), sail shades over the decks and a pool bar serving drinks and light meals or snacks. Looking down on this from the third-floor mezzanine area is a large, comprehensive fitness room, which includes punch bags and other fitness options – personal trainers are on hand to help you use any of the equipment.
The Conrad Spa is on level 4, and has six single and couples treatment rooms with soaking tubs, a private sauna and steam facilities. A corner room offers massage chairs that can be used in conjunction with personal treatments.
BUSINESS FACILITIES There’s a total of 12 meeting spaces all boasting modern audio-visual technology, from two meeting rooms in the Executive Lounge to a series of large meeting halls on the third floor named after US presidents (Rossevelt, Harrison and Murphy). Two ballrooms include the larger Forbes Ballroom, covering 1,500 sqm, and the 460 sqm Taft Ballroom. An outdoor garden called The Veranda can also be used for events.
VERDICT It’s refreshing to see a luxury hotel that fully embraces a unique design concept. Too often new properties are homogenised to the point of blandness, but this certainly can’t be said of the Conrad Manila. Bold and attractive in look and feel both inside and out, its location between the airport and downtown is a plus, its facilities and service standards are up to expectations for the Conrad branding, and the overall feeling of vibrancy makes this a great new top-end hotel option in the Philippine capital.
PRICE Flexible rate fees start from Php14,494 (US$309) for a bay view king deluxe room in mid-August.
CONTACT Seaside Boulevard, corner of Coral Way Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City 1300, Philippines; tel +63 2833 9999; conradhotels.com/manila