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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sofitel's Distinctive Vision

When you walk into the Sofitel London St. James, you feel as though you are an invited guest at an exclusive men's club. Just off the lobby is Chef Albert Roux's Brasserie and the intimate St. James Bar where you can have a meal and enjoy after-dinner drinks. If you're a weary traveler, you couldn't ask for anything more.

Over the last several months I've had the opportunity to visit Sofitel hotels in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris. As befits a five star hotel, I expected great service and attention to details. Sofitel has all that and a distinctive feature that sets it apart from other luxury hotel chains.

When you enter a Four Seasons or Ritz Carleton, whether you're in Los Angeles, New York, or Tokyo, you know where you are because all their hotels share the same design. The same can be said about most hotel chains, but that's not the case with Sofitel hotels. The interior of each property reflects the qualities of the host city, not the specifics of a branded design.

Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg, for example, is as feminine in its details as St. James is masculine. Pastels, large floral decorations, and a massive skylight flood the Faubourg lobby with a soft, inviting light confirming that you are in the City of Lights. At Sofitel London Heathrow the design is spare, modern, and efficient as befits an airport hotel serving a preeminent financial capital.

Headquartered in Paris, Accor Hotels, the owner of the Sofitel chain, takes its French heritage seriously. Each Sofitel might have a city-specific design, but all the properties reflect a French concern with sophisticated design, attentive service, good wine and fine dining.

Even if a guest doesn't have time for a leisurely meal, every Sofitel offers an elegant "30 Minute Lunch Special." The multi-course lunches arrive in a bento-style tray with four plates. An appetizer is paired with two entrees, and a dessert. A lunch in health conscious Los Angeles will feature a garden fresh salad, while in London Brasserie Roux will offer a more robust starter of foie gras. No matter the differences, the common point for the lunches is that the ingredients are fresh and the dishes are well-made and reflect their city's character.

When I visited Sofitel Los Angeles, my wife and I enjoyed a rare treat. We each had a massage in LeSpa, then dinner at Simon LA. The massages put us in a relaxed mood. The candle lit meal featured local ingredients, expertly prepared. We had a romantic evening as good as in any Hollywood movie.