SIMPLE and seamless isn’t easy to do. In a world of more, more, more, adopting the “less is best” mantra can prove to be quite the risk.
The elegant simplicity of the new Conrad Manila, however, reaffirms that with great risk comes great reward.
The 347-room hotel represents the Hilton’s reentry into the Philippine market and SM Hotels’ debut into the luxury market.
Its unique architecture is reminiscent of a newly christened luxury liner about to set sail on its maiden voyage.
The nautical themes do not end there, however.
The Conrad’s fluid footprint incepts passersby with images of a great ship, flowing effortlessly with the tide.
For guests, the experience of inhabiting a stationary naval vessel, complete with breathtaking views of Manila Bay and its legendary sunset, can be quite surreal.
Those accustomed to the predominantly linear structure of SM establishments will find this a refreshing departure from the norm—accomplished with a level of restraint present in too few large hotel chains today.
Elizabeth Sy, president of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp., is a minimalist at heart. This design philosophy is evident in the sweeping expanses of the arrival lobby, reception lobby, food and beverage outlets, and extremely well-appointed rooms and suites.
China Blue Signature Restaurant
The interiors of this culinary shrine are a modern-day expression of the glory days of Shanghai.
It pays homage to the city that served as melting pot of culture for much of China’s history, but is devoid of the predictable red and gold.
Everything is subtle with an amazing attention to detail. Keen observers will take notice of the hand-painted under plates and teacups in powder blue, depicting Mongol warriors on horseback.
Multi-awarded chef Jereme Leung introduces a modern Chinese food concept fused with local and imported ingredients of the best quality.
The house specialty, steamed truffle mushroom buns, is not only delicious but is also whimsically shaped like its contents.
Other favorites include the ultra-refreshing sour plum, sweet vinegar-marinated cherry tomatoes, stir-fried shiitake mushrooms (that look like champoy) in sweet vinegar sauce, melt-in-your-mouth stewed wagyu beef cheeks, wok fried rice with roasted duck, and the crispy on the outside and tender on the inside sweet-sour pork.
For those looking for an escape from the sights and sounds of the city, the C Lounge, with both indoor and outdoor seating, is a soothing spot.
An afternoon tea place that transforms to a bar at night, it has glass curtain walls that bring the outdoors in and the indoors out. In the evenings, backlit bubbles provide a shimmer to the entire space.
The array of house cocktails range from recreated classics like the Sampaguita-tini (Martini), Mangga-rita (Margarita), to signature infusions like the Tanglad Turmeric Vodka and the refreshing Sampaloc-Sake-Jito. There are two sparkling sake offerings on the menu, one of which is brewed with champagne yeast exclusive to the Conrad Hotel.
An extensive single malt whisky offering is soon to be available as well.
Brasserie on 3
Here’s a bright, airy, modern space filled with subtle details reminiscent of Filipino elements such as machuca tiles, screens in various local wood species, local jars, and custom display tables with wooden turnings.
The all-day dining menu is an extensive selection of local and international fare sourced from sustainable organic suppliers.
Executive chef Thomas Jakobi is creative with Filipino-infused dishes. Some highlights are the US certified beef bistek tagalog, grilled calameretti, beetroot salad, pinakbet with bagnet, and artisanal tofu gelato with bacon crisps and Tasmanian leatherwood honey.
The Brasserie doesn’t aim to compete with the large, overindulgent buffet offerings that make one overeat in most hotels. The P950 Business Buffet offers an appetizer, soup, carving, seafood, salad and dessert. Not bad!
Pre-function and ballroom
Very dramatic with its ceiling heights, the space’s patterns are limited to the carpets, leaving walls and ceiling fairly neutral. This allows any themed setup to not compete with the interior aesthetics.
Check out the adjacent VIP room, alias “green room.” Even Madonna wouldn’t mind being in that holding room.
Guest rooms and suites
Consistent with the overall design philosophy, the 293 guest rooms and 54 suites are modern and neutral, with details carefully woven into the spaces.
According to Elizabeth Sy, “the wall lights and legs of desks are inspired by calesa lights.”
Cracked light-yellow tiger pen shell is also carefully embedded in the handle of the cabinets. I love the tall bar cabinets that don’t require you to bend down onto the bottom of the refrigerator.
Not only are the rooms well-appointed, but they are also intelligent. Each living space is equipped with motion sensors that recognize a guest’s arrival, and are equipped with WiFi.
Other in-room amenities include bluetooth-enabled entertainment technology, 42-inch flatscreen HDTV, espresso machines, and hydrotherapy rain shower.
Harald Feurstein, the very friendly Conrad Manila general manager, says, “Most gadgets typically have more than a single purpose.” He’s very proud of the state-of-the-art technology in the guest rooms.
The standard deluxe room is 40 square meters. But you must check out the two-bedroom Terrace Suite that boasts a 120-sq-m terrace and 160-sq-m suite. Awesome party suite!
The mantra of Conrad is to showcase contemporary world art.
Nes Jardin, project director of the curatorial team, says that “SM Hotels pushed for local commissioned art based on the curatorial concept of interaction between land and sea.”
Prominent at the arrival lobby is a floating piece by Leeroy New that depicts algae as though it were a sea serpent in silver and cerulean.
I like the Diatom that hangs over the C Lounge. It’s a magical piece of over a thousand pieces of light-colored glass inspired by diatoms.
Conrad has an inspired collection of 635 pieces of art and sculptures. A book on the collection is well underway.
What makes the Conrad Manila unique from other Conrad Hotels?
Most of them are in an urban vertical setting. Given the height limitations at the Mall of Asia complex, there was no choice but to be more horizontal with seven floors on 1.3 hectares of land.
US building codes
Conrad Manila aspires to be certified Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). All glass curtain walls and windows are Low E (thermal emissivity) and double-glazed.
Hans Sy, chief executive officer and president of SM Prime Holdings Inc., says, “SM designed all engineering work to be compliant with all local codes but we had to redesign to US building codes as per Hilton.”
Thus, everything is built to higher specifications and standards. Its organic shape also means no two window sizes are the same in a single room. This project, notes Hans Sy, “has been one of the most challenging projects of my life.”
But evidently he’s pleased with the results.
So, whether you’re a business traveler, tourist, or simply looking for a staycation, the new Conrad Manila is “a must-see and a must-stay,” say the Sys. (Pun intended.)
Come and visit this new gem on Manila Bay. We look forward to more luxury hotels in the metro.
The Conrad was designed by Wow Architects and Warner Wong Design from Singapore. F&B outlets are by Salt International Co. Ltd., Japan.
For more on Conrad Manila, visit http://bit.ly1RT3bpv, https: