Athenee Bangkok (Luxury Collection) = Generous Room Upgrade but Lounge Cutbacks

100   Recommended

Royal Club Suite
April 19, 2019 by
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Royal Club Suite

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Royal Club Suite

I have returned to Athenee Bangkok for 3 nights and given the nature of our stay I thought I would contribute with a new review because this stay was considerably different than my prior ones: very significant room upgrade for once, however cut backs to food & beverage in the lounge. 

As documented previously, Ambassador suite upgrades have not been the easiest at this hotel for quite a while.  Sometimes I was denied an upgrade for good reasons (sold out), sometimes there was availability online but I did not ask, either because I did not mind keeping the basic room for that particularly stay or because I thought they were being generous in other ways which made me satisfied enough (being offered happy hour on the day of departure).  This time I found a very good Best Rate Guarantee for 3.1k THB for the entry level room (Athenee Room) so I booked it despite some hiccups in my previous stays and despite my low expectations regarding upgrades.  At that price it’s a no brainer and I was willing to possibly live without an upgrade and I was also eager to see the renovated lounge.

Room

At the time of check-in all room types were available online so occupancy was probably not very high after the Thai holiday weekend.  I sometimes wonder if BRG plays against upgrades which was another reason why my expectations remained modest (in addition to past experience).  I was happy to find out that I was not only upgraded to the Athenee Suite, but in fact to the Royal Club Suite which is ever larger. 

Obviously an upgrade to this room type makes for a different kind of experience than being “stuck” in the Athenee room type as booked.  It is one of the better upgrades I have received in Bangkok other than once I got a premium suite at Conrad, so quite a turnaround for what used to be one of the stingiest hotels in Bangkok for me regarding upgrades.  The Royal Club suite is very spacious (100 sq m) and is build to a high standard with good quality furniture throughout, including thick doors for excellent sound proofing.  The blue color scheme is softer on the eyes than the red which is found in the Athenee Suite.  The living room is comfortable and also has a working desk in the nook near the window. There is a half bathroom near the entrance in addition to the full bathroom which is off the bedroom.  The rain shower is very nice and larger than in the standard room.  In our bed there were foam pillows as noted in my Marriott account preferences so the hotel prepared our arrival well.  The bed was very comfortable, AC was strong and we had good sleep.  Similarly to the Athenee Room, there is a lounge chair near the bed for those who want to watch TV from somewhere other than from the bed itself.  

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Dining

I was willing to book at Athenee again despite my lack of upgrade success in the past mostly because the excellent Food & Beverage at this hotel, including the lounge.  Last time I stayed a few months ago they were setting up a make-shift lounge on the 2nd floor because the regular lounge on the 26th floor was undergoing renovations.  Since the Athenee lounge was already the best I had seen in Bangkok I was quite surprised to hear about renovations, so if the best is getting better then it is very promising, so I thought.  Well, equally surprising to my suite upgrade was the fact that I found the lounge to be a downgrade relative to the past, although not specifically due to the renovations.  Actually the lounge is even a better place to spend some time than in the past with new furniture.  It is also as stylish, quiet, and enjoyable as before.  The bar area and the kitchen area are now more appealing and more modern. The computer room has been replaced by a display for some snacks.  

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The downgrade about the lounge situation is not the décor but rather about food & beverage available.  There used to be several hot dishes available in the old lounge and you could easily make it a meal.  Now it’s only three hot items (some being small bite size) plus one soup.  The offerings are ok but do not stand out as much as before from the competition.  On one of the better evenings they had fried noodles and chicken tikka masala, and we enjoyed the lobster bisque which had big chunks of lobster – a luxury kind of soup, not a cheap variety.  However with a more limited number of dishes, on occasion it just made less sense. Normally if you offer chicken tikka masala then you need to have steamed rice to go along.  This is Thailand after all and steamed rice would not even be expensive to provide, but no rice that day.  Oh well.

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One other evening was more disappointing and was too western-style, for example mini pizzas and some kind of fried fish ball. This is more what you would expect in a lounge in North America, not in Bangkok.  Another day they had pineapple fried rice which was very nice, however one other hot dish was dumplings identical to those from breakfast.  They always avoided such repetition in the past and in my opinion that is a practice that should be avoided for top hotel lounges. 

Some other hot dishes were just a small snack for example fried bananas.  On the positive side, there is a chef preparing one of the dishes to guests on demand so you get something fresh.  One day was chicken with sticky rice, another day was mini-burgers.

Cold options during happy hour remain high quality, however given the downgrade to hot food, I think a few lounges in Bangkok offer more than Athenee at this point in time and I could see some people arguing Athenee is no longer #1.  In my opinion it might still be the best lounge overall because of the design, quiet environment, and quality, but that is my personal preference and others could easily disagree. Desserts are still great however, and will remind you of the hotel’s French roots.  One night in the lounge the chef was toasting chocolate meringues with a blow torch and dipping them in Grand Marnier in front of guests.  Absolutely delicious.  

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It should also be noted that happy hour times had expanded to 4pm-8pm in 2018 but they have been brought back to 6pm-8pm. Personally I do not mind because 2 hours is the standard and I thought 4 hours for drinks was very generous before, but once again Athenee does not stand out anymore in that respect given that some other hotels have 3+ hours rather than 2.  What is more disappointing than timing is the cutbacks in alcohol choices and quality (similar to food).  Prosecco is now Nua rather than Follador, vodka is now Smirnoff rather than Absolut, rum is now some Indonesian kind rather than Bacardi, beer is now standard (Chang, Heineken, etc.) rather than craft beer, and cognac is gone. Regarding wine there used to be a choice of 3 reds and 3 whites.  Now it’s down to 2 each and unsurprisingly it’s the best of the three (the Italian) that has been cut out.  Athenee is now behind Le Meridien and Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit if drinking is what matters to you for happy hour.  And also for breakfast, I should note that free-flow Prosecco in the lounge has been eliminated entirely so Le Meridien is the last man standing in Bangkok in that regard as far as I know.

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Afternoon tea still has snacks such as sandwiches and desserts, similar to before.  

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Service

The one constant about the lounge is that service remains top notch from all the staff.  Not that we are getting bad service in the lounge of other hotels, but service is noticeably superior at Athenee.  

 

Wifi

Internet was very fast ; I tested download 160 Mbps and upload 105 Mbps.  

Overall

Bottom line I had a nice stay, some positives and some negatives, I am just surprised that the pluses and minuses were not what they were traditionally.  However if I am more successful than before on upgrades going forward at the expense of a marginally lesser lounge in terms of F&B but not in terms of the comfortable and relaxing environment, then the net of all of this is that my overall opinion of the hotel has increased.

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