As ambitious as its name implies, The Empire Hotel and Country Club rambles over hectares of trimmed lawns and neatly tended tropical gardens. Modified golf buggies zip around the complex, carting guests to and from the resort’s Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course, self-contained luxury villas, restaurants, sports club (with its Romanesque indoor swimming pool), spa, cinema and theater. The hotel’s huge lobby sits under a 50-meter high, domed atrium, supported by towering faux-Moorish columns splashed generously with gilded trim.
A lake-sized, free-form pool sprawls by the ocean. It has its own white-sanded beach and - such are its dimensions - there are kayaks to help you navigate. Room choices extend from standard five-star fare (deluxe and superior), to suites (seven categories in all), and spacious two- and three-bedroom villas. Drowning in extravagance is the aptly named Emperor Suite, with its own 10-meter swimming pool, large Jacuzzi, grand piano, cinema and wet bar, spreading over an incredible 666 square meters. Bill Clinton and a string of Gulf State sheiks have forked out the necessary B$14,375 a night to doss here.
Fortunately, the resort is self-contained, as there is nothing of any note nearby. Solo trips into the city involve booking hotel transport and then finding a taxi for the return trip. Whether that is worth the effort is debatable; you’d probably be better off booking a city tour with hotel pick-up and drop-off.
The Empire’s lobby, with its towering columned atrium, pays respect to Moorish-Islamic architecture. The effect is stunning, but also a little disjointed as the atrium is set to one side of the multi-floored lobby, and does overwhelm - as it’s intended to. The resort’s high room count and low-rise profile means a lot of walking along corridors to get from your room to wherever else in the hotel. However, a series of glass-curtain walls affording views of the South China Sea provide an agreeable diversion during these walks.
The staff works hard to provide a top level of service and, in most cases, succeeds. Requests are met promptly, efficiently and cheerfully. Room service is quick and in-room meals are well presented, though the room-service menu could come with a few more offerings, considering the number of restaurants at the resort.
The Deluxe Room
High ceilings, 60 square meters of floor space, full-wall windows and a private terrace overlooking the resort’s gardens and South China Sea give the room a decidedly airy feel. The king-size bed is made comfortable with cool Egyptian cotton sheets and feather-light duvets. Consoles on each side of the bed allow you to control the lighting, TV curtains and air conditioning. As Brunei - in deference to the Muslim faith - bans the sale of alcoholic drinks, the contents of the mini-bar are limited. In superior rooms, mini-bar contents are complimentary.
Negara Brunei Darussalam, Brunei
Telephone: +67 3 241 8888