With its new flagship resort in Phu Quoc, Regent is debuting a new personality. We were the first aboard its luxury yacht, and that’s just the tip of this new powerhouse stay.
The thing that matters to us most in hospitality? Personality.
Regent Hotels & Resorts has spread its gracious wings across a beachfront on the southwest of Phu Quoc Island, opening the first flagship of a completely rejuvenated brand and, boy, does it have swagger. The original Regent brand was a luxury pioneer, having built the world’s first resort in which every guest accommodation was a private villa, and invented the five-fixture bathroom we all now take for granted in five-star hotels. Founded by legendary hotelier Robert Burns, its personality fused high-end hospitality with a sense of security and familiarity.
This is the vibe Regent Phu Quoc is reclaiming as its birthright, and a quick spin – actually, considering the size, a lengthy tour – of the largest Lagoon Pool Villa tells you all you need to know about this brand’s first baby of the new generation. It has a massive main living area with a full kitchen stocked with every shiny, home-size appliance you can think of, and so much living and dining space that the exec chef and his team can put together a gourmet tasting menu in the same room without disturbing you. It has four bedrooms and three pools – two private and under verdant canopies that cast the most surreal shadows, and one large central one with clear views straight to the beach.
Japanese toilets, electric blinds, and oooooo my new favorite bathrobes. Inspired by the lucky symbols of Phu Quoc – pearls, peppercorns and the legend of the king’s well, which tells the tale of the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, who plunged his sword into a stone and miraculously drew water and fishes to sustain his army and save his kingdom – these robes are true turquoise artistry and the definition of personality in design. (Leave your glasses or computer screen slightly smudged, and you’ll return home to a silken lens cloth of the same pattern, thank you, housekeeping.)
But the thing about Regent Phu Quoc is that it’s also stocked with great personalities in live human form – lovely, talented individuals who made every bit of our stay memorable. The beverage director who heard we loved gin and arranged a local gin tasting by Fu Bar at the Regent Club. We lounged by the skypool and sipped an array of Vietnamese botanicals while the sun filtered flamingo and tangerine as it fell into the Gulf of Thailand. The spa manager who sat and took the time to discuss our needs, our likes, our mental states, and then curated the perfect wellness experiences. I luxuriated in a warm alpha quartz sand cocoon while getting one of the most muscle-melting massages of my life; meanwhile, the spa manager herself administered one of podiatrist-to-the-stars Bastien Gonzalez’s world-famous pedicures to my partner – and six weeks later his toes are still shiny.
Aside from our experience agent Irina, who took “butler” to the next level and was available on WhatsApp round-the-clock, from arranging a candy-apple red Range Rover into town to fetching a specific bikini from my villa (sometimes the perfect IG shot calls for turquoise with beading!), we probably spent the most time with two men at the tops of their trades: captain Hoan Nguyen and chef Andy Huynh.
When you see Serenity, the Regent Phu Quoc custom catamaran, bobbing beyond the hotel beach, your luxury id will take over and you’ll think, Must get aboard! T+L Tip: Book a private sailing while you’re arranging your stay to avoid disappointment. Captain Hoan’s father was a fisherman and so he grew up loving the sea. He knows the waters around Phu Quoc like the back of his hand, and he sailed us an hour south, past the eight-kilometer Hong Thom cable car – the longest overwater one in the world – and its terminus at Pineapple Island, past a channel featuring a great scuba site at which years ago I dived with two turtles, to May Rut Island.
Not many yacht captains will also deign to captain your SUP, but after I paddleboarded around the boat for a bit, riding the wakes of a few fishing boats that passed, Hoan, master of the waves, stepped onto my board, told me to have a seat, and rowed me over to a surprisingly stunning coral reef where even the fading light of day couldn’t hide the kaleidoscope below the surface. Snorkel mask and GoPro: check and check! I saw parrotfish and clownfish, but – luckily, I think! – none of the sea snakes and bamboo sharks they say you can occasionally find here. Then it was back to the boat for champagne and canapes and the occasional jump from the stern back into the water.
Chef Andy Huynh took us on another type of adventure, a culinary journey combining the best of Japan and France at Oku, his beautiful omakase studio and salon de boeuf tucked into the heart of the resort property. Born in Vietnam, he emigrated to the States as a child and credits much of his culinary training to working under Nobu Matsuhisa all over America. Thus, Andy returns to his homeland in the way so many next-gen innovators of Southeast Asian descent do: with pan-global sensibilities honed by a lifetime of multicultural immersion, enabling him to curate the best of his experiences abroad and easily and eagerly meld them with new discoveries in Vietnam – creating a wholly unique and innovative, in this case, restaurant.
Sit at the bar while Andy and his team go fine French here, pure Land of the Rising Sun there, and of course some gorgeous mixed-heritage dishes that shine with their simplicity and lack of trying too hard. The Japanese A5 of course melts in your mouth, but it was the otoro I’ll remember forever, thanks to Andy allowing me the once-in-a-lifetime experience of letting me touch his knives. Oh, chef! Custom handles, even weight, sparkling blades that inspire reverence. We were so distracted by chatting with him and watching the artistry happening in his open kitchen that we had to be torn away for each announcement of the parade of perfectly paired wines and sakes (and if you know anything about me, you know that’s saying something).
Both chef Andy and captain Hoan have the distinct privilege of working in stunning settings custom crafted for them. Take a step back and you realize this is the case for guests of Regent Phu Quoc, which with its committed, creative, casually opulent 360-luxury personality, is picking up where its storied brand left off.
phuquoc.regenthotels.com; doubles from US$351
All Images Credit: Regent Phu Quoc.