REVIEW: CAPELLA HANOI, VIETNAM
The highly anticipated Bill Bensley designed hotel invites travellers to relive the era of the Grand Opera while discovering the authentic essence of life in Hanoi’s historic Hoan Kiem district.
A turn of the century tale, steeped in the history of the nearby Hanoi Opera House and all its famed stars, who once caroused there, Capella Hanoi has officially opened its doors, ushering in a new era of art and elegance in the heart of Vietnam’s vibrant capital city. Located just steps away from the iconic Opera House, this beautiful boutique hotel has been dreamt up as a ‘petite auberge’ – a rendezvous spot for the greatest opera singers, composers and artists of a glamorous bygone age.
Nestled in the French-influenced Old Quarter, close to Hoan Kiem Lake and surrounded by eclectic restaurants, bars, shops and markets, Capella Hanoi was designed by Bill Bensley – his artistic flair for theatrical effect a perfect pairing for the project. Bill approached Capella Hanoi with the mindset of a storyteller, intent on teaching guests something new and creating unforgettable experiences. This began with a tale to tell…
Many decades ago, before the war and all that preceded it, this was a small boutique hotel for those passing through Hanoi to see the Opera. With the charming opera building only steps away, it was the perfect spot. One guest was so enamoured with the building, he decided to buy it, and over time he transformed it into the place to be in Hanoi. Some years later it changed hands, becoming a depot during war times, crates of dynamite shuffling in and out while dust gathered on velvet chaise lounges and crystal chandeliers. Soon after the site passed into the hands of a wealthy Vietnamese man – a lover of Opera.
This gentleman began a vast renovation, returning the building to its former glory as a five-star hotel of great taste and a little madness. This little palace tells the story of 47 different actors, opera singers, composers, stage and costume designers, and spectators who have passed through Hanoi over the last 150 years. Each suite trumpets the wonderful stories of the mischievous high society which passed through its doors. The story is told with over a thousand pieces of original memorabilia, costumes, theatre programs, photographs, set, opera spectacles, and original portraiture art by the incredible Kate Spencer. All of this fanfare on display in what was Asia’s most wonderful place to frolic, to carouse, and then, just before sunrise, to put one’s head down.
The 47 themed rooms and suites at Capella Hanoi (ranging from a generous 35 sqm to an expansive 194 sqm) are named after actors, opera singers, set designers, plays and artists from the Opera crowd, including Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, Lina Cavalieri and Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Each is individually styled with original operatic artefacts and custom portraiture art and are equipped with bespoke services and state-of-the-art amenities. Crowning the hotel, four Opera Suites open out onto spacious alfresco terraces with views of the tree-lined avenues below.
The hotel’s signature restaurant, Backstage, just off the Lobby – as its’ name hints, presents a dramatic backdrop of theatrical costumes and vintage tableware, as talented chefs craft exceptional cuisine, including vegan dishes and northern Vietnamese-inspired specialties that fuse locally sourced produce and contemporary cooking techniques. Bill personally collected vintage gowns, wooden shoe moulds and fantastic trunks for this brasserie, where he imagines actors might have met before or after a show. The artwork was designed in collaboration with William Barrington Binns a series of essential antique accessories for actresses and actors, all shot in pink, whilst the tableware was designed in collaboration with Kate Spencer.
There is also the Diva’s Lounge, which celebrates the many Divas of Capella Hanoi. It features an original antique Zinc bar and 1700s fireplace – both found by Bill while antique hunting – which meld with Vietnamese inspired rugs and detailed furniture, all custom designed by BENSLEY. The menus were also designed by the studio, complete with Diva illustrations and an accompanying Diva memory game.
The inner courtyard mural spans the entire height of the hotel. The design was inspired by the sculptures which adorn the Palais de la Porte Doree in Paris; as Capella sits at the heart of Hanoi it was only natural to tell the tale of Vietnam’s history, and have it hand-made by local craftsmen down to the smallest details. Four impressive statues hold up the lobby ceiling – as common stage props at the turn of the century, these would have been on stage at the first productions at the Hanoi Opera house, which will undoubtedly make for excellent Instagram subjects for guests and visitors alike.
The Regale Spa is an exquisite mix of bright prosperous reds with rich overtones in ebony, blue and gold and features a fitness centre, pool, treatment rooms, steam room, and sauna. The pool, which could have easily been a simple expanse of water is a piece of theatre in itself – a dizzying art deco fantasy in black, white, and blue, and with Bill’s signature explosion of dramatic and opulent lighting, which only adds to the effect once reflected back from the water.
“The beauty with hotel design is that we get to create an alternate universe for people. For a few days we can create a completely unique experience for people and take them to a whole other world – from the tableware they dine off to the bed they sink into to the bath they soak and the lift they go up and down in… it is all made specifically to tell the story we want to share and teach them about. And here, that tale was that of the Opera House of Hanoi and its many wonderful occupants, who called our Capella Hanoi their home away from home,” says Bill Bensley.
General Manager of Capella Hanoi, Christoph Strahm comments: “Vietnam is one of the world’s most dynamic destinations, where the spirit and energy is reminiscent of the roaring 1920s, when anything seemed possible. At Capella, we strive to create guest experiences that go beyond bespoke hospitality and let travellers touch the heart and soul of their destination, through cultural exposures, epicurean adventures and original art. With Bill Bensley’s inimitable design, a sense of opulence and a deep respect for our surroundings, we will let our guests feel the pulse of Hanoi.”
Capella Hanoi becomes the sixth addition to the prestigious Capella Hotels & Resorts collection, the first in Vietnam and the fourth in Southeast Asia, joining Capella Bangkok, Capella Singapore, and Capella Ubud, Bali. Set to open in the coming years include properties in the Maldives, Sydney, and Chiang Mai.
DEVELOPER: Sun Hospitality Group
OPERATIONS: Capella Hotels and Resorts
DESIGN: Bill Bensley