Location. Southern end of Manila Bay in Paranaque, close to SM Mall of Asia.
First impressions. Red carpets, scanners, metal detectors and a friendly black Labrador doing its police rounds. Outside it’s all angular steel and sheet glass; inside, it’s sharp and blingy. This is a gambling destination, no doubt about that, with gaming machines and card tables as far as the eye can see. The ground floor is occupied by the casino and its various offerings. Most of the casino guests are casual, some in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. It’s all very Hong Kong: lots of selfies by the large floral arrangement at reception.
Check in. Fast, efficient, friendly.
Concierge. Efficient and helpfully chatty. He tells me that if guests lose a few million pesos gambling, the management sometimes softens the blow with a complimentary room.
Room. I am booked in a deluxe room by the bay, Solaire’s standard room category. But there’s nothing standard about Solaire’s standard. It’s all spanking new, comfortable, and spacious, . . but garden views not sea views. Lots of storage space and I love the oversized marble bathroom, with Kohler fittings, bright lights and ample shelves for clothes and toiletries. I get the feeling that amenities are geared at a male gambling clientele — Imperial Leather soap, a big safe deposit box, and a good amount of hard liquor in the mini bar. Just the thing when you’ve lost your shirt – or are counting your winnings. The bed is comfortable, with white sheets that feel like at least 400 thread count. Strong Wi-Fi. Flatscreen TV and iPod dock.
Other rooms. The Sky Studio has glorious views across Manila Bay, a comfortable seating area and an area for working. The Prestige Sky Suite will set you back a cool P22,000 (US$440) a night, but is big enough for a family and wonderfully opulent.
Food. Solaire is a city unto itself and has the restaurants to match, from fashionable Chinese (Red Lantern) and Japanese (Yakumi) to the more casual Waterside Restobar and Lucky Noodles, which is open 24/7 and where the menu includes egg noodles with honey-glazed barbecue pork (P340), egg noodles with shrimp wonton (P320) and a good range of homely dim sum and congee. If things have been going well in the casino, treat yourself to a Jackpot cocktail (P240), which contains a celebratory mixture of Drambuie, vodka, orange curacao, cloves and cranberry, or a shot of Richard Hennessy (P16,900).
Recreation. Away from the tables and the slot machines there’s a gym, a beautiful swimming pool, a spa and, if gun-toting is your thing, a shooting range. I had an in-room service Swiss signature massage for one hour and would rank it 9 out of 10. There are more than 20 masseuses at any one time, available 24/7.
Verdict. Fun and fantastic. It feels a bit hedonistic sometimes, but for a weekend staycation in Manila, you’ll never be bored and never go hungry. Attentive staff, great service.
Essentials. Best rate is about P12,200 net for an overnight stay for two (breakfast excluded) for the deluxe room with city view.
Solaire Resort and Casino, 1 Asean Avenue, Entertainment City, Paranaque, tel: +632 888 8888.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller December to January 2014. Updated July 2015 and November 2016