The Wizard once told me that the Grand Lisboa was named one of the ten worst looking hotels in the world by some magazine a few months back. I completely disagree with that assessment for two reasons: one, the Grand Lisboa looks fabulous and two, Lan Kwai Fong is easily the ugliest hotel in town and it's not close.
Whatever effect they were trying to produce by strangely slanting the windows on the building's face is beyond me, and is only outdone in the weirdness department by the golf ball dome thing out front, which stays permanently locked and is only there for the sake of odd decoration. When you add in the fact that the building's color is purple, you can't help but think the thing wasn't drawn by some grade school kid somewhere. What's Julian done today? No, it's not Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, it's Lan Kwai Fong.
Ah yes, but as we all know, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. The inside of the hotel is the complete opposite of its lame exterior — it's where fashion goes to strut, it's where style makes a scene. In its other life, Lan Kwai Fong used to be the Kingsway, before being refurbished a few years back into the boutique beast hotel it is today.
The gaming at Lan Kwai Fong is overseen by Stanley Ho's huge SJM conglomerate.
Lan Kwai Fong is situated one street behind Avenue D'Amizade, out by the Sands and the ferry terminal. To find it just find the Waldo first, then walk behind it. Lan Kwai Fong will be the monstrosity on the left, just behind the absurd and completely unnecessary golf ball dome.
I used to think the Waldo had the market cornered on style in this part of the Amizade strip, but that was before I stepped into Lan Kwai Fong. Lan Kwai Fong is the Waldo times two — cut, shiny, clean, and stark, everything inside is crisp and cutting edge. Low ceilings, gray and brown contoured walls, and a ton of mirrors everywhere combine to make it Macau's hippest haunt. Even the staff get into the act, with the women turning heads in boss blue outfits and the guys countering in sharp suits. The highlight though is probably the impressive looking chandelier, a gnarled ball of thin snake shaped lights, which glow green, brown, orange and beige. Keep an eye out for the pillars as well, with their carved out middles holding ceramic art and vases (and of course more mirrors), they're a nice tip of the hat to class and culture.
One of the reasons Lan Kwai Fong can achieve such a strong effect is because of its size. All of the haute hipness gets concentrated onto just one floor, which holds 63 tables in all. Minimums are mostly low, with the majority of tables $100 or $200. The most expensive tables are found in four smaller rooms located on both ends of the casino. One of them is strictly VIP gaming with four $5,000 tables and two more at $10,000. The other three rooms have nineteen tables altogether with minimums starting from $500 and ending at $2,000.
For slot players, 100 machines are scattered throughout the main gaming floor, with minimums ranging from 5¢ to $1. There's no video poker, unfortunately, but there are electronic versions of baccarat and roulette, the latter only being available in machine format.
On the 18th floor, finally, you'll find the Sky Club, Lan Kwai Fong's exclusive VIP quarters. The lone VIP room in the main casino is theirs too, but it's a whole other world upstairs. Access is restricted to players with buy ins exceeding $1,000,000, while the minimums on the 13 tables are all $10,000. The rub with such high minimums is that their cash back rate returns 1.25%, which is the highest in the city (1.2% cash + 0.05% complimentary allowance.) That rate of return also applies to their VIP room downstairs, but the minimum buy in down there for gamers is much lower, only $100,000.
They used to have craps, but the area where that table was is now taken up by slot machines. Pai Gow is the only other game offered besides Macau's Big Three.
You'll notice in this review that I'm really going to emphasize Lan Kwai Fong's excellent customer service, but that customer service does not extend into the casino. I don't know how an innocuous question like, "Does your player card have a rolling component?" would first cause the desk staff to talk amongst themselves in Chinese saying, "don't let him write anything down", before escalating to their manager walking over and demanding to know what company I worked for and what kind of market research I was doing. Excuse me? Back right up a second Lan Kwai Fong.
"Does your player card have a rolling component?"
That's all I asked. And this was just after I'd been to the Rio and the people there were kind enough to lay it all out in detail for me, which is what they should do considering it's their job and I'm a prospective client. Lan Kwai Fong, on the other hand, doesn't want to give this info out unless you've already gambled significant dollars in the casino, which is fair enough, only the player card I asked about is the free public card, given out to anyone who wants it. It should not require any gambling activity whatsoever to understand.
And that's kind of the angle I took. I told the mean manager that I didn't work for any company and I was asking this question as a player. After he checked my points on the computer he kind of smirked and laughed and said, "Your playing record says you played for two hours in April at $53 per hand and you want rolling?"
To which I replied, "Yes I do. How much do I need to get it?"
And on the conversation went in this way. I pushed for any info I could squeeze from him while he tried to tell me nothing. It was like trying to get blood from a stone. The funny thing is that Lan Kwai Fong's program is very, very good. Almost no one else in the city offers regular players a cash back component on the player card, while some of their other promotions are real sweetheart deals. You'd think the desk staff would want to get this information out there, not sit back, pull heavies, and give attitude to interested parties.
Now the manager was right, I had been there in April and that's when I collected the info I am about to show you. My business of going back that day was to tie up some loose ends, which I obviously never got to do. So I'm not sure if what I am about to write is still going on and is 100% accurate, particularly the figures related to the rolling component of the player card. The mean manager told me it was 0.7% and the minimum was $10,000, even though pamphlets on the desk clearly state 1.1%, which jives with my numbers. When I called him on that he said the information in the pamphlets was two years old and not applicable anymore. If that's the case then why are they still displaying them? Take good care as well with the deals related to the boat tickets and the discounted rooms. They might be too good to be true.
Player Card — Players can accumulate points on their card via table play which can be redeemed for goods shown in the display case beside the membership desk. Staff said the rate of accumulation was as follows: 20 points gambling at $500 per hour, 40 points gambling at $1,000 per hour etc. There are lots of nice goodies available for redemption including:
|Lan Kwai Fong Gifts|
|Mac Pro Book||15,000|
|Bottles of booze||3,360|
For gamers who gamble at least $10,000 in one month, they are eligible to receive the following cash back and comp benefits:
|Lan Kwai Fong Dead Chip Rebates|
|$10,000 - $499,999||0.80%||0.05%|
|$500,000 - $999,999||0.82%||0.05%|
|$1,000,000 - $2,999,999||0.85%||0.05%|
|$3,000,000 - $4,999,999||0.90%||0.05%|
|$5,000,000 - $9,999,999||0.95%||0.05%|
|$10,000,000 - $29,999,999||1.00%||0.05%|
|$30,000,000 - $49,999,999||1.05%||0.05%|
There's a third component to the card, which enables players to get discounted food, transportation and room comps so long as they've been gambling in the casino for thirty minutes or more. I'm kind of shaking my head as I write this now, but that's what they told me in April and my notes back it up. So a free meal in the buffet can be had for $40, boat tickets for $142 or $172 depending on class, and the showstopper, a room at Lan Kwai Fong midweek for only $750. Let me emphasize again, that these deals require gambling in the casino for a half hour or more only, and not even at high limit tables. Don't take this as gospel though, I might be wrong. I'd go back and check but they don't like me very much there. If any reader could verify one way or the other, then we'd really appreciate it.
VIP rolling — VIP gamers, a big heads up here. Lan Kwai Fong has one VIP room in the casino proper, as well as the run of the 18th floor Sky Club, which has 11 private baccarat rooms. With buy ins of over $50,000 returning 1.25% (1.2% cash + 0.05% comp allowance) it's the best deal in town. No other casino in Macau pays more, with most not even giving 1%. Even amongst the private junkets, the ones I've seen tend to top out around 1.2%. That makes 1.25% absolutely huge and the way to go if big stakes Baccarat is your game.
I'm pretty confident in calling Lan Kwai Fong the best looking three star hotel I've ever been in. In a lot of areas it's superior to many other four star places, but their lack of pool and scarcity of rooms (only 200) preclude it from reaching the four star mark. On the weekend it's often sold out well ahead of time, so make reservations in advance if you plan to stay Friday and Saturday. When you do check in you'll be greeted by some of the friendliest desk staff around, who were nice enough to answer a lot of questions I had for this review.
Lan Kwai Fong has 112 Deluxe Rooms, 82 Grand Suites, and 4 Executive Suites, with guest quarters located on the 6th to 23rd floors. While the web site may say they also have two Apartments, the truth is that they're not ready for sale yet.
Rates including all charges are listed below.
|Lan Kwai Fong Room|
|Deluxe Rooms||$ 1,357||$ 2,277|
|Grand Suites||$ 1,932||$ 2,932|
|Executive Suites||$ 2,819||$ 4,003|
You might want to leave your laptop at home though. Lan Kwai Fong charges $165 per day for internet service. In this day and age there's no way that shouldn't be free.
Tack on another $55 per guest if you want the buffet breakfast at Club LKF.
Lan Kwai Fong, due to its age, is going to suffer a little in the facility department, and nowhere is that more obvious than in its lack of a pool. Older Macau hotels tend to not have them as a general rule, and if they do have them, they're almost always outside. Unfortunately, there's no room for that in the area around Lan Kwau Fong and the design of the building also prevents it from adding an outdoor patio type pool on one of the higher floors like at Golden Dragon or the Sands. So long story short, Lan Kwai Fong guests will have to go without, but that's to be expected considering the hotel's three star rating.
A good idea though might be to build one in the golf dome and put that area to good use.
Lan Kwai Fong's three proper restaurants are all found on the third floor. For those seeking Western food and/or low prices, you'll be a little disappointed. Its strictly Asian fare at slightly above average rates.
Cafe Lan — Small small menu at Cafe Lan. Prices are higher than standard for a Chinese joint with meat and rice dishes going for $98 to $128. Dumplings and noodles are also a pricy $48. Beverage options include cocktails for $50, coffee for $40 to $48 and juice for $40. Cafe Lan is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm.
Edo Japanese Restaurant — Endo Japanese Restaurant is Lan Kwai Fong's most expensive eatery with salads $80 to $150 and most things on the a la carte menu $90 to $135. Bowls of rice with meat and vegetable sides are $95 to $250, while sashami and sushi average around $98 to $280 for two pieces. Teppanayaki keeps the hurt coming with prices between $210 and $430. Set meals meanwhile are $780 to $880. Hours are from 11 am to 3 am and 5 pm to 11 pm.
Fortune Inn Restaurant — Another restaurant with prices above market, with simple Cantonese staples like noodles and rice $80 to $188. High end specialty dishes like birds nest ($500 to $680), shark's fin ($500 to $1000), and abalone ($300 to $500) are just about right. Also has a lot of seafood with prices dependant on daily market rates. Fortune Inn Restaurant has the same hours as Edo Japanese Restaurant.
Club LKF — Club LKF is located on the middle of the casino floor, and looks more like a bar than a restaurant. Still though their food menu is quite large and quite cheap with no plate more expensive than $58. Rice with meat, noodles, and vegetarian dishes are all pretty much that number, while dumplings and pizza come in a little less, only $26 and $25 respectively. Beers and harder alcoholic drinks are $45 to $50. Club LKF keeps gambler's time, staying open 24-7.
There's good news and bad news when it comes to the health club and spa at Lan Kwai Fong. The good news is that both come fully loaded; the gym is large and modern, while the spa has everything you want in terms of amenities as well as a comprehensive selection of massage and beauty treatments. Simply put, both far outshine what is typically found in similar sized and priced Macau hotels. The gym, for example, will suit all comers, whether the goal is to bust a lung doing cardio or tear a shirt doing heavy lifting. The bad news though is with the spa, (which is 100% legit), because it's not free for hotel guests. That means all that tantalizing time spent in the sauna or in the steam room or the Jacuzzi costs money, but it's not that much, only $180 per entry, and you can stay as long as you want. Be warned though, once you leave the spa you can't go back in again, unless you pay a second time.
The gym is located in the spa on the second floor so they keep the same hours, 11 am to 3 am Monday to Thursday, and 11 am to 7 am Friday and Sunday.
The Vegas of the East in the Vegas of the Least in the entertainment department. Lan Kwai Fong, as per the rule, has nothing going on. The only entertainment I can think of is to walk around the casino writing things down. You'll be center stage soon enough, surrounded by two or three staff wanting to know what your business is in the casino. Chalk this up as the second time it's happened to me, but Lan Kwai Fong staff handled it better and more politely than my boy Fritz did the first time at the Starworld. What I found amusing was they said it was other players who complained, saying my walking around writing notes down made them "nervous". If that was in fact the case, then that's pretty petty. Gamers ought to concern themselves with their game and not with what other people are doing. It's not like I was causing a disturbance. Just because the dealer's sticking it to you doesn't mean you have to take it out on others. I almost wonder if that's just what the staff said to deflect attention from themselves by turning it into a customer service issue. Regardless, after I told them I was there to gamble and nothing more, and with the points on my card to back it up, they let me continue on my way. All throughout our conversation, it should be noted, they had a friendly and relaxed attitude which was appreciated. The next time I went in July, though, I wasn't as lucky.
Lan Kwai Fong's website advertises a PMK Bar, but that recently closed down. Have no fear because there are plenty of good bars in the neighborhood. The Waldo's small Perle bar has live music while the Grand Lapa's Vasco offers a quiet, cool, and sophisticated environment. Of course, the Playboy Club also beckons at the Sands, the bunny symbol shining like a beacon from the hotel tower, like the bat symbol in the night.
I am pleased to report that the boutique hotel has three boutiques in the lobby floor.
Bijou — Lots of watches, rings, necklaces and jade from this jewellery giant, at very very high prices. Quite a few items run well over one million patacas. Most of it is very beautiful stuff, and at those prices, they'd better be.
Tiffany Fleur — Tiffany Fleur has a nice selection of flowers from Holland and Japan. Along with standards like roses and carnations, they also had cellosias, hydrangeas, alstroemeria alliums, ornithogalums and anthuriums. (I think my spell checker just blew a gasket.) Flowers from least expensive to most are $15 to $145 per stem.
Tiffany Plus — I must admit I've never seen something like this before, Tiffany Plus kind of doubles as the Lan Kwai Fong shop, selling a lot of goods normally found in the hotel room. Now you know the value of the stuff you're stealing when you accidentally make off with a robe ($1100), pillow ($1688), or bed sheet ($1288). They even had room slippers ($58) and a box of bathroom toiletries ($80)! Other goods for sale include crystal vases and a lot of nice smelling room sprays and oil burners. A very pleasant girl from Anhui province broke it all down for me.
In the battle of boutique hotels in the area, Lan Kwai Fong absolutely butchers the Waldo. I'd feel sorry for the Waldo, only they do it to themselves, by charging so much for rooms in a hotel that has so little. Lan Kwai Fong prices, meanwhile, aren't bad at all. With a very good gym, three nice restaurants and a sweet interior that far outclasses ones found in higher star hotels, you can appreciate where your money's going. The best thing about the hotel though might be the friendly staff. No matter where I was, whether it was the front desk, in the restaurants, or at the spa and gym, Lan Kwai Fong's commitment to customer service was very apparent and very appreciated. While I can certainly think of better deals in the area (Grand Lapa, Landmark), there are also certainly much, much worse (Starworld, Rocks, L'Arc). On the whole I think that makes Lan Kwai Fong a pretty decent choice.
I once read a review on about.com about the City of Dreams that said, "If Ocean's 14 was set in Macau, this is where you'd find George Clooney sipping cocktails." Great line, only it's not true. If George and his crew came to Macau, I guarantee you they'll be kicking it at Lan Kwai Fong, because it's easily the slickest, swankiest casino in town. And as nice as it looks, that's not even the best thing about it. No, the best part is the VIP program that returns a city high 1.25%. That means high stake Baccarat players should absolutely be making Lan Kwai Fong their first port of call, (or perhaps second, only after the Grand Lapa). While I was none too impressed with the casino staff's attitude toward casino reviewers, they'll probably treat legit gamers a lot better, so even that minor lapse can be forgiven, although it won't be forgotten by yours truly.