With a soon-to-be toddler who still needs mummy at night, loves swimming but hates long car journeys, we thought a staycation would be the perfect way for our little family to celebrate mummy’s birthday. We opted to spend a night at The Empire Hotel.
We were told we could try for an early check in by calling the hotel at 10am. However, we were out of luck and early check in wasn’t available for us so we headed to the hotel for the standard 2pm check in. The check in process was very straightforward though, with lots of check in counters and staff to help. We were checked in by Kevin who was fantastic and even walked us to our room. Once checked in it was time for Ellie’s second nap of the day.
The hotel offers several different classes of rooms, with the cheapest being the rooms located in the…We opted for the slightly more expensive ocean view rooms that are located in the main building. We wanted a room that had a great view but that we could also get to quickly after swimming with a shivering baby. The view from our room was fantastic and I can’t speak more highly about watching the sunset over the water comfortably from an armchair as I nurse my baby and have a cup of tea (which came much later).
By about 4.30pm we were all checked in, napped out and swimsuited, and ready for a dip in one of the many pools. We opted for the children’s pool in the Kids Club. With its large water slide, shallow pools and sand area, it is a pretty perfect place to keep the kiddies entertained. Though we didn’t use it, there was also indoor play areas with lots of toys – which would have been perfect for midday heat.
Before we knew it, playtime was over and it was almost magrib. We had enough time to all shower and get ready before it was time for dinner.
We wanted to spend some time checking out the dining options and headed first to Pantai. Their Saturday night buffet was about $50+ (can’t quite remember the exact price) per person but we found the spread to be pretty sub par given the price. We next checked out Zen and thought that the menu was again overpriced for what it was. Feeling a little disappointed, we headed to Spaghattini. When we last ate there about a year or so ago they had a fantastic 1 for 1 deal on pizza and pasta so we thought “why not?”. However, we discovered that there was a visiting chef from Oman who was doing a 4 course meal for about $48 per person. Though we didn’t know quite what to expect, and as it was getting a bit too late for us to check out Li Gong’s menu, we decided to try this 4 course meal. One of the best meals I have had in Brunei! The flavors were complex and varied, and everything was perfectly cooked. Even Ellie enjoyed having nibbles of our food and Omani bread. I was pretty sad that that was the last day for the visiting chef, as I would have loved to have recommended it to others. It was worth every cent.
After a satisfying dinner it was off to bed and time to contemplate “how are empire beds so comfortable?”.
Our little early riser woke us up at about 6.30am and it was time for the buffet breakfast which is included with the room. I must admit I didn’t have high hopes for the breakfast buffet, as I would have in the hey day of The Empire when it first opened. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover a great breakfast buffet spread with both Asian and European offerings including an egg station (they also do poached eggs!) and a roti prata station. Servers also brought around a few dim sum items which was a very nice touch.
We had just enough time for another swim before check out time at 11am. While we were tempted to try out the other pool (the larger pool also had people on kayaks and stand up paddle boards), we couldn’t resist and headed back to the kids pool to make use of the sand area and water slide. We were back in our room and showered by 10.30am when Ellie fell asleep. Luckily, we were able to get a late checkout at noon.
Overall we had a fantastic experience. The facilities and rooms were great. The complimentary mini bar and premium tea selection were a nice touch. I did feel that one night was a little too short and might consider doing 2 nights the next time (and there will definitely be a next time). The only problem with 2 nights would be the limited and overpriced eating options. A night at The Empire isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for and we’ll definitely be having another staycation there sometime in the future.