JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa
Welcome to the playground that is JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. Prepare to be amazed and astounded by the sheer audacity of the design, the attentiveness of the service and the creativity of the vegan cuisine. We arrived unsure of what to expect and we departed knowing that we must return to this absolute dream of a resort. From the moment we entered the lobby we were part of the fictional story at the core of this luxurious creation, were we students of Lamarck University or were we checking in to an oceanfront island oasis?
The whimsical concept was conjured up by luxury hotel architect extraordinaire, Bill Bensley. He was granted carte blanche to transform this pristine private bay into an eclectic and opulent resort AKA Lamarck University, a mythical and magical French university abandoned in the 1890’s. Every single detail of the back story has been considered and cross examined meaning you really do believe the myth surrounding this unique resort, or is it a university?!
All students can enjoy the myriad opportunities to keep fit at Lamarck University with a full gym, kayaks and mountain bikes available from the ‘Department of Phsyical Education’. There are 3 swimming pools to choose from during your stay including the majestic Shell Pool and guests who are staying in the 7 bedroom ‘Lamarck House’ have their very own 50m infinity pool with mesmerising views of the ocean.
With 244 guest rooms and suites to choose from anyone checking in at JW Marriott Phu Quoc will be spoiled for choice, the rooms are housed in ‘Academic Departments’ with that theme continued throughout. Our Emerald Bay Front room was 53 sq metres in size with floor to ceiling doors opening onto a large private terrace which overlooked the pool and the ocean. Inside, a blend of European and Asian styles were used to create a bright and airy space that was supremely comfortable. We loved the huge bathroom complete with double marble vanities, an open plan rain shower and oversized bathtub. Can we stay here forever? Maybe until we graduate?
The Vegan Food
Breakfast at ‘Tempus Fugit’ is an extensive and lavish affair but vegans will need assistance to ensure a plant based bounty. There were plenty of salads, fruit, cereals and granola (including soy milk) on the buffet and fresh juices incuded beetroot, passion fruit, jackfruit and local orange juice. Upon request, the helpful staff prepared vegan pho with vegetable stock and vegan banh mi with tofu instead of the usual meaty ingredients. From the Korean section we made up a vegan bibimbap which was so good. Finally, for breakfast dessert there was a choice of passion fruit or raspberry sorbet from the serve yourself ice cream bar.
We headed to ‘French and Co’ for lunch where we had pre ordered a special vegan menu. To start, we were presented with a salad like no other salad. Heirloom tomato, avocado, raisins, pine nuts and Dalat farm greens combined to create a work of art in a bowl, the prettiest of pictures made from colourful and vibrant plants. Next up was a grilled Vietnamese vegan ham sandwich on ciabatta served with jackfruit BBQ sauce, coleslaw, chickpea hummus and fries. This sandwich is a glorious, messy to eat, saucy, delicious inspiration. Every element was just as you would wish. Layers of pickled red cabbage slaw, sweet tangy BBQ jackfruit, creamy hummus and then slices of vegan ‘ham’ which had been chargrilled all happily sandwiched together in an excellent ciabatta bun.
There were plenty of exciting smoothies on the menu at ‘French and Co’, we chose coconut water with green leaves, matcha and banana, packed with nutrition and flavour, it was excellent. To finish our vegan lunch we enjoyed coconut agar agar with coconut milk and candied coconut. It was served in a whole coconut, kind of like a healthy and sweet and refreshing jelly for adults.
Back at ‘Tempus Fugit’ the steam rises from the mini bread box delivered to our table, a perfectly formed loaf of doughy in the middle and crusty on the outside bread to start our meal. We’re served soup, full of lotus seeds, slivers of mushroom and fresh corn kernels in a broth thickened with corn starch which gives everything within a glossy sheen. Topped with a drizzle of sesame oil the aroma is toasty and fabulous. A salad full of pink hued pomelo tossed in fresh herbs, soy and toasted peanuts is a citrussy joy. Fresh, juicy, sweet and salty all at the same time. The noodles are spicy with Phu Quoc pepper and laced with mushrooms, greens, carrot and fried tofu slices. We also enjoyed cubes of tofu in a tomato sauce and fresh spring rolls with a dipping sauce full of chilli and garlic and a dash of vegetarian fish sauce for authenticity. It’s a lovely mix of Vietnam’s favourite snack food.
Where better to begin your evening than by heading to the ‘Department of Chemistry’ for an expertly crafted cocktail from one of the resident ‘chemists’? Relax on one of sumptuous day beds boasting sea views whilst you savour their creations. This was all perfect preparation for our meal at ‘Red Rum’, the open air grill complete with pizza oven and open kitchen who had promised us another exciting vegan meal…
We kind of hoped we would be served pizza but thought it might not happen, and if it did, of course it would not have vegan cheese. How wrong we were, we were presented a vegan pizza straight from the pizza oven, topped with ratatouille vegetables, rocket and tofu cream cheese sauce. It was a total inspiration from a non-vegan chef and shows the level of service here, we loved everything about it of course! Other dishes included a chickpea curry served with fragrant yellow rice and and a baked, glazed sweet potato. The chickpeas were richly spiced and sweet from caramelised onions. The rice was tender and fluffy and the long golden coloured and delicate grains made for the perfect partner to the tasty chickpeas. There was also braised tofu with eggplant and mushrooms, delicious and subtly sweet. Finally, banana fritters with a ginger and cinnamon syrup, similar to a crepe and filled with sweet warm banana, breadcrumbed and deep fried. Even though we were really full we managed to eat them because we can always find room for a tasty vegan dessert.
Words cannot describe the splendour and extravagance that ‘Pink Pearl’ exudes, it really is over the top but delivers this style with confidence and panache. Madame Pearl Collins was the second wife of the dean of Lamarck University who had learned the art of French cuisine from her grandmother. She was considered the “grand hostess” by the other residents of Phu Quoc and hosted high society parties for her elite friends and guests. Her art collection and creativity lives on within ‘Pink Pearl’, the French fine dining restaurant situated in a mansion complete with multiple private dining rooms.
The service was as you would expect from a fine dining restaurant, professional and precise, the atmosphere was enhanced with live classical music and the food was simply outstanding. Our amuse bouche was a trio of delicate delights, a crunchy pillow filled with watercress, a spherification of blood orange with salt and chilli and wheaty toast with avocado. These were followed by an orange espuma with carrot tartar and carrot purée which tasted as refreshing as it looked. The first course was confit beetroot baked in a salt crust with powdered raspberry and balsamic, beetroot carpaccio, shaved Burgundy truffle, tarragon and cauliflower sorbet. The aromatic truffle, earthy beetroot and warming tarragon were contrasted and complimented by the cooling and creamy cauliflower hidden beneath.
White truffles are in season and our little slice of truffle season continued with a roasted pumpkin veloute with chestnut purée, salicornia and Alba white truffle. The sweetness of the chestnut and the smoothness of pumpkin were perfectly paired, with the tiny trees of salicornia offering saltiness. The truffles which were shaved fresh at our table offered a pronounced aroma and a subtle flavour completing the dish. Next up was a kind of spelt risotto which was so good we never wanted it to end. Girole and sheepfoot mushrooms, Burgundy black truffle, parsley foam, spelt and salad leaves, the dish was perfectly executed and supremely delicious. Melt in the mouth and flavour packed mushrooms, the texture of nutty spelt, the creamy mushroom purée, a parsley foam and more slivers of truffle goodness. Oh my, the dish was close to perfection. Our dessert was yuzu sorbet with yuzu sesame crumble and chocolate. Zesty and refreshing yuzu, velvetty chocolate flavours with the crunchy and nutty sesame adding an extra element. This was vegan fine dining taken to the next level, a memorable and creative meal that delivered on every level. Bravo.
The Vegan Essentials
Th staff at JW Marriott Phu Quoc are happy to exchange your duvet and pillows for non feather options, either request this prior to check in or make a quick call once you arrive and the change can be made. Bathroom amenities were the Mer & Mistral range from L’Occitane which we love. As a company they have never tested on animals and other than bee bi products, their products are free of animal derived ingredients. Happily for us this range falls into that category so we were happy to use the vegan friendly bathroom amenities on offer!
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict
Check in here for a resort experience that has no peers. It is a unique and imaginative property where you become immersed within the mythical history of Lamarck University. Contact them in advance, inform them that you are vegan and request a special vegan menu at ‘Pink Pearl’, it will be the highlight of your stay and needs to be experienced. Find a hepful member of staff at breakfast and have them guide you through the extensive buffet and create a veritable vegan extravaganza to start your day!
We were guests of JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa
An Thoi Town
Telephone: +84 297 3779 999
Cost From: £250 / $320 (Nov 2018)