Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Mandarin Oriental Hongkong

1 Mar 2007 by Tom Otley

WHAT'S IT LIKE? One of the most famous hotels in the world and now reopened after a nine-month, £80 million (US$156.19 million) refit. Visiting in late January with the last touches still being put in place, the hotel was running at close to 100 percent occupancy. The lobby lounge looks unaltered, with the same Venini chandeliers and ’60s style with Oriental touches dreamed up originally by the Hollywood set designer Don Ashton, who worked on Bridge on the River Kwai and Billy Budd. In fact, much has changed, with windows enlarged to let in more light, and more having been altered than remaining the same, yet it is still recognisably the same space, with the same feel.

WHERE IS IT? On the old waterfront, on Statue Square and Connaught Street.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 502, including 68 suites. Room categories include Study Rooms overlooking the streets at the rear of the hotel through Superior, Deluxe and Premier Rooms to Harbour Rooms (with binoculars) and then several types of suites.

ROOM FACILITIES: The new work has enclosed the balconies of the rooms (no loss – the 40 years since the hotel was built have seen the harbour front move away from the hotel, and an eight-lane motorway pass by outside) and seen new bathrooms, furnishings and styles brought in. Pure linen sheets, goose-down pillows, designer bathroom products, an interactive entertainment system (including a Denon DVD/CD/radio surround-sound media centre with iPod and MP3 support and a high-resolution Sharp or Bang & Olufsen LCD television with sizes ranging from 37-60 inches and a choice of 59 channels), SMART lighting controls (this means you have to be fairly clever to use them) and Wi-Fi internet access.

RESTAURANTS: A total of 10. On the second floor, the Mandarin Grill and Bar has been completely redesigned, with the previously blocked windows opened for views into Statue Square and the whole being redesigned by Sir Terence Conran. Previous visitors will recognise the Pullman chairs and perhaps the Gerard D’Henderson murals, but there’s a new crustacean bar, and a ceiling of scallop shells which looks just like the Mandarin’s signature fan logo. Under Chef Sarah Briegel it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The new fine-dining restaurant replacing Vong is Pierre, after three Michelin-starred Pierre Gagnaire, who has prepared the menu, with Philippe Orrico from Gagnaire’s team in Paris in charge of the kitchen. The entrance has a glass wine cellar. On the same floor is Man Wah, a Shanghai pink-styled Chinese restaurant. There’s also the Mandarin Cake Shop and Café Causette for all-day dining (at breakfast this was already half full by 0715).

BARS: For drinks, the Chinnery Bar on the first floor is popular with locals, and is like a small gentleman’s club with its secluded atmosphere, upholstered chairs, green leather banquette seating, mahogany tables set in bays, newspapers on a rack and a high bar where each lunchtime you can eat from the short bar menu (bangers and mash, steak and kidney pie). On draught and served in chilled silver CHK pint pots: Tetleys, Guinness and Heineken, as well as a choice of more than 200 whiskies.

In the evenings, it is busy from around 1630 until 2100 but then quietens down if you want a less hectic option than the famous Captain’s Bar on the ground floor. This last is unchanged in the renovation, with live music every night and late opening.

The top floor has the M Bar, a contemporary lotus bud-shaped bar with an aubergine-coloured glass back wall flanked by tall cowhide bar stools. It’s a space that works particularly well at night, with charcoal velvet chairs, and silver leaf ceilings complemented by bevelled mirrors. Cantonese bar cuisine, cocktails, champagnes and wines by the glass, and exclusive spirits are available. Open until 0100.

LEISURE FACILITIES: 2,100 sqm over three floors and with a swimming pool, fitness centre, holistic spa, Mandarin spa and (on the second floor) Mandarin barber, this last a real find, with everything from massages to shaving on the menu.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: A good-sized business centre (open 24 hours a day with room key) and function spaces for 12 to 600. All provide good natural light and many have harbour views.

VERDICT: A triumphant return for one of the most famous hotels in the world. It has been brought into the 21st century without losing its very distinctive character.

PRICES: From US$397 online for three nights in the Study Room in early April.

CONTACT: 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hongkong, tel 852 2522 0111, www.mandarin-oriental.com

Tom Otley

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