Tried & Tested

Hotel review: InterContinental Grand Stanford, Hong Kong

7 Feb 2019 by Michael Allen

Background

The InterContinental Grand Stanford completed a US$43 million renovation of its 572 guest-rooms in November 2017.

The redesign, led by John Chan Design, aimed to introduce a “brand new, sleek design combined with efficient technology, ensuring the most modern and user-friendly experience for guests”, according to the hotel, which also promises “exquisite upholstery” and “hand-tufted carpet and curtains” that are “carefully chosen in a warm palette of earthy tones to establish a welcoming ambience”.

Having recently attended a Chinese New Year dinner at the hotel, I was invited back for a one-night weekend stay in one of its refurbished suites.

Where is it?

The hotel is situated in East Tsim Sha Tsui, an area with a notable concentration of tourists from the Chinese mainland, with nearby shops like Cartier, Rolex and Patek Philippe clearly aimed at these cross-border shoppers.

It’s a seven-minute walk from East Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) MTR station’s P1 exit, or a 10-minute walk from Hung Hom MTR station (useful if you’re arriving in Hong Kong from Guangzhou by conventional rail).

The hotel opened in 1981, a whole 16 years before Hong Kong’s handover back to China. For 17 years of the hotel’s life, Kai Tak (now the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal) was the main airport serving the city and the property would have been ideally placed to receive visitors arriving at this airport, being only a roughly 20-minute taxi ride away. It now takes around 45 minutes to Hong Kong International Airport by taxi, or guests can take a 10-minute taxi ride to Kowloon station, and from there take the Airport Express Line to the airport.

With this in mind, the hotel’s location does feel slightly off-centre. If you have meetings on Hong Kong Island, you need to either take a taxi through the often congested Cross Harbour Tunnel, or walk around 15 minutes (seven minutes to the MTR entrance then the rest of the way through an underground walkway with people movers) to reach TST station. Once you’ve reached TST station, though, it’s only one stop to Admiralty and two stops to Central on the Tsuen Wan Line. If you’re going to Wan Chai or Causeway Bay, however, you’ll need to change trains at Admiralty, which is notoriously congested at peak hours.

What's it like?

Despite being nearly 40 years old, the hotel is far from in its dotage. Management has installed trendy modern conveniences like a Nespresso bar in the lobby, while keeping classical touches like a tasteful flower arrangement…

…and a pianist who sits a floor above the lobby so his gentle tinkling of the keys trickles down agreeably to the guests reposing on the sofas below.

The hotel is also active in hosting major events, looking forward to receiving international guests for the 4th year of the Hong Kong Whisky Festival.

The rooms

The hotel has 572 rooms split between 13 types. I stayed in a Premier Harbour View Suite. At 705 sq ft, this is a very good sized room for Hong Kong and more than double the size of the hotel’s most basic room type, Premier Room – although at around HK$5,557.50 (US$708.33) per night it is not cheap.

Strategically placed mirrors also help make the room feel even bigger than it is.

This suite is split between three rooms: living room, bedroom and bathroom. Wifi is provided for up to four devices; if you need Wifi for extra devices, you need to ask the hotel staff to assist. There is also a Handy-brand smartphone that you can take away with you outside the hotel free of charge.

When I arrived, I discovered a welcome spread of fresh fruit, chocolates and cakes, as well as a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut on ice. It was far more than could be consumed in one night, and I ended up taking the rest of it home.

If the welcome snacks aren’t enough, there is also a well-stocked minibar, along with a Nespresso coffee machine and a selection of tea.

The harbour view from this room ought to be quite splendid, though it was spoiled by the bad air pollution that day, which clocked in at the higher end of ‘moderate’ and the lower end of ‘high’ on the government’s Air Quality Health Index. The buildings on the other side of the harbour were obscured by the haze, though it was still nice to see some of the passing pleasure boats and cargo ships plying this part of the harbour.

The room overlooks a busy highway, which leads to some round-the-clock traffic noise, but it is pretty well muffled by the window glass and didn’t cause a great disturbance when it came time to sleep.

Both the bedroom and living room are equipped with large televisions, so you can watch TV either lounging on the sofas or lazing in bed. When I switched on the living room TV to check out the movies, I was a little startled to immediately be presented with the option to purchase a 24 hour ‘Adult Package’ for HK$220 ($28.04). On the more savoury side, there is a good selection of TV channels, including foreign language channels.

The movie choice is also decent, though you need to pay for them. There is an IMAX cinema in TST’s iSQUARE shopping centre around five minutes by taxi or a 15-minute walk away. This would be a better use of your money, unless you are truly set on staying in and watching a film.

There is a guest bathroom just off from the living room…

…meaning you can keep your bedroom and en suite private if your guests need to answer the call of nature.

The bed is soft and comfortable, and there is a pillow menu from which you can choose from six different types of pillow.

There is also a lounge chair and ottoman next to the bed.

Each side of the bed has a plug socket, as well as two USB charging cables.

The bathroom is large and well-equipped, with two sinks so both you and your travelling companion can get ready at the same time.

The bath was of a good size…

…and the shower had both a rainfall shower and detachable mounted shower head.

I was pleased to see three miniature bottles of Colgate Plax mouthwash in the bathroom. Even high-end hotels sometimes often neglect to offer mouthwash, assuming guests are ok with just a toothbrush and toothpaste. I hate having to bring my own mouthwash on a trip as it often prevents you from taking your luggage on the plane as the bottle size usually exceeds the 100ml liquid allowance. I’m also afraid the bottle will leak and I’ll open up my suitcase to discover my clothes all stained and minty.

Overall, this is a very comfortable room and it would be easy to spend a week or more here without feeling claustrophobic. Perhaps if you stayed for that long you might be treated to at least one non-polluted day so you can enjoy the harbour view to its fullest.

Executive lounge

As I approached the The Club InterContinental Lounge on Level 1, there was a nice view of the lobby below to my right (see above). The staff member manning the lounge reception sprung up from his desk to open the entrance doors before leading me to a sofa seat by the window and offering a hot drink.

The lounge was not busy when I arrived around 4.30pm on Saturday, January 26. The tables and seating areas are spaced generously apart, ensuring a good deal of privacy. Delicate piano music was playing, creating a relaxing atmosphere.

There is a great selection of reading material, both newspapers and magazines.

A choice of light snacks was also available.

The lounge also has workstations with PCs.

When I returned to the lounge on Sunday morning for breakfast, I was impressed by the large menu from which you can order.

I went for the omelette, which was light and fluffy.

The staff were even able to accommodate my request for some HP Sauce. It was a nice touch to have it served in a small bowl instead of giving the bottle to me, avoiding the potential embarrassment that can come from trying to pry out the sauce from a near-empty and flatulent plastic bottle in a near-silent lounge.

I also ordered the pancakes, which were just as light as fluffy as the omelette.

Besides the extensive menu, there was also a great selection of items to be had from the breakfast buffet.

Food and beverage

The main watering hole is the atmospheric Tiffany’s New York Bar.

I didn’t get a chance to drink here, but I immediately enjoyed the ambience (even devoid of guests) and was impressed by its size.

It really feels as though you have stepped into an American bar and seems more like a standalone bar than a hotel bar.

I was lucky enough to have had dinner recently at two of the hotel’s in-house restaurants, Hoi King Heen (on 16 January for a Chinese New Year dinner) and Theo Mistral by Theo Randall (on the Saturday night during my stay), both located on the B2 floor of the hotel.

Let’s start with Hoi King Heen, a Chinese restaurant run by Chef Leung Fai Hung. I was there to sample a special 10-course Chinese New Year menu, which started with Wok-fried Sliced Abalone and Shrimps with Fine Vermicelli…

…followed by Double-boiled Young Coconut with Sea Conch.

Then came Braised pomelo pith with Semi dried Oyster in Abalone Sauce…

…Wok-fried Lobster with Fresh Green Pepper and Water Lily Bud…

…Wok-fried Pork Tendon with Fox Nuts and Spring Onion Sauce, and Sauteed Spotted Garoupa with Chinese Yam and Preserved Meat…

…Pan-fried Mandarin Fish Fillet with Crispy Cereal…

After the fried rice course (this one with Wagyu beef) typical to all Chinese New Year banquet dinners, we moved on to a double dose of dessert, including Egg Custard Glutinous Pearl Pudding…

…followed by Homemade Almond Cream with Egg White…

All in all, a high-quality slap up Chinese New Year feed. However, Hoi King Heen is very much a family restaurant, so for a quiet and intimate business meeting with key clients, you may like to try Theo Mistral by Theo Randall instead.

Opened on March 16, 2018, this restaurant is British celebrity chef Theo Randall’s first restaurant in Hong Kong, promising his “signature style of simple and contemporary Italian fare for discerning gourmands”…

Here was the line up for the evening…

I received a warm welcome from the restaurant manager and by a member of waitstaff, who recommended we start off our meal with an aperitif of Malfy Italian Gin and tonic. He said this was different to dry gin and, indeed, it had a subtler and lighter taste. 

While I had some bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the waiter poured me some Bottega Prosecco Doc.

This was to be paired with the Selezione Di Antipasti, a sharing board with burrata, prosciutto di Parma, bruschetta with Datterini tomatoes, roasted asparagus wrapped in speck, and arancini and mixed Italian olives.

The juicy mozzarella was the absolute standout part of this starter, while the aranchini was a little small and lacking in filling for my liking. I’ve had better aranchini in London.

Then, our waiter came around with the second wine, a Bottega Cabernet Sauvignon Trevenezie…

This was paired with the Cappelletti Di Vitello, handmade pasta filled with slow cooked veal and pancetta with porcini mushrooms and parmesan…

…which was small, but exquisite, the sauce and cheese beautifully matching with the meat. The wine made for a great pairing, too. Following this, we were plied with yet more wine, this time a Frescobaldi Chianti Nipozzano Riserva 2015…

This was paired with the Merluzzo Al Vermouth E Porcini, baked black cod with porcini mushrooms, fennel, thyme, vermouth with green asparagus and spinach…

…and the Arrosto di Faraona, roasted guinea fowl filled with prosciutto di Parma, lemon zest, thyme and mascarpone on pagnotta bruschetta with Swiss chard, porcini and portbello mushrooms.

Our waiter explained that the guinea fowl are selected for their size and only birds of 1.1kg to 1.6kg will be considered, as these have the tastiest flesh. A too large bird will be too tough and a too small bird will not have enough meat on its bones.

Before the dessert arrived, the waiter brought out a dessert wine, a 2012 Giovanni Dri Ramandolo DOCG, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

The dessert sharing board consisted of Amalfi lemon tart, soft chocolate cake, pannacotta con grappa, and meringue with raspberries and mascarpone cream…

…which were truly delicious, the lemon tart especially. I was also given a thin bar of chocolate, along with a hammer to smash it with.

A little bit of fun, sure, but after all the desserts I didn’t have room to finish the chocolate.

And just when I thought the meal was over and were about to leave the restaurant, our waiter swanned over to surprise me with a bottle of Sarpa di Poli grappa and insisted I take a shot. He was a good sport and did a shot with me, though I hope he doesn’t do it for everyone each night given that this is 40 per cent alcohol and the restaurant can hold 118 guests.

Theo Mistral offers a fantastic Italian dining experience that I am delighted to recommend. The arancini could be improved by making it bigger and adding more filling, but amid the rest of the delicious courses expertly paired with the various wines, I soon forgot about the arancini. A great spot for either a business dinner or a personal treat with a friend or loved one. And you can retire to Tiffany’s Bar afterwards to indulge in some fine whiskies as a nightcap.

Leisure facilities

Unfortunately, the hotel’s Sun Court Pool was closed during my stay, though upon requests guests will be brought to other hotels in the nearby area to use their pools.

The gym is of medium size…

…and has a decent amount of equipment…

…though as with the JW Marriott’s gym, which I reviewed earlier in January, the treadmills are placed right next to each other, without any spacing in between. I do prefer just a little bit of personal space while I am sweating away in the morning…

A big plus of the gym, though, is that it is 24 hours, perfect for the jetlagged.

Bottled water is free but you need to pay for any other drinks: coconut water (HK$48/US$6.12), Red Bull (HK$28/US$3.57), Gatorade (HK$28/US$3.57) and Perrier (HK$45/US$5.74).

Verdict

The only negative really to this hotel is its slightly out-of-the-way location compared with some other luxury hotels. If all of your meetings are on the Kowloon side of the harbour, it’s perfect, but it may feel like a hassle getting over to Hong Kong Island in the morning, depending on traffic and your tolerance of early morning subway crushes.

Still, the hotel has been there since the days of Kai Tak Airport and can hardly be blamed for its location today. Compared with some other international cities that are much more sprawling than Hong Kong, the distance from this hotel to the major business districts is really not that bad.

The room, food and service during my stay was outstanding. The very good in-house food and beverage options – especially Theo Mistral and Tiffany’s Bar – make dining and drinking in a real pleasure. The lounge, especially during breakfast time, is a wonderful place to relax.

If you’re not fussy about staying on Hong Kong Island and can tolerate a short commute, there is little I can’t recommend about the InterContinental Grand Stanford.

Fact file

  • Best for… Rooms and lounge with a great view of the harbour (on less polluted days)
  • Don’t miss… Having a superb Italian dinner at in-house restaurant Theo Mistral
  • Price HK$5,557.50 (US$708.33) for a one night stay in mid-March in a King Bed Premier Harbour View Suite
  • Contact: hongkong.intercontinental.com
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