The Murray takes its name from the historic modernist building it occupies, originally government offices, now converted into a luxury hotel by Wharf Holdings which is best known, in hospitality terms at least, for its Marco Polo Hotels and Niccolo Hotels. To give this hotel its full name, it is The Murray, a Niccolo Hotel.
Originally designed by British modernist architect Ron Phillips in 1969 its most distinctive feature is the three-storey arches and recessed windows, meaning sunlight never hits them directly, keeping the building cool yet still allowing views out to the surrounding parks and now, much taller buildings.
The Foster + Partners redesign retains the key elements but also has included a rooftop bar, basement swimming pool and even an old tree which now forms the centerpiece of the arrival area.
Where is it?
Between Garden Road and Cotton Tree Drive in Central.
The hotel benefits from its position between Hong Kong Park and the precinct containing St John’s Cathedral and Cheung Hong Park so although it is in the centre of the city, it feels quite green and as though you are in an older version of Hong Kong (the names of the roads give an idea of what it must once have been like).
The slight negative for this for travellers is that you have a 10-minute walk to either Central MTR or Admiralty. Both are pleasant walks either through Cheung Kong Park to Central or Hong Kong Park to Admiralty (both stops on the Island Line), but it will take the first-time explorer a little time to find their way.
Taxis pull up at the front of the hotel and liveried doormen take your bags while you check in on the lower ground floor. It’s all gold, black and white, with modernist sculptures including a couple of Charcoal mobiles on nylon threads by Korean artists Back Soon-Ghi and lots of modern art work right the way up to the top floor Popinjay restaurant. From there a bank of elevators take you up to the rooms.
The hotel feels almost boutique, helped by the fact that the foyer area is never busy, but in fact the hotel has 336 rooms and so can offer a wide range of services and was quick at doing so. I had some laundry done and this was extremely efficient, with both dry cleaning and pressing of a suit done over-night and ready for work the next day, without any chasing, and other laundry simply hanging in my wardrobe when I returned in the evening.
The 336 rooms and suites spanning 25 floors from floors 5 to 25 (there are no floors 4, 14 or 24). The entry level is the 38sqm Superior room and then the Deluxe rooms which is 47sqm but more than 75 percent of the room stock is 50sqm (these are called Grand) or larger.
The rooms are beautiful in an understated way, and it’s only by spending a few days in them that you appreciate all the smaller details. The doors through to the bathrooms, for instance, have “magic glass” which turns from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button, useful if you are staying with a partner and want privacy. They also have a lovely pattern referencing the arches of the lower levels of the building.
In the room is bottled water, tea and coffee, and a small bowl of fruit, and there is a double daily service of the room keeping it tidy, replenishing towels, and ensuring you have a bucket of ice or, in my case, a large tea pot which I’d asked for on the first night so I could make plenty of tea while I worked. Many rooms have free standing baths and all have showers with both power showers and rain showers. These are also well designed so you don’t end up flooding the floors outside around the basin.
The amenity brand in the room is Grown Alchemist– Australian, and all rooms offer 24-hour in-room dining service, a personal bar and fridge, free broadband wired and wireless internet connectivity, an in-room safe with laptop recharging access and streaming media and video on demand.
On the 23rd floor, there are the hotel’s top four suites: the Cotton Tree, Park, Penthouse and two Murray suites.
Food and drink
The two main restaurants are on the first floor (the hotel calls this the Garden Level because, well, it’s level with the gardens surrounding the hotel), and are called the Garden Lounge and the Tai Pan.
These both have floor to ceiling windows and are on either side of a sort of foyer which also leads out to a third restaurant in a kind of very elegant two-storey pavilion across a walk way which holds Guo Fu Lou, a well-known Cantonese restaurant.
I ate breakfast in Tai Pan and also one evening meal. There was a small choice from a buffet and then a choice of one a la carte dish for breakfast, which I felt was a little limited, particularly if you were staying for some time, and of course it gets quite busy in the morning, which is when the restaurant on the other side of the vestibule – The Garden Lounge, is used.
In the evening Tai Pan serves both international and Asian dishes, and it is possible to eat indoors or out, though while I was there everyone seemed to be indoors.
Finally there is The Murray Lane on the lower ground floor, which seemed popular as I passed it coming in from work every day.
There is also a rooftop restaurant and bar on the 26th floor called Poppinjays, which, disappointingly, was closed for a private function the entire four days of my stay at the hotel, so I never saw it.
Business and meeting
The hotel’s main indoor event space is the Niccolo Room on the 25th floor with a capacity to seat 240 guests and receptions for up to 300. It can also be divided up into a pre-function room and up to eight individual spaces, each with wall panels that slide back to reveal 65-inch flatscreen televisions.
On the first level, The Arches is a semi-outdoor space underneath those distinctive arches and capable of being used in season for car showcases, large-scale art exhibitions, fashion shows, cocktail parties and unique social gatherings.
At the Hotel’s Garden Level (UG/F), the Cotton Tree Terrace spans 130 sqm as a versatile outdoor space, providing a relaxed setting for casual events for up to 100 guests. Additionally, there are six boardrooms on level 2.
The hotel has a small fitness centre on level 3 and also a spa with five treatment rooms, two of which are for couples. The gym has natural light but is quite small and could do with perhaps a bit more equipment. There is also a lovely 17-metre lap pool on the ground floor and a vitality pool. This looks beautiful, but is quite chilly and unless you are a very fast swimmer you are likely to get quite cold swimming in it. The vitality pool which is like a Jacuzzi without the bubbles wasn’t much warmer, but perhaps I’m just soft. I went straight back upstairs and got in a hot bath.
This is a fabulous addition to the luxury hotels in Hong Kong, and a labour of love converting a historic and ground-breaking building in such a sensitive and imaginative manner. Service is good throughout and both regulars and first-time visitors will gain a new perspective on the city from its Central location.
A glimpse into a Hong Kong past that never existed with five star luxury and gorgeous modern design in a modernist landmark.
Exploring the two parks next to the hotel and taking the nearby tram up to Victoria Peak.
22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, Hong Kong, niccolohotels.com