Mod­ern Manors

If a 413-room ho­tel could ever be likened to a pri­vate home, then Rose­wood Hong Kong looks to be just that—and it's not as much of a stretch as you might think.

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia - - CONTENTS - STORY AND PHO­TOGRAPHS BY CHRISTO­PHER KUCWAY

MY CHAUFFEURE­D Jaguar XJ steers in off the street, as­cends a cob­ble­stoned arc, cir­cles Henry Moore’s Three Piece Re­clin­ing Fig­ure, Draped and rolls to a stop that of­fers a post­card view of Vic­to­ria Har­bour. Wel­come to Rose­wood Hong Kong, a piece of the city, yet si­mul­ta­ne­ously apart from it. As I en­ter through an or­nate bronze façade into a space that doesn’t look or feel like a ho­tel lobby—stop to study the beau­ti­ful Chi­nese stiched silk cen­ter­piece—I’m whisked by my but­ler Della into a stealth el­e­va­tor that takes silent sec­onds to as­cend 28 floors. As soon as the doors open, she wel­comes me to my room for the next two nights. She’s only partly kid­ding. From the 24th floor up, the open space be­tween the lifts and the suites is set up in what the brochures call a guest salon, with dimmed light­ing, carafes of fruit-in­fused wa­ter, tea or cock­tails for the ask­ing, com­fort­able loungers, books about Hong Kong that you’re meant to peruse—in­clud­ing Martin Booth’s ex­cel­lent Gweilo—and some­thing for­eign in most cor­ners of this al­ways crowded, of­ten chaotic city: an over­whelm­ing sense of calm.

Open the door to a Grand Har­bour Cor­ner suite, its south­west an­gle tak­ing in a sliver of Tsim Sha Tsui, that post­card shot of Hong Kong Is­land, the har­bor and, be­yond it, the out­ly­ing is­lands, and it’s dif­fi­cult not to wax po­etic about the ho­tel mere min­utes into your stay. Now that the dust has set­tled af­ter its March open­ing, Rose­wood Hong Kong has al­ready elicited a list of breath­less mod­i­fiers. In the end, it’s a glimpse of what a ho­tel should be go­ing for­ward. As but­lers do, Della snaps me out of my fugue state to in­form me of every­thing this suite can do. There is a day bar, but I shouldn’t con­fuse it with the night bar. The free­stand­ing bath, with a wooden perch for my iPad, cen­ters a sprawl­ing mir­rored room that should re­ally come with its own road map. Be­hind the bath­room is a walk-in closet that is larger than many Hong Kong flats. I have my choice of three dif­fer­ent so­fas—one in a sit­ting area im­me­di­ately out­side my bed­room to go with the night bar, the other two in the ad­join­ing liv­ing room. Hid­den ports and out­lets are ev­ery­where. If I need any­thing else, the but­ler is a push-but­ton away. Once Della has left, I count no fewer than 16 bot­tles of wa­ter around my suite, per­fect in

the hu­mid hairdryer that is Hong Kong in the sum­mer.

My first morn­ing, I head down for break­fast and the lift doors part to the ho­tel’s manag­ing di­rec­tor Marc Brug­ger wait­ing to go in the other di­rec­tion. He dead­pans that he was wait­ing for me—but then finds he can’t help him­self and picks up where Della left off, start­ing with de­tails about the lobby. Each piece of this puz­zle aims for com­fort with­out for­go­ing qual­ity. To one side is a sep­a­rate area en­closed in oak-panel ceil­ings and co­conut-wood col­umns with a front desk if needed, to the other a flower shop over­flow­ing with nat­u­ral col­ors and gar­den scents that en­velop you on the way to the café. “Every­thing was de­signed with emo­tions in­volved. We tried to cre­ate lay­ers of emo­tion,” Brug­ger ex­plains in the lime­stonewalle­d lobby. “We don’t want it to be buzzing but do want it to be ac­tive.”

ROSE­WOOD’S INI­TIAL Asian ad­dress was in Bei­jing, and it now has eight prop­er­ties in the re­gion, with an­other nine open­ing in the next few years. Be­sides be­ing at the top end of the price scale, what makes the Hong Kong ad­dress stand out? Brug­ger, who also opened the Bei­jing prop­erty, has spent a lot of time think­ing about just that. “Bei­jing is the first gen­er­a­tion of Rose­wood. This is the sec­ond. It is re­ally the true ex­pres­sion of what the brand can and should be.”

In a city where space is al­ways at a pre­mium, Rose­wood first con­ceived this project al­most a decade ago. If there’s a down­side, the East Kowloon lo­ca­tion would be it, though the Vic­to­ria Dock­side arts dis­trict has just opened—mean­ing there’s more on the map here than ever be­fore. One of the first ideas was to re­move typ­i­cal ho­tel ele­ments, Brug­ger says, to make the prop­erty feel more in­ti­mate. Then came the de­sign. “Here, we flipped it over,” he says. Interior de­signer Tony Chi was brought on board be­fore the ar­chi­tects, be­fore there was an out­line of a build­ing. Chi also worked on Rose­wood’s Lon­don prop­erty and points out that, if it is con­sid­ered a city house, then Hong Kong is the coun­try house. Um… Hand in the air, Brug­ger heads me off to ex­plain. “What do we want the ex­pe­ri­ence to be? Not to be a ho­tel but to em­brace the ex­pe­ri­ence, that feel­ing of what it would be like to be the guest of a pri­vate home or es­tate.” He says that there was a need to feel the build­ing

had been here for­ever. “That, to me, was an op­por­tu­nity to make it an in­stant clas­sic.”

WRAPPED IN THAT VIEW of Hong Kong with every­thing at hand, it would be easy to or­der room ser­vice and never leave my suite. For his part, Chi is a pro­po­nent of the idea that de­sign should be in­vis­i­ble. Maybe the best ex­am­ple of this is a Har­bour View room. At 53 square me­ters, it feels any­thing but en­try level, with twin sinks, a stand-alone bath­tub, Loro Piano fine wool wall cov­er­ings—tac­tile fea­tures are ev­ery­where in the ho­tel—and, most im­por­tantly, am­ple space to ma­neu­ver. Add the views—the ho­tel oc­cu­pies 43 of 65 floors in the build­ing— most will feel pam­pered. In all, 80 per­cent of the 322 rooms and 91 suites here face the har­bor. “There is this sense that it is yours; there is a feel­ing that it be­longs to you,” Brug­ger ex­plains.

I never knew con­tem­po­rary cha chaan teng to be a thing, but at Holt’s Café the Can­tonese and Hong Kong-style Western com­fort food scores big time. The stylish set­ting books out quickly and I would chalk this up to dishes such as the char siu pork that is best with a side of braised tofu, mush­rooms and as­para­gus. Both are com­mon or­ders around town but are rarely this mouth­wa­ter­ing. Don’t over­look the hot and sour lob­ster soup, a de­li­cious twist on an­other lo­cal fa­vorite.

Next to the café is The But­ter­fly Room, an airy space adorned with some vi­brant works by Damien Hirst and be­yond pop­u­lar when it comes to af­ter­noon tea. Later on in the evening, if some­thing stronger is re­quired, head to DarkSide—an in­side joke for any­one who has ever lived in Hong Kong—with its ex­ten­sive li­brary of whiskies, co­gnacs and rums. I or­der a mar­tini that comes with a tease when the waiter tells me to en­joy what looks like an olive. In­stead, it’s a soft Ja­panese green peach that has ab­sorbed the drink. In­clined to or­der a sec­ond, in­stead I get a primer at the not-so-se­cret, not-to-be-missed dark-spirit room that’s fronted by a choco­late table off to one cor­ner.

The next day, I dis­cover an­other gem. Tucked into a fifth-floor cor­ner is The Le­gacy House, the ho­tel’s pre­mium Chi­nese res­tau­rant. De­signed in dark woods and mod fur­nish­ings, it could be an his­toric nook in Bei­jing, aside from the sweep of Hong Kong Is­land out the win­dow. Our lunch menu is pure Shunde cui­sine, spe­cific to Can­ton and the ba­sis for Hong Kong’s lo­cal dishes. Deep-fried spicy beef; mar­i­nated cherry toma­toes with a kick of Chi­nese yel­low wine; stewed clams in rice wine and chicken broth; rice noo­dle soup with garoupa; wok-fried milk with egg whites… I could go on aside from the fact that I have to check out.

Back in my suite, there’s a line draw­ing of some Hong Kong shop houses that stands out for its sim­plic­ity. In an age where five-star is too of­ten equated with glitz, it’s these small touches that are worth re­mem­ber­ing. Of course, there’s more to this sketch than ini­tially meets the eye. It turns out that Tony Chi had his eye on this draw­ing and oth­ers like it longer than even he might have re­al­ized: he went to school with the artist, Wil­liam Low. As you gaze out in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to­wards the shiny streets of Hong Kong below, de­spite all the progress, some­where down there, this scene still ex­ists.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: Most of the ac­com­mo­da­tion of­fers har­bor views of the city; in the ho­tel's en­try; in a Grand Har­bour Cor­ner suite. OP­PO­SITE: A hid­den cor­ner of Holt's Café.

ABOVE: A spa­cious Har­bour View room. BELOW, FROM LEFT: The ho­tel's tea som­me­lier at work; an artis­tic twist at The Le­gacy House; soak­ing in a suite.

FROM TOP: That feel­ing that the ho­tel has a long his­tory; Damian Hirst hangs in The But­ter­fly Room.

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