When the Mandarin Oriental closed for a £75 million renovation in 2006, the ripples were felt far and wide. To quote a well-known food advert, this is not just any old hotel; this is a Hong Kong hotel – arguably the finest in town.
Firmly rooted in Eastern culture, the genteel Mandarin is loved by everyone from local taipans and tea-taking tai-tais to the West’s pop stars, politicians, and blue-blooded Royals.
Thatcher stayed during the handover in 1997 and signed the hotel’s Union Jack flag, which then came down for good; while half of the world’s media camped out on its roof to watch.
The Oriental group’s flagship reopened last September, and as a Mandarin old hand it was with some trepidation that I re-entered its hallowed lobby. I needn’t have worried. The black marble and the gold leaf still gleamed and familiar faces, including the white-haired concierge – re-installed following his tour of Mandarin properties worldwide – were still there.
Upstairs is another story. Balconies have been ripped out to accommodate larger and stylishly overhauled rooms. My bath overlooked the harbour through a floor to ceiling wall of glass.
Service was always key to the Mandarin’s success and it has lost none of its familiar charm. A clutch of popular restaurants, bars and facilities remain – the famed Saddle and Sirloin, a stalwart since 1963, is now the Conran-revamped Mandarin Grill. The legendary Captain’s and Chinnery bars are still convivial spots, popular with locals as well as guests.
The Chinnery stocks one of Asia’s largest single malt collections (over 120) and has obtained a temporary license that permits smoking, in spite of Hong Kong’s recent ban. Brand new are three floors of spa and the top-floor restaurant, Pierre, which brings the triple Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire to Hong Kong.
Facilities: 10 bars and restaurants, shops, barber, beauty salon, spa, and pool. 502 guest rooms and suites
Get there: by Mercedes, Rolls Royce or Airport Express – about a 35-minute drive from the airport.
Verdict: 5 / 5 for service, ambience and location the Mandarin Oriental is hard to fault, though fans of design should head for the hotel’s hipper sibling, next door.
Room rates: from £160 per night.