There’s history here for the asking. Step inside, and you will be transported back to colonial times; the Orient of old; the salubrious and affluent era of British Hong Kong. Beautifully maintained, this grandiose property has a strong sense of place.
Sister hotel, The Landmark, Mandarin Oriental and this one are worlds apart in terms of design and style. Just five minutes away on foot, they each have a distinct personality. Simply put, this hotel is a classic and timeless beauty; the other, a catwalk model.
An example. While here, I enjoyed a cup of coffee one morning at The Mandarin Cake Shop, one of ten food and beverage outlets at the hotel, and within no time at all, the place filled up with office crowds, families and groups of friends, all here to grab lunch or a sandwich to go. At The Landmark, because of its size, there’s no space for a buzz like this.
This hotel’s real culinary story, however, is that it has three Michelin-starred restaurants, offering greatness along with value and variety. There’s a total of four stars under this one roof: the Pierre has two, Man Wah, and The Mandarin Grill and Bar each have one.
Opened in 1963 as The Mandarin, it was then the tallest building in town, and along with the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, the first true five-star hotel in Asia. The two joined forces, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group was born.
What’s nice is that this property is very much a part of the folklore of many local families. Many generations have married and celebrated significant moments at the Mandarin Oriental, making the hotel an integral part of the tapestry of life.
And still today, you can buy a diamond or pearl trinket or two in one of the gorgeous boutiques; have a suit or dress made for dinner that night; get the shave of a lifetime in the Barber Shop (women can visit the hair salon); meet friends for drinks in some of the best watering holes in town; and dine in style thereafter.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Hotel credit
- US$100 or equivalent food and beverage or Spa credit (one credit per stay)
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
It’s an iconic property, one you’ll fall in love with the moment you walk through the door; I should know because I did just that. Met by several doormen upon arrival, I was checked in and escorted to my room within ten minutes. A gorgeous Harbour View Room, it was elegant and beautiful. Victoria Harbour in all her splendour and overlooking Kowloon was right there in front of my eyes. It took my breath away; I couldn’t help but walk straight over to the window and ignore everything else for that moment.
Rooms and suites
Classic is the word that comes to mind. Meticulously thought through are the next. What I loved about this room was the enclosed veranda with marble floors, where a desk and a mini sofa were strategically placed. That sofa, the kind that’s really for one person to curl up on, beckoned. I grabbed the pair of binoculars on the desk and installed myself.
My suitcases, two, were placed side by side on the large bench behind the door. I loved the space, especially as I had no intention of wasting time unpacking.
Closed for a year, the hotel underwent a complete overhaul, which took almost a year, back in 2005-2006. And even though time has passed, these rooms look as fresh and contemporary as if they were redone yesterday. East meets West, soft and soothing tones of browns and golds meet the eye.
The king sized bed is supremely comfortable, with crisp, cotton sheets. There’s also a pillow menu in a box with samples of six styles, including some I had never heard of (or seen for sale in Marks & Spencer), like buckwheat and one designed by NASA. Jim Thompson silk is used for pillows and curtains. The room can be blacked out in moments, and all controls are located on either side of the bed to make life easy.
The TV has many programs in English, including movies on demand. Powering up devices and the like is easy, as is customary in five-star properties here, and the internet is always fast.
Quaint, but still very serviceable, is the valet box with its own light beside the door. Things like your daily newspaper, laundry and any packages sent to the room are placed inside what is essentially a mailbox next to your door. This you can access in the room, without having to be disturbed. The light is put on by you for a pickup, or by the valet when he has left something in your box.
The bathroom is done in stone and Chinese marble, all in black. It’s classy and elegant, with a glass enclosed shower and a console (what some would call an island), where the sink and a large spinning mirror (one side is magnified) are located. There are his and her shelving on either side of the console, with ample space to stash everything.
The hair dryer is good, the towels are fluffy and big, and the TV inside the mirror was a nice thing to be able to turn on in the morning, to catch up on the latest news. Incidentally, this hotel was the first to have TVs in the bathrooms, to have bathtubs, and to have phones in the bathrooms. A pioneer in the industry, they still lead the pack in a lot of ways.
Hermes amenities are provided in the regular rooms; Bottega Veneta in the suites.
They take food seriously here, and at Mandarin Oriental properties in general, in fact. Of the ten food and beverage outlets in this hotel, all are worthy of mention even if I will not, for brevity’s sake. Suffice to say, you will never go hungry here, or encounter a dull culinary moment. Eat light if you want, eat from a variety of continents, eat formally or casually, you decide.
But let’s start with a drink. And because I like a good view, I headed up to the 25th floor, to the M Bar where only the finest of spirits and the finest of wines are served. Cocktails go for up to 1000 HKD, but many are well priced, and the service and ambience were spot-on. The waiter watched carefully, refilling my glass and replacing the little snacks I had finished. A poised and polished intern from Sweden, studying in Switzerland, he told me a little about the restaurant, Pierre, next door, which was filling up fast as I sipped. Apparently, the Sunday brunch (how un-French!) is not to be missed.
In terms of bars, there’s also the infamous Captain’s Bar, known as “Hong Kong’s living room”, and the equally gorgeous Chinnery, which serves beloved British fare (fish and chips; shepherd’s pie; madras curry) along with Guinness and a pint. Famous for its collection of fine whiskeys on tap, until 1990 ladies were not welcome here. I couldn’t help but be reminded of British India, where the English also left their mark, here and in many other venues within the hotel.
The next day, I took the opportunity to indulge in a dim sum lunch, and headed to Man Wah, with its one Michelin star and rich, traditional decor. The restaurant was one of the only spaces in the hotel that the decorators changed very little during the most recent renovation; they didn’t need to. Seated with, again, a stunning view, I asked what tea would go best with my meal, and I was brought a glass teapot with chamomile tea and real chrysanthemums inside; what haven’t the Chinese thought of when it comes to tea? Replenished over and over, without asking, I was impressed by the level of care.
The food, too, was outstanding. I’ve had a lot of dim sum in my travels, but never any as beautiful, or delicious, as these. Followed by the lightest mushroom broth, duck, and a crispy chicken dish, the service was perfectly timed. Looking around, there was only one foreign couple; the rest were locals (on their phones).
Spa and wellness
The spa here is world famous. Using Traditional Chinese Medicine methods combined with aromatherapy and every sumptuous oil and essence available, guests can book ‘time’ rather than specific treatments. How sensible, when there’s so much to offer.
For its part, the gym offers Technogym machines all the way. It’s a huge set-up, which welcomes members from outside as well. Because of this, equipment is very up to date, and there are new routines and gadgets added on a regular basis. A room with a view, the gym offers a ‘Change Your Game’ area for new inspiration and techniques to match. So even if you’re here for a short time, book ahead and get in on the ‘game’.
Not mentioning the Barber Shop would be remiss of me, because, I was told, many memories have been made here. It’s where local gents take their sons for their first shave, where an army of traditional Shanghai style barbers ply their trade, and where you may see a bodyguard or two outside the doors as you pass by of a day. A gent’s-only place, women are welcome to peek inside if no one objects.
Pool and beach
There’s an elegant indoor pool with three lanes and a counter current jet stream to encourage stronger swimmers to work a little harder. Better yet, there’s a video wall at one end, with changing images and, something I’ve never experienced before, an underwater sound system.
In both the ladies and the gents’ changing rooms are two jacuzzis, one at 40 degrees and one at 12 degrees, and a steam room.
There are no kids’ facilities, but this is a hotel that welcomes families, and, as such, there are several restaurants that have kids’ menus and high chairs. Café Causette, The Clipper Lounge and the room service team will pull out all the stops to make sure little ones are well fed and entertained. Plus, DVDs and game consoles can be provided upon request. On the weekends, between the hours of 3 and 4 PM, kids are allowed to use the pool, but otherwise, it’s an adult-only zone.
Staff and service
There are so many departments and so many teams of people working here, you may not run into the same person twice. But you will at the concierge desk, where I put the young lady there through the paces with some treatments I wanted organised in town. I also asked for a table at a specific restaurant on a weekend night, a request I made that same night at 7 PM. She rose to the occasion, graciously.
Without fail, the service is faultless and genuine. Many of the staff have been working here for decades, one as long as 54 years. There’s a lot of love in the air here at the Mandarin Oriental. Staff are happy with their jobs; guests are happy with the property.
What makes it nice is that there is no distinguishing who’s staying here and who’s not. At Man Wah, for lunch, I would say very few of the other diners were in-house guests. Almost all were locals which was a true endorsement of the authenticity and quality of the experience.
Unfortunately, because of the size of the hotel, rooms need to be filled. On one of the two nights of my stay, a busload of displaced people showed up. Tired, I imagine, they crashed out on the sofas in the lobby while rooms were sorted for them. They did not, somehow, suit the settings.
The lobby, though huge with many sofas and striking artwork, is not a very busy area; most of the restaurants and shops are one floor above where all the action is. So I checked out in no time and was on my way within moments, promising to return.
How to get there
45 minutes by road transfer from Hong Kong International Airport
501 Rooms & Suites
Swimming pool (indoor)