BEST OF CLASS
Why this luxury hotel is drawing intriguing curiosity in Hong KongBy Maja Olivares-Co |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Approaching the Upper House in Hong Kong entry through a stone doorway façade evokes the image of a curtain being opened to welcome guests to a private residence. A subtly lit driveway then leads to a dramatic 13 ft-high textured nickel front door, enveloped by floor-to-ceiling glass walls that appear to sit on pools of water.
Past the entrance, a circular bamboo enclosure, the “Lantern,” with walls lined with bespoke lamps, leads to an escalator toward Level 6. This is awash in natural daylight, featuring the “Lawn,” a lush grassed area.
The hotel has 117 spacious guest rooms, each designed to provide a sense of understated luxury. The contemporary monochromatic design features natural timber, shoji glass, limestone and lacquered paper panels.
All rooms are presented in two color schemes: “Bamboo,” with solid ash flooring, bamboo timber and lilac upholstery; and “Celadon,” featuring green tea upholstery, lime oak flooring and crème oak timber.
Natural materials, original sculpture installations and perfectly proportioned spaces are integrated to create a sophisticated and modern “Asian-influenced” residence.
“With an intention to create a small luxury hotel reminiscent of a private residence, I have purposely conjured a sense of tranquility throughout the design and ambience of the hotel,” said Andre Fu, the interior designer.
The standard room is 70 sq m, by its sheer size a luxury in itself. Comparable luxury hotels offer anywhere from 40 to 55 sq m.
The planning is open but discreet. The bathroom in particular, at 30 sq m, is open but has walls strategically angled and positioned so that one can discreetly go about bathing without the feeling of being on display. Very modern and open but with an “Asian sense of propriety.”
Every room has panoramic views of the Hong Kong harbor or of the island.
The highlight is Level 49, which showcases the architecturally intriguing Sky Bridge. Infused with a skylight above a 40-meter-high atrium, the Sky Bridge leads to Sky Lounge and the signature restaurant-bar Café’ Gray Deluxe.
The warm and inviting Sky Lounge, with centerpiece fireplace, serves drinks and cocktails throughout the day. Intimate sofa seating in soft hues of green tea and mineral blue complements the four-meter-high ceiling.
Café Gray Deluxe, a 21st-century grand café overlooking Victoria Harbour, marks the return of celebrated chef Gray Kunz to Hong Kong.
The main dining room, seating approximately 100, offers spectacular panoramic views. Semi-private dining areas are designed with full view of the open kitchen stations. A private room for 12 is available for exclusive harbor-view dining.
The bar and lounge, seating 88, is contemporary and vibrant. The vibrant restaurant is highlighted by a 14-meter-long open kitchen and equally long bar.
Kunz’s deeply rooted background from the East and West provides a menu offering that is creative and inspired. Dishes are carefully created combining sensibilities from both continents, with an accent on local organic produce.
Some favorites: pan-crusted black cod and olive oil-marinated charred peppers with green olive vinaigrette; barbecued Iberico porkchop with tamarind glaze, pea shoots, fuzzy melon and lap cheong; steak tartare; rice flake crisped tiger prawn; crab salad; roast organic chicken, fricassee of white asparagus fresh morels; and braised beef cheeks over herb spaetzle roasted multicolor carrots and parsnips and madeira sauce.
The breakfast is amazing, so global and all done to perfection, from the muesli, eggs benedict to the Asian offerings.
American-Chinese Yvonne Cheung is chef sommelier at Café’ Gray Deluxe.
Some of chef Gray’s dishes present a unique challenge to wine pairings. But Cheung’s Western and Asian experience assures one of the most balanced pairings.
The wine list is extensive from midrange to high, from Old and New Worlds, from world-renowned Chateaux’s to small artisan wineries. Especially extensive are the wine offerings of Sauvignon Blancs, Rieslings, Chardonnays.
I loved that they carried my regular Billecarte Rose’ and Jacquesson bubblies. I wish they had Delamotte since Salon is not exactly in my price range. I was pleasantly surprised they carried Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence, which is a single vineyard grape produced by a young wine maker. Not easy to source.
Upper House is unique because it is a luxurious home away from home that provides a characterful experience for travelers who seek individuality, style and personalized service. Within 24 hours of checking in, everyone seems to know your name. The staff is friendly, attentive and energetic but not suffocating.
Upon arrival, you are welcomed by a “paperless” arrival system. You don’t check in at the reception, you can actually check in anywhere in the hotel… your room, the café, the lawn. . .
The one-stop Guest Experience team replaces the traditional hotel reception counters, provide services such as concierge, guest relations, bell and cashiering at any location throughout the hotel via iPad.
Before arrival, all guests are contacted by a designated member of the team who ensures all requirements and preferences are confirmed in time for arrival.
Express departure is a feature that enables guests to leave without the usual formalities. Copies of guest bills, with final credit card settlement, are e-mailed on the day of departure.
WiFi in the car
The Upper House is aware of the importance in this digital age to keep guests connected and provides complimentary wired and wireless high-speed Internet in guest rooms and public areas.
In keeping with the hotel’s principles to reduce guests’ “carbon footprints” while remaining connected at all times, the hotel’s energy-saving Lexus RX450H hybrid cars are equipped with complimentary WiFi onboard, ideal for business and leisure travelers on the move. This WiFi has uninterrupted connection from airport to hotel.
And just when you thought the indoor hotel experience was special enough, go visit The Lawn. It is the outdoor garden on Level 6. Guests can enjoy cocktails and snacks in lush green surroundings, for a relaxing respite under the Hong Kong Skyline and tailor a “Bespoke Urban Retreat.” Outdoor space in Hong Kong is a rare occurrence. The Lawn is your modern day “Secret Garden.”
The Upper House is located conveniently within Pacific Place in Admiralty.
The hotel has 117 rooms (70-80 sq m) featuring scenic harbor or island views, including 21 suites (117 sq m) and a penthouse (182 sq m).
It is owned and managed by Swire Hotels, whose aim is to create intriguing urban hotels in Hong Kong, Mainland China and the UK.
Check out the Summer Retreat package that runs until August 2012.
It’s a no-smoking hotel.
At Upper House, a unique iPod touch gives access to room dining, local area information, weather, news and feedback forms at the touch of a screen, replacing printed hotel directories.
Cathay Pacific and Dragonair were the first Asian airlines to introduce a carbon offset program in 2007, offering the offsets on a no-profit basis to passengers wishing to offset their carbon emissions. By choosing to Fly Greener, passengers can help play a role in reducing their CO2 emissions generated from air travel by making a voluntary contribution in cash or Asia Miles. Proceeds are used to support environmental projects that reduce or prevent carbon emissions.
For more information, contact Michelle Lau, public relations manager, (852) 3968 1023; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or Marcel Thoma, hotel manager,
e-mail MarcelThoma@swirehotels.com. Visit www.upperhouse.com.