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Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong - Review

It’s all about height in Hong Kong. And the three-tier ‘Mandarin high tea’ looming in front of us is no exception. It eclipses the two-tier ‘Classic’ tea sitting on adjoining tables. Laden with finger sandwiches, pastries, scones, the highlight is the must-spread, legendary Mandarin rose-petal jam. Sat Bal (28 Nov '13)

"Hong Kong just doesn't stop," says Nina Colls peering over the wrought silver stand. "The energy here is phenomenal and it's great to be a part of its excitement." 

We're in the Clipper Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong enjoying afternoon tea in the elegant surrounds of mink, taupe and luxurious mandarin-cue furnishings. Looking around, it's easy to see why the Clipper Lounge is regarded as 'Hong Kong's meeting room' - and why Nina Colls is director of communications for the brand.

Twelve years ago she was looking after Mandarin Oriental in London when it opened on Hyde Park. And now, as the Hong Kong hotel approaches its 50th anniversary, she’s been asked to assist with the celebrations which start in earnest next year. In short, Colls has Mandarin pedigree.     

Pedigree is something that runs through this hotel. Today Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group operates 42 hotels in 27 countries. We’re munching scones (and the rose-petal jam really is something to pine for) in the very first Mandarin Oriental hotel of the Group. Back in the early 1960s its construction costs came to HKD42 million while the interior design amounted to HKD66 million. Today Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong retains its mission to occupy the apex of the global luxury hotel sector. With a renovation of the entire hotel of US$125million in 2005, it’s poised to celebrate in style in 2013.

 

Man Wah restaurant

 

“We won’t just be celebrating the last 50 years, we’ll also be looking forward,” says Colls of the impending anniversary. “It’ll be a year-long celebration starting with the Chinese New Year at the end of February 2013 and we’ll run through certainly to the end of December 2013.”

The hotel boasts 10 restaurants and bars and is the only hotel in the world to have three Michelin-starred restaurants under one roof. There’s a lot ‘only’ about this hotel: its Krug Room is one of only four in the world – with another, of course, at our beloved Dorchester in London.

Even if you’re not a Krug fan (!) a leisurely few hours in the Krug Room will change your mind. Why? Executive chef Uwe Opocensky will take care of you for a start. Chef Uwe has worked with Alain Ducasse, Anton Mosimann and even Ferran Adrià. The El Bulli trained chef describes his art as “progressive gastronomy”. And it’s rightly described as art since there are no menus; Chef Uwe decides what you dine on according to his inspiration. On any given visit there are 10 to 14 courses in prospect.  The Krug Room’s black slate walls are scrawled in chalk with messages and recipes from the kitchen.

 

The Krug Room in preparation

 

And of course diners can choose from the largest collection of Krug champagnes outside of France. Perhaps a Krug Clos Du Mesnil 1998 from the Mesnil-sur-Oger village in the Champagne region? Or the Krug Grande Cuvée crafted with circa 120 wines from ten or more different vintages to accompany that dish of turbot à la truffe?  Then there’s Krug Rosé drawn from Krug’s cellars after five years and a hit with chicken in a rich cream sauce or spicy dishes, before you’re tempted by the Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. The list goes on.

 

Chalking up favourites in the Krug Room

 

Guests can drink, dine and glimpse the master chef and his team at work through the floor-to-ceiling window. Overhead, the chandelier suspends single red roses in individual vases over the long central table which accommodates 12 diners. The glow is inside and out with the reflective oaken surrounds and the knowledge that you’re languishing in a globally exclusive drinking den.

 

Dining room at the Mandarin Suite, the hotel’s finest suite

Ironically, the wine doesn’t quite fit the bill for the hotel’s 50th anniversary. “Wine is very important to Hong Kong but sadly 1963, when the hotel opened, wasn’t a good year for wine so we’ll be doing whisky and port dinners in the Chinnery,” explains Nina Colls. “Uwe will be creating his take on 1963 dishes next year in the Krug Room. We also have Pierre Gagnaire’s only restaurant in Hong Kong and we’re hoping he’ll be doing his take on 1963 French cuisine.”  

 

Mandarin Suite bathing

 

Plans also include bringing three (unnamed) celebrity chefs to Hong Kong and the famous 5-star spa will be immerse guests into golden anniversary treatments. Literally. Expect golden body treatments and ‘Fabulous & 50 Facials’.

At this level, service is everything. And Asian service is globally renowned, whether it’s on the ground or in the air with award-winning flag carriers like Singapore Airlines. Hospitality staff seem to have that prescient sixth sense. How to bottle it? 

 

Tamar Suite bathroom

 

“When we started at our Hyde Park, London hotel it was a challenge to educate staff concerning what Asian service is all about,” recalls Colls. “Hong Kong has always been the flagship for service. Asian service is higher than elsewhere but it’s truly exemplary here and Chinese  guests expect it from the service culture. At Hyde Park staff had to learn to read the guest, for example, not everyone wants their bags carried. So initially it was about to getting them  to understand this but now they do it very well in London.”

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