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Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong review: Jet-set glamour at Hong Kong's truly luxury hotel

Traveller logoTraveller 19/08/2017 Anthony Dennis
Suite life at the Mandarin Oriental. © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald Suite life at the Mandarin Oriental. THE PLACE

For more than half-a-century, the 501-room Mandarin Oriental has been emblematic of the glamorous side of Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan crossroads of Asia, and, more latterly, a gateway to the China of which the former British colony is now an increasingly discordant part. Despite the Mandarin Oriental's vintage – it opened in 1963 – the world, and for that matter Hong Kongers themselves, are still irresistibly attracted to this place, which can still feels straight out of the jet-set era.

THE LOCATION

Once positioned right on the harbour edge, reclamation now sees the hotel set back from the Victoria Harbour over it and its 27-storeys once commanded. Today it's dwarfed by the skyscrapers that now tower over what for a time was the tallest building in Hong Kong. But its location is still unbeatable, adjacent as it is to the lavish culinary and retail pleasures of Central. The terminal for the historic (and still cheap) Star Ferry, connecting Victoria to Kowloon, is a short stroll, as is Hong Kong's unrivalled network of escalators that deliver pedestrians up and down its so-called Mid-levels.

Mandarin Oriental at Victoria Harbour. © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald Mandarin Oriental at Victoria Harbour. THE SPACE

The frenetic, low-ceilinged reception area, which always seems happily full of guests and staff, is indicative of the Mandarin Oriental's era, as is the retention of the wonderful closet-like old-world lobby kiosk (there's a good one at the hotel's sister property in Bangkok, too) stuffed full of books, magazines and local and international newspapers.

THE ROOM

I've scored a 40-square-metre Harbour View room decorated in vintage Chinese artworks and luxurious Jim Thompson silk textiles.

The rooms at the Mandarin Oriental (or just the Mandarin when it opened) were the first in Hong Kong to feature direct-dial telephones and bathtubs in every room. Nowadays a mobile phone tends to suffice – and how many of us really get to take a bath during a hotel stay these days? But it's pleasing to see that my classic five-star hotel room, refurbished a few years ago for the hotel's 50th, hasn't been over-renovated, save for the fact that the balcony has been glassed in to add more space as well as a cosy lounge area.

The 501-room Mandarin Oriental has been emblematic of Hong Kong glamour since 1963. © Supplied The 501-room Mandarin Oriental has been emblematic of Hong Kong glamour since 1963. THE FOOD

There's a host of restaurants, bars and cafes inside the hotel, as one would expect, including the two Michelin-star Pierre on the 25th floor. However, nostaglia buff guests will want to book a table at The Chinnery, a British pub-like restaurant named after the British artist, George Chinnery, who spent much of his life in southern China. Evening dress-rules here still prevail for male and female guests with The Chinnery home to one of the world's largest collections of single-malt whiskies as well as a menu of unapologetically British favourites dishes such as shepherd's pie, fish and chips and Anglicised chicken curry. Outside the hotel, and within walking distance, is the two Michelin-starred, club-like Duddell's. It's situated on tiny Duddell Street, home of some of Hong Kong's last colonial-era gas street lamps, and near The Landmark, the Mandarin Oriental's outstanding boutique-style sister property.

Jet-set glamour: The lobby at the Mandarin Oriental. © Supplied Jet-set glamour: The lobby at the Mandarin Oriental. STEPPING OUT

Hong Kong may have changed all around it but the Mandarin Oriental is still in the thick of it on Hong Kong Island. Take the Star Ferry across to Kowloon after dark descends for a proper view of the nightly Symphony of Lights, a spectacular light and sound show utilising the city's huddled skyscrapers as a canvas. Make time for a visit to one of more to the city's outlying islands, as well as Tai-o, a historic fishing village, in order to experience Hong Kong's surprising quiet side.

THE VERDICT

There are many five-star hotels that, while delivering luxury, offer little or no sense of their location. To stay at the Mandarin Oriental is to unequivocally be in Hong Kong from check-in to check-out, and to experience the high standards of service for which, at this level at least, it's renowned.

ESSENTIALS

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Hong Kong. Ph +852 2522 0111. Doubles start from $HK3060. See mandarinoriental.com,

HIGHLIGHT

It's a delight to be swept up in the genuine big Asian city buzz of this hotel from the moment you step out of your taxi or limousine in the driveway.

LOWLIGHT

The hotel's classic status is reflected in the pricetag to stay here, especially at busy times of the year, but here's one hotel well worth a splurge if your budget allows.

Anthony Dennis was a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board and Cathay Pacific.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong. © Supplied Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong.

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