Every Hongkonger knows that life in our crazy, fast-paced city wouldn’t be bearable without the occasional getaway. That’s why we’re bringing you “Suite Staycation“: a monthly review of some of the finest hotel suites in Hong Kong and Macau. Rated upon quality of accommodation, F&B and the perks which we experience — not to mention on pure ‘wow’ factor — our new column brings you in-depth analysis on where to spend your dollars when it comes to taking some well-deserved R&R.
Many travel writers have likened their time at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong to an ascension towards hospitality heaven, though it might be more apt to describe the experience of staying here as landing on the moon. From the upper atmosphere of the International Commerce Centre (ICC), Hong Kong’s familiar landmarks appear distant and almost miniature; and the deafening silence which accompanies your ascent to ‘the world’s highest hotel’ gives way to a profound sensation of calm.
Up here, where the air is rarefied (and the decor rarer still) guests have the time and distance to immerse themselves in a truly gratifying staycation: needless to say, across the harbour these necessary quantities are in short supply. The location might be a dealbreaker for some, but the shift in perspective that staying here necessitates will prove invigorating for the vast majority. Factor in superlative service, Michelin dining options and perks which are enjoyable from top-to-bottom, and you have a property that gets our enthusiastic stamp of approval.
Residing at the confluence of various public transport arteries, The Ritz-Carlton is easy to access yet effectively insulated from the outside world. The property sits atop the ICC, interlinked (through Elements) to Kowloon MTR station. Regardless of whether you’re travelling cross-harbour or are grabbing the nearest Airport Express, getting here takes no more than 30 minutes.
Like many of Hong Kong’s more memorable stays, you won’t find the check-in desk at ground-level. Instead, the 9th-floor vestibule — swathed in cartographic carpets and marble — doubles as your gateway to the lobby proper. From here, all guests make their ascent (via a pair of high speed lifts) into the upper atmosphere, arriving at the 103rd floor reception in 52 seconds. Ears popping? Don’t worry — you’re standing 484 metres above ground level, after all.
It seems obvious but definitely bears repeating: situated between floors 102 and 118 of the ICC, The Ritz-Carlton is still the highest hotel in Hong Kong. Panoramic views afforded by location (of Victoria Harbour, West Kowloon, and the South China Sea) appear to be the main attraction, though it’s quickly apparent that the enhanced verticality is capable of manifesting in more subtle interesting ways. (During springtime, the entire property is enveloped in a thick blanket of fog that can make your stay equal parts tranquil and surreal.)
All 312 suites and guest rooms throughout the property measure at least 50 square metres — amply sized by the standards of most Hong Kong hotels.
Inside the Club Deluxe Victoria Harbour room, the reigning aesthetic is ‘Chinese contemporary’: lustrous shades of beige and ochre suffuse your surroundings; and are intermittently punctuated by hard surfaces carved from onyx marble and travertine. Amenities possess a similarly subdued level of grandeur: in the bathroom you’ll find toiletries from the British heritage brand Asprey; while all beds are crafted in accordance with The Ritz-Carlton’s own exacting specifications — think double-coiled mattresses, featherbed toppers and 400-thread count linen.
With a total of six dining venues to choose from, it’s easy to confine yourself to The Ritz-Carlton’s gilded premises for the duration of your stay. The usual suspects all make an appearance — there’s the obligatory lobby lounge, international buffet, and temple to fine Cantonese fare — though we recommend making reservations at Tosca a priority.
Here, Chef Angelo Agliano prepares intuitive Italian cuisine, against an opulent glass-and-marble backdrop worthy of the Puccini opera for which this Michelin-starred venue is named. The weekend lunch menu — complemented by a never-ending procession of Cristal, Veuve Clicquot or Ruinart — showcases Agliano’s abiding love of seafood, exploring a spectrum of flavours which range from the refreshing (a piece of line-caught seared sea bass, seasoned with Datterino tomato confit) to downright addictive (Spaghetti alla Chitarra with langoustine).
Since you’re in the neighbourhood, OZONE is a worthy spot for post-nosh beverages. Title of ‘World’s highest bar’ aside, the pulsating geological interiors — courtesy of Japanese interior designer Katayama Masamichi — are the perfect foil to avant-garde cocktails and a selection of tapas that extends to freshly prepared sashimi. The one drawback? This is ground zero (not unreasonably so) for throngs of snap-happy tourists who are visiting the hotel.
No matter whether you’re a Marriott Bonvoy member sporting ‘Titanium’ status or a casual traveller checking in for a special occasion, you can rest assured that the level of service at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is high across the board. The brand’s mantra (“ladies & gentlemen serving ladies & gentlemen”) is practiced judiciously, and we were hard-pressed to identify any needs which weren’t graciously and often preemptively attended to.
That being said, if you’re able to secure an upgrade for the Club floor, do so without hesitation. Alongside the already high level of service, guests staying on the 116th floor can look forward to a personalised check-in (i.e. you can head straight to your room if you prefer); in addition to five daily F&B presentations at the Club lounge. (Pro tip: for an especially stylish experience, time your arrival to coincide with the daily afternoon tea presentation.)
The ICC is home to leading financial institutions like Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, so a contingent of fleece-and-chino types is to be expected. Additionally, the property’s proximity to the West Kowloon high speed rail terminus makes it a popular destination for guests visiting from the Mainland — themselves a diaspora of corporate types, tourists and luxury travellers.
None of this should amount to a disruption during your stay: thanks to palatial public areas and a healthy staff-to-guest ratio, the hotel’s ambience of languid opulence — epitomised in the bespoke Black Orchid fragrance perfuming myriad corridors and halls — never gets lost in translation.
Although the complementary shoe shine is a staple at luxury hotels around the world, most versions of it involve a perfunctory polishing using waste cloth and paraffin-based wax. The shine offered by The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is decidedly superior — all of the hotel’s butlers learn the finer points of polishing at the Berluti boutique downstairs — so you’d be wise to avail yourself of this service the moment you’re in your room.
Returning to our wider discussion about the Club floor: guests staying here are able to take advantage of free car transfers throughout Kowloon (subject to availability), a useful perk if you’re planning to fly the proverbial coop for an early-morning hike or dinner in Jordan.
The property’s high-impact location is enough to justify a stay, but it’s the service — equally lofty and self-contained — that will be the reason you extend your visit.