Every Hongkonger knows 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 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 advice on where to spend your dollars when it comes to taking some well-deserved R&R.
Eight years and a billion dollars in the making, Rosewood Hong Kong isn’t just the 852’s swankiest new bolthole — it’s a dramatic reexamination of the notion of ‘luxury hospitality’ in a post-selfie world. Enshrined at the literal and figurative heart of Victoria Dockside — a sprawling US$2.6 billion redevelopment of the site formerly known as New World Centre — the project is, unequivocally, the most talked-about hotel to arrive in Hong Kong for nearly a decade. Its expansive, manifold superstructure (the work of American firm Kohn Pedersen Fox) beckons from across the harbour: repurposing architecture as a metaphor for the dramatic resuscitation of an iconic cultural destination. (This is helped by the hotel’s proximity to many of Kowloon’s most desirable commercial and artistic institutions.)
If the Rosewood Hotel Group is a world unto itself, then its Hong Kong property holds the mantle of most favoured nation. It’s no secret that CEO Sonia Cheng — one of three scions of parent company, Chow Tai Fook — has resolved to make Hong Kong the fulcrum in her burgeoning hospitality empire. Upon taking the reins in 2011, Cheng immediately set about creating a destination which would “redefine luxury and luxury travel”. If pundits are to be believed, then she (along with a tireless brigade of artists, designers and other creative collaborators) has succeeded. Unlike other more established names in the 26-property portfolio — in New York, The Carlyle — Rosewood Hong Kong is a hotel that embraces, with both hands, the familial legacy of its owners. Far from being slavish, or worse still twee, the resulting experience is a stylish, sweeping testament to the inimitable allure of hotels. The good ones, at any rate.
How’d the hotel strike you upon arrival?
Pedestrians access Rosewood Hong Kong’s stately grounds using a variety of thoroughfares: the hotel connects directly to nearby K11 Musea (Adrian Cheng’s social experiment in high-end retail therapy) and is a short jaunt to neighbouring hot spots like the HKMoA, Science Museum and Avenue of Stars. The closest MTR Station (Tsim Sha Tsui) is roughly 10 minutes away.
An almost sheepishly discrete set of elevators transfer on-foot arrivals to the lobby, though for maximum impact, we counsel a trip in one of the hotel’s Range Rover Autobiographies. More than just a handsome mode of transport, these impeccably liveried vehicles — decked out in custom cognac upholstery and the latest entertainment systems — double as your first taste of Rosewood’s very particular brand of hospitality. Additionally, they’re a vital ingredient in the ear-to-ear joy you’ll experience the first time you ‘arrive’: your smartly dressed driver will exit off Salisbury Road and traverse a snaking cobblestone driveway, culminating in a waterfront vista that would reduce most landscape painters to tears.
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During the developmental phase of Rosewood Hong Kong, the overarching brief given to New York based Tony Chi Studios was to craft a series of memorable public spaces which simultaneously exuded an air of domesticity and grandeur. Chi’s interiors play up these qualities using the ‘vertical estate’ concept: on guestroom floors, waiting areas have been transformed into intricately curated vignettes (what the Taiwanese-American designer calls ‘salons’), which depict scenes from the surrounding city and various Rosewood locales abroad. From coffee table literature to a seemingly infinite supply of refreshments (in which guests are encouraged to partake) every detail has been carefully considered in pursuit of the luxe living room vibe that permeates this section of the hotel.
That gilded, residential decor carries through into the Manor Club — Rosewood Hong Kong’s rebuttal to the stodgy executive lounges of most global hotel chains. In this elegant many-chambered space, you’re more likely to spy fashion buyers bonding over billiards, as opposed to the predictable cavalcade of spreadsheet-loving corporate types. Outside on the L-shaped terrace, guests are treated to an expansive, God’s eye view of Victoria Harbour — the perfect setting for a cigar and snifter from the club’s extensive backbar.
A number of the hotel’s guest-only spaces lean knowingly into the old-school glam of a bygone era. But equally, there’s many a nook and cranny that seizes on the opportunity to world-build in a manner that feels discursive and modern — you just need to know where to look. On the 5th floor, ladies-only speakeasy XX is a quite literal manifestation of the ‘safe space’ phenomenon: offering delicate cocktails and a list of women-centric winemakers in a setting that flips the script on Hong Kong’s long tradition of private men’s clubs. For reasons which pertain to more than just capacity, it is essential you first make a reservation.
Sounds promising. Now, onto the main event: How are the rooms?
Art plays a starring role throughout the property’s 413 rooms and suites. Joe Bradley paintings, sleek mid-century furniture, and ink illustrations by American-Chinese artist Chloe Ho are just some of the flourishes you’ll see upon stepping into any of Rosewood Hong Kong’s airy private spaces. What’s more, a good 80 percent of the hotel’s guestrooms command views of Victoria Harbour — an impressive feat, considering the teeniest category starts off at 55 sqm. And lest all the artistic curios and ample square footage fool you into thinking these rooms are ‘homey’, little reveals like the hammered copper sinks or Maison Caulières toiletries are a timely reminder that each guest’s quarters is the ultimate cradle of luxury.
Even at a property as haltingly opulent at Rosewood Hong Kong, not all rooms are created equal. More residence than hotel room, the 123-sq.-mtr. Grand Harbour Corner Suite offers front row seats to the nightly light show that is Causeway Bay. To say these digs are made for entertaining is an act of extreme lily gilding: there are not one but two lavishly appointed sitting areas; a guest toilet; a walk-in wardrobe; and an arabescato-clad bathroom that’s essentially large enough to possess its own gravitational field. The icing on the cake? Guests in this category are granted access to the Manor Club, and assigned a personal butler for the duration of their stay.
Fancy! But what if we don’t want to relax in-room. What are our options?
Aside from the obvious culinary escapades throughout Rosewood — more on those in a moment — wellness warriors should make it a point to pencil Asaya into their itinerary. This staggering destination occupies the entire 6th floor of the hotel, specialising in end-to-end therapies for every possible kind — dining, fitness, spa, beaut et cetera — of health-related ailment. Even if singing bowls, aromatherapy courses, and the (admittedly delicious) clean cooking of Asaya Kitchen are all a tad too trendy, the conventional fitness facilities are nothing short of impressive. (A few laps in the 25-metre sun-soaked infinity pool is, in this editor’s opinion, the best way to start your morning bar none.)
We’re starting to work up an appetite now. What’s good?
Food is a subject that is sacrosanct to most Hongkongers: to make headway in the city’s notoriously crowded luxury hotel space is to possess a contingent of serious F&B. In the case of Rosewood Hong Kong, restaurants and bars aren’t just a platform for award-winning design — they’re the engine which drives repeat local business. Holt’s Cafe (inspired by the name of the historic wharf atop which Victoria Dockside is built) serves up rarefied covers of cha chaan teng classics all-day; the Butterfly Room is the hotel’s resident, soft-toned Hirst-covered tea room, home to the delectable morsels of pastry chef Holger Deh; and at DarkSide, temple to all things jazz-cool and spirit-forward, Arcadiusz Rybak oversees a menu of beverages that has one hand on the jigger and the other on the barrel.
When the hotel initially opened last August, the full array of dining options was not yet available. At time of writing, three more restaurants had just opened: notably including southern-inspired steakhouse Henry and Bayfare Social. Rosewood Hong Kong’s ‘proprietary gastronomic concept’ cribs convincingly from the playbook of great European food halls; de-centralising the dining process so that guests can leapfrog from counter to counter, sampling a selection of tapas, paella and even a surprisingly compelling shengjianbao. The whole venue has a dynamic, laidback feel — very much in line with the hotel’s ‘social club’ aspirations.
Let’s talk vibe. Are we right in thinking that the clientele is mostly young, bright-eyed and couture-clad?
It’s true: Rosewood’s en vogue status has made it a lightning rod for Hong Kong’s parade of KOLs, models, and the professionally good looking, but equally, access to nearby attractions such as K11 Musea has furnished it with mass appeal. Like many of the cultural-institutions-masquerading-as-hotels that Rosewood is up against, there’s a wonderful sense of occasion that’s palpable throughout the property. Ipso facto, expect a handful of families, tourists and — cue shock horror — the occasional business traveler.
So far so good. Is there anything you noticed during your stay that could use an improvement?
One cannot fault the Rosewood group for attempting to serve the increasingly wealthy subset of luxury travellers who happen to be millenial, though that fixation occasionally comes off as counter-intuitive. In the suite yours truly stayed in, peripheral entertainment systems were all eschewed in favour of AppleTV and Miracast, while the need for prolonged sensor contact (in order to unlock the safety deposit box) was a fact that ought to have been better communicated.
In contrast to the hotel’s smart, unwired, environmentally sustainable ethos, a conspicuous amount of paper correspondence was also delivered during the course of our residence (notifications could just as easily have been sent through the Manor Club’s ‘e-Butler’ WhatsApp service). To be sure, these glitches aren’t substantial enough to compromise Rosewood’s grand design, though their occurrence in the context of an otherwise sterling experience can make them somewhat more visible.
All in all: Worth the splurge?
Where many hotel brands pay only lip service to ‘luxury hospitality’, Rosewood Hong Kong traffics exclusively in experiences that are reshaping that concept for the next generation. Every detail big and small has been calculated to advance the hotel’s tricky balance of residential tranquillity meets high drama: from ‘smart home’ flourishes in guest rooms down to the memorably designed regalia worn by different members of staff.
If the goal is to offer exceptional, original experiences — the kind that expand your horizons for good measure — then we’d say that, much like the surrounding hotbed of cultural-commercial activity, Rosewood Hong Kong is breaking new ground.