Hong Kong feels like home to me for two reasons: of all destinations, I travel there most frequently; and two, because I have family living there.
That said, it takes something worthwhile to make me feel extra eager about flying to Hong Kong. For my most recent trip, that something was The Upper House hotel.
Located in Admiralty, which is one train stop from the CBD (also called Central), the 117-room establishment — including 21 suites and two penthouses — opened in 2009 and features the largest hotel rooms in all of Hong Kong. Given that the metropolis is known for having some of the smallest residences in the world — some as unbelievably tiny as a standard parking lot — this fact alone distinguishes the Andre Fu-designed property from its closest competitors.
Starting from 730 sq ft for a standard Studio 70 room and upwards of 1,960 sq ft for a Penthouse accommodation, the ‘wow’ factor constantly hits you whenever you walk in.
“The Upper House has 117 rooms — including 21 suites and two penthouses — and features the largest hotel accommodations in all of Hong Kong.”
As its name suggests, the style and design of the hotel is to bring you up, up and away from the moment you step into the ginger verbena-scented lobby. Barely a minute after I arrived — following a seamless airport pickup in a House car (a sleek black BMW X3) — I was whisked up an escalator centered within a circular bamboo enclosure known as ‘The Lantern’, then a lift, to the 42nd floor and into my studio.
Edward Tang, the Assistant Director of Guest Experience, candidly welcomed me in with a “This room is bigger than my apartment,” comment that made me chuckle, before giving me an introduction to my abode and checking me in via iPad. Though I’d stayed at the hotel some years ago, it felt like I was looking out the right-angled windows — a signature feature of the property and the JW Marriott’s located in the lower floors of the building — with fresh eyes.
“As its name suggests, the style and design of the hotel is to bring you up, up and away from the moment you arrive.”
With crème oak timber panels, limed oak flooring, green tea upholstery, and wood grain sandstone sculptures, the aesthetic and ambience were inviting and visually pleasing. One of my favourite things about my room — featured in every single one in the hotel — was the lounge area framed by the windows. Something about the perpendicular layout drew me to the area over and over again throughout my stay. Perhaps because on one side, I could gaze at the city landscape laid out in its haphazard grid-like manner and punctuating skyscrapers; and on the other, I could appreciate my private space spread out from a king-sized cloud-like bed, to the working/pantry area, and to a small foyer. A sweet spot, if you will.
Not forgetting the massive, monochromatic bathroom, which the staff always made a point to close its sliding entrance door off before a guest first walked into his or her room. And with good reason. The area itself is almost as big as the bedroom, with proportioned enclosures for the closet and dressing space, toilet and adjacent double sinks — all of which are situated behind the limestone-clad bathtub and walk-in rain shower. In other words, the whole area deserved the build-up of anticipation.
Like the sleeping area, the bathroom had the same perpendicular panoramic views. With the bath and shower facing out, it was therefore necessary for the automated blinds to come down every so often. Guests were wryly reminded of this two-way fact with a “Sneaky Peaky” sign — a detail I found funny and charming.
Conceived as more home than a hotel, The Upper House is where one of my all-time favourite public spaces in all of Hong Kong is located at, and that is ‘The Lawn’. Almost always secluded whenever I dropped by late at night, wide steps flanked by greenery and candles lead to a lush, grassed area where guests can enjoy cocktails while reclining in bean bags or chairs under the sun or stars.
Another venue that fostered the same calmness and serenity was the Sky Lounge on the 49th floor — the same level as the in-house Café Gray Deluxe restaurant and Bar. A smaller-than-average event space but just as intimate, the space is decorated in soft green tea hues and mineral blue and constantly lit by natural light and a centrepiece fireplace.
“Conceived as more home than hotel, The Upper House is where one of my all-time favourite public spaces in all of Hong Kong is located at, and that is ‘The Lawn’.”
On the opposite end of the Sky Lounge, guests can make their way across a 40-meter high sky bridge to the aforementioned Café Gray, where I had the pleasure of dining at one evening. Showcasing both harbour and island views, the vibrant restaurant also houses a 14-meter long open kitchen and bar, semi-private dining areas and a private room.
Settling in for what the restaurant called an ‘Early Supper’ treat, I had the option of a three-course menu or a ‘Revitalising’ menu, the latter of which was vegan, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, sustainably sourced wherever possible, and “created with guests’ well-being in mind”.
Named after Head Chef Gray Kunz, the restaurant offers modern European fare using local, organic and seasonal ingredients. The ‘Early Supper’ menu, in particular, is a lovely way to sample Chef Kunz’s weekly pick of fresh seafood, vegetables, and meats.
Going with the ‘Early Supper’ menu, our meal began with the appetisers — a chilled beef shank with a spiced soy dressing, topped off with leek confit and chillies, as well as a curried red lentil soup, cumin yogurt and papadum. The soup was extra flavourful and thoroughly delicious.
For entrées, we shared a pan-seared sea bream with harissa dressing, bell peppers and cauliflowers, and a veal blanquette with carrots, parsley roots, tarragon, and chives. Steeped in a foamy sauce, the veal preparation with its scrumptious blend of vegetables and herbs complemented the meat beautifully and heartily. Compliments too to the chef for the harissa dressing that, in my humble opinion, made the fish dish.
Last but not least, dessert consisted of a ‘floating island’ elderflower anglaise with stewed berries, and a bitter chocolate and cherry dome. I’m not a dessert person by any means but the slightly tangy yet sweet custard was wholly palatable the rich cake divine. To top it off, we were served milk and dark chocolate mendiants with coffee and tea.
The ultimate cachet of The Upper House is the fact that the property embodies the true meaning of an urban retreat. It is not a meeting point for the swarms of tourists that descend upon Hong Kong in droves, but rather a sanctuary for those that prefer privacy and seclusion in a luxurious setting. With impeccable service to boot — a 10 out of 10 in my book — staying at ‘Yat Goi’ (Cantonese for ‘Upper House’) is an escape that will stay with you long after checking out.
Where: The Upper House, Hong Kong (A Member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts)
Pacific Place, 88, Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2918 1838
Note– The critic was invited by The Upper House, Hong Kong. But all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.