The top association of historic hotels meets in Honolulu next week (November 1-3, 2016). Question, what does that word historic mean? Are they simply old, or have they kept themselves relevant to today’s world? One hotel that fits into that category, says the gal, is Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, which has such 21st century necessities as a light and airy casual dining venue, Causette, pictured above. When the hotel was built in 1963, however, it would have been much more a caviar and Champagne story, and yes, of course there is a need, and a market, for caviar, especially here in Hong Kong.
To test the demand for beluga and its mates, I toured Great Food Hall, in the basement of Pacific Place, ten minutes’ walk from this lovely hotel. This food emporium, which claims to have 6,000 gourmet products, is owned by Hutchinson Whampoa, via A.S. Watson, so there is a Watson’s Fine Wines section. There are also Duchy Original goods, produced by the Prince of Wales’ estates in UK and distributed by Waitrose. What I found really encouraging, however, were the displays of fresh healthy juices and fruits, a sign that Hong Kong is taking wellness seriously (sadly, there was no time on this visit to do my beloved usual work-out, a quick trip up the Old Peak Road to the top of the funicular train, to see if there were even more people similarly exerting themselves).
Walking back to Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong I came through Hong Kong Park, behind and on top of Pacific Place. Oh what fun. There is now a giant umbrella-shaped cascade fountain that I do not remember before. A lot of people, of all ages and nationalities, were hooting with laughter as they rushed in through the single gap in the cascade – one small tot missed the opening completely and was immediately totally soaked, and fortunately his mother saw the funny side of it too. As I walked back I tried to think how many times I have laughed in Hong Kong, in public, before, and I just got on to my second hand.
I laughed again when I got back to the island’s iconic luxury hotel. There was eternal Concierge, Giovanni Valenti, the Florentine who came here 1979 and never left (he invariably brings out a photo of us taken in the last century). But, as illustration that this 501-room beauty is not only historic – see some of its antiques, below – but also absolutely up to date, there too was the current top Concierge, Indira Pun, who had helped me beyond all call of duty when I needed to change a flight and discovered that British Airways in Hong Kong ‘does not work at weekends’ (and then Expedia, which does work 24/7, is so compartmentalised that Expedia Hong Kong cannot help with a reservation made out of UK). Why would anyone, I wonder again and again, want to stay in an Airbnb when only a great hotel, particularly one that has history combined with today, take care of one’s every need? SEE A GALLERY OF ANTIQUES BELOW