For a first meal back in Hong Kong, Grissini fits the bill – as it does at any time. Pretty amazing that this restaurant in Grand Hyatt Hong Kong has been here since the hotel opened in 1989. It was the idea of Frank Ansel who, with Bernd Chorengel, decided that yet another boring old grill was just too commonplace.
There were no Italian restaurants in Hong Kong hotels other than a pizzeria in the Kowloon hotel, then owned by Peninsula. All the more reason, say A and BC, to do an Italian restaurant. Now they are two a penny, says the gal, who has just flown in (the plane-door meeting service at the airport, she says, is brilliant). And once again she is so happy to be back in a Grand Hyatt.
Enter Grissini, on the second floor of the 570-room hotel, and you are greeted by this fabulous aroma of fresh-baked grissini. Here they are big and plump, as if blown up by hot air. And long, nearly 2.5 feet in length. Dip one into Ardoino olive oil (the same brand that Alain Ducasse uses) and you wonder if you want any food. But of course you do.
Right now chef Andrea Fraire has a promotion of Australian and Italian black truffles running. August will be homage to Sicily. As evening falls we look out, across what is left of Victoria Harbour to Tsimshatsui on the mainland, the Kowloon side. The tall building to the left is the famous 480m-high, 118-floor ICC building that houses the world’s tallest hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, plus W Hong Kong and lots of offices and Kowloon Station for the Airport Express.
The evening progresses. Our choice, chosen with the help of Barbara from Argentina – but Italian descent, she says with a Pavarotti lilt – was Genovese. Bliss oh bliss, this is a restaurant that does not, once you have chosen what you actually WANT to eat, then fill you up, first, with things that THE CHEF wants you to eat anyway (don’t we all hate those ‘amuse’ bites?). Anyway, rirst came Burrata fresca pugliese con pomodori canditi e gocce di pesto Genovese,
Fresh burrata from Puglia, tomato confit and Genova basil pesto. Main course was Treccine di farina di castagne al pesto Genovese con potate e fagiolini, Home-made chestnut flour pasta with Genova basic pesto, potato and green beans. Our half-eaten grissini, wrapped in a white napkin, was replaced by a baking hot new lot.
We drank Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore 2010, and watched a gathering storm. One had to have dessert, say Tiramisu, or a glass jar holding Panna cotta all’espresso con amaretti e gelato alle mandorle, espresso panna cotta, amaretti biscuits, almond milk gelato, amaretti espuma.
Enough eating for the first meal. Up in room 1217, a double-size room shaped like an opened-up L, art abounds. The two longest walls are both all-wall window, with those incredible views. Look down on the west side and you can see the next phase of reclamation, which will see direct connection between Central and Causeway Bay.
Look around, in the room. New designs by Bar Studio include framed prints, unframed prints under the glass on a side-table console, and serious books on Hong Kong’s history. You even have sculpture, in the form of the elaborate brass bathroom fittings.
Go out in your corridor and there are all-wall old prints at either end. At the apex by the elevator block a shape stands, a kind of bowl. When this luxury hotel opened, its original Bilkey Llineas designs were earth-shattering. Go and see the Grand Hyatt, everyone exclaimed.
It is still the favourite for many who do not want to be right on top of a shopping mall, and for lovers of the views, and for health addicts who love moving into the spa rooms on the eleventh, Plateau, floor, where saunas give you all-wall windows for TV (That View).
The 24-hour Technogym is also on that floor, looking through bamboos into an inner garden which leads to the 150-foot heated outdoor pool. There are also squash and tennis, two of each, though how anyone can play either in this heat is a mystery.
Wait for the elevator on the eleventh floor and you spy three ceramic frogs, by local artist Emma Chan Suet Ha. The black and white nature photos around here are by Vera Mercer, whose 144 random café shots line the upper walls of Girandole in Park Hyatt Tokyo.
900 students of Macquarie University are graduating today so the imposing two-floor lobby here at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong is even more full than usual. A book fair is taking place in the adjacent convention centre, so that adds further to scenes of business.
The sensible book a Club room at this luxury hotel, for the peace and quiet of the 31st floor lounge. Enter via the 30th floor lobby, where yes, they not only find a hole-punch but say borrow it as long as you like, leave it in the room…
Back in the room, there was a note from the concierge reminding about the return of a MacBook Pro charger, which they had not only miraculously stocked but volunteered immediately to have waiting for my arrival.
And waiting outside was one of the hotel’s black London taxis, from The London Taxi Company, numbered GHHK1. We tootled off, more than keeping up with the traffic around. On to the next place, gal.
(Memo to those arriving in Hong Kong in future, bring layer clothes, natural fabrics, and flat shoes for walking. Buy an oyster card, which has a refundable HK$50 deposit, and if you need anything at all, from suitcase through to, well, a new file-system compendium head for Wing On.)