Hong Kong has no shortage of magnificent hotels – the Peninsula, the two Mandarin Orientals, the Four Seasons, the Island Shangri-la and the new Ritz Carlton with breathtaking views from 118 stories above the Harbour. Fortunately, Hong Kong can never have enough ultra-luxe hotels with the massive influx of high end travellers from the Mainland and all over Asia, in addition to Hong Kong’s traditional market of Europeans and Americans who were once the mainstay of the foremost hotels in the 80’s and 90’s.
In general if I have a choice, I prefer ultra-luxe boutique hotels, which tend to have more personalized service than huge hotels, for obvious reasons. I have been a devoted Amanjunkie since I first visited Amandari, Amanjiwo, Amanpuri and Amanpulo in the early 90’s when they first opened. I lived in Hong Kong during the colonial era from 1987-1994, and Hong Kong has always been about fabulous hotels. The early grandes dames, the Mandarin and the Peninsula, were where we locals hung out and met our friends for lunch/drinks/dinner when we weren’t at the Hong Kong Club and the China Club. But there has never been an Aman equivalent in Hong Kong People say to me “I am an Amanjunkie – where should I stay in Hong Kong?” and I never had a very good answer – until now.
What struck me first about Upper House was the art. I love Asian contemporary art and architecture, and I just got back from the jaw-dropping private art island of Naoshima in Japan, where you check into a hotel which is the equivalent of staying at New York’s MOMA. Upper House drew many parallels for me. Naoshima was designed by “starchitect” Tadao Ando whose goal is the perfect balance of light, sound, space, color and proportion. Upper House was designed by Andre Fu who has similar sensibilities. If you stay at Upper House you must buy his gorgeous coffee table book about all his work.
I walked into my Upper Suite and the first thing I saw was the Marvin Feng white stone on a stunning plinth in the entryway, called “Cacoon” and made of wood-grained sandstone. I notice the details of the installation, and it was clear that a huge amount of thought and time went into the design and the plinth and the lighting, which was very subtle and perfect. Upper House clearly hired a brilliant artistic eye to place the art, and I am very impressed.
I also had a stunning Gerald Bookle sculpture on the wall called “Bed of Roses” made of silk and wood. I spent a lot of timing enjoying this gorgeous artwork.
I had wrap-around windows on three sides and a stunning view of the Harbour. Both my living room and my bedroom were corners and had windows across both sides.
Most spectacular was my enormous bathroom in its own little wraparound glass niche with a massive bathtub in the middle and a large rain shower head. The suite is very well designed so you can go around in a circle and enter your living room followed by your bedroom and then your dressing room/bathrooms and then come straight out to the entryway – all without retracing your steps.
Upper House gives you snacks and FREE mini-bar so they do not nickel and dime you (only the premium wine/champagne bottles with strings around the necks are additional).
Café Grey Deluxe on the 49th floor helmed by world-class restaurateur Gray Kunz features superb western cuisine with Asian influence. It is always packed with local Hong Kong residents as well as astute travelers. You do not feel like a tourist when you dine there. The service in the restaurant, as well as throughout the hotel, is flawless.
Upper House has a well-equipped small gym. It does not have a pool or a spa facility, but you can get massages in your room if you wish so that serves the same purpose.
Not everyone notices this or even cares (although I do) but the Upper House logo is pretty much perfect. Logos are massively important and any high end hotel or company that doesn’t get their logo right will never achieve their full potential.
Company names are also critical and I love the name “Upper House” as well the sister hotels “Opposite House” in Beijing and the new “Temple House” in Chengdu. Upper House is a Swire hotel (part of the massive conglomerate that owns Cathay Pacific) which is known for being the ne plus ultra of quality. I have stayed in both Upper House and Opposite House (as of this writing Temple House has not yet opened) and was extremely impressed with the design, service, food and rooms in both.
I liked the location of Upper House. You are a 10 minute walk through the big Pacific Place mall to Central, or a 3 minute taxi ride. Also I am a runner and whether you want to run or go for a leisurely morning or evening walk, nothing can be better than going up to Bowen Road in Mid-Levels. Bowen Road is a narrow little path that wraps around the midsection of Hong Kong, in between Central and the Peak, and once you reach it you run or walk on a 10-foot wide walkway through the lush jungle, past waterfalls and Chinese Tai Chi classes and Filipinas walking Labradors and zillion dollar private pink mansions with Rolls Royces in the driveway. It is the real Hong Kong which I knew intimately when I lived there for 7 years back in my salad years before the Handover in 1997 changed everything. On the surface the Handover changed nothing for most people, but for me Hong Kong is a very different place now – and I love it just as much as ever.
All in all, I highly recommend Upper House for anyone who loves luxury boutique hotels or is an Amanjunkie. You will not be disappointed!