AWAY-NIGHT dreaming at Hong Kong Ritz Carlton

First thing, on entering room 11225, is to rush across its 13m depth to stand at the far wall (all window, from a cream marble ledge about 30cm up), put one’s arms up and say ‘now I am a bird’, or the statue of Christ the Redeemer, above Rio.  Down there, far far below me in Gulliver style from my 112th floor eyrie, is the miniature city that is Hong Kong.  But to my amazement, being nearly at the top of the highest hotel in the world is not unsettling… 


I had arrived, whisked in a black Mercedes through an impressive Disney-type time machine of a driveway, winding up through an interior route, with occasional bursts of immaculate greenery and fountains, to the ‘ground floor’ of the hotel. This is actually on level 9 of the giant ICC (International Commerce Centre) complex that soars a mind-boggling 490m to 118 floors, above Kowloon station. Sun Hung Kai’s development, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox architects, also includes the 393r W Hong Kong, offices that are home to Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, and the Elements brand-centric retail mall. At the hotel’s glass doors, set in a soaring glass wall by sleek-tall staff, in black, or grey skirt-suits, name-tags exactly horizontal. I was escorted through a grey and silver lobby, highlighted by purple flowers, to a marble-damask elevator cabin that soared up, in 52 seconds flat, up past the ICC offices to the 312r hotel’s 103rd floor main lobby.  Here you walk across a muted orange and brown cross-way to another bank of elevators (here, with alligator-skin walls – the hotel’s interior designer is Su Seam Teo, to take you up to bedrooms, or the 118th floor entertainment rooftop.  At the 112th floor, we, including escorts, took an impressive, intimate, multi-angle corridor, with brown-cloud carpeting matching brown walls and some illuminated inset art, to suite 11225.


The door is opened by sensor pad: interestingly, it is the left, not the usual right, side of the double door that opens (on its inside, the safety map shows my whole suite coloured orange, rather than the stuck-on colour button that is often the norm). I look straight into the parlor, with a 1/2 bath immediately to my right – this whole area is 4.75m wide. One third of the length of the wall to my left is a door leading to another area, 13m x 4.75m.  Looking in from the door, to my immediate left is the walk-in closet area, ahead is the bathroom, to the right is the bedroom. The whole suite is carpeted in deep pile, beige background with a brown-bordered old-gold and grey abstract raised pattern. Curtains are a self-coloured beige mottled silk. Most walls are mottled Anegre wood, or dark mirror, or, behind the sofa (far end, salon right wall) mirror-backed wood fret. Much of the salon’s left wall is a recessed mottled marble holding the 120cm LG screen, a Nespresso Gemini C5 machine with white Reynaud cups with an abstract scarlet black-haired woman motif, the minibar – Billecart-Salmon and Sunraysia – and a deep red Kenwood LeMix kettle. One of the drawers has a 375ml bottle of the house red, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Castello Banfi 2005.  Glasses are Lucaris. The iPod has on its reverse ‘belong to Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’.


The investment in quality everywhere is breathtaking. Cream snakeskin leather covers the arms and base of a 3-person cream sofa, with complementary mid-wood chair and footstool. The swivel desk chair is mushroom leather.  A low-set 1.5m round coffee table, of highly-polished tiger wood, has an 80cm-square wood chess set on its base level: its glass-topped upper layer bears a 60cm-long green oval glass bowl with fruits, orchid flowers and bamboo stalks. The white Narumi plate holds a cream Casa Rovea napkin, and Sambonet cutlery, and a slate holds 5 perfect, bit-sized tarts, each holding, say, one enormous blackberry.  Next to this is the epitomal coffee table tome, Hong Kong, The Classic Age, by Peter Moss. Another, square, table holds a delicate wood box, about 9x9x6 cm, holding a silver-handled inner tray, with home made chocolates on tray and base. The closet area has heavy hangers on 2 rails, and low-set suede-lined drawers, one of which has the top-opening safe. Floors and walls of the bathroom are grey-flecked sandy marble, with big white mats. A pair of rectangular Kohler basins, with lever-operated single taps, are set in a 3m-long translucent-cream marble.  The deep tub at the end of room is adjacent to an all-wall window, looking down across at the tiny HK Convention Centre. There are Acqua di Parma toiletries, and bamboo stalks in a glass vase, and a mirror-set television screen at the tub’s foot.  Towels are rolled to reveal the Ritz logo, grey with gold embroidered outlines: gold-coloured bathroom supplies are in a golden box • The bed, with a ceiling-high gold leather headboard, would look uninterruptedly across to Hong Kong Island were it not for another massive LG screen atop a metre-high bureau, which also bears Bowers & Wilkins sound.  As you lie down on your Restful Nights linens, the far left corner of the room has been pushed out, so to speak, to introduce an acute angle, which has cushions either side atop the marble ledge. A standing 20-60x zoom telescope looks out at the angle.  This room also has a silver-grey leather covered wood-base day bed.  A lithograph is the one artwork, here.  Back in the salon, there is another lithograph, and an illuminated 60cm-diameter celadon plate, behind glass.  To the right of the chairman-serious desk bookshelves hold The Travel Book, Chinese Houses and Gosling’s Classic Design for Contemporary Interiors. The desk bears orchids, and a pair of scissors: a black silk box in one drawer holds office supplies, and an adaptor.


I go back to the elevator lobby. A peripheral light the entire C-shape of the appropriate door lights when that elevator approaches (so much better than the single-light that many hotels have).  I notice there is no 104th or 114th floor (4 = bad luck).  I head to the 116th floor spa. Reception is a ballet of caramel-clad personnel behind a back-lit caramel counter, wrapped around behind is dark brown, walls and wood floor. I am asked to fill out all my home details, despite the fact the hotel knows inhouse guests’ data.  I am taken into a modern maze, a curving-zigzag walkway, that drops me off at the ladies’ changing (programme-your-own safe-lock locker, put on the mustard robe inside), the ladies’ relax (lie on a zigzag bed under a cashmere blanket until your therapist comes). Along more curved walkways, Indra from Nepal takes me to a brown room with matching bed towels.  Instead of lowering the blind, she leaves the all-wall end window uncovered, as requested. I have a last look at the clouds and close my eyes, for an hour of undisputable ESPA bliss.  Next I head to the 118th, top, floor, for a good Technogym workout, with Power Plate.  I look out into a deck walkway, with small green trees.  The retaining glass ‘fence’ is fortunately about 6m high, but it is open to the sky.  Behind me on the machines, assorted groups of mainland weekenders stroll past, some in towel robes. Lying on the floor for stretches, I can look up at the mirrored ceiling – developers please note, all gyms should have mirrored ceilings. Then I follow those towel robes, to the adjacent 20m, mosaic tile-lined indoor pool.  One end has 5 pale-grey Dedon-type loungers in 10cm of water and, behind, a 5m wall of LED panels, which stretches over the ceiling of the whole, shows an ever-changing view of exotic fish swimming, or a distant beach. I try the 2 inside non-hot tubs and the gloriously-hot outdoor tub, wrap a blue towel round me and head for home.


Dinner is on the 102nd floor.  Tosca, named in tribute to the old Ritz-Carlton’s Toscana, is not exactly understated.  You could, but would not, say SPIN’s design is ‘bling’, though some corridors with bright orange dayglo lines are pretty near it. The room is double height, with working wine walls to hold some of the 10,000-bottle stock (the hotel is desperately short of storage) and an upper gallery that is the Chocolate Library lounge. The main floor, with beige-brown-plume stone or carpet floor areas, has a central open kitchen raised a metre so you can fully see the white-toqued brigade, with a prominent Berkel slicer, in action. We sit, near a pale turquoise working fountain, at a table with grey linens, and plum and clear glass show and side plates, a small flower display and elegant low candle sleeve. Our amuse is espresso cups of beetroot, tomato purée with bread bits.  I smile at my starter.  Here I am at the restaurant highest off the ground, worldwide, eating chef Vittorio Lucariello’s Panuozzo, a strip of pizza bread covered with seasonal veggies.  I go on to Spaghetti pomodori with buffalo ricotta, continue with grilled cuttlefish on an onion cake. We drink Banfi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino. I would come back for more, any time – 80% diners are from outside and there is a 3-month waitlist.


Afterwards, we walk through the Chinese restaurant, and the Chocolate Library, and take another elevator to Ozone, the 118th floor bar-lounge-tapas venue (it is believed to be churning in mega-millions, in US$). Every table, bar counter and most standing space is taken. Down at main level, the one-and-only Cassam Gooljarry, Châine guru, consul of Gabon etc etc, is also leaving (we must have lunch…)   I head to bed, to find the day comforter off, and a card, ‘In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’.  Tomorrow is rain, temperature 28-32.   I leave the drapes open, to be awaken by sunrise, but, alas, awake to whiteness. Clouds have descended. Back up in the gym, I watch rain sheeting down on that outdoor terrace • My bathroom shower has big rainforest, and handheld, faucets, the bathsheets are big enough for a sumo.  In the 24-hour, 116th floor club lounge, Phoebe in her grey suit looks like a Mad Men star, with equal poise. She explains the outstanding coffee, Gaffeo (founded 1935 in San Francisco) and presses me to try what she says is excellent jam, by Brussels-based Royal. I sit at a polished wood table laid with soft purple linens and white china. The juice, the smoked salmon individually portioned in preserving jars, so much is superlative, though I wonder why there are no berries.  I print out boarding cards, read the current Financial Times, enjoy the calm of the soft bamboo-coloured ambience, and admire how newspapers and books are stored in an open leather travelling trunk. Oh there are so many materials here – Ecolab was brought in, to help housekeeping on cleaning.


Gm (and rvp) Mark DeCocinis has been here 5 years, watching the hotel grow.  Looking back, two months after opening, the only thing he would like to change is back-of-house space. More manpower has been added, to give a total 520 employees, and only 4 of the building’s 88 elevators are for service, with one for laundry, moved at night (only guest laundry is done inhouse) • In case of emergency, evacuation is down to the nearest fireproof holding point, on half-floors above floors 102, 77, 47 and 11, where blankets, food and water are stored.   At all times, all staff, even housekeeping, are PDA-linked so that hiccups are identified, shared and, one hopes, solved in minutes • The Mercedes awaited. A deputation of smiling professionals was waiting to say goodbye.  With the audio support of Lady Gaga we glided away, back down that Disney-type approach tunnel, and I realised that thankfully no-one, throughout my stay, had said ‘MY pleasure’ but I knew it was so, continuously. Ritz-Carlton has moved with the times, and grown up with style.

Mary Gostelow, Girlahead