By Kee Foong
Apr 5, 2021
FEW NEIGHBORHOODS CAPTURE HONG KONG’S contrasts better than Wan Chai. East meets west, hip juxtaposes with historic, grit sits next to glitz, and dozens of bathroom renovation stores flank The Hari. The city’s newest luxury hotel has opened in a commercial and entertainment hub, but in an offbeat street that’s the go-to for taps, tiles, toilets and sundry other bath supplies.
It’s a bold, visionary and slightly crazy move amid a pandemic by the family-run Harilela Group, which also owns The Hari in London. Though targeted at business travelers, this isn’t your typical bland chain, but a whimsically stylish property designed by British interior designer Tara Bernerd, with enough cool cred to draw in the locals while we wait for borders to reopen, and puts this quirky patch between Wan Chai and Causeway Bay in the spotlight.
Arriving at the hotel, I’m taken by the colorful, upscale yet homey aesthetic, with plenty of texture and details to satisfy influencers and global nomads alike. Playful digital lightboxes by Korean artist Lee Lee Nam greet me at the entrance lift, one of many vivid contemporary artworks found throughout the hotel. Staff are friendly and helpful, and remain so for the brief duration of my stay.
I’ve scored big time, with an upgrade to the hotel’s rooftop Hari Suite, 80 square meters of bright and airy loveliness. There are just three suites, all of similar layout and size, in the 210-room hotel, and mine boasts the most coveted corner position. After scoping out the living room (powerful sound system), bedroom (super-king-sized bed), and marble-clad bathroom (yay for the double vanity and bathtub!), I slide open the glass doors to a gorgeous 12-meter terrace that runs the length of the suite.
The view is a showstopper: in-your-face glass and steel towers; Victoria Harbour and Kowloon appearing between skyscrapers; and the Peak to the west, for stunning sunsets. Peer 30 floors down if you dare, to catch the comings and goings of a city in motion; the coronavirus might keep people at home, but the buzz of this dynamic metropolis never stops.
Now, I know most of you won’t get to stay in a suite, but many of the same details can be found in the cosy rooms, which range from 25- to 30-square-meters. Chief among them, the dreamy Mühldorfer bedding and linen, plush Kashwere robes that pass the #bathrobemafia test, and walk-in shower with a one-touch button that’s so simple, it’s genius. The hotel also provides Nordaq filtered water in-room, instead of imported and plastic-bottled water.
Premium corner rooms, with floor to ceiling windows on two sides, are best if you can’t swing a suite, and the higher the floor, the better the view. Blue leather doors, wooden floors, jazzy rugs, two-seater sofas, fabric headboards and tasteful art complete the urban and urbane picture.
Occupancy may be low, but The Hari’s two restaurants are running hot. Zoku is the slinky Japanese option, with its origami-like ceiling, and caramel leather and red velvet booths setting the scene for sake-fuelled deals or romantic liaisons. Phillip Pak’s Nobu-esque menu (he worked with the celebrity chef) is a crowd-pleaser – wagyu dumplings, yellowtail sashimi, shrimp tempura, miso cod – and the toro, uni and caviar hand roll topped with gold leaf is worth a splurge. Kudos, too, to the bucket-sized gin martinis, an increasing rarity in this town. Zoku was awaiting the licence for its catwalk terrace when I stayed, but is sure to be popular when it opens.
With its green marble bar, tessellated floor tiles, brass chandeliers and wraparound leather banquette, Lucciola feeds the eyes and your social media as much as your hunger. Chef Francesco Gava hails from Piedmont, but his food tours around Italy: tender vitello tonnato from his home region; creamy burrata from Puglia; and baked scampi that reminds me of lazy lunches in Positano. The cavatelli with crab, butter, lemon, saffron and chili is the pick of the pastas, and save room for the wickedly good tiramisu. Ask to have dessert in the adjoining Lounge, full of beautiful art and coffee table books, and a great spot to linger until cocktail hour.
Facilities are limited, though there is a compact fitness center. Better yet, stretch your legs outside, for treasure awaits those willing to explore. The convention center – home not just to trade fairs, but also the likes of Art Basel – is a straight shot across an overpass. The Wan Chai Heritage Trail starts less than five minutes’ walk from the hotel, taking in shophouses, tenement buildings and the atmospheric Pak Tai temple. And the eccentric female villain-hitters, who have set up shop under a busy overpass, can curse and exact revenge on your enemies while beating offerings with a slipper. Only in Hong Kong.
Then there are the many excellent restaurants nearby, including a slew of Chinese eateries worth a detour: Michelin-starred Kam’s Roast Goose; foodie favorite Kins’ Kitchen; Seventh Son for suckling pig; Xin Rong Ji for delectable Peking duck; Honolulu Cafe for flaky egg tarts; and the list goes on… Do check out Bowrington Road, which has a fascinating wet market and a halal Cantonese restaurant hidden in the cooked food centre.
For international cuisine, there are the likes of 22 Ships for terrific tapas and Basque cheesecake, Associazone Chianti for a mean Bistecca alla Fiorentina and Italian-style butter chicken, and Jean May, one of the new wave of French bistros winning over local palates. Roganic, by celebrated chef Simon Rogan, is an easy stroll away. Recipient of the first and only green star awarded by Michelin in Hong Kong, the restaurant champions new British cuisine, while sourcing much of its ingredients locally. Its truffle pudding, grilled salad, and Guinness ice cream are modern classics.
Back on my suite’s terrace, I savor a nightcap among the city’s lights. The buildings are almost close enough to touch. Rather than feel hemmed in, I’m thrilled to be enmeshed in the energy of Hong Kong, noise and all. While some of the most luxurious hotels can be as much fortress as sanctuary, The Hari, starting with its street frontage, engages directly with the neighborhood. If being connected to the city’s pulse appeals, it makes for a great base.
thehari.com/hong-kong; doubles from HK$1,400.