By Chris Dwyer
Apr 12, 2021
FROM THE BEATLES TO BEYONCÉ and Princess Diana to Andy Warhol, pretty much every superstar passing through Hong Kong‘s Fragrant Harbour has walked its marble floors, taken in the legendary views—and maybe enjoyed a tipple or two in the famous watering holes.
Back when it opened in swinging 1963, the Mandarin Oriental hotel was the tallest building on the Hong Kong skyline. Today it may be dwarfed by towering skyscrapers, but it remains one of the city’s most beloved and storied places to stay. Thankfully those stop-you-in-your-tracks views have remained.
Never one to rest, however, the 494-key hotel has just opened two floors of new experiences, starting with the first ever Mandarin Club to grace the brand’s mothership.
Taking up 575 square meters of the 23rd floor, the “luxurious all-day retreat” offers dining throughout the day, a boardroom and concierge services, and it’s also where you check-in when staying in a room or suite with Mandarin Club access.
While other Mandarin Oriental properties have offered Club floors for years, you get the distinct impression that Hong Kong was just happy to wait for the perfect space to deliver their milestone transformation. Hence the entire floor with knockout views over the elegant neo-classical buildings of Statue Square, the maritime energy of Victoria Harbour, the angular shards of skyscrapers and the illuminated inside-out architecture of Norman Foster’s HSBC building.
But let’s get to the important details. If, like us, you’ve been known to choose a hotel’s Club floor based largely on the bubbles served at cocktail hour, you’ll be glad to know that the Mandarin Club offers two hours of free-flow Ruinart, no less—not to mention a tempting trolley of G&Ts, negronis and more.
Pre-dinner cocktail hours see the Club at its most animated, thanks also to a fabulous spread of food that we were happy to let ruin our appetite for dinner. Whether your canapé weakness is barbecued cha siu pork pastries, aromatic fish balls or decadent cheese platters, the Club has you covered… and then some, thanks to the hotel’s multiple Michelin-starred restaurants pitching in.
Of course, generous breakfast spreads, all-day snacks and decadent afternoon teas are also all included, meaning that you could choose one of their plush seats, be they in the lounge or dedicated dining area, and never need to move. (Ahem.)
A number of high-brow Hong Kong venues seem to have issues enforcing dress codes, so we were happy to see the Mandarin Club fly the old-school flag for decorum—including a ‘no shorts’ policy—especially when many guests make an effort to dress up at cocktail hour.
As they had just opened, there were understandably a couple of small, easily rectifiable teething issues: a slightly watery bowl of laksa noodles and the need for more newspapers over a busy weekend breakfast service.
The single biggest challenge we faced, however, was pulling ourselves away from our jaw-dropping accommodation, the frankly outstanding four-room Macau Suite. I could have used the binoculars, thoughtfully placed by the window in the living room to capture stunning vistas outside, to find my wife in another part of our accommodation.
From the six-seater dining room with graceful décor inspired by a colonial Portuguese home to a private butler on call, cutting edge-tech to the sight and sound of an automatic Toto toilet lid lifting, it was truly a remarkable place to lay one’s head, and a very difficult spot to leave.
But leave we did as the hottest new spot in town—The Aubrey—was also on the program. Up on the hotel’s top floor, it’s what the MO and partner Maximal Concepts call an “eccentric izakaya” with three distinctive bar experiences and Japanese cuisine. And it’s quite the trip.
You enter through a corridor lined with art inspired by early 20th-century Japanism, head through traditional noren curtains and discover a true playground for the senses, a venue that celebrates Hong Kong’s reputation as a cultural crossroads—while also giving an undeniable nod to the Mandarin Oriental’s iconic heritage.
In a very 2021 homage to The Queen’s Gambit, the Main Bar offers a highball and chuhai cocktail menu inspired by chess, as crafted by drinks maestro Devender Sehgal. The affable and popular Indian formerly led the beverage program at Michelin-three-starred Otto e Mezzo Bombana and clearly relishes his new home.
To one side, an omakase cocktail bar wows with its range of Japanese whiskies and spirits, a selection of amber and gold liquids contrasting against The Aubrey’s moody and sexy dark interiors, once evening falls. Seating just four, it promises to take guests on a Japanese journey with bespoke drinks crafted to your taste with seasonal produce. Sign us up and belt us in!
As you continue to wander and discover, the Aubrey’s mood changes once again in the plant-filled conservatory. It’s where antique tarnished mirrors join collections of Japanese curios, all to discover as you sip champagnes and sparkling sakes in true style while kicking back to eclectic tunes from a DJ.
In a welcome break from most multi-room dining venues, the culinary thinking at The Aubrey is that you can eat any dish from the menu, anywhere. Chef Yukihito Tomiyama and team ensure that elegant, elevated bento boxes, raw, tempura and robata menus all reflect a dedication to the best seasonal ingredients from sea to soil.
Brilliantly conceived and undeniably quirky, The Aubrey is all the more remarkable as the designers Silverfox Studios never saw the space in person: Thanks to you-know-what over the past year-plus, everything was designed remotely.
Both The Aubrey and The Mandarin Club—in addition to the hotel’s redesigned Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, Man Wah—undeniably represent a bold move for Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. But even the old guard needs to evolve to keep up with the new. Or, in this case, to stay way atop the luxe-hotel heap. And, no, that’s not just the free-flow Ruinart talking.
A Club Escape room package is priced from HK$5,880 per night and includes:
* Club Floor Accommodation
* Off-menu tasting for two at Man Wah
* One signature cocktail for two at The Aubrey
* Late check-out until 6:00 p.m.
* 30 percent off the best available rate for the second consecutive night
* Access to The Mandarin Club privileges
All photos courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong