From my seat I have a Bird’s eye view of Hong Kong. All around me, thick windows keep the morning heat at bay, but not the sunlight, which floods the restaurant and lights up the muted tones of the beige leather chairs, plush blue sofas and dark wooden tables.
Patrons clad in well fitted suits or the casual wear of tourists are busy at their brunch. The sound of clinking cutlery drowns out conversations and the smell of coffee, fresh omelettes and warm pastries adds to the relaxed atmosphere and opens my appetite. Outside the windows, I lose myself for a few minutes in the view of Victoria Bay. I watch the slow crawl of the boats over the water and the morning sun dancing on the skyscrapers until a playful ray of light, reflected from my friend’s earring, catches my attention and brings me back inside the Upper House’s restaurant.
Don’t you love daydreaming? It’s a guilty pleasure we indulge in for half of our day and in the case of yours truly, that figure is a gross understatement. It can’t be healthy to have your head in the clouds so often. And after my latest visit to Hong Kong, to the Upper House more specifically, whenever I indulge in a daydream, I always seem to escape there… it’s an obsession. Realy. And there’s good reason for that.
POETRY MADE MANIFEST
Located by Hong Kong’s Admiralty district and in the last 10 floors of the Pacific Place Complex, the Upper House, is made for the tech savvy traveller after something,… a little different.
A designer hotel with a 117 room count, the Upper House eschews the whimsical looks that usually come with the “designer hotel” tag and distinguishes itself with an individualised experience no different from a boutique hotel. It’s an interesting middle ground which it has made its own.
Exquisitely designed by Andre Fu, the concept is that of a journey into the skies. It’s a poetic idea, one that you’ll truly understand when walking the streets of Hong Kong on a summer day.
The humidity wraps around you like cling film, the air is thick enough that you can taste it, and every step towards air conditioning, feels like it’s taking way too much… time… to finally… get there.
But once you’re past the doors of the Pacific Place complex, the cling film unwinds, plops to the floor and is expelled far from your thoughts by the cool air. By the time you’re in the elevator, you’re in a different state of mind. First you feel the reassuring tug and then woosh, you’re whisked away high above the streets of Hong Kong and into another world.
SKY’S THE LIMIT
Even though the Upper House is a designer hotel by local wunderkid Andre Fu and other big name friends, it doesn’t scream that fact in your face, instead preferring to let its sober but elegant looks win you over.
With the design and artistic world contributing to Fu’s vision, there is a sense of transcendence within these walls. Fu takes you on an upward journey where every step of the ladder (or hotel floor, for the more practical among you) is there to contribute to a story.
A light well shines a halo of light from above – on the ceiling- and bathes the hotel in sunlight, transforming the interiors of bamboo, marble and velvet, into something, close to ethereal.
There’s art too, and a lot of it.
Contemporary Asian artists (and Olympics collaborator Thomas Heatherwick) bring their touch to the interiors and help make the Upper House a haven of relaxation in the skies where Asian art and philosophy are expressed in design, for the pleasure of the gods… And by gods, I mean tech savvy road warriors making use of the hotel’s ideal location by the CBD and who are completely comfortable leaving pen and paper behind in their daily transactions.
Check in is done via Ipad, check out via a simple email (should you choose) and in room amenities handled via an Ipod touch. Even your airport transfer, is done in a hybrid lexus or BMW, to prove that the hotel doesn’t just embrace the future, but is already well into it.
One caveat (or two) is the lack of spa or pool amenities. While that may be considered a turn off, I’m more inclined to call it a tradeoff because they’ve put that extra space where it counts…
In a crowded city such as Hong Kong, luxury often means more space.
As other Hong Kong hotels before it, the Upper House offers majestic views over Hong Kong, but unlike other hotels, there’s a lot more space from which to soak it all in. Standard rooms are practically like suites with sizes starting at 67 sqm (which is incredible in this crowded city) and offer complimentary espresso machines and mini bar for your convenience.
Coming home to one of these rooms is something you’ll catch yourself looking forward to, and even though there’s IPTV and movies on demand that allow you to watch anything that catches your fancy, the views of the city from those floor to ceiling windows will no doubt be holding your attention much longer.
THE STUFF OF DREAMS
Remember my daydreams? well i’m getting to the source of them now.
The Upper House has one dining option, the Café Gray Deluxe, with the cosmopolitan Chef Gray Kunz at the helm, whose resume includes the Peninsula New York, the Regent Hong Kong an induction into the Restaurant Hall of Fame and a wealth of global experience.
Formerly a Michelin- starred eat, the restaurant’s menu is excellent and diverse enough to be the hotel’s only one, but though what’s in your plate is tantalizing, the show is sometimes stolen by the eclectic mix of personalities that you’ll find there, and of course, the exceptional view over Victoria Bay which is the best backdrop for breakfast that you can hope for.
The restaurant is annexed to the Café Gray Bar and though there are other watering holes in Hong Kong much flashier than this one, once you’re sat behind the 14 metre stone bar (again, odiously large for Hong Kong) with the view of Kowloon in the dwindling light behind you, I doubt you’ll actually care. Be warned though, it gets packed during weekends, and though it’s great to mingle, those who like to hear themselves think will love the fact that the hotel has kept a nice little card in its pocket to surprise its guests.
CHERRY ON THE VERY TALL CAKE
On the hotel’s 6th floor, is a little gem that you will struggle to find in Hong Kong and that symbolises what makes this hotel something special. Amid the skyscrapers, is The Lawn, a miniature garden where guests can sip on a cocktail or nibble on garden bites surrounded by manicured hedges and flowers.
The space is very small, but it’s a sign of how the Upper House aims to provide something different for its guests, something that transcends the usual and delivers luxury by giving you something unique. I can’t wait to go back next time i’m in town, but in my mind’s eye, i’m already there.