I never visited The Ritz Carlton in its previous incarnation in Hong Kong; it sadly closed its doors in 2008 just before I arrived from Switzerland, pushed out by rising rents. Its home-coming has been much delayed, originally promised in October 2010, it took until just a few weeks ago to open its doors again. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to check out the ultimate new staycation destination in town, and impressively, the world’s highest hotel!
First impressions really blow you away – as I knew that the hotel occupies the top floors of the ICC, I almost imagined it would be on more of a boutique hotel kind of scale, but this is serious business and with two huge lobbies (one on the ground floor, one on the 103rd floor), you can’t fail to be impressed, especially as your ears pop on the way up in the elevator! The staff are incredibly eager to accommodate – I have to give a shout to Jeff, who checked us in and then seemed to be our personal assistant throughout our stay, regularly checking in on how we were enjoying ourselves. Our room wasn’t ready when we first arrived, but a table at their Chinese restaurant, Tin Lung Heen, was magicked up for us, and we had our first real look at THAT VIEW. And wow, it’s hard not to repeat yourself by constantly commenting, “we are really high”, “wow, we’re so high up” etc., as the clouds scud across the windows in front of you and little tiny taxis wind their way around Kowloon way beneath you. The food at Tin Lung Heen was an absolute knock-out. We had some of the most delicious dim sum we’ve ever had, which is, just like the latest seasons of America’s Next Top Model, “elevated”. Not fusion though, that would be naff, but just the classics, done to absolute perfection. Har gau that melts in the mouth, spicy wontons that are light yet satisfying, and everything served with flawless precision. Best of all, we ate our fill and the bill came to less than HK400 for two of us – excellent value.
Before we headed up to our room, we checked out OZONE, the world’s highest bar, which on the 118th floor elicits more gasps of amazement as you press your nose against the glass. Semi-al fresco, parts of OZONE have the ceiling open to the sky, but wisely aren’t taking any chances with crazy, by having 12ft walls of glass protecting you from the outside. Funnily enough, it’s even a few degrees cooler up that high, which I’m sure will make it a very popular bar for summer. In fact, we wanted to go back up in the evening, but the queues to get in put us off…
The rooms are really gorgeous – they’re compact, naturally, but very cleverly designed to make the most out of the space. Geared probably more to the business traveller, the look is fairly muted but luxurious, with covetable gold-trimmed sheets and a telescope in every room so you can peer back at the Island (and feel vaguely nauseous if you’re lacking a head for heights). Popping our stuff down, it was straight off to the Spa for an Oriental Massage. The Spa is managed by ESPA, the same brand that resides at The Peninsula, and felt a little like it was a bit overstretched by the opening period, as things didn’t run quite as smoothly as you might expect from such a high end spa. We enjoyed lovely Oriental Massages in pleasantly dark treatment rooms (the blinds were down so unfortunately we couldn’t peep at the view while we were being pummeled and stroked into a blissful state of sleepiness!).
If I were being super-picky (and for the sake of Sassy readers I will be!), I’d say that the Spa isn’t quite as wow as the rest of the hotel. I think possibly I would have expected a little bit more from the pre-treatment areas, and it’s a bit of a shame that the swimming pool isn’t on the same floor or connected by an internal elevator, as you need to get totally dressed again before riding up to the pool to get undressed again. However, this is such a tiny niggle, and the spa is still of a five star standard.
That evening after watching the new Harry Potter in our room (having a little baby, watching a movie without any interruptions is actually a huge luxury!), we headed down to Tosca, the Ritz-Carlton’s Italian restaurant for dinner. With a totally open kitchen, you can see the chefs at work, and once again the service is flawless. The dishes we tried were fairly simple (as Italian food should be), but totally delicious if very expensive. We wanted to head up to OZONE for a drink but the queues outside the elevators were just too big so we happily headed up to the room to sleep instead.
The next morning before we checked out we enjoyed breakfast at one of the banquette seats that faces directly onto the windows and tried to get used to the fact that we’d soon be heading back down to reality and the hustle and bustle of the city. We found that being so high up above everything was actually psychologically very relaxing and felt like more of a true escape from real life. I would definitely recommend the new Ritz-Carlton as being the ultimate staycation in Hong Kong!
The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, 2263 2263