You can’t throw a pair of chopsticks without hitting a large luxury brand hotel chain in any major Chinese city these days. As such, discerning travelers are seeking out more unique boutique hotel experiences – here are a few of our favorites: Hotel LKF, Lang Kwai Fong Hotel, Jia Hong Kong, Jia Shanghai, Villa 32 in Taiwan and The Emperor Hotel, Beijing.
By Michael M. Clements
Lan Kwai Fong Hotel
STYLE: Shanghai Tang Meets SOHO
WL TAKE: There is a romantic charm to the 1930’s pre-war Chinese opium den motif around which companies like Shanghai Tang have developed entire brands. At Lan Kwai Fong hotel in Hong Kong’s trendy SOHO (South of Hollywood Boulevard) district, this look gets a likable kitschy spin. (There’s a large pink lotus light in the lobby – enough said.) There’s also the perk of being situated on a steep and narrow residential backstreet smack dab at the intersection of Hong Kong’s coolest neighborhoods: Central, NOHO, SOHO, Mid-levels, and Western District. But don’t mistake it for “Hotel LKF,” which is actually “in” Lan Kwai Fong!
SCENE: Young professionals looking to kick their big name hotel habit in a hip, yet economical and centrally located property that is more “functional place to crash” then “designer must try stop-over.”
ROOMS: 158 boutique rooms decorated with gold and maroon colors, dark woods, and mirror fittings that exude a faux opium den aesthetic. Book a room with a balcony (Deluxe Harbour View: $230, Deluxe Harbour Suite: $385).
DINING: The Breezeway is an open air restaurant, lounge and café good for morning breakfast and coffee. Celebrity Cuisine is a hush-hush boutique restaurant frequented by socialites and Hong Kong film and television stars.
Lan Kwai Fong Hotel
3 Kau U Fong, Central
(852) 3650 0000
STYLE: Euro Sexy for 24-Hour Party People
WL TAKE: A see-and-be-seen jetset haunt run by luxury purveyor Rhombus International Hotels Group, situated in the heart of the city’s de facto party district, Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), so get ready for the “bed-by-five-wake-up-at-noon” schedule. Hotel LKF delivers top quality from the soft linens to L’Occitane amenities, the delicious Azure Restaurant, and “I’ve made it to the cool club” feeling you embody as you stroll the contemporary Italian-mod lobby. There are earplugs and eyeshades next to the bed – if you want Zen go to an Aman Resort in Bali. But when did staying at the “it” place ever not come at a price or with a lack of sleep? If you want soak in all of the go-go-go party life and contemporary international cool that Central and SOHO Hong Kong has to offer, this is “the” place to stay.
ROOMS: Ninety-five sleek, modern superior and deluxe rooms available ($216 to $295 per night). Ask for Harbor views. The in-room espresso maker will revitalize you. Another perk is the free ethernet card you can take anywhere in the city.
SCENE: Global scenesters shuttling between fashion shoots, meetings, and late-night VIP haunts.
DINING: Azure bar and restaurant, located atop the LKF building, offers harbour views as well as a trendy lounge rivaling the best of New York. Dress to impress and try the Lychee martinis.
33 Wyndham Street
JIA Hong Kong
STYLE: Philippe Starck Quirky Meets Hong Kong Home Style
WL TAKE: “Jia” means home in Chinese and this charming urban oasis feels just like it. Uniquely tucked away in a favorite local shopping district, Causeway Bay, the hotel offers access to HK’s finest independent label clothing stores, local nightlife haunts, and a bevy of restaurants. Beyond the recognizable Starck touches, travelers can appreciate JIA because it doesn’t feel like you are staying in a hotel. The random assortment of chairs and furniture in the lobby have a certain eclectic garage sale feel (did I see a troll statuine under that table?). Plus, you can shop nearby and find unique and reasonably priced fashion items your friends back home won’t have.
ROOMS: The Philippe Starck influence adds personality to the white-walled one-bedroom units. There is something to be said for having a fully functioning kitchen (not that you’ll use it in Hong Kong), a small dining and living room, and actual closet space so you don’t have to sleep within eyeshot of your suitcase. Service is attentive yet understated in an effort to retain the feeling of a private residence.
GUESTS: Young sunglass-wearing “in-the-know” professionals who value anonymity over see-and-be-seen.
JIA Hong Kong
1 Irving Street
STYLE: Private Hot Spring Chic
WL TAKE: Nestled into the hillsides of the hot resort town of Beitou, 40 minutes north of Taipei, Villa 32 is more private home than boutique hotel. This architectural masterpiece has only five rooms and comes equipped with top quality art and furnishings, Bang & Olufsen stereos, Hermès cutlery, Boffi bathing facilities, and skincare products by L’Occitane and Dermalogica. The ingredients which make Villa 32 one of Asia’s premier boutique hotels, include top quality design, a small yet attentive staff who feel like family, and a spa that spouts directly from the adjacent national park’s steaming hot springs.
ROOMS: Two tatami mat and paper door Japanese suites ($600 a night) and three spacious split-level European suites depending on your preference. Each comes with a private hot tub, which guests can fill with fresh mineral spring water.
GUESTS: Asian nouveaux-billionaires, film stars and politicos, who want 5- star luxury and privacy.
DINING: The Restaurant at Villa 32 specializes in contemporary Italian cuisine and a wine collection that is the territory of Mainland China’s newest billionaires, who can purchase $10,000 dollar bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild like it’s Evian.
32 Zhongshan Rd.
STYLE: Modern Shanghai Art Deco
WL TAKE: This stylish and playful property captures the eclectic and chic vibe of modern Shanghai without forgetting the city’s stylish past. The lobby showcases antique birdcages and Chinese black lacquered sculpture, Chinese embroidery on the walls, and washed oak flooring. The refurbished 1920’s art deco building in centrally located with access to trendy antique stores, a wide selection of top designer boutiques, and prime city hot spots like the Bund, Peoples Square, and Shanghai Museum by taxi.
ROOMS: 55 unique rooms and suites offering an indulgent assortment of toiletries, kitchen appliances, and well-stocked cocktail bars. Prices vary: $214 for a studio plus, $334 for a suite, and $350 for a balcony suite per night. We preferred the two indulgent “rock-star” penthouses, just over a $1,000 per night.
GUESTS: Savvy business professionals mixed with trendsetters accustomed to the best of New York.
DINING: Issimo Restaurant & Bar is a vibrant restaurant with an Italian menu created by celebrity chef Salvatore Cuomo. It features rustic leather seating, wood burning ovens, and modern sculptures.
931 West Nanjing
The Emperor, Beijing Hotel
STYLE: Forbidden Avant-Garde
EXEC BRIEF: We’re pretty sure the architects of the Forbidden City never imagined well-heeled travelers would one day sip mimosas and peek into their once secretive inner world from a hot tub. Things change. This minimalist yet colorful hotel brings an innovative twist to staid Beijing from the hub Dongcheng district near the city’s most famous sightseeing spots. Besides avant-garde lighting fixtures and furniture, you’ll love the roof deck with expansive views of the Forbidden City.
ROOMS: 55 rooms strike a balance of design and comfort with muted tones of yellow, stylish furniture, free Internet access, and flat screen TV’s.
DINING: Chinese and Western restaurants are on site and you can also order Asian inspired tapas on the roof as well as cocktails from the not-so-forbidden hot tub.
The Emperor, Beijing Hotel
No. 33, Qihelou Street