The Upper House in Hong Kong is that most surprising of things – an oasis of Zen amongst the hive of activity that is Hong Kong.
Arriving here after an inevitably frenetic drive from station or airport is like walking into a small but perfectly prepared sanctuary of calm. Unlike many hotels in Hong Kong, this does not boast a dramatically large and ostentatiously decorated foyer; rather it is a small but perfectly formed space of minimalist decorum in which a very particular team of three or four staff meets, greets and treats you like long-awaited guests.
A boutique hotel with only 117 rooms, The Upper House has a unique and remarkable guest/concierge system with specific staff hosting you throughout your stay
So while we casually checked in without any queuing or other guests luggage to battle through, the various staff chatting to me were undoubtedly just doing a double-check of everything we needed. Simply by asking how the trip had gone and how our toddler was feeling, they had already gauged that we were going to need a pushchair and some toddler friendly food in our room – and, upon arriving into our room – astoundingly, there it all was, ready to go. It was only because I asked at one point how someone in the restaurant had known we were coming that I learnt of the existence of this incredible ‘shadowing’ service, but essentially it is like having an invisible genie who makes sure everything is just the way you want it within moments of you thinking it. Amazing!
The design of Upper House is such that while the reception is on the ground level, the hotel itself is ‘a poetic upward journey’ – the designer’s eloquent description, but one that holds remarkably true. From the reception, you are transported via an escalator from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong to the inner sanctum of the hotel itself; from here, you take a lift that quite literally lifts you above the city – all of the rooms are located on the 38th to 48th floor of this building (the floors between ground and 38 of this building all belong to the Marriot). So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that upon opening the door, we were greeted by an astonishing view of the skyline, which we now seemed to be a part of! However, perhaps what made it such a surprise was the realisation that here, in the heart of Hong Kong, this we could call this stunning and spacious suite – with living room, separate bedroom, and a trifecta of bathroom rooms – our home for the next few nights.
In the large living room, the view compels one to sit in the window seat. although one could just as happily take up residence at the generous work desk (where technology is king), or put one’s feet up to watch television – within the living area itself there are effectively four different ‘spaces’ with a small kitchen as well. But the best surprise is when the timber wall slides open to reveal the main bedroom. With its glorious wrap-around windows and ‘stage platform’ bed, this room delivers Hong Kong as a showpiece (although the true showpiece in this instance is really the design of the room itself). Lighting is set so that there are different levels available, and throughout the night, this comes as a blessing when Oliver (at the time 13 months old) started to suffer from jet lag.
The dressing area in the bedroom is beautifully screened from the bedroom, keeping the inevitable luggage and chaos happily out of view, and also acts as the hallway through to the bathroom (although there is also another entrance from the living room bypassing the dressing area – just in case you have additional guests up for a drink in your room). The bathroom itself has a large ‘reception hall’ with a long mirror and full width desk sitting opposite the toilet and a second dressing/storage area, before you rise three steps to the drama of the bathroom. Here, once more, the bath has been set on a stage that takes in a wrap-around view of Hong Kong. So sitting, soaking in your bathtub, you can truly appreciate your location while your other half (or toddler) enjoys the luxury of a ‘rain shower’ in the shower space opposite.
Electronic blinds (all controlled bedside or bath side) cut out any glare…or eyes from nearby skyscrapers. As a note explains: ‘Sneaky peaky – please remember that the view you enjoy through our large windows may, at times, be a two-way one. If you prefer that others in the buildings surrounding our hotel don’t enjoy the view too, we recommend that you close the curtains when seeking some privacy, particularly when it’s dark and your lights are on.’ You can also set the blinds to a timer, just in case you want the sunshine to wake you in the morning (rather than your jet lagged child!). After all, staying in bed is the last thing you want to do when breakfast (served 6 to 11am) is awaiting in the gorgeous top floor Cafe Gray Deluxe! Just be sure to ask for a booth or a private dining booth to ensure you have an intimate family space for your meal…
Design Led by Andre Fu, Upper House showcases the works of artists including Cynthia Sah, whose work features in The SkyLounge as well as in The Lawn and in the foyer. The exterior design featuring stone and water was envisioned by English designer Thomas Heatherwick. While others include Man Fung Yi, Choi Tae Hoon (who created both the Mandala Forest in the foyer as well as the Forest in The Lawn area), Armen Agop (Silence in The Lawn), Hiroshiwata Sawada (The Atrium Void), as well as the Cocoon Suite by Marvin Minto Fang and Bed of Roses Suite by Gerry Brookles.
Rooms There are only 117 Rooms including 23 Suites. The best rooms for families are the Upper Suites, as they offer a separate bedroom and living room, with large sofa-beds for children. All rooms have a work desk, sofa and coffee table; bathtub and separate shower; flatscreen satellite television; complimentary wi-fi; interactive i-Pod touch (use it for all your ordering, checking in and out, restaurant booking etc needs); free maxibar snacks, soft drinks and beer (excludes wine and champagne); espresso machine; yoga mat; Ren toiletries; and 24-hour room service. Check in at 2pm; check out is midday.
Eating There is just the one restaurant at The Upper House – but what a glorious restaurant it is! Cafe Gray Deluxe crops up time and again in various local and international awards as one of Hong Kong’s premier eating destinations. When staying here, you get to be lucky enough to enjoy it every day for your complimentary breakfast – and of course, you could also enjoy it for lunch or dinner too, when many of Hong Kong’s business folk bring other business folk up here for some heavyweight negotiation. The restaurant offers a children’s menu, and staff happily sort out packed lunches or heat up milk or baby food on request. There is 24-hour room service, and the in-room kitchens have a fridge, kettle, coffee machine and toaster, as well as complimentary biscuits, sweets, chocolates, nuts and juices.
Facilities The design of the hotel doesn’t leave much space for additional facilities – so there is no spa, pool or more casual dining area. However, opposite Cafe Gray Deluxe there is a delightful ‘library’ with a huge fireplace (yes, it actually does get cold in Hong Kong!) – The SkyLounge – which is a great place to take children for some bedtime reading if they aren’t feeling too sleepy (just watch the flames…) while you enjoy a glass or two. Tucked away beside the lifts is also The Lawn – a small but green space where children can have a bit of a caper, while adults sit back and enjoy the sunshine.