It’s the small details that explain why The Peninsula in Hong Kong is lauded as one of the world’s best hotels.
Sure the Samsung tablet, which controls the room via a menu designed by the hotel’s own R&D boffins, is pretty cool (and more of that later). But this is the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel with its own nail dryer.
You get the feeling The Peninsula knows it’s a woman’s world, and what they want from a luxury hotel. My wife’s long-held dream – call it her bucket list – was to arrive at The Peninsula in one of the hotel’s British racing green stretch Rolls-Royce Phantoms. She crossed that off as we arrived in outrageous style, our kids in the back watching the hotel’s story on the touch-screen DVD player.
I’d never been in a Rolls before and loved the ride, the space, the leather and the timber veneer – and having a chauffeur. Even in status-driven Hong Kong it felt special. An airport transfer is HK$1600 (A$230) and takes about 45 mins.
And yes, the Oscar de la Renta toiletries in the white marble bathroom, and the free wi-fi (rip off Australian hotel take note!) won me over too. Another fab feature is the wireless phones with VOIP, which means you can make free long-distance calls (goodbye Telstra and your exorbitant OS call fees!).
I like a hotel that takes the cash up front, then gives back, rather than luring you in before death by a thousand room charges.
We stayed in a deluxe suite on the second floor in the original building overlooking the dome of the Hong Kong Space Museum and harbour. It’s a 5-minute walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal to head for Hong Kong island and Central.
The Peninsula, which opened in 1928, has 300 rooms, including 54 suites, starting from $5,880 (A$845) a night. The rack rate for our room is HK$12,800 (about A$1,850).
They set up two trundle beds for the kids in the lounge room, in front of a large TV. The movies are free and current, so Despicable Me 2, Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim – a crazy, Godzilla-like sci-fi thriller set in Hong Kong about giant sea monsters fighting humans operating giant robots – had a run. We had to drag our children from the room.
Our bed, in a separate room, seemed bigger than some Hong Kong apartments. There was room for all four of us to spread out starfish across it without overlapping. It was spectacularly comfy too.
The rooms have been revamped in the last couple of years, but the bathrooms with spa bathtubs are original and classy. The hotel is a luxe combo of old world panache with modern tech. The room is all dark timbers and plush carpets with a muted elegance, plenty of flowers and hints of Asia in the design. There’s a big Nespresso coffee machine, and a rapid wine chiller. Beside the bed you’ll find a multi-device charger. Good thinking.
That Samsung tablet I mentioned earlier? There’s one either side of our bed, plus another at the beautiful writing table (which has a wireless printer/scanner/copier/fax in the drawer) in the lounge. They control everything from curtains to lighting, air-conditioning to ordering room service online, as well as being on it or use it to control the TV. There are several touch-screen room controls on the walls too.
Leave the room and you’ll find nine restaurants and bars, serving everything from French to Chinese Japanese and Swiss (a restaurant with heavy timber decor that feels very 70s, for fondue).
Then there’s that international flavour mash up you find in every hotel – in this case at the light and breezy Verandah, which is also the bustling and busy breakfast spot where we had to wait 15 mins for a table after rocking up at 9.30am. Annoyingly, there are just two chairs to sit at while you wait, so standing around in the foyer makes you feel like you’re in the way.
Spring Moon is a stylish Cantonese serving fine lunchtime dim sum and barbecue meats, especially the goose and Peking duck. It also has an amazing tea list of 25 teas and a Tea Master to take you through them and help you find one you’d like.
Felix, the rooftop restaurant and champagne bar, is modern European, with an edgy Philippe Starck design – the faces of long-serving staff feature on the chair covers. Make sure you try out the loos with views.
We had a drink at the generically-named The Bar, a club-style nook where the signature cocktail, the Rolls Royce, will have you cruising in comfort. Thanks for the complimentary nuts and olives impeccably-dressed barman.
Add a Roman-style indoor pool with an outdoor terrace cafe on the sixth floor, the sprawling spa for massages and hot tubs, a state-of-the-art gym and of course, several conference rooms, plus marble shopping arcades filled with chic luxury brands and you’ve got all you need, elegantly presented, with staff will bend over backwards for you. Everyone says hello as you pass, from maids to managers.
But there are a few deal clinchers for staying at The Peninsula.
The first is the afternoon tea.
It’s legendary and if you’re not a guest, there’s a long queue in the foyer that can see you waiting for an hour or two. Everyone should try it at least once – a three-tier platter of scones with jam and cream, cucumber and smoked salmon sangers, (de-crusted, darlings) and the top tier covered in petites fours and cakes. As you snack and natter, a string quartet plays. It’s all so timeless and opulent.
Another reason is the Peninsula Academy. It runs in the hotel group’s nine locations, giving you a time-effective taste of the local culture. In Hong Kong, there’s a brilliant dim sum making class with Chef Fong, which we did with the kids. You then get to eat your hard work, as well as enjoying a tour of the kitchen.
There are cupcake decorating classes for kids too, plus art programs, lessons in traditional arts and crafts, and helicopter tours.
Make sure you visit the Chocolate Room, if only to look, not taste. They do some amazing decorative chocolate work.
Finally, the helicopter.
This one is on my bucket list. You can be picked up at the airport by chopper and arrive on the rooftop. You can also explore the city with scenic helicopter tours. At HK$28,000 ($4000) an hour, I’m saving up, but one day, I want to feel like a James Bond villain arriving there – and there’s a special rooftop lounge, exclusively for guests travelling by chopper.
The other surprise is how child-friendly the hotel is. There’s a room service kid’s menu (although the portions, as we were warned, are small for our kids, aged 7 & 9) and our children has such a good time that every time my daughter gets stroppy about home life, she declares she wishes she was back staying at the hotel. It had that sort of impression.
The Peninsula is a truly great hotel. It’s extravagant and opulent and expensive, yes, but worth the money, whether you’re working or at play, because it leaves you feeling like a million dollars too.
Put it on the list. And leave time to paint your nails.
Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel +852 2920 2888
Now have a look at our adventure at The Peninsula
We checked in in the room, where there were Peninsula teddy bears for the kids, juice and a cup of tea served. The boxes of praline chocolates were delicious too.
Our bedroom had a bed the size of a squash court. Note how children are instinctively drawn to the technology... sigh.
This isn't our room, but it looked just like this, expect ours was messy, with our stuff thrown all over it.
Felix restaurant at the top of the hotel has great views, a cosy bar and these quirky, intimate little caves.
The outdoors cafe, in front of the pool, is a good spot to watch the evening light show over the city from.
* Business Insider & family were guests of The Peninsula
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