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Posts tagged Hong Kong

“Tradition well served” – The Peninsula movie

Film still: The Peninsula lobby

Tension and excitement were all over at The Peninsula Hong Kong last month: The sexy Grande Dame – affectionately called “The Pen” among its patrons – turned 85. In fact, the celebrations started already earlier this year with so-called “Signature Sundays”, which included dancing in the iconic hotel lobby at tea time, spreading little gifts throughout the territory by pageboys in neat Mini Clubmans, and reviving the legendary tableside service at the hotel’s famous restaurant Gaddi’s. The hotel also commissioned the acclaimed comics artist Lee Chi Ching (李志清) to create an extraordinary ink painting (click here for the video of its creation process).

 

On the brink of the Anniversary Gala Event on December 11 the hotel presented “Tradition Well Served”, an updated version of a homonymous documentary that was produced in the course of the inauguration of the Peninsula tower annex in 1994. We were lucky enough to receive a copy and had time to watch it during the bygone holidays.

 

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By mixing rediscovered footage with new material this medium-length movie (45 minutes, directed by Libby Halliday Palin) tells the story of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels (HSH), the bearing company of the Peninsula brand, and its founding family, the Kadoories, who still own the prestigious enterprise.

 

As the Peninsula hotel chain considerably expanded since the first “Tradition Well Served” version, the added properties got their fair share in the new film. The feature starts with Chairman Sir Michael Kadoorie sitting on a boat cruising Shanghai’s Hangpu River (黄浦江) and recalling his first visit when he was seven years old. At that time, after World War II, the Kadoorie family owned some businesses in Shanghai, like the Palace Hotel (today’s Swatch Art Peace Hotel). That ended with the confiscation in course of the communist takeover. With an emotional opening of the Peninsula Shanghai on the Bund in 2010 the company finally returned to its origins.

 

When the Peninsula Hong Kong opened in 1928, the Kowloon peninsula was not really a place to be yet. The splendor reigned on the other side of Victoria Harbour, on Hong Kong Island, and according to an interview with Baron Lawrence Kadoorie (Michael Kadoories father) people at first laughed about the “white elephant” that stood, so to speak, the middle of nowhere. However, the cruise ships travelers disembarked on the Kowloon side and soon started to appreciate the Peninsula’s services.

 

The movie also introduces Kitty Cheung, a charming Hong Kong citizen who had the privilege to grow up with parties and dancing hours at the Peninsula. As a young and attractive lady she appears in several sequences of the historical footage, as well as in short comments at the age of 100 that were especially shot for the movie shortly before she died. During the summer months she and her family stayed at the exclusive Repulse Bay Hotel on Hong Kong Island, which was also part of the HRH group. The movie conceals that the hotel closed its doors in 1982, and despite of protests it was demolished in order to make room for a gigantic apartment complex. For some reason they later rebuilt it (reportedly in a smaller scale) and erected the new towers right next to the “fake”. The site is still owned by HRH.

 

Two thirds of the movie deals with the properties outside of Hong Kong and Shanghai, and includes historic footage of most of the locations.

 

It goes without saying that Peninsula guests can watch the movie during their stay in their rooms via the house TV channel. Residents of Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan can purchase “Tradition Well Served” at the online Peninsula Boutique. The DVD comes with an equally worth-seeing “behind-the-scenes” section. From February this year the movie will also be available on Youtube.

 

Year-round moon festival in HK

Hong Kong’s so far only Design Hotel, the Mira in Kowloon, got a sister these days: The Mira Moon is located on the island side, in the buzzing Wan Chai District. Like the Mira the Mira Moon is owned by the Henderson Land Development Company, the third largest Hong Kong real estate developer. The hotel will be lead under the baton of Martin Lee Ka-shing (李家誠), who is the son of the Henderson owner Lee Shau-kee (李兆基).

 

The central theme in the playful interior design  is the jade rabbit from China’s Moon Festival myth (click here to read more about this story). AB Concept and Dennis Lau & Ng Chun Man Architects & Engineers are responsible for the public spaces, whereas Marcel Wanders (in partnership with the yoo design studio) designed the guest rooms.

 

In Hong Kong terms, with 91 rooms the Mira Moon is quite a small hotel and hence will probably create a private atmosphere. Among the amenities guests will find a complimentary minibar with soft drinks and beer, an iPod docking station and complimentary Wi-Fi. There is no spa area, but a 24-hours fitness room. And floor-to-ceiling windows, of course.

 

There is also an opening offer until Dec. 31, 2013.

 

Mira Moon on the Design Hotels homepage

Ferry rocked the house

Bryan Ferry rocked the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

 

That must have been quite a party yesterday: Karen Mok and Bryan Ferry rocked the house, chef Uwe Opocensky and his team cooked, and a dance group under the supervision of Willy Tsao jumped around. More than 800 guests were invited to celebrate the 50. anniversary of the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

 

When the famous hotel opened as “The Mandarin” for the first time on September 1, 1963, it was not only the largest building in town, but also the first hotel in Asia with bath tubs in each of its 650 guest rooms. Oh, and there was also a world premiere: The hotel offered direct dial telephones!

 

 

Needless to say that the house was packed with beautiful and important people. Eye-catcher of the night was Helen Mirren (“The Queen”). She showed up in a sexy tight red Dolce & Gabbana dress (we wanted to post a picture of her, but we failed to find one that roughly reflected her grandeur). Other celebrities desired? Here’s an excerpt from the guest list: Maggie Cheung, Mary McCartney, Vivienne Tam, Frederick Forsyth, Darcey Bussell (ex-prima ballerina and president of the British Royal Academy of dance), Champagne producer Olivier Krug, predominant Pierre Gagnaire, and London’s mayor Boris Johnson.

 

You missed it? Watch at least the lovely façade projection:
 

 

Whizzkid castling at Caprice

Fabrice VulinA job castling is currently happening in one of the Chinese world’s best restaurants. After eight years in Hong Kong as executive chef of Caprice at the Four Seasons Hotel, and after capturing the peak of three Michelin stars without stepping down, Vincent Thierry has decided to accept a new challenge in Bangkok.

 

Thierry will be replaced by another French whizzkid: Fabrice Vulin, who has been sucessfully defeating two Michelin stars at the Relais & Chateaux hotel „Château de la Chèvre d’Or“ in Eze (South of France) for three years.

 

The cuisine is expected to maintain its current cuisine style, which is creative French. As Thierry has left Hong Kong already, in the meanwhile the remaining team is waving the Four Seasons flag. It consists of Jeremy Evrard (director of restaurants ), the Caprice sous chefs Cyril Boulais, Aaron Li and Chun Wai Law, and the Caprice pastry chef, Marike van Beurden. Fabrice Vulin is expected to start his service in November.

 

Caprice @ The Four Seasons Hong Kong

 

Eatable gems at the Ritz-Carton HK

Ritz-Carlton's Damiani afternoon tea

 

Although very much changed since the Chinese took over in Hong Kong, some of the British heritage is still left. Besides disciplined people in waiting lines at double-decker tram stations there is another beloved custom that Hong Kong people would never allow to die. We are talking about the afternoon tea, which almost always comes with a three-tier plated tower set filled with delicious goodies.

 

The lobby café of the Peninsula Hotel offers the most classic afternoon tea atmosphere, but also countless other places keep up with this tradition. Some hotels create themed afternoon tea festivals, like the MO Bar at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, which regularly co-operates with fashion designers.

 

Another hotspot is the Lounge and Bar at the The Ritz-Carlton, whose helicopter-like-view alone would be worth a visit. The hotel recently announced a future collaboration with the Italian jewelry brand Damiani. Upcoming September the hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef Richard Long will oversee the creation of savory bites and mini pastries inspired by Damiani’s Belle Epoque collection. The tiny artworks will come colored like gems that you otherwise find on jewelry and include – among others – a five-textured limoni tea cake, a golden Sicilian pistachio and raspberry croissant and a tiny ring shaped “illy” tarte.

 

The Damiani afternoon tea will be available through whole September 2013, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is priced at HK$ 388 for one or HK$618 for two persons (plus a 10% service charge).

 

Homepage of The Lounge & Bar at The Ritz-Carlton HK

 

The Four Seasons HK calls for Instagram pictures

   

 
 

You visited Hong Kong recently and you took pictures there with your mobile phone? Then you might have what The Four Seasons Hong Kong is looking for. This noble Central district hotel launched a competition to find the best Instagram pictures of any of the following subject matter:

 

Tai Hang | Tai O | Lamma Island | Island tram | Victoria Harbour | Temple Street

 

Among several other prices the hotel will give away a two-night weekend stay in a Deluxe Harbour View Room with breakfast for two people. The closing date for entries is June 25, 2013.
You are reading this at your home in Australia or South America? Don’t ask us why you are excluded from this contest. Moreover, we will not be able to compete as the pictures you can see above were “only” shot with a Canon EOS-Camera, and not with a cell phone. Here you can read the rules in detail.

 

The competition on Facebook

 

Who had sex on the beach in Hong Kong?

Bo_Innovation_HK_smallLooking at the list of “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants“ (click here) remembered me on a fascinating evening I had two years ago at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. This restaurant, whose 15th rank makes it possible to call it a front runner, is situated in a side street from Johnston Road in the Wan Chai district. It took me a while to find it, as there was no sign you could have seen from the street.

 

It was a hot ’n’ humid night, and there were some problems with the air-con. I was given a seat at the bar right next to the entrance, which allowed me to watch the goings-on in the narrow show kitchen area. The staff looked really cool. One heavily tattooed guy had quite long hair and his sunglasses on. With critical eyes he  inspected every plate that had come out of the kitchen, and every now and then he readjusted the look of the dishes. At first I thought this could be the boss of the house, Alvin Leung, known as the “Demon Chef”. But the founder of this already at that time highly talked-about place turned out to be in London to open a new branch there.

 

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What does this guy make so special, besides his look? Well, maybe the fact that not many chefs in the Chinese culinary business consider cooking as a creative art form. Chinese cuisine is in general very much bounded on traditions, much in contrary to European cooking philosophies. Leung combines both Chinese and European approaches, including molecular elements, and calls it “X-treme Chinese”. I am usually not so much convinced of molecular cooking styles, but there is no way to deny the highly artistical level of Leung’s cuisine. This counts both for its taste, respectively the mouth feel creating texture, as well as for its optical appearance.

 

On that night my culinary adventure trip started with the “Scent of the Victoria Harbor”: Fuming oysters that did not really look like oysters (see picture). I also had “Molecular”, which came as a mysterious ball, with a texture similar to jelly. It tasted like something very familiar. What was it? The menu helped me out: It tasted exactly like Xiao Long Bao (小籠包), the juicy dim sum dumplings with meat inside. I loved the caviar on a smoked quail egg in a “nest” of crispy taro. Leung furthermore combined both French and Cantonese signature dish on the very same plate: foie gras and mui choy, the mustard cabbage. The latter one came as an ice cream. It was an evening of surprises. The most figurative dish was Leung’s contribution to raise the awareness of red ribbon issues: “Sex on the beach” – not a cocktail but a jelly “condom” on a “sand” of crushed biscuits and a white chocolate shell.

 

 

The “chef’s table menu” consisted of 15 fascinating dishes. Listing all of them would not make sense, as they change over time. Probably none of these dishes are on today’s menu anymore, but I am sure the style of Leung’s cuisine has not changed. I found a very nicely done video dealing with Alvin Leung’s ideas:

 

www.nowness.com/day/2012/10/30/2556/demon-days 

 

What fascinated me, by the way, was the carefully selected and highly matching wine pairing that including among others sparkling sake, a German Riesling and a French Grenache Noir. This is absolutely worth pointing out, as from a Western point of view a proper pairing still is a huge deficit in Asia, even in such a world city as Hong Kong.

 

It would be nice to learn about current dishes there. Anyone who ate there recently? Please leave a comment.

 

Bo Innovation

Chef: Alvin Leung ( “Demon Chef”)

18 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong | Website

 

Hong Kong’s leading role

Awards are unfair. Is the world famous “Noma” restaurant in Copenhagen really better than any other restaurant on this planet? Does Steven Spielberg really provide us with a more creative movie language, as the recent Academy Awards tried to make us believe, compared with other masters like Quentin Tarantino or Michael Haneke? The answer to these questions, let’s be honest, is probably “no”. How could you find a ranking for equally outstanding or equally creative achievements?

 

However, we do love awards. They help us to find reference points and to define trends. They make decisions easier. They provide journalists with something to write about, and they support the particular industry. Awards are good, and they always give a reason to party.

 

Recently Asia’s crème de la crème chefs and restaurant managers shook their arms and legs in Singapore. They celebrated the first revealing of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, a new ranking that was created by 900 “international leaders in the restaurant industry “, and which was organized by William Reed Business Media (more about the voting rules can be found here).

 

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It ranks The Landmark Mandarin Oriental‘s Amber restaurant in Hong Kong on the fourth place, making it the allegedly best dining place in China. The most often named location on the list is Singapore (10), followed by Hong Kong (9), Tokyo (7), and Shanghai and Bangkok (each with 5). Remarkably, also a restaurant from Hangzhou made it onto that exclusive sheet. It’s a Hyatt Regency hotel restaurant called 28 HuBin Road, serving traditional local cuisine. Too bad I did not go there, when I was in Hangzhou the last time (click here for the JSB Hangzhou posts). After all, more-than-ever-booming Macau is mentioned once, too. The full list can be studied here in detail.

 

Next to these highly new accolades, the Forbes Travel Guide Star Awards have been an integral part in the award business since the 1950’s (then called the Mobile Travel Guide Awards). It’s an annually list of what is thought to be the world’s best hotels, restaurants, and spas. They are more or less divided into two categories – “Five Star” & “Four Star” – and within these categories they are equally listed, which is a nice way to avoid annoying discussions. This year’s winner in the China section is Hong Kong with seven “Five Star Rating Award” hotels, followed by Macau (5), Shanghai (2), and for the first time also Beijing (with Shangri-La’s China World Summit Wing). Looking at the list I think that all of these hotels deserve their awards. However, it seems that the judges completely left out the so-called secondary cities in China. Why is the Four Seasons Hotel at West Lake in Hangzhou not on the list, to name only one property that immediately comes into my mind?

 

Some hotels celebrated an across-the-board success after conquering the judges’ hearts in both award-giving institutions. One of the main winners is the Four Seasons Hong Kong, rated “Five Star” for both its hotel and its spa by Forbes Travel Guide, and furthermore twice ranked in “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” list for its Caprice (12th, French cuisine) and its Lung King Heen (13th, Cantonese cuisine).

 

These awards show that Hong Kong is setting the benchmarks for luxury tourism China, with Shanghai and Macau in the rear mirror.

 

Whole China below a single roof

The Great Motherland of ChinaIsland Shangri-La, Hong Kong

 

I love hotels with exclusive sightseeing-effects. In the case of Hong Kong’s Island Shangri-La Hotel this affection is satisfied by the world’s largest silk painting. The whole thing is called “Great Motherland of China”, and it covers 714 square meters (2343 sq ft), stretching over 16 levels until very scarcely below the translucid roof of the building, which is part of the Pacific Place complex in the Admirality district on Hong Kong Island.

 

It is said that whole China is illustrated on this total work of art, which contains 250 piece parts. I discovered mountainous landscapes, the Great Wall, waterfalls, little villages with traditional houses and, further down, ships. Forty artists from Beijing had been working on this masterpiece for more than half a year. It was unveiled in 1991, in the course of the hotel’s opening.

 

It’s hard to believe this hotel has been existing already for more than twenty years, as it looks rather new in pretty much every corner. However, the spirit behind the interior design is much older. As noted in the hotel’s media information the design concept meant to „revive the style, ambience and tradition of Grand Hotels”. It’s not only words, but real: The dignified lounge of the Horizon Club makes you feel like in a venerable establishment somewhere in Europe – if you manage to fade out the wonderful view out of the windows on the 56th level: solid wood paneling and noble chandeliers evoke associations with England and France.

 

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Right aside this venue smokers hide in Hong Kong’s probably loveliest smoking room, called Roof Garden, where dozens of orchids fight against the fume. During my visit the service quality and the food & beverage selection at the Horizon Club can be classified as absolutely perfect.

 

Apart from a beautiful China pot filled with fragrant Jasmine tea and besides preserved plums as good-night-goodies, the tested room was 100 percent Western style: Heavy, cushioned seating furniture was arranged next to a solid, dark-brown desk and a huge leather-covered office chair. A neat chandelier was decorating the ceiling. Next to the bed lay a corporate edition of James Hilton’s novel “The Lost Horizon”, the source of the Shangri-La myth. As in many other Hong Kong high-end hotels, the magnificent marble laid-out bath room was equipped with L’Occitane products.

 

My room was situated in one of the top levels. The abundantly nice harbor view was literally heightened by the fact that the hotel tower was constructed on a hill. The only cutback was a restrained smell, which might had come out of the carpets.

 

Among several culinary establishments in the building, the restaurant Petrus on the top floor is deemed to be the best. I had the pleasure to sniff about over some of its French cuisine dishes. The service was excellent, and so were the creations by Chef Frederic Chabbert.

 

However, maybe due to my sightseeing-approach my attention this time was caught most by the Café TOO. Buffet restaurants like this are very popular among Hong Kong’s inhabitants, especially at week-ends, when these places are packed with families. You can watch grandpa and grandson eating ice-cream cones with the greatest pleasure you could ever imagine, while father is dissecting his beef fillet. Mother’s seat is vacant as she is lining up in front of the desserts. What a spectacle!

 

I went there with my good old friend and approved travel partner Stefan Tauchhammer. At one of approximately ten open kitchen stations we discovered a cook cutting off white noodles from a flabby compound. Mixed with several other ingredients it tasted great. Not spicy like Sichuan dishes, nor focused on the ingredient’s own taste, like the Cantonese cuisine, its complex flavors made the dish something completely different. This was “Huaiyang”, he said, a cuisine style in East China. In mainland China highly estimated, it is totally unknown in Europe. That was the moment when we decided to fly to East China. The reviews of that trip will be published, one by one, within the next few weeks.

 

We checked out at afternoon tea time, while a Western string quartet was spreading relaxing vibes in the spacious main lobby. It was afternoon tea time. We would have wanted to stay longer.

 

Hotel website