St. Regis Hong Kong: Manhattan Chic Meets Old-World Chinese Glamour
When John Jacob Astor IV opened his first St. Regis hotel on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1904, he sent his personal butlers in to take care of the guests. He did so because he hadn’t launched a traditional hotel; he had brought to life his fantasy of having somewhere glamorous to entertain the luminaries of the era. And they needed to be treated with the same meticulous, highly personalised care as the guests in his house.
This ethos has remained at the heart of the St. Regis brand for the past 100 years. And now the Fragrant Harbour can experience its own slice of old-school New York glamour, thanks to the St. Regis Hong Kong, which has just opened its doors in Wan Chai.
Designed by sought-after local talent André Fu, the hotel is reminiscent of both old Hong Kong and pre-war New York, but with every modern amenity imaginable at your fingertips.
“The St. Regis brand’s design DNA is partly inspired by the legacy of John Jacob Astor IV and his own distinctive approach to design,” says Lisa Holladay, vice president and global brand leader for St. Regis Hotels and Resorts. “Today, we like to say that St. Regis was born in the gilded age but defines the modern age.”
This is evident in every nook and cranny of the 129-room hotel. Think 1940s-era Hong Kong gas lamps and wall panels resembling Chinese shop shutters, combined with Art Deco murals and views across the glittering skyscrapers of Wan Chai.
“Each St. Regis hotel is a unique expression of its location and what a modern-day John Jacob Astor IV might seek if he were building a portfolio of homes,” says Holladay. “The St. Regis design team strives to understand the cultural, physical and historical context of each new project and then bring these elements to life in a uniquely St. Regis way.”
They have certainly achieved that goal in Hong Kong. Hundreds of ingredients are needed to create a wonderful city hotel, with charm, location and design among the most critical. But arguably, the most important of all is the character that comes from knowing you are in an establishment beloved by locals.
And given the quality of its in-house chefs, the hotel will also satisfy the local penchant for the next new restaurant or bar. The St. Regis Hong Kong includes the French fine dining restaurant L’Envol that is helmed by chef Olivier Elzer, who has amassed 18 Michelin stars to date. Rùn, a contemporary Cantonese restaurant with a décor inspired by Chinese tea pavilions, is headed up by the equally renowned chef Hung Chi-Kwong.
Whether they are savouring Chinese cuisine at Rùn or enjoying a glass of champagne at the St. Regis Bar, guests will find themselves mingling with some of the city’s leading luminaries. The St. Regis New York, with Astor Court and the world-class King Cole Bar, is famous for attracting Manhattan’s most photographed crowd. And, just weeks after it opened, the same is already true of the St. Regis Hong Kong. Here’s why:
There is no need for Netflix when your walls are as impossibly beautiful as those of the St. Regis Hong Kong. With priceless artworks and murals, matched with modern chandeliers created by Lasvit, the only thing that could possibly distract you from the design are the generous windows, which are crowded with views of the towering skyscrapers and glittering lights of Victoria Harbour.
“Careful selection of artwork and the inclusion of murals are signature elements of the brand, and an area I think John Jacob Astor IV would have paid close attention to, were he to build a home today,” says Holladay. “This is why artwork plays such a central role in St. Regis properties around the world, and why we really strive to make it unique to every property.”
Every St. Regis hotel has a signature mural in the bar, which evokes the beautifully decorated salons of early 20th century New York. In Hong Kong, the gorgeous, ice-cream-coloured design depicts the unique history and culture of Wan Chai— from its colonial past to its beloved wet markets—and The Peak rising right above it. The mural also contains a secret message, which may or may not be revealed by the bar manager.
“The mural in the bar was thoughtfully conceptualised to communicate the strong narrative of Hong Kong’s past and present, expressed with a select colour palette and special painting techniques,” says Derek Flint, general manager of St. Regis Hong Kong.
“I love that the mural takes centre stage at the St. Regis Bar and depicts the historical and cultural elements of Wan Chai. The artist’s main inspiration when creating the art piece stems from Hong Kong’s rich history, its people, its colonial past and its natural landscape.”
Elsewhere in the hotel is an equally magnificent spiral staircase that leads to L’Envol—another important part of the brand’s DNA, this one a sleek, modern version in white marble.
The Butler Service
The famous butler service that made the first St. Regis in Manhattan beloved by all is arguably even more impressive at the St. Regis Hong Kong. This round-the-clock service is seamless and efficient, ensuring each guest’s stay is entirely personalised. It includes private, in-room check-in; unpacking and packing; a complimentary welcome drink and more.
If guests are there to celebrate a special occasion, they simply need to inform their dedicated butler, who will offer an array of elevated drinking and dining options that would put even the staff at Downton Abbey to shame.
But there is no doubt what century we are in at the St. Regis—the hotel has also launched the eButler chat, allowing guests to contact their butler through the Marriott Mobile App or apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, and as a result they will never be left without a taxi, tickets to the latest show or a table at one of the best restaurants in town.
The Sabrage Hour
Like so many members of the New York elite, Caroline Astor, John Jacob Astor IV’s mother, was so partial to a glass of champagne that she would welcome guests to her mansion with a freshly poured flute. But what makes her rather more eccentric is the way the champagne bottle was opened. Sabrage is a French tradition of slicing the neck of a bottle off with sword, and one that was first debuted by Napoleon on his way home from battle.
Each evening at the Drawing Room, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, a specially trained barman will use a saber to slice open a bottle at 5.30pm to herald the start of the evening.
The saber is custom made and personalised for the St. Regis Hong Kong by Sylvain Pintus, the workshop chief for the French Republican Guards and the only person with the skill and experience to replicate the original saber used by Napoleon. His creations are rare and precious and now one of them sits on display at the Drawing Room, ready to be used every day.
The Afternoon Tea
From France to England, the wonderfully old-school tradition of afternoon tea remains popular, all dainty teapots, petit fours and perfectly cut sandwiches. At the St. Regis Hong Kong it’s served in the Drawing Room, where guests can enjoy uninterrupted views of the terrace as they snack on their cucumber sandwiches and mini eclairs.
“Each of our addresses offers its own interpretation of this quintessential ritual, providing guests with a precious moment of refined relaxation,” says Flint. “At the St. Regis Hong Kong, afternoon tea will be served from trolleys inspired by traditional dim sum carts, which will meander around the Drawing Room, allowing guests to pick and choose from a selection of sweet and savoury options.”
The Astor Ballroom
Just the word ballroom immediately transports you to another era, one of formal dances, live music and beautifully tailored clothing. Fortunately, there is no reason why that world can’t continue in 2019, thanks to the magnificent Astor Ballroom. Spanning 5,576 sqft—enough room to seat up to 300 guests—under an ultra-high ceiling, it is fast becoming one of the most sought-after function spaces in the city for weddings and events.
“In the Astor Ballroom, guests can gather with others and connect in timeless style,” says Flint. “This draws on the Astor family’s legacy of entertaining and allows the hotel to become a place to see and be seen.”
And while the art of entertaining is timeless, the Astor Ballroom makes it easier with modern touches such as a vast LED screen and multiple digital panels. The Astor Ballroom and the adjacent, smaller Rockefeller Room also occupy an entire floor with dedicated elevator access, offering additional privacy for all events.
The Bloody Mary
Dangerous for the indecisive: the beautifully decorated St. Regis Bar has a long menu of creative cocktails as well as an impressive wine list featuring more than 100 wines. But it is the signature St. Regis cocktail that will have you cancelling your early morning yoga class in favour of another round.
“The Bloody Mary is the signature cocktail of the St. Regis brand and a timeless ritual, whether at Sunday brunch or an evening soirée,” says Holladay. “Created by Fernand Petiot in 1934 at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis New York, the cocktail was originally christened the Bloody Mary but was ultimately dubbed the Red Snapper so as not to offend the hotel’s refined clientele. Although the name didn’t stand the test of time, the drink became iconic.”
Every hotel offers its own riff on the St. Regis classic, using the original recipe but customised with local flavours. At the St. Regis Hong Kong, this means a dash of dried tangerine\ peel, Chinese five spice mix and soy sauce from the iconic Kowloon Soy label, which together help to create the drink’s sexier younger sister, the Canto Mary. Follow Caroline Astor’s lead and sip cocktails, listen to the live jazz band and finish your evening with a decadently delicious midnight supper, another St. Regis tradition.
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