Walking into my room after a long day spent exploring the busy streets of Hong Kong, I'm greeted by the sound of soothing music and a room transformed from the manic mess of the morning. Linen bed sheets and mountains of pillows, a pair of the famous red bathroom slippers and a soothing lavender balm for jet lag – the Mandarin Oriental's signature turn down service could put even an insomniac to sleep. The oldest hotel in this ex-British colony aside from the Peninsula, how has the Mandarin Oriental retained its charm?

Warm welcome

Dwarfed between rows of cloud-kissing skyscrapers that glitter in the Hong Kong skyline, the Mandarin Oriental looks deceptively small. Overlooking the Victoria Harbour, I can only imagine the uninterrupted views guests would have enjoyed during the earlier years of the hotel, when rampant construction didn't clog the edges of the harbour. Even so, my Verandah-style guest room on the 17{+t}{+h} floor overlooks blue waters and white sails, and I'm not complaining.

The Mandarin Oriental was opened to the public in October 1963, replacing the colonial Queen's building. If there's one thing the hotel prides itself on, it is the warm and personal service offered to its guests. Over the years, the Mandarin Oriental has garnered a dedicated set of patrons, both for stay and dining. When the hotel underwent a 9-month long renovation in 2005, the patrons were very particular that they wanted the old 1960s charm to be retained after refurbishment. While the lobby and reception maintain the polished black and white Italian marble, chandeliers and plush seating, the rooms have undergone a bit of a change. When the hotel reopened in 2006, the number of rooms were reduced from 520 to 501 (430 rooms and 71 suites). The more spacious rooms and suites are equipped with a home theatre system, a valet box and Hermes and Acqua di Parma toiletries (depending on whether you stay in a room or suite). The only relic of the old Mandarin Oriental is the antique, carved Chinese ice bucket.

Apart from the regular suites on offer, there are six signature suites as well, each with a different design theme. The Lichfield suite is dedicated to the memory of Patrick Lichfield, the esteemed photographer who was a regular guest at the hotel. The seven-room Presidential suite, called the Mandarin Suite, contains objects d'art sourced personally by the hotel's General Manager and features a large mosaic bath with steam jets.

Many of the Mandarin Oriental's guests are business travellers, and the hotel has a 24-hour technology butler, as well as a full-fledged business centre.

The Mandarin Spa offers a blissful Shanghainese pedicure, performed by a skilled pedicurist. The signature “Mandarin Oriental Signature Spa Therapy” treatment is a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aroma Therapy, and is tailor made for each guest, lasting 1 hour-50 minutes. The spa also features a Chinese herb steam room and a hydrotherapy Kneipp pool.

One of the hidden gems of the hotel is the barber shop, which has been a part of the hotel since 1963. With dark wood veneers, engraved glass panelling and Chinese screen printed glass, the Mandarin Barber is inspired by Art Deco chic from 1930's Shanghai.

Soul Food

The Mandarin Oriental is known as much for being a food connoisseur's delight as it is a luxury getaway. Among the hotel's many food and beverage outlets is Pierre, the two Michelin-star restaurant on the 25{+t}{+h} floor. Started by the renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire, the restaurant specialises in modern French cuisine, and offers a menu that changes seasonally. Also on the 25{+t}{+h} floor is the M Bar, a classy night time destination with views of the harbour.

The Mandarin Grill + Bar, a one star Michelin restaurant, is another favourite, where guests can sample the finest seafood and meat dishes, as well as a variety of innovative deserts.

The Mandarin Cake shop, the hotel's very own bakery is a delight for the senses. It is famous for its three-dimensional cakes, rose-petal jam and hot chocolate served with a chocolate spoon.

The Captain's Bar is one of Hong Kong's popular watering holes, where regulars have their own tankard engraved with their name.

Breakfast is served at the Clipper Lounge, which has an extensive buffet. Their hash browns win brownie points, and their fresh baked bread and pastries and steaming hot dimsums are worth a try.

Personal service

It's refreshing to stay in a hotel where your every need is taken care of. The staff are friendly and eager to help, and offer a level of highly personalised service. I received a warm welcome at the reception, and was escorted up to my room by a member of staff, who proceeded to point out features (like the valet box) that I might have missed. You can tell a lot about a hotel by its concierge service, and the Mandarin Oriental doesn't disappoint. When I enquired about the nearest MRT station, the lady at the concierge desk also recommended a few places that I should visit, and handed me a map with the destinations circled for my convenience. It's a good idea to opt for the Limo airport transfer, and the drivers are friendly and chatty, and if you ask them, will tell you a lot about the history of the hotel.

During my stay at the Mandarin Oriental, most of my needs were anticipated, and any requests were promptly taken care of. With spacious rooms, elaborate dining options and a central location, it's no wonder that the Mandarin Oriental has a set of loyal patrons.

ketaki@thehindu.co.in

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