The Upper House, Hong Kong
Room type: Upper Suite
Duration: 25th > 27th December
Booked with: Ourisman Travel
Have you ever been somewhere that felt like home, even though you had never been there before? A place that seems to have been built just for you; a place designed around all your wishes? No, me neither. But The Upper House came close.
It doesn’t take a lot for me to decide not to bother to speak to someone. Certain things of course help, like if your first name is Angelina and you work in Hollywood. Alas, there was no reason to contact The Upper House (TUH) as it didn’t fulfil my strict criteria, so I didn’t bother. That was until my wonderful Amanpulo adventure prematurely ended due to an incoming typhoon, meaning instead of arriving at TUH on Boxing Day, I had to swap it to Christmas Day. The communication was excellent, with near immediate responses taking care of everything. There were no additional charges, just a very professional, prompt response to say everything was taken care of.
Not only did I have to escape a typhoon, but to make Christmas truly memorable, I managed to cripple my back. I will forever attest to this being down to fighting a great white shark, but it may or may not have been down to simply doing nothing. Let’s not split hairs over details and let me just tell you that I had to I ask TUH to collect me from the airport in a wheelchair. The 40 minute journey was pleasant enough, if I was not in a pain that can only be described as being attacked by a gang of porcupines. What impressed though was the unbelievable care from all the staff. The staff waiting at the airport, offering assistance with all the luggage, helping me into the car and even ensuring we were avoiding any bumps on the floor. When arriving at the hotel, it was like the entire team were on standby, as so many people were waiting outside to take me upstairs. As there is no way to get a wheelchair up the escilators, they needed to take me through The Marriot which is next door and owns the lower-levels of the building.
It was almost embarrassing how kind they were at every stage. When I was upstairs, 3 of the staff helped me out of the wheelchair and lifted me into bed; when I wanted to check my phone, someone saw it near me and put it in my hand; hot baths were run and they went and purchased a hot water bottle for me. I didn’t get this in Laucala, no sir.
As Christmases go, being in agony and having to lay in bed for the majority of it will not rank amongst my best, but it will neither be considered my worst. They did their best to try and make it pleasant.
Similar to Aman Tokyo not just in the style and feeling, The Upper House occupies the top floors of the building, with the rooms starting on the 38th floor. Unlike Aman Tokyo, the reception area is a small, unassuming area on the ground floor, with an esciliator that takes you upstairs to access The Lawn and elevators for the rooms and other facilities in the building. I never got a chance to leave the hotel during my stay, so I cannot comment on what is nearby or if the location works. That just leaves me commenting on the style, which my vocabulary only goes as far as saying “awesome”.
Even though having 117 rooms would likely disqualify them as a boutique hotel, it has the feeling of a much smaller hotel. This could be down to not having a large lobby, or the design making it feel serene, or the small number of facilities. It’s a good skill to make somewhere feel more exclusive than it is.
Poor form from me, but I never sent one, so unsurprisingly they didn’t do anything. I did ask on arrival for some quick changes to the minibar and the pillow, which, as with everything else they did, was incredibly prompt.
Hong Kong is a competitive market place for luxury hotels. Not as competitive as London or Paris, but it’s certainly getting there. It’s enough to mean you need a convincing USP – The Upper House have their rooms. The Upper Suite really was quite something. The separate living room, that comes with your own pantry and free minibar; the gorgeous bathroom that overlooks the city; the glass windows all the way around the bedroom to give you incredible views. As you walk into the suite, there is even a hidden door that lets you go straight through to the bedroom, to save walking around through the living room. The huge amount of daylight that spreads throughout the room, the soft woods, the large bath, the Ren toiletries and the elegance of it all makes it one my favourite city hotel suites I’ve ever stayed in.
They have also introduced tech everywhere, but unlike The Peninsula, Paris, it’s not over the top and works well. Even if I had a fully functioning body, I still am not a fan of reading a room service menu off a tablet or TV, but as I couldn’t even look at them anyway they did print them off for me.
The Upper House has also seen the desire to throw in value. I’ve already mentioned the free minibar, but then they also had a pretty impressive selection of brand new films to watch, a Spotify account, AirPlay and an apparent never-ending supply of treats that would get delivered.
There is always room for improvement and the same is here. I found it quite strange that there was only 1 – rather difficult to find and use – plug besides the bed. The position of the toilet being so close to the bedroom also seems a strange choice, especially as the bathroom is so big and it looks like it could have been further away. And unfortunately there were some issues with noise, as I could hear music from what felt like everywhere at 7pm. Somewhat ironic, as the original plan was to stay in The Peninsula in Manila, which also had terrible sound isolation last time I stayed there – even on the 13th floor, their highest floor, I could hear traffic from below.
- The Lawn – Outdoor garden
The issue, as with everywhere in the world that has no-smoking policies, is that any outdoor area is overcome by smokers. As much as I would have liked to spend time on The Lawn, it was just not pleasant to be there if anyone else was.
There was only one reason I wanted to stay at another hotel: the lack of spa facilities. If they wouldn’t mind just replacing the garden area with a jacuzzi instead, I would have no reason to ever stay anywhere else again. Whilst treatments are available in the room, I’m more keen on the idea of a sauna, steam room, vitality pool etc. Where they would put them, I have no idea, but if you don’t ask…
I don’t know if laying in bed for 2 days and watching films is why most people go to hotels, but it worked for me.
All good things must come to an end and The Upper House shoved that in my face with their food selection. On Christmas Day I ordered in-room dining, which not only came at ninja speed, but was actually very good; otherwise I felt highly restricted by what was available. Strangely, they offer brunch (yes, that thing between breakfast and lunch) until 2:30, and then afternoon tea starts at 3:30. The menu was very limited, with only 3 of each for starters, main courses and desserts. Not wanting anything and with only 1 restaurant, this did mean that for dinner on the 2nd night I asked for some Japanese and they sent concierge out to pick it up for me, which itself was unbelievably cheap. If I was mobile and able to go out, there appeared to be a huge selection of restaurants nearby. Often in a foreign city hotel I would try and leave the hotel, but that wasn’t possible here so I do need to be extra critical.
Breakfast is a la carte and no buffet, but offered a solid selection, including eggs with truffle that was included in the Virtuoso breakfast inclusion. Their concierge area has quite an incredible amount of free snacks available as well. Once again it was a sense of value, where you do not feel they are trying to screw you over anywhere.
If you took all the client facing staff from The Upper House and the chefs from The Peninsula and put them in Aman Tokyo, you may just have the perfect hotel. The service was simply impeccable. Even with small hiccups, like the room service being delivered incorrectly, they were there within minutes to resolve it. The TV was not working correctly, and it felt like the engineer must have been stood outside of the room, as he was there so fast to get it working again.
Even though I was in immense pain on the day of arrival, the next day I was able to at least walk again, which gave me an opportunity to enjoy the hotel. The staff could not have been more helpful for any requests, with nothing too much trouble and everyone speaking perfect English and clearly enthusiastic about their job. As luck would have it, one of the staff recognised me from The Connaught, as he worked there for 4 years until moving to TUH earlier in the year. He worked in the bar, which I never visit, so I did not know him, but clearly I’m such a handsome fella that it’s impossible to forget me. After all the chats with him, the concierge, guest relations and front desk, it felt like I was part of the family.
They were beyond proactive in ensuring the stay was as comfortable as possible for me, but what impressed me then most is how this turned into actions. Mentions of things I said suddenly turned into gifts, that were clearly personalised for me. By the end of the 2 night stay, I needed another bag to take everything with me. It’s not normally the case that I leave with a load of candles, chocolates, food, luggage tags and bags without someway having to avoid eye contact with security.
It took 30 minutes to depart. Not due to some horrible misunderstanding about my suitcase being filled with everything in the hotel, but down to all the wonderful conversations and goodbyes taking place. It actually started to feel like a Connaught goodbye, where everyone knew everyone and stories were shared. If ever there was proof of how small the world can be, I discovered it when the head of Guest Relations revealed she went to school in the small town I was born in. That would likely explain why we were both now on the other side of the world.
They even sent a hand written, personalised note to the room to say that they would provide a complementary transfer to the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Every element of this is what luxury is about: making the guest feel special. Even a few days after my departure they emailed to see how I was feeling. Departures are completely under appreciated, as even during a bad stay you can turn it into a memorable one with the right approach. Everyone can learn from The Upper House on how to do that well in a city hotel.
Upon leaving The Upper House, I made my way over to The Landmark Oriental, apparently one of their top competitors. There is no competition. The Upper House is better in every way it can compete.
- Surprisingly good value for money
- Food options could do with being expanded
- Amazing rooms with beautiful views
- Incredible service
The Upper House has become one of my favourite hotels. It is a rare delight to turn up somewhere under such miserable circumstances, but leave so happy.
The suite was beautiful, but it was on one of their semi-regularly stay 2 nights, get 1 night free promotions. At ~£2k for 2 nights, this seems remarkably fair and good value, but at ~£4k for 2 nights I’d really have to give it some serious thought. That is, until they fit the jacuzzi, then it’s a no brainer.