Four Seasons Hong Kong
THE LOOK Reflecting the industrial style of César Pelli's glass-sheathed 2 IFC skyscraper next door, the twin towers of the Four Seasons are flooded with light—whether you're in the 22,000-square-foot spa or sitting on a velvet banquette in the marble-clad lobby. This is a rarity in a city as confining as Hong Kong.
THE SCENE Shipping tycoons, diplomats, and Hong Kong socialites have all made this hotel a hot spot for power lunches—though the crowd also includes a marked number of young Asian jet-setters.
THE ROOMS As a nod to the changing clientele of the city, there are two types of rooms: Chinese and Western. The former is outfitted (in a rather fussy way) with shiny lacquer, gold leafing, and dark teaks. The latter (and better) is clubbier, dominated by neutral tones, simple woods, and leather.
THE SERVICE So streamlined, you'd think the place has been open years, not months. The concierge was able to buy a local SIM card and help track down hard-to-find fashion magazines with equal ease. The biggest glitch was a bored lobby lounge waitress who took more than 40 minutes to serve an order of eggs, blaming the delay on the kitchen.
THE AMENITIES Spin Design Studio from Tokyo is responsible for the underlit catwalk and stingray-skin cupboards of Caprice, which has already become one of Asia's top French dining rooms. Its chef, fresh from the Michelin three-starred Le Cinq in Paris, takes on haute Gallic tastes in dishes such as langoustine tartare with watercress mousse and Iranian caviar (not to be missed). The pool area is a knockout: a sprawl of three pools with harbor and city views.
DIRTY SECRETS There's no eating allowed in your poolside daybed. Unfortunately, the hotel entrance was built just behind a series of loading docks and access roads.
NICE SURPRISE We love the special switch for mood lighting in the bathrooms.
8 Finance St., Central; 800/819-5053 or 852/3196-8888; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $490.
Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
THE LOOK To get to the small lobby—rich with wooden cabinets, art books, and brass table lamps—guests must first ascend an angled staircase that hangs above a semicircular swath of creamy Italian marble. If you feel as though you're on water, that's the point: the hull-like shape of the staircase is meant to recall the famous junks that still ply Victoria Harbour. Other ways the Landmark (as those in the know call it) pushes the design envelope: a spa with heated lounge chairs made from mosaic tiles; the dramatic bar illuminated with a glass sculpture.
THE SCENE European fashion buyers and visiting designers have made this a regular hangout, mostly because of its proximity to A-list shopping: Armani, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton flagships are steps away; Harvey Nichols shares the same building façade.
THE ROOMS Los Angelesbased designer Peter Remedios put the focus of the 113 guest rooms on materials, using light black African wood for the floors and creating dark cabinets inlaid with sleek silver. The magic here is in the details: all phones display guests' names digitally, closets are equipped with yoga mats, and full-sized bath products are infused with lavender and ylang-ylang.
THE SERVICE A technology butler came to our room in minutes to fix a networking problem. The worldly concierge, Andrew McGregor, is tapped into the local scene and can secure tables at private dining clubs like Cipriani. However, the MO Bar and restaurant staff can be woefully slow—a midnight coffee order still had not arrived after a 30-minute wait.
THE AMENITIES New York designer Adam Tihany aimed to make a statement with the hotel's Amber restaurant, and he succeeds. Polished mahogany walls and a monumental hanging sculpture of 4,200-plus copper rods greet guests, who are then treated to Dutch chef Richard Ekkebus's exploration of flavors from North Africa, Europe, and Asia. The hotel's trump card, however, is Remedios's spa, a series of rooms where you can flit among "minted" showers, hot mists, and tropical saunas where the ceiling "rains."
DIRTY SECRET The location, in the heart of the Central district, is spectacular, but only if you're walking; it can take 30 minutes by car or taxi just to cross the last few traffic-choked blocks that lead to the hotel.
NICE SURPRISE Guests can use the hotel's $1,300 Vertu mobile phones—free.
15 Queen's Rd., Central; 866/526-6567 or 852/2132-0188; www.mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $513.
InterContinental Hong Kong
THE LOOK It's been almost five years since the beloved Regent Hotel was re-branded as the InterContinental Hong Kong. Thankfully, the incredible views of the skyline are unchanged, and the lobby and pools are still just feet from the water. Everything else, however, has just gotten an upgrade, with subtle Asian touches.
THE SCENE Young ad and film execs in jeans and Puma sneakers pitch ideas over drinks in the lobby, while heavy hitters from Asian first-world economies like South Korea and Japan do major deals. There's also the occasional middle-American tourist group and a growing number of mainland Chinese.
THE ROOMS Guests used to complain about the drab interiors, but no more. The 495 rooms are now awash in earth tones with cheerful splashes of imperial yellow (on the headboards and tasseled silk throws) and have every possible high-tech gadget, from iPod docks and Bose surround-sound systems to Aquos flat-screen TV's. The desks are gently curved and big enough for spreading out work. Unfortunately, bathrooms seem to have missed the update (the marble is overworn and the lighting is too bright). But who cares when you're at the hotel that's got the most epic views of Victoria Harbour.
THE SERVICE There's a casual confidence about the staff, who are happy to impart recommendations on the best noodle stalls or shops in the area. An on-duty chef actually stopped to point us in the direction of the new Steak House restaurant; the concierge was able to compile an address list of eight hot restaurants, clubs, and cafés quicker than the best personal assistant.
THE AMENITIES You don't need to step outside to eat well here. Savory salads are served in the lobby. Decadent corn-fed chicken burgers and Wagyu rib eyes are delivered in the lipstick-red Steak House. Alain Ducasse's Spoon is overrated and overpriced for dinner (entrées push past the $60 mark), but at its demure Spoon Bar, you can curl up in an eel-skin chair for sweeping Hong Kong vistas and an à la carte menu (unusual for Asia). The next tenant will be Nobu, set to open in November.
DIRTY SECRETS The lobby empties out into a mall; the corridors are dark and configured in a zigzag, so it's easy to become disoriented every time you return to your room.
NICE SURPRISE Yoga and tai chi classes over-looking the skyline in the morning.
18 Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 800/327-0200 or 852/2721-1211; www.intercontinental.com; doubles from $500.
Langham Place Hong Kong
Since it opened in March 2005, the glass-and-steel Langham Place, designed by the same team behind Tokyo's Roppongi Hills
complex, has quietly become the city's hidden gem. Set among the markets and frenetic foot traffic of Mongkok on the Kowloon
side of Victoria Harbour, the 665-room retreat mixes business, pleasure, and even art with the kind of smart and playful
efficiency most design hotels aspire to achieve. The fun begins at arrival: guests are greeted by a pair of enormous,
cartoonish sculptures of Mao's Red Guards, just one of the 1,700 pieces of Chinese art throughout the hotel. Forty floors
up, it's all about relaxation, with the top three stories devoted to the Chuan, a Chinese-style spa that offers more than 60
treatments; a teak-floored gym; and a rooftop pool straight out of South Beach. And as Hong Kong Island turns into one
sprawling, interconnected mall, Kowloon—which many argue is the authentic Hong Kong—is growing in appeal. To
help guests get acquainted with this other side of Hong Kong, the concierge runs tours of the island's food and flower
markets—the best kind of insider orientation.
555 Shanghai St., Kowloon; 800/223-5652 or 852/3552-3388; www.langhamhotels.com; doubles from $335.