Swire Hotels in China

Date: 26 Apr 2014


A home from home for the international businessman, Swire Hotels offer the perfect place to rest a weary briefcase. By Charlotte Ellis

With Hong Kong ranking as Asia’s number 1 financial centre and given its very special position with the mainland Chinese market, the Swire Hotel group was quick to recognise the need to create two luxury boutique hotels ‚Äì one in Hong Kong and the other in Beijing ‚Äì to offer unparalleled personal service for the discerning business traveller.

Multi-award-winning The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Opposite House in Beijing are reminiscent of a private residence and feel more like home away from home. You are greeted at the door as a friend, and without the formal reception desk and registration process you’ll feel liberated by the paper-free arrival and departure experience.

Conscious to create a carbon-free and waste-free environment, both hotels run an eco-friendly system favouring digital technology. You’ll find a personal iPad touch in each room for information about the hotel and its services, rather than a pile of booklets and leaflets.

The Upper House, situated at the very heart of Hong Kong island in the Admiralty district, looks out towards the harbour and is backed by the luscious greenery of Hong Kong Park.

Designed by celebrated Chinese architect Andre Fu, the hotel perches above Pacific Place. The rooms start on the 38th floor, far from the hustle and bustle of a busy city and offer breathtaking views of the island and Victoria Harbour. The pure and minimalist décor is infused with warm and subtle lighting and complemented with a scattering of contemporary artworks and sculptures.

I stayed in one of the hotel’s 850-sqs ft studios, that includes a bathroom of 366 sq ft with a free-standing bathtub in the middle. With the choice of admiring the glorious view through the floor-length windows or watching TV on the large screen on the opposite wall, the temptation to overextend bath time was hard to resist.

Top treats

Hong Kong is well known for the excellence of its cuisine and The Upper House certainly lives up to this reputation. We had a superb meal at The Cafe Gray Deluxe on the 49th floor, at a table in a dining bay overlooking the Hong Kong International Finance Centre.

The menus are created by award-winning chef Gray Kunz, who trained in Switzerland, and who worked at Le Baur au Lac in Zurich and Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, before moving to New York and finally settling in Hong Kong. The menu is mainly European with Gray’s own personal multinational culinary twist. I particularly enjoyed the dessert, a delicate passion fruit omelette soufflé.

The following day, we had lunch at Plat du Jour, a French-style bistro, and Swire Hotels’ first stand-alone restaurant. It opened recently at Taikoo Place, adding to Hong Kong’s fast-developing dining scene within this vibrant business district. The escargots bourguignons, followed by a delicious pan-fried sole with capers and haricots verts, could have been served up in any of the regional gastronomic centres of France.

We then flew to Beijing with Dragonair, a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airline and part owned by the Swire Group, to continue our journey.

Capital attractions

Beijing is certainly very different from Hong Kong, but we immediately felt at home at The Opposite House, created in the same concept as The Upper House, its sister hotel.

The Opposite House, situated in the heart of Beijing in the Sanlitun shopping district, is the creation of eminent Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. It greets you with its striking emerald glass exterior that contrasts comfortably with the large traditional Chinese wooden front doors, that open onto smiling faces welcoming you in the vast atrium.

I stayed in a spacious studio of 70 sq m with natural wooden floors and subtle touches of Chinese décor. Taking inspiration from the traditional Asian home, the deep soaking oak bathtub took pride of place in the simply decorated but luxurious bathroom.

We had dinner, hosted by Peter Wynne, Area General Manager for the Swire Group, and the delightful Pingping Chen, Area Communications Manager who was to be our guide during our stay, at the Spanish-themed restaurant Sureno, on the lower ground floor of the hotel. Surrounded by minimalist though warm and welcoming décor, we enjoyed a selection of delicious tapas, followed by Mediterranean cod stew, prepared by the charming lady chef from Barcelona.

The hotel is also justly proud of its newly opened restaurant Jing Yaa Tang, which celebrates Beijing roast duck at its heart, with the menu extending to a wide range of favourite dishes from different regions across China. Jing Yaa Tang is a Swire Hotels’ collaboration with London-based and internationally-recognised restaurateur Alan Yau and is set within a striking contemporary Chinoiserie theatrical style design.

Our dinner was hosted by the young and dynamic Phillip Blaser, Director of Restaurants and Bars. We enjoyed the speciality Beijing duck roasted in special wood-burning ovens that melt away the fat, leaving the skin crispy brown of an even colour. It was the tastiest Peking duck, aptly renamed Beijing duck, I have ever eaten.

It was with some regret we had to say good-bye to China the next morning, the warm hospitality of the Swire hotels and the charming staff who’d been looking after us so well. Luckily the comfort of the return flight on Cathay Pacific Airlines made the journey relaxing and enjoyable, and eased the transfer from the Asian capital back to London, the top global financial centre of the world.

Swire Hotels is a division of Swire Properties, which is part of Swire Pacific, the company behind Cathay Pacific and Dragonair airlines.

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