Last weekend I stayed at what many people consider to be the best hotel in the world, the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, the 1963 original and still the group's flagship. How, though, do you measure one great hotel against another and end up with the world's best?
Service, obviously, in which regard the Mandarin Oriental scored about as heavily as it's possible to score. Scarcely had we stepped off the plane - on what cynics might call a press junket but I prefer, in the manner of MPs and Fifa delegates, to call a fact-finding trip - than we were corralled by liveried drivers and swept through the airport on those buggies that normally transport the old, the lame and the Beckhams.
On our arrival at the hotel itself, even more impressively, we each had a personal receptionist waiting to whisk us to our rooms for the check-in procedure. Evidently it is considered just too tiresome to have to register in the lobby. And about 90 seconds later my luggage arrived. It is a bugbear of mine that in swanky hotels (how I like having a swanky-hotel bugbear) the hall porter insists on commandeering bags that you are perfectly able to carry yourself, then takes a little too long to deliver them, so that you're forced to flick through the 37 TV channels, twice, when all you want to do is unpack. Not at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.
Needless to add, the room, dining and spa facilities all ticked the boxes, but what every good hotel also needs is a top-notch bar. The Mandarin Oriental has several, notably the Captain's Bar, an expat institution for decades, and the atmospheric M Bar on the 25th floor, which used to be a cabaret lounge, and where staff once felt compelled, very politely, to eject a boorish Australian who was attempting to get into that evening's show. They rejected his protestations that he was the act. But he was.
It was Barry Humphries, arriving in character as Sir Les Patterson, the Australiancultural attaché. I'd have chucked him out, too.
It's always interesting, however, when eastern and western cultures meet, as they do head-on in Hong Kong. On which subject, I'd been told we would be dining at one of the hotel's restaurants, the Manoir, which I took to be an outpost of the Raymond Blanc empire. I'd also heard, to my delight, that the PR woman hosting our dinner at the city's other Mandarin Oriental, the Landmark, smaller and even more chic than its older sister, would be one Vivien Leigh. Naturally these turned out to be the Man-Wah, and Vivian Li, who was no less pretty than her near-namesake, but a lot more Asian.
Cary Grant wasn't all he was cracked up to be
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