He's a fan. She's a fan. Who, really, is not a fan of the Mandarin Oriental? What, after all, is not to like? The venerable hotelier (somehow the collective noun hotel 'chain' doesn't quite do this estimable group justice) continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Its landmark Hong Kong hotel, overlooking the grandiose Victoria Harbour, and nestled among taller buildings that include a newer Mandarin Oriental, turns 50 in three years' time. Long-time fans will fly in from all over the world to celebrate its five decades as a Hong Kong landmark.
And how they will celebrate. In this former British colony, now again ruled from Beijing, the Mandarin Oriental is a perfect mix of cultural resonance. On the 25th floor, Pierre Gagnaire's two-star Michelin restaurant does a outstanding recreation of modern French cuisine. Diners come for the degustation and stay for the cocktails. Along the corridor is Man Wah, Hong Kong's signature Cantonese restaurant. In recent years Man Wah has been carefully resculptured, updating the dining experience without messing with the refined architecture - notably the dark-wood Chinese friezes that turn the room into a little corner of the old Orient.
Dining options abound. The Krug Room - one of just four in the world and containing the largest collection of Krug champagne outside France - is overseen by executive chef Uwe Opocensky, himself trained at the infamous El Bulli restaurant in Spain. Then there are the 'old names', the comfy old nooks that became city landmarks. The Clipper Lounge, Hong Kong's 'sitting room', offers elegant afternoon teas in air conditioned splendour - a blessed retreat from the meteorological vicissitudes of a city built on swamp and stone. Then there's the Captain's Bar, a mainstay of the financial industry, where bankers meet to cut deals with one another and, on occasion, to leak the drunken news of their cleverness to eager scribes. The Captain's Bar is where the business of financing an entire country (China) meets the rest of the world.
But if dining is the Mandarin Oriental's frontal cortex, its beating heart is held within its suites and services. The Mandarin barber is the best place in the city to get your whiskers snipped, its black reupholstered leather chairs nearly as old as the hotel itself. A few floors up, the spa is a cornucopia of creative unguent; an effervescence of essential oils. Hermes scents pervade the air, which leads the lucky inhabitant to private rooms and hands offering back rubs, foot rubs, pedicures, manicures, and a thousand variations thereon. Even upon entering one feels one's worries just melt away.
Finally, the rooms. If the barber shop and the Michelin-starred restaurants are impressive, they are nothing compared to the hotel's fabulous suites. 'Normal' rooms, at the Mandarin Oriental, don't exist. By default, each stay, if only for a single day, is like a mini holiday. On the upper floors, the creativity and unique flavour of each suite really kicks in. The 'Cantonese' suites offer a beguiling flavour of old Hong Kong for mainlanders and Cantonese residents. The 'Lichfield Suite' - after Lord Lichfield, social eminence grise, boulevardier and photographer of those inimitable Mandarin Oriental advertisements to be found in the back of a thousand colour supplements - is a testament to the peer's eccentricities. Photos of Lichfield in close conversation with Marlon Brando are framed above glassy coffee tables containing links to Lichfield's colourful life and tastes, embodied by a small packet of miniatures of tabasco bottles - his favourite condiment.
The allure and elegance of the Mandarin Oriental, this testament to the enduring old-new quality of a city always in a state of flux, never lets up. Service is perfect - there when you need it. The dining experience is to die for. And at the end of a long day spent navigating the winding streets of a crazy city, there is always your bed to come back to - a perfect, feathery end to another day in Asia's global city.