17 Science Museum Rd., Kowloon, Hong Kong; 852-3400-1000; hotel-icon.com. 262 rooms, with rates starting at about $280. No eco-rating.
Think yin, yang and young. Hotel Icon, a new stylish dazzler in Hong Kong, is irresistible on several fronts. Fans of contemporary design will get goosebumps. Tech geeks will go gaga. And travellers will swoon at Icon's prices, moderate relative to other luxury hotels in this sophisticated business and shopping capital. Location always counts, and Hotel Icon is a five-to-10-minute taxi ride from the Kowloon Star Ferry or the Airport Express train.
The unique and exciting aspect is that Hotel Icon is run by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The front-desk managers, concierges, chefs and servers all are experienced hoteliers, assisted by interns who are there to watch and learn. Operating in Hong Kong means handling tall orders from savvy and demanding travellers – as many as 36 million a year. The academic link aside, Hotel Icon is ultramodern and professional. Above all, it is chui. That's Chinese for “cool.”
Hotel Icon is the striking creation of a dream team comprising Conran and Partners and an A-list of Hong Kong leaders in fashion, design and architecture. Icon's three-storey industrial-chic lobby gets a green fix with a lush vertical garden growing along walls like subtropical ivy.
Shimmering white marble floors and gigantic glass panels are softened by cozy grey suede sofas, walnut trim and the occasional curve of a dramatic staircase. And Icon's curator has picked the best of Hong Kong's contemporary artists to add colour and soul.
The Angsana Spa is an oasis of soothing soft music and minimalist white decor. Jet-lagged and nursing a sore back from a long flight, I treated myself to a signature Bamboo Massage, in which a therapist stroked my cares away with warm sticks. One of Icon's unusual features is its Timeless Lounge, a posh, 24-hour sanctuary where long-haul travellers can snack, shower and chill out on Eames chairs before check-in or after checkout.
And in a city where the view is paramount, the 24-hour fitness centre and swimming pool both look out onto Hong Kong's distinctive harbour and skyline.
Large, sleek and contemporary, Hotel Icon's rooms are fully loaded with deluxe entertainment systems and ergonomic Herman Miller work chairs. I chose buckwheat from the pillow menu and decaf from the espresso machine and settled in for an early night between crisp white-on-white jacquard sheets. Intrigued by the LED interactive TV, I preordered dim sum and a skim-milk cappuccino for the next morning. Then, I opened the curtains to take in what Guinness World Records calls the world's largest permanent sound and light show, a glittery, colourful skyline spectacle produced nightly by the Hong Kong Tourism Commission.
The hotel's tech quotient is high, guests check in on iPads and today's basics such as iPhone and iPod docks are in the rooms. Guest-room telephones also double as in-house mobile phones so you can receive calls throughout the hotel.
Guests who upgrade to an Above and Beyond Club Room are further spoiled with a private concierge and access to the Above and Beyond lounge which serves free breakfast and evening cocktails, including Champagne and lychee martinis. Or book the “Prototype” rooms, where the hotel tests such concepts as web-connected mirrors that let you spruce up while updating Facebook or watching the news.
Service is keen, friendly and resourceful. With 355 full-time hospitality professionals, plus interns, for 262 rooms, you are not likely to run into as many young, energetic, eager-to-please faces anywhere else. They're also tech-savvy, so when I couldn't master the motion-sensor lighting or the entertainment system, I received help quickly.
There are three impressive dining spaces, plus 24-hour room service. I loved the chic, top-floor Above and Beyond dining room with its unbeatable views and contemporary Asian and fusion delicacies. Our gourmet group was ravenous, so we feasted on wagyu beef with foie gras, steamed crab, lobster with truffles and a Hong Kong specialty, smoked pigeon. Executive chef Joseph Tse, who had been at the Michelin-starred Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, aims for light textures and low sugar, salt and fat, at least relative to traditional Chinese food.
For lunch, you can't beat The Market, a sprawling buffet of delectable Pan-Asian and Western dishes with an outdoor courtyard. Green, an Italian-inspired restaurant in the lobby, cooks up osso bucco or mushroom risotto with truffle oil. If you are truly homesick, you can dig into a burger.
Hotel Icon is a winner in a fiercely competitive city. It is exceptional for its gorgeous interiors, efficient service, fine food and free Wi-Fi and mini-bar snacks. And it's a smart hotel in all senses of the world – technologically, visually and operationally. Staying here, one truly feels plugged in to the city, and the future.
Special to The Globe and Mail