A Cut Above – The HarbourView Place Presidential Suite

Taking luxury further once more, the leading Sun Hung Kai Properties have set the new benchmark for hedonism with this exquisite Presidential Suite, located in the stunning development of The HarbourView Place that just opened last year.

Located next to the third tallest building in the world and above one of the most luxurious shopping malls in Hong Kong, The HarbourView Place is worlds apart from your average serviced accommodation – and not just in terms of elevation.

Continue reading A Cut Above – The HarbourView Place Presidential Suite

Fashionable Gastronomy – Armani/Aqua & Armani/Privé

As the fine-looking end product of a fruitful collaboration between luxury gods Armani and the arbiters of restaurant taste, the Aqua Restaurant Group, this restaurant was set to be a hit before construction work even began.

If the Greek legend King Midas was a corporation he would most likely be the Giorgio Armani Group, that ubiquitous oh-so-familiar fashion and luxury goods company that needs no introduction. Pretty much any project that gets the Armani seal of approval is bound to be a success in some way or another these days, and this even counts in areas outside of their domain – with their young yet successful collection of restaurants being a perfect case in point. As a fairly new venture for the company their thriving restaurants all boast the Armani signature lushness, with three gourmet restaurants at the Armani Hotel in Dubai plus a flourishing Armani and NOBU venture. They also recently and fittingly moved into bars, with three Armani/Privé’s located in Milan, Tokyo and Dubai, plus the recently-closed Armani Bar in Hong Kong, which was doing well even up to its close.

Not being ones to stand still, Armani have again taken things a step further and, following in the footsteps of the previously closed Armani Bar, they have just launched a new restaurant concept in the heart of the Hong Kong city centre as well – a massive 14,000 square-foot combined bar and restaurant called Armani/Aqua and Armani/Privé. The new innovative luxury restaurant concept is the result of a partnership between Armani and Aqua Restaurant Group, and their could be no better pairing, with the designer David Yeo behind Aqua being a man with flair and finesse, much like Giorgio Armani. In fact, as one of the main masterminds behind the ultra-stylish Hullett House, Aqua and the Michelin-starred Hutong, much of the phenomenal success of the Aqua Restaurant Group can be attributed to David Yeo alone.

Upon entering Armani/Aqua and Armani/Privé it is clear to see Armani made the right choice for a partner, as David Yeo’s design magic has been successfully conjured up again. Much like the atmospheric interiors of restaurants Aqua and Hutong, subdued romantic moody lighting runs throughout, complementing a dramatic design scheme that catches the eyes from the get-go. A fine polished Italian veneer greets one at the entrance and a plush red carpet leads one into the restaurant. Further in a the dynamic design continues where a long black and orange carpet ushers one into the restaurant, which stands out with arches on either side and mirrors behind – a surreal train station resembling space. Inside in the main dining one is greeted by a lava amber bar, which stands out with its light oriental motifs. Behind this more blood reds crop up in the dining area where they are complemented by cozy booths and an abundance of natural stone, wood, glass and steel.

The other main area of the restaurant is Armani/Privé which has more of a club vibe. As the fourth Armani/Privé in the world Armani wanted things to be a bit different and so the space is split into two main parts – an up-beat lounge and a 5,000 square-foot rooftop terrace which offers skyscraping city views reminiscent of a scene from Blade Runner. Inside chic sleek blacks are matched by lush velvet chairs, while outside wooden decking, rattan furnishing and candlelit containers create a romantic yet futuristic mood.

Of course, they do not disappoint in the food arena as well, with an extensive menu that boasts a wide selection of Italian and Japanese fare. While their Italian cuisine focuses on simple, traditional techniques incorporating influences from the different regions of Italy, their Japanese dishes are more experimental, with beautifully fresh ingredients matched by elegant and innovative presentations. This is one powerhouse that deserves to be visited at least once.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, November 2010

Mainlanders boon to travel and hospitality industry

Despite a subtle sense of apprehension regarding the economic situation in Europe and the United States, things are looking up for those in the travel and hospitality industry.

A recent survey by TMS Asia-Pacific has found that travel and hospitality executives in Hong Kong boast the highest average salaries in the region.

This was the second year in a row that Hong Kong topped the survey, and also the second year that Singapore ranked in second place.

But the situation across the border is looking slightly worse, with salaries dropping over last year, largely due to rising labour costs, inflation and a steadily appreciating yuan.

Commenting on the dominance of the Hong Kong market, TMS CEO Andrew Chan noted that Hong Kong has seen an unprecedented number of monthly arrivals recently – the bulk of which he attributed to visitors from the mainland to the north.

“The romance of travel has really bitten mainland China, and this is propping up the region,” Chan says.

“In Hong Kong, there were record arrivals in short-haul flights, and a lot of these were from carriers that operate between Hong Kong and China,” he says.

“The city’s proximity to Macau, meanwhile, further enhances its ability to attract mainland tour groups,” Chan adds. “The resulting rise in the number of arrivals has undoubtedly driven up travel-industry salaries, while also making the hiring landscape more competitive.”

The survey also found that – in contrast to previous years – the number of employees working in their current companies for 12 months or less has increased by 40 per cent, which “suggests that workers are starting to shop around a bit more,” according to Chan.

Meanwhile, the growth of new hotels and regional offices in the region has also driven up recruitment and competition for staff.

“The war for talent is driving up wages. So, while companies in Hong Kong are making more profit, much of it is being passed on to employees in the form of higher salaries,” says Chan.

To combat the situation, more companies are focusing on employee-retention strategies and creative ways to engage their staff, while also offering more flexibility and training to motivate them, Chan adds.

As to how the continued economic uncertainty might affect these trends, Chan says that the focus is still on recruitment for now, but that companies may start to look at retrenchment if the situation in Europe gets out of hand.

While this is not expected to have a hugely adverse effect on travel in the region, Hong Kong could be more greatly affected, due to its position as a business hub in the Asia-Pacific region, Chan notes.

In terms of the effect on travel industry salaries, Chan says that a European crisis would not have any drastic impact on the region at large.

But he says that Hong Kong could be more shaken due to its role as a centre of trade.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, January 2011 

Dramatic Designs – The Great Hill

Idiosyncratic decorations and distinctive materials give this home an aura of prestigiousness.

This is another luxurious design project from the high-class realms of The Great Hill residential complex in Sha Tin. At 4,380 square-feet, the entire stand-alone house is seeped in distinction, with slick licks of style emerging throughout. The interior design was overseen by Jason Lee of J’s Design House and he successfully merged interesting materials, innovative light fixtures, neoclassical chic and plenty of natural touches to give this home the refined appeal it now has.

Continue reading Dramatic Designs – The Great Hill

Equipping Paradise – Millennium Resort Patong Phuket

Officially opened back in July of this year, the Millennium Resort Patong Phuket is one of the latest launches from one of the fastest growing hospitality groups in Asia, and it is obvious to see why this is when one experiences the top-notch design that the resort is made up of.

With Thailand’s tourist appeal fully restored, interest has once again returned to the beautiful collection of South-eastern Asia islands. The Millennium Resort Patong Phuket is a concrete indication of this, and when the hotel soft-opened last year it was actually one of the first international hotels to launch since 2004. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make the hotel any less spectacular, with the newly-built 421-room property emerging in a sea of well-designed splendour. The resort incorporates Thai elements in its design, but there is also the trademark contemporariness that is characteristic of the hotel brand. For example, while the poolside private-Jacuzzi rooms feature Thai-inspired decorations on the outside patio, there is also a selection of mod-cons and stylish furnishings within.

The hotel consists of two wings – with each building featuring its own open-atrium lobby, and each with its own picturesque rooftop swimming pool. In addition, there is a well-equipped gym centre and spa; two bars and two restaurants; plus 14 meeting rooms. Being one of the only hotels that comes close to 5-star in this area, the Millennium Resort Patong Phuket also boasts a prime location on theRat-Uthit Roadat the intersection ofBangla Streetnear the popular Patong Beach. This makes the resort part of the new landmark that is the mega Phuket Jungceylon shopping mall, and together these developments are rejuvenating Patong Beach and bringing new life toThailand.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, Jan 2010

Welcome to the web portfolio of the Hong Kong writer, photographer, editor and dreamer-creator, Billy Clarke.