Monday morning. Low clouds hung over Causeway Bay with a promise of rain. Hong Kong’s glistening streets pulsed with youth and ambition. Colossal Hang Seng tickers prophesied profit and loss. On pavements investment bankers in Armani suits strode with purpose, their mouths busying between cigarettes and rapid-fire cell-phone conversation. You could shut your eyes for a tick and imagine David Byrne rapping ‘The Sound of Business’.
The taxi dropped me between Wyndham Street and the entertainment precinct of SOHO, an abbreviation for South of Hollywood Road. Built in 1844 shortly after Hong Kong was founded, it predates its famous namesake in California, which came to be in 1870. This upscale neighbourhood in the firmament-kissing business district of Hong Kong Central is packed with art galleries and antique shop-windows that lure with everything from ivory figurines to Ming ceramics. Worlds old and new thrive cheek by jowl. Steam from bubbling tea kettles mingles with joss smoke from the Man Mo Temple. Neon-lit bank logos and international retail brand stores are equal landmarks as century-old egg tart bakeries and rice shops. And the petals of the Golden Bauhinia unfurl slowly but perceptibly to paper over Hong Kong’s legacy of British occupation with Chinese leitmotifs.
Ovolo’s flagship hotel at 2 Arbuthnot Road, with its welcoming Cafe O on the ground floor, is bung in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong. LKF to the with-it, this square of closely stacked streets is where expats flock to brunch, drink, club and dine. Pleasant smells waft from the restaurants after lunchtime and the night is always young.
It’s hard to spot a better located hotel. Three minutes on foot to the Central MTR (light rail) station or eight to Exchange Square or the Airport Express. At nightfall, I could lounge at Dragon-i for crepuscular celeb spotting or amble a few steps to hit the bar. Any bar. Even more convenient if I have to totter back.
When the party takes a breather, you can retreat, recharge and return replenished. To Skype family, or teleconference colleagues in the wakeful world in your pajamas. Then, grab complimentary breakfast at the Cafe O on your way out. Carpe diem.
Two studio apartment-style rooms to a floor make your stay both spacious and luxuriously private. Sunlight pours into the corner with the office space, which is equipped with a telephone (free local calls) and a bounty of travel adapters. A Nespresso machine and a kettle are within reach.
When I returned in the evening, I found in my room a bottle of fine New Zealand wine and a touch of warmth in how the lights were dimmed, the drapes drawn and the duvet arranged for the night. Had I one more night and a break from nightlife, I might have lounged in bed and flipped on the Apple TV, or rung the desk for an XBox. I might even have hit the gym. There was no excuse not to, it’s open round the clock.
Last year, Ovolo won awards for excellence in the luxury and boutique hotel categories. I imagine they were not merely for the unlimited superspeed Wi-Fi, which guests can enjoy in over 9,000 hotspots across Hong Kong, thanks to an arrangement with the island’s biggest broadband network. Or the fully stocked in-room bar that comes with no strings, or unpleasant surprises, attached. Or the ‘loot bag’ of things snacky to quell after-party pangs. Or the seemingly simple but thoughtful utilities like the ironing board, self-laundry and hair-dryer, which are there when you need them.
It’s perhaps for the experience that makes the Ovolo hotel equally suited for work and play. It’s businesslike without the cold formality of a business hotel. It’s professional without being starchy. The brand’s self-assured, pleasantly cheeky voice resonates in every facet of the experience — from online booking right down to the cautionary notices in the washroom. The promise of limitless fun and the happy hours make getting back to the hotel something to look forward to. That must count for something. The doorman told me cheerily when I tiptoed in at 1am that Hong Kong parties so hard because young professionals are in no hurry to return to their cramped apartments.
Space, in Hong Kong, is the final frontier and the squeeze for accommodation in Central is evidence of it. Ovolo’s founder and CEO Girish Jhunjhnuwala, who exited his family’s watchmaking business in 2001 to set up serviced apartments before he opened the hotels recently, told me that Hong Kong offers 64,000 rooms for the millions of tourists it hopes to attract every year. There is always room for another hotel. Or five.
Which must have been his way of saying that in the unlikely event that I tired of 2 Arbuthnot, I could choose from four other Ovolo hotels or two serviced apartments in Hong Kong.
Location 2 Arbuthnot Road, Central
Tariff All-inclusive Studio Deluxe Room from HKD 2,154 and Studio Super Shiny Room from HKD 2,454 (10% taxes extra). Applicable for 2 adults + 1 child under 12 years; additional bed for child for HKD 385 subject to availability
Amenities and inclusions Queen bed, working desk with travel adapter, Malin+Goetz bathroom amenities, electronic safe, Free Breakfast, Free Daily Replenished Mini Bar with mini-liquors, Free Superspeed Wi-Fi, Free Access to 9,000+ Hotspots, Free Bluetooth, Free Self-Laundry, 24-Hour Gym, Free Happy Hour, Free Local Calls, Flexible Check Out, Smoke Free. Super Shiny Rooms are located on a high floor with city view and have additional amenities such as colour printer and a complimentary HKD 100 Daily Cafe Coupon.
Contact +852-37553000, ovologroup.com