Hotel Icon in lively Kowloon has brains and good looks in equal measures: owned by Hong Kong Polytechnic University, its attractions include sweeping harbour views, three excellent restaurants, and enough Chinese art to fill a gallery. Hong Kong Island is a 20-minute drive away, but you won’t miss it, thanks to Kowloon’s buzzing markets, edifying museums and on-trend boutiques.
All the Chinese art
Icon’s trio of restaurants
A bottle of house wine
In the know
Also need to know:
Guests booked into a Club room or suite get to enjoy paperless check-in (and other perks) at a separate lounge on the 28th floor. The hotel boasts Asia's largest vertical indoor garden, designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc. The garden frames the Green café on the ground floor of the hotel, making for an unexpected green respite from Hong Kong's iconic concrete jungle.
Geek-chic glasses to blend in with the personable young graduates who make up some of the staff (we’re not talking bumbling interns). Don’t leave your negotiation skills at home: you’ll need them for bouts of bartering in the local markets.
This is a stylish stay – staff are dressed to impress, thanks to uniforms by Hong Kong fashion darling, Barney Cheng – so leave loungewear at home. Support Hong Kong talent by wearing colour-pop threads by Day Dream Nation (www.daydream-nation.com).
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
He was wearing Timberlands.
Untied, nonchalant, seriously trendy Timberlands.
A work boot formally worn by tradesmen, but now favoured by the likes of Jay Z, they’re more often spied on celebrities, rappers and the Cool Clique rather that on the southern tips of a hotel doorman.
I make this unexpected discovery as we are shown through to the lobby of Hong Kong’s Hotel Icon in Kowloon, where Mr Smith and I have escaped for a four-day holiday.
‘He’s wearing Timberlands,’ I hiss into the ear of the blissfully unaware Mr Smith, who is more focused on the enormous vertical garden creeping up the right wall. And thus, the benchmark is set for our brief, albeit glorious stay at Hotel Icon: this place is cool.
Bags are taken, smiles are flashed, doors are opened. The charming staff in the cavernous, crisply cold foyer are a delightful oxymoron of old-school charm and new-school cool: the Timberlands, it would seem, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the savvy hospitality attitude of 21st-century Hong Kong. Moments later we are whisked high up to the executive check-in floor, where a sticky Mr Smith and I graciously accept beverages and sign away our lives on slick iPads. Swiftly and seamlessly we find ourselves in our room. Just like that.
After years of travelling, it seems almost a given to spend the first few hours in a new country arguing in broken English with a hotel receptionist about how yes, you need cutlery in your room, and no, you won’t throw it out the window. In comparison, this is so easy.
With a smug smirk playing at the corner of my mouth, we are led to our Club 36 Harbour View room. And what a room it is. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re gonna do Hong Kong in style; this is where it’s at. Our boudoir, while not enormous, is beautiful. Sweeping views across the entire length of Kowloon – and across a short moat of sea – Hong Kong Island; a grandiose bathroom with a TV over the bath, an office space, surround sound speaker system, decadent (and free!) minibar, and the most divine bed I have ever felt. Do I jump up and down on it giggling hysterically? Yes. I do.
My initial awestruck reaction doesn’t wane over the two days we spend in Hotel Icon… if anything, my jaw just keeps dropping further and further to the floor until I am dragging it along behind me. Hotel Icon is truly a beacon of sleek, calm service that exists in stark comparison to the hot hustle of downtown Hong Kong.
On a roll after check-in, Mr Smith and I plot our first day: a quick scout of Kowloon’s Ladies’ Market, a spa session, some cocktails and dinner (how glad I am we’re not trekking the mangroves of Cambodia or hiking Mt Fuji – adventure holidays are fine for some, but the stress of finding a good quality fake Michael Kors bag before our 4pm massage is enough excitement for me.) So off we totter, wandering around in the humid air of downtown Hong Kong for a few hours before staggering back to the hotel for our pampering treatments.
Hong Kong is a city of paradoxes. In a single day you will be swept from the hot and heaving masses of fragrant marketplaces, with the endless swarm of traffic, people, noise and commotion, up to the soaring heights of chilled shopping malls, where luxury clothes and accessories sit quietly beside charming sales assistants. You cannot help but get caught up in the wonderful dichotomy between old and new Hong Kong. Centuries of tradition is intersected, almost violently, by Western modernity. McDonald’s sits rudely, loudly, among a sea of street stalls selling octopus or live crabs or chicken hearts. It is an overwhelming assault on the senses and a fabulous cross-junction.
That being said, as our massage awaits, I’m hailing cabs out of steaming downtown faster than calamari curls in a deep fryer. Marketplace HK is great, but a 90-minute massage session? That’s the ticket.
Hotel Icon’s Angsana Spa is heaven. We arrive, flustered from our shopping adventure, to be offered a selection of herbal teas to offset our choice of herbal aromatherapy scents, to offset our choice of herbal massage oils. We pick our scented path to the most divine 90 minutes of our lives, where a full body massage leaves us limp and dribbling through the hole in the massage table. Heaven has a new name: Angsana.
After regaining consciousness and cognitive repossession of our limbs, Mr Smith and I do what any sensible couple does on holiday – we go searching for cocktails. Before our trip, we have been told about a restaurant we just have to visit: Above & Beyond. Well, imagine our surprise when we discover Above & Beyond is literally just above and beyond… on the top floor of our building. Frocked up, we rock up to A&B around 7pm to the happiest news of all – cocktails are free for hotel guests between 6pm and 8pm. And not just cocktails, but hors d'oeuvres as well. Good hors d'oeuvres.
In a magical moment, our first day at Hotel Icon ends with Mr Smith and I sipping on a Singapore Sling, nibbling on banana leaf chicken and watching the twinkling lights of Hong Kong flash and bubble on the streets 28 floors below.
The best hotel reviews give you a tiny taste on the tip of your tongue of what your experience could be like. Hopefully, you have garnered some kind of understanding of what a complete experience Hotel Icon – and Hong Kong – is, with some mysteries still left uncovered (I haven’t even touched on the pool, or the breakfast buffet…).
Hong Kong, a tale of two cities – old meets new, luxury meets simplicity, east meets west, and where the doormen wear Timberlands. So spoil yourself, why don’t you?
Xoxo, Mrs Smith.
17 SCIENCE MUSEUM ROAD, TSIM SHA TSUI EAST, KOWLOON, Hong Kong
0.6 mi / 1.0 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
You've got three to choose from here: Green, a casual ground-floor café that bakes the most delicious, feather-light cupcakes; the Market, inspired by old street food markets and designed with open spaces where you can interact with the amiable chefs, who rustle up local favourites, and, the main event: Above & Beyond. Here, Joseph Tse, formerly of Man Wah, creates refined Cantonese cuisine, including a smashing dim sum lunch. Since the dining room is set on the 28th floor, any meal here comes with a generous side of harbour views. The restaurant also has an impressive walk-in wine cellar, with lockers for private stores.
We love the long private table adjacent to Above & Beyond's wine cellar for special occasions; sit closest to the chefs in the Market.
Tipples are served in Green bar between 11am and 11pm Sun to Thurs; 11am–2am, Friday and Saturday. Buffet breakfast is available in the Market between 6.30am and 10.30am; American and Continental options are on offer in Green 7am–10am.
The 24-hour menu spans Cantonese classics and Western comfort food.
Pause for a drink in Green café and plot your own vertical garden.