Every Hongkonger knows that life in our crazy, fast-paced city wouldn’t be possible without the occasional getaway. That’s why we’re bringing you 'Suite Staycation': a monthly review of some of the finest hotel suites in Hong Kong and Macau. Rated upon the quality of accommodation, F&B and perks which we experience — not to mention on pure “wow” factor — our column offers recommendations on where to spend your hard-earned dollars when it comes to taking some well-deserved R&R.
Set the scene for us: Where's the property located? What's it like to step inside?
The site where the Eaton HK stands has always been a bastion of culture. Located in Jordan, the site used to belong to the Po Hing Theatre, a former Cantonese Opera theatre and cinema. It later made way for The Astor Theatre, a cinema that eventually shuttered in 1987 and finally rebuilt as the Eaton Hotel Hong Kong hotel in 1990. Today, revamped as Eaton HK, the four-star hotel and co-working space regularly hosts film screenings and art exhibitions alike. Many of Eaton HK’s venues still pay homage to its cultural heritage -- the central food hall, for one, is named The Astor.
The hotel boasts a strong programme aimed at art lovers and grassroots social advocates. It played host to the Human/Progress festival last November, and this September, the hotel welcomes the second iteration of the Women’s Festival, with an exciting lineup of empowering talks, workshops and parties.
Step into the lobby and you’ll notice the pop colours, earth-toned wooden finishes, leather armchairs and edgy chandeliers drawing cues from the nearby makeshift market stalls of Temple Street.
What’s the story behind the property?
Holding fort since 1990, the hotel was always known as a great bulwark of traditional hospitality, owned and managed by the Lo family behind Great Eagle Group. Its latest transformation into Eaton HK and co-working space Eaton Workshop is the brainchild of Katherine Lo, who has quickly turned the hotel space into a socially conscious platform.
This transition from time-honoured Jordan hotspot into a bona fide home for independent voices is apparent throughout the hotel’s communal spaces, thanks to international design team AvroKo, which was behind other quirky and luxury spaces from New York’s Arlo Nomad to Bangkok’s Waldorf Astoria. The russet brick and curved glass facade -- left untouched from the original design -- mingles seamlessly with the new turquoise and earthy colour scheme indoors. The design dabbles with retro Hong Kong motifs, particularly incorporating plenty of 70s-style mosaic tiling and stylish stone finishes that have been getting a modern resurgence. The effect? Every corner of the hotel feels undeniably Instagrammable.
Tell us more about the room you stayed in.
We stayed in the Artist’s Studio -- one of two corner suites in the hotel that are used for artist residencies. Ours was particularly tailored to the producer and bedroom DJ crowd, while the other we hear is great for visual artists. The living room area in our suite featured a sound setup complete with a keyboard, Mac Mini, headphones -- but no mouse. I’m no beat-matcher so I wasn’t exactly plussed (I bet the hotel staff would rustle up a spare mouse if I had asked). It felt like more of a fun convenience, an after-party waiting to happen after a night of swaying to the live DJ act downstairs at terrace bar Terrible Baby.
The retro-inspired design from the lobby continues into the rooms with glass bricks, old-school diner tiles, rattan and cork textures and velvet seats. Despite the updated decor, the walnut-coloured paneling gave off a distinctly dated vibe -- the ceilings in particular hung lower than normal, perhaps due to the decades-old building layout. For the same reason, it felt strangely as if I was stepping into my childhood home. A Himalayan pink salt lamp adds to the cosy atmosphere.
With the warm wooden furnishings, the jewel-toned chaise and the gentle sunlight streaming through the sheer drapes, it’s the perfect introvert nook to get some reading and writing done.
Over in the bedroom, a Queen bed with pristine white sheets and a second seating area was punctuated by a TV console, which swivelled depending on where you wanted to watch. The smart TV however did not connect to my devices so Netflix was out of the question, and the channels left a lot to be desired (unless you want to spend your evening watching BBC Earth or Fox Sports).
No matter -- I probably spent the most time in the gorgeous bathroom: a long terrazzo-style trough sink (with his and her taps -- essential) mirrored a deep bathtub made for nighttime relaxing. Blush-pink marble walls and matching tan mosaics met with trendy light brass finishings. To the sides were a long walk-in shower and a separate toilet cubicle for privacy. Admittedly, a lot of the tiling was tinged with age -- guests who prefer pristine, modern surrounds will find it hard to turn a blind eye.
With a strong commitment to activism in the hotel’s programming, it’s great to see a plastic-bottle-free situation when it comes to in-room drinking water. The bathroom also featured large format shampoo and soap bottles by Aussie natural skincare brand Grown Alchemist rather than wasteful minis. And yet, razors and amenity boxes were all cheap single-use plasticware, so there’s definitely a miscommunicated message here that could be improved.
We're feeling peckish. What's on the menu?
It seems there’s no room service or mini bar here, but with the convenient location, it’s all too easy to head downstairs for a late night snack or to grab a bottle of wine for the room (or, just head down to Terrible Baby).
All-day diner The Astor offers a decent spread of international fare, from Cantonese noodles to Indian curries to chilled seafood, as well as omelettes and light bites for breakfast. I would stick to the pastries, which go nicely with your individual pot of French-pressed coffee. I also enjoyed the local touches -- such as bottled Vitasoy and little egg waffles championing Hong Kong’s beloved street snacks.
If you’re looking to explore some more eclectic eats, head to the Food Hall for the rowdier atmosphere but a dizzying array of local bites by third-party vendors: Take your pick from Honolulu Cafe’s signature hot pineapple buns served with a thick slab of butter; Trusty Congee King’s comforting porridge (we liked the one with massive, toothsome scallops); a Korean breakfast sandwich from Sooja Toast and Hotdog; or a lobster roll and a bottle of local craft beer from the hotel’s own Flower Years.
Definitely make a reservation at Yat Tung Heen, a one-Michelin-starred venue which serves classic Cantonese fare and boasts truly intuitive service, with staff that’s taken care of return customers for generations. Try the mind-blowingly good char siu, soul-reviving soups, a famed crispy roast chicken, as well as the claypot lettuce dish, made with local Tai O shrimp paste. There's also a signature Peking chicken dish -- served with thin steamed pancakes and all the fixings just like Peking duck. Yat Tung Heen is also particularly known for its refined seafood and banquet fare -- think fish maw, abalone, bird’s nest and the like.
For a nightcap, you won’t want to miss cocktails at Terrible Baby’s terrace, where you can lounge amongst the palm leaves, with views overlooking the gardens on Gascoigne Road. Most nights, a live DJ here spins nostalgic, danceable hits, guaranteed to get you at least tapping your foot if not pulling you to the centre of the dance floor.
Were you happy with the general level of service on the property?
The service overall was spot-on: friendly, unobtrusive, and particularly at Yat Tung Heen, helpful, welcoming and never snobby. Check-in and check-out was fast and easy, and we never had to wait.
That said, if you’re after the club lounge kind of experience, you’d have to look elsewhere. The vibe is still decidedly down to earth, mingling with the local Jordan population looking for a bite to eat, as well as international tourists and creatives on their break from work at Eaton Workshop.
Describe the vibe -- guests included.
Due to the mixed bag of people who frequent Eaton HK, there is a certain grungy hip vibe to the hotel: everywhere you look you’re immersed in an indie, artsy spirit thanks to the quirky interior design and the art pieces scattered throughout -- almost as if an entire artist’s commune took over a vintage building, which is pretty much the reality. Parts of the hotel felt like scenes from an old Hong Kong film, while other parts make it feel as if you’re in a quaint historic building in New York’s Soho.
As you float up and downstairs in the old glass elevators, you’ll notice random eagles and other rubber animal sculptures perched on the dusty ledges, which gives a bit of character. The rooftop pool felt very Wes Anderson, with flamingos along the rafters watching you swim. Every bit of the hotel was positively photogenic.
Any exceptional perks worth noting during your stay?
Speaking of the pool, I mainly enjoyed the space to nap in the sun rather than to swim -- it is quite a small body of water, and felt too intrusive to jump in when somebody else was already swimming in it. If you’re a yogi, the sun-drenched room behind the pool makes for a great spot for some individual practice -- or perhaps you’ll want to plan ahead to make sure you’re staying the same day as a Sound Meditation or group Yoga Class. On the same level, there’s also a compact weights room equipped with the latest treadmills and fitness paraphernalia -- enough for you to squeeze in a HIIT session to burn off calories.
So in a nutshell: Worth a splurge?
Starting from about HK$4,100 a night for the Artist’s Studio, I’d say this is a definite splurge when it comes to staycating in Kowloon -- the size and compact ceiling height of the suite-level rooms, plus a lack of frills such as a spa, room service or a decently sized pool barely justify the price point of the stay. However, with all of the regularly revolving programme of cultural events, the ample food options and the fantastic Michelin-starred affair at Yat Tung Heen, you can truly spend more than 24 hours in the building without a dull moment, so it indeed offers the refreshing change of pace that we're looking for in a weekend getaway.
If you've got some coin you don't mind splurging, the inspiring experience truly makes up for its drawbacks. Paired with the eclectic, street-inspired design touchpoints, Eaton HK makes for one of the most personality-driven stays you can find in town.
The post Suite Staycation: Old-school hospitality and hip vibes at the Eaton HK appeared first on Lifestyle Asia.
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