‘Goodness, that sounds disgusting,’ says Mrs Smith, pointing to a gruesome concoction called a curry martini on the bar menu. It might sound awful, but as it’s been created by world-renowned mixologist (as barmen like to be called these days) Mark Ward, I decide to give it a go. It turns out to be excellent, a bit like an alcoholic mango chutney, and one prepared by Michelin-starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar at that. Mrs Smith is equally delighted with her delicious, orangey marmalade martini. No Robertson’s here, thank you very much.
As the drinks menu suggests, the J Plus Hotel by Yoo (formerly Jia Hong Kong) is not your ordinary bolthole. For a start, its 54 rooms are located in a 25-storey former office block. Transcending its humble origins, it has been redesigned by French design guru Philippe Starck – hence the impeccably stylish lobby in which a silver upholstered antique sofa contrasts strikingly with mirror-finish Louis Ghost chairs. But, despite the high gloss finish, the hotel feels completely integrated into the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s energetic Causeway Bay district. There is a shop selling birds’ nests across the road, a flower and vegetable market next door, and noodle bars nearby. In fact, they all feel very, very close indeed, as the J Plus has no driveway and its Schrager-esque lobby leads straight onto the street. Once inside, however, the atmosphere is laid-back, and offers an ambience you don’t always associate with upscale hotels.
After Mrs Smith and I check in, we are escorted to our room, where we are shown how everything works. We’re not really listening, though, as we’re in admiration mode, looking around the pristine, mainly white space and making approving noises to each other. The bed – over which the word ‘dream’ is written in silver lettering – is situated in a yellow alcove, and the bathroom has been constructed from floor-to-ceiling black-veined marble. It’s impressive stuff. Mrs Smith points out that, though it’s wonderful, everything’s a little on the small side. Small, but perfectly formed, I retort. This is Hong Kong, after all; and, like Manhattan, space is at a premium. It’s not long before Mrs Smith is walking around, taking photos of all the furnishings and design flourishes. I get the feeling our own not-so-huge flat is soon to be modelled on this bijou corner of China.
Sometimes boutique hotels forget that their main business is hospitality, not wowing style magazines. Not so J Plus. ‘Good evening Mr and Mrs Smith,’ says the concierge, remembering our names as we enter the lobby to take advantage of the complimentary wine. The hotel also serves free afternoon tea and cakes to all guests, which we both agree is a ‘nice touch’.
Later, after we’ve relaxed for a while with the aforementioned cocktails, we take the ferry to Kowloon. It costs two Hong Kong dollars – an absolute bargain, considering it affords us views from deck of the kind of nighttime skyline guaranteed to turn Mrs Smith into putty. ‘They’re opening a hotel in Thailand,’ she tells me, dreamily, looking back at the Causeway Bay lights behind us. We both smile. That’s our next trip to the Far East sorted, then.