Boutique stays in a high-rise isle

Penny Watson discovers art, design and Oriental chic in these Hong Kong hotels.

Big, brassy brands reign supreme in this savvy moneymaking metropolis; however, there are boutique boltholes that offer something unique. From a surrealism-inspired haven to a Philippe Starck-influenced home-away-from-home in Causeway Bay, here are six worth checking into.

The Luxe Manor

If you asked Salvador Dali, Andre Breton and Joan Miro to workshop a hotel interior, they might well have brainstormed the Luxe Manor into being. It's a hocus-pocus of whimsically mix-and-match furniture, lighting, extreme art and an incongruous palette of wallpaper, textiles and design in which no surface has been spared. The place is truly for the right side of the brain.

All 153 rooms are luxuriously decked out but do try to bag one of the themed suites for a night in an igloo (Nordic), a Bedouin tent (Safari) or Alice's Wonderland (Mirage). Speaking of Nordic, the hotel's FINDS Scandinavian Restaurant is lauded for its venison and salmon dishes. Another visual feast awaits in the Luxe's new DaDa Lounge, which serves cocktails and late-night jazz. Not enough stimulation? The frantic energy of Tsim Sha Tsui is on the doorstep.

Luxe Manor, Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Rooms from $HK1900 ($251). Phone +852 3763 8880; see

Lan Kwai Fong Hotel

The Sheung Wan area is a hot spot; a melting pot of designer-laden streets with galleries, old-style tong lau shop houses and noodle bars. Lucky, then, this hotel is in Sheung Wan, not a 10-minute walk away in Lan Kwai Fong. The hotel is a syncretic but endearing mix of Asian modern versus oriental, which is most obvious in the foyer, where glitzy sequinned wallpaper and out-there lampshades hit it off with staff in cheongsams, and a big Buddha statue.

The big guest rooms have awesome city views; basic rooms are compact but nicely laid out, with bathrooms hidden behind doors. Other touches include hand-painted teacups with porcelain lids, red and gold dragon-motif cushions, bedside jade stones "for a calming mind and nice sleep" and tailor-made jade turtles. Most of these are for sale. The best turnip cakes in Hong Kong are served at Celebrity Cuisine, the hotel's two-star Michelin restaurant. With mountains behind and water in front, the feng shui is pretty good, too.

Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong. Rooms from $HK1500 a night. Phone +852 3650 0000; see

Hotel LKF

With a view-tastic open-air bar on the roof and Lan Kwai Fong on the doorstep, this sleek-chic hotel of 95 rooms is in prime partying position. The standard, deluxe and suite rooms are some of the biggest in the city and have a playboy ambience; the masculine colour scheme is softened by art and design magazines, retro Illy espresso machines, Molton Brown bath products and pillow menus.

The modern local artworks chosen for each room hint at the hotel's proximity to the Hollywood Road art strip. Big desks and a new gym and business centre will suit business travellers; leisure travellers will appreciate the bathrooms with big tubs.

Hotel LKF, Wyndham Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central. Rooms from $HK3000 a night. Phone +852 3518 9688; see


French design guru Philippe Starck has cast his creative wand over everything in sight at this Causeway Bay hotel. Most impressive is the reception area, with its teak floors and white sheer curtains forming a backdrop to a small gallery of Starck's furniture, which ranges from a beaded African rocking chair to La Boheme stools. The 56 rooms, offered as studios and one-bedroom suites, are not short on style, either: the all-white walls, couches, curtains and bedlinen allow the design pieces to star.

All rooms have kitchenettes, plenty of cupboard space and minibars boasting Voss water, Veuve Clicquot and retro bottles of Coke - a nice touch. The hotel's Michelin-star Drawing Room restaurant offers room service. Alternatively, try the Din Tai Fung restaurant for a dumpling indulgence.

JIA, Irving Street, Causeway Bay. Studio rooms from $HK2800 a night. Phone +852 3196 9000; see

The Upper House

Take a deep, Zen-like breath before stepping into the Upper House, a hotel in Admiralty that takes descriptions such as "tranquil" and "oasis" to a new level. It feels more like a gallery or library than a 117-room hotel, an accomplishment aided by paperless in-room check-ins, "invisible" cleaners and plain-clothes staff. The vibe is modern with Asian subtleties. Whether in a studio or penthouse, guests will find an iPod dock, free snacks and "maxi" bar, and Illy espresso machines.

The Upper House, Pacific Plane, Queensway. Rooms from $HK4000. Phone +852 3968 1111; see

The Mercer

Opened in April, the 55-room Mercer is spacious enough for creature comforts and small enough to be immersed in the lively Sheung Wan locale. The hotel's floor-to-ceiling lobby windows and outdoor breakfast area work nicely towards this dynamic. In the bedrooms, too, big windows and glass partitioning make the most of natural light and views. The decor is modern with a touch of chintz, though the smaller rooms have more neutral tones.

A suite of "hassle-free" freebies includes wi-fi, local calls, breakfast and minibar, and all rooms have iPods, iPhone chargers, high-thread-count cotton sheets and fluffy pillows. If you are after more home comforts, the bigger rooms have kitchenettes and espresso machines. There's a gym - a rarity for travellers visiting these parts - and an outdoor swimming pool for your pleasure.

The Mercer, Jervois Street, Sheung Wan. Rooms from $HK2000 a night. Phone +852 2922 9988; see

Cathay Pacific has a fare to Hong Kong from Sydney and Melbourne (9hr non-stop) for about $1150 low-season return, including tax; see