The perfect Hong Kong buffet, a vast infinity pool – luxury hotel the Fullerton Ocean Park is a fun staycation option
- With a ‘fun desk’, an indoor kids’ zone and a children’s pool next to its vast infinity pool, city’s newest luxury hotel will appeal to families on staycation
- Couples and solo visitors will feel welcome too, the food offerings are great and service fast and friendly. Its claim to be sustainable is questionable, though
The quarantine period in Hong Kong might have dropped to three nights, but with limited flights at extortionate prices, jacked-up room rates at the city’s designated quarantine hotels – if you can find a vacancy – plus the stomach-churning fear of detention at the Penny’s Bay holding facility, staycations won’t become a thing of the past any time soon.
In a Stockholm syndrome kind of way, it’s a delight, then, to have a new hotel in the city to discover this summer, especially one as pretty as the Fullerton Ocean Park.
Fullerton has a small collection of luxury hotels, owned by the Sino Group, with heritage properties in Singapore (The Fullerton Hotel and The Fullerton Bay) and Australia (The Fullerton Sydney).
The Fullerton Ocean Park is the group’s first resort and, unlike its other properties, which are all located in historic buildings, the Southside outpost is a new build, with two towers that housing 425 rooms.
It’s admirable that the Fullerton is using glass water bottles (which can be refilled at stations on every corridor), has installed water-saving systems, is driving the urban diversity Farm by the Ocean project and is involved in the Coral Reefstoration collaboration, but those initiatives, plus a small pathway made of EcoBricks (produced from recycled plastic waste) that cuts through the gardens, do not constitute complete sustainability.
Wining and dining
Eating here is a highlight. I check in a little early, at 2pm, just in time to catch the last hour of the buffet lunch at the hotel’s all-day-dining restaurant Lighthouse Cafe (HK$602.80/US$80 per person, including tax; 12pm until 3pm). It’s a bright and airy space adjacent to the lobby, overlooking the terrace and South China Sea, but all eyes are on the food.
What awaits diners is an extravaganza of bubbling, steaming cooking stations serving Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Italian cuisine. There is a salad bar, a seafood bar, soups and breads, and a dessert counter with ice cream and a chocolate fountain. Everything I try is delicious – particularly the chocolate fudge cake – and the service is fast and friendly.
The breakfast spread is similarly impressive. The management clearly knows its market and has come up with everything you might expect from the perfect Hong Kong buffet.
The hotel’s Cantonese restaurant, Jade, is on the second floor and boasts an understated interior and heart-fluttering views of the ocean. The restaurant is headed by chef Lai Ching-shing, who picked up a Michelin star five years in a row in his role as executive chef at Yuè, at the City Garden Hotel in North Point, Hong Kong.
His signature dishes include double-boiled soups, baked crab shell stuffed with crabmeat and onions, and suckling pig with shrimp paste and sesame.
On the recommendation of our smooth-talking waiter, Sam (poached from Gaddi’s, the French restaurant at The Peninsula), my friend and I start dinner with the crab, which is served in a golden crab-shell dish topped with roasted cheese, and tastes as beautiful as it looks.
Other stand-outs include the perfectly crispy, juicy barbecue pork with honey, the tender braised Wagyu beef cheek and the zingy chicken with tangerine peel and black bean sauce.
The hotel also has a Singaporean restaurant, called Satay Inn, and if the bah kuh teh at breakfast is anything to go by, it is to be recommended. An Italian restaurant, with an outdoor terrace, will open in the autumn.
Balcony Oceanfront Lookout rooms are positioned on the corners of the West Tower and have sweeping views of Aberdeen Harbour, Ap Lei Chau and Mount Johnston on Ap Lei Pai island.
Among the more expensive rooms, they have plenty of wow factor, with a corner bathtub – in which you can soak while watching sampans, speedboats and tugs chugging through Aberdeen Harbour – and a spacious sea-view balcony, which is a rarity in Hong Kong these days.
The less expensive rooms have plenty of appeal, too, thanks to panoramic windows, mirrors positioned to make the view even more expansive, and soothing cream and cornflower blue interiors. The top suites come with large living rooms, sun terraces and private pools.
A restful night’s sleep is aided by solid soundproofing, touch-button blinds that black out every chink of light, and a cosy mattress.
A few simple nods to sustainability could have been made here – the use of organic sheets, perhaps, and a device to ensure the air conditioner is switched off when the balcony door is open.
And couldn’t an alternative to Nespresso machines, which are notoriously awful for the environment, have been found for the guest rooms?
Making a splash
One of the Fullerton’s main draws is its enormous free-form infinity pool, which wraps around the coast in spectacular fashion, so it seems strange that the architects (Aedas) didn’t think to include more space for sun loungers.
Under current coronavirus restrictions, capacity remains at 50 per cent and guests have to book 90-minute lounging slots, so the poolside – which, by my count, has 40 to 50 lounger and cabana spaces for the resort’s 425 rooms – is going to be packed when the regulations are dropped.
During my visit, which falls during the school holidays, the main pool is just as popular with children as is the adjacent kids’ pool, which has a couple of waterslides, dancing water jets and an area for tots.
An afternoon swim becomes an assault course of toddlers screaming in the whirlpools, tweens having swimming races, teens throwing mini rugby balls and families taking selfies on the pool’s edge while a lifeguard sternly blows her whistle to stop them sitting and standing on the rim.
In the early morning, though, I practically have the pool to myself and make serene laps up and down to a South China Sea soundtrack.
As with most hotels with pools, families will feel most at home during the weekends and holidays; couples and solo guests should visit midweek.
Other things to do
The hotel makes no secret of its focus on families, so there are experiences on offer beyond Water World, which is right next door, and the Ocean Park theme park, which is just around the corner.
Press the “fun desk” button on your in-room phone to be connected to the “fun department”, which can organise everything from sunset sampan rides around the harbour to abseiling down Mount Johnston and mermaid classes complete with shimmery fish tails.
The huge indoor kids’ club has a Hong Kong Unesco Geopark theme and seven play zones, but, unlike in a resort you might find abroad, kids always have to be accompanied by an adult and there’s a fee – HK$160 for 45 minutes midweek, rising to HK$250 for 45 minutes at the weekend.
Soon, parents will be able to recover from the shock of those prices at the Fullerton Spa, which will open later this year. Positioned on the fifth floor (alongside a comprehensive gym) it has four sea-view treatment suites (two for singles and two for couples), vitality pools, hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas, and will feature products by body care brands Bamford and Subtle Energies.
Mild greenwashing and teething issues aside, there’s no doubt that the Fullerton Ocean Park is a great addition to the Hong Kong hotel scene, with charming staff, top-notch dining and attractions that will ensure it remains popular when the border reopens.