Is there, by any chance, a Hong Kong connection? Yes, indeed. The Mandarin opened its doors in Hong Kong in 1963, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group was formed in 1985 and Milan is the latest city to welcome what's now become a global brand.
So it's the baby of the family? The new addition is certainly small - 73 rooms and 31 suites - but it's perfectly formed. This being Italy, the notion of family is particularly important, of course. And this being Milan, so is design. Those two themes have been combined to create an unusually welcoming atmosphere.
Tell me more … What's now the hotel was originally four 18th-century buildings, right in the city's heart, occupied by noble households. Later, there was a bank on the site but the architect wanted to recapture the warmth of those original residences. The first thing you see in the middle of the lobby, therefore, is a fireplace. There's also lots of natural light, cheerful nooks to sit in and two lovely courtyards. What there isn't is one dominating style: it feels a little bit 1930s, 40s, 60s … just like a family house that's grown into itself over the years. There's even a thoughtfully discreet side-door entrance for self-conscious drop-ins who aren't used to crossing a hotel lobby on their way to dinner but can't resist the food and drink.
Already proving a hit with the locals, then? Absolutely. The aperitivo - early evening drinks and nibbles - is a strong Milanese tradition and the incredibly chic, black-and-white Mandarin Bar (above) has quickly become popular, as has Seta, the restaurant presided over by Antonio Guida (formerly executive chef of two-Michelin-starred Il Pellicano, in Tuscany), who has spent time in Asia.
Which means there's lots of East-West fusion? Enough to be (literally) tasteful without being overwhelming. The spa (below) offers treatments in a holistic way that's more Asian than European and all the guestrooms have distinctive heavy Chinese doors. But beyond that there's no bling, no gaudiness, no kitsch clichés. The rooms are soothing, in shades of pale grey and plum, with full-length windows and massive bathrooms. And they're unbelievably quiet.
Anything else? There's considerable pleasure in being somewhere so restful that's only five minutes' stroll from La Scala and about 10 minutes from Milan's spectacular cathedral. The nearby subway means you can be at the Milan World Expo, which finishes on October 31, in about half an hour. If you miss that, there's always the fantastic new Prada Foundation arts space to explore. The concierges - in fact, the entire obliging staff - are full of suggestions.
What's the bottom line? Room rates start at €750 (HK$6,500) - plus 10 per cent VAT and a €5 city tax per person per night. That rate doesn't include breakfast. If you book through the hotel's website and create an "online profile", Wi-fi is free. Otherwise, it costs €15 per day.