It may not come as a surprise that the best new business hotel in Asia is in Hong Kong – this is, after all, the birthplace of many iconic hospitality brands, from Mandarin Oriental to Peninsula to Shangri-La.
But the property is owned by none of these legendary companies.
The Murray, the third opening for the China-based Niccolo Hotels group, made its debut in January on Hong Kong’s Cotton Tree Drive, on the periphery of the financial district. Within walking distance of Goldman Sachs’s office, it faces Hong Kong Park and its neighbouring botanical gardens – just one indication of the convenience-meets-comfort factor that makes the hotel so successful.
These days, a great business hotel is about much more than its location, or its in-room desk, for that matter. According to research from the Global Business Travel Association, corporate travellers want hotels to be smarter than ever, with amenities such as text-based concierge systems (which The Murray lacks) and clear e-folios for expenses reports (which The Murray delivers). Considering how quickly the technological landscape has shifted, few business hotels have proved nimble enough to excel across the board; The Murray, however, comes very close.
After a week’s stay to review the property, here are the things it gets right, along with the refinements that it – and nearly every business hotel – can make to meet the needs of today’s business traveller.
It’s got soul
Despite being six months old, The Murray has deep business roots: The 25-story modernist tower was a prominent government building in the 1960s, and its former office spaces now make up 336 elegant rooms designed by Foster + Partners. Much of the classic facade was preserved in the US$1 billion renovation with Niccolo Hotels going as far as bringing back the building’s original architect, 90-year-old Ron Phillips, to consult on the project. Gone is any trace of corporate sterility. Instead, you get plenty of historic character (including the building’s original recessed windows, updated to energy-efficient standards), plus all the modern conveniences you need to be productive.
Rooms that restore you
At a minimum of 500 square feet, the Murray’s rooms are masculine and warm. The beds, with their taupe, floor-to-ceiling headboards, are dressed in 1,000-thread-count linens and can be piled with any of 16 pillow types (including one that prevents you from snoring and another that uses magnets to supposedly boost your circulation). Desks are placed in nooks in front of full-height windows; state-of-the-art technology includes fast, free Wi-fi, ample outlets everywhere, and smart TVs.
The pristine Calcutta marble bathrooms are just as impressive: the main attraction is an egg-shaped claw-foot tub, and the vanity is well-lit and spacious. The only thing the rooms are missing is a clear place to stow your luggage; with limited closet space, you might find your suitcase and clothes sprawled across the floor.
A lobby that’s better than WeWork
For business travellers who like to use hotel lobbies as offices-away-from-home, the Murray delivers. It has several public spaces that are well-suited for plugging in and perching – for instance, the lobby bar and the rooftop restaurant are both quiet and open during the day, with outlets to spare.
Need to spread out? I spent an afternoon at a giant table in the Garden Lounge with my laptop and papers, enjoying high-tea service as I handled a stressful negotiation on the phone. Many others were doing the same. Between an ample snack menu and the feeling of camaraderie among fellow workers, it’s a nice alternative to feeling cooped up in a hotel room.
A wow factor for hungry clients
Like most luxury Hong Kong hotels, the Murray presents a strong culinary programme: five restaurants provide a wide variety to meet your clients’ picky palates or your own corporate expense budget. If you need to impress, beeline to the hotel’s outpost of Michelin-starred Guo Fu Lou, a Cantonese concept; the Jasmine tea-smoked whole chicken is a knockout.
Don’t expect light morning meals, either, as breakfast is a lavish affair. Besides the American and Chinese menus, you’ll find a buffet stocked with exotic fruits, lavish pastries, breads and Jamón Ibérico. One morning, I ended up eating an omelette, pork pot stickers, sticky rice, a fruit plate, toast with smoked salmon, and some of the best egg-custard buns in all of Hong Kong – a veritable feast. At HK$475 (US$60) it may seem like a splurge, but it’s actually the hotel’s best value, as the ingredients are top-shelf and can fill you up for the whole day.
Function spaces that aren’t boring
If you’ve seen one too many snoozy conference rooms on your travels, breathe a sigh of relief: The Murray has seven boardrooms, all with 65-inch flat-screen TVs and ample windows that overlook Hong Kong Park. There’s also a 4,500 square foot events space (with two LED projection screens); a garden terrace that can accommodate 100 people; and a semi-outdoor event space called the Arches, which is actually a converted parking garage. It’s a perfect size – and glamorous enough – for runway shows or large-scale installations. (It’s already been used for film galas and fashion events, including a party for Hong Kong Tatler.)
A Penchant for Wellness
Even if you’re swamped and jet-lagged, The Murray makes self-care feel effortless. An in-house nutritionist can assess your diet and guide you toward healthy choices at the hotel’s restaurants (which might mean skipping the excellent egg-custard buns). A swimming pool and “vitality” pool are in the works; like the spa, they’ll be open until 11pm.
And if you don’t have time to hit Hong Kong’s famous hiking trails, you can sign up for hotel-run dance and tai chi classes, outdoor boot camps, or private fitness coaching. The outdoor workouts are best, considering the hotel’s gym is on the small side.
A VIP-worthy concierge
If and when you do venture outside the hotel, the concierge goes above and beyond to help. I inquired about a popular restaurant that doesn’t accept reservations, and the hotel managed to put my name on the “wait-list” for a prime-time dinner table that was ready within minutes of my arrival.
One downside: there’s no house car, which can be a serious inconvenience. During my week at the hotel, I had trouble getting a car every time – and waited as long as 20 minutes for a taxi.
The bottom line
Rooms start at US$402, which is less expensive than the nearby Four Seasons and about the same as the Mandarin Oriental. But what you’ll find at the Murray is a decidedly modern, thoughtful experience – one that never feels strictly like business.