I feel as though I have done the Murray Building a disservice. For years, I have walked and driven past the former government offices on Cotton Tree Drive, giving what I perceived as a nondescript block little more than a cursory glance. Until now.
Getting up close and personal with the property’s most recent incarnation as a five-star hotel, The Murray, I am overwhelmed by its soaring three-storey-high arches and elegant geometric façade, with its uniform recessed windows. Adjectives like “magnificent” and “elegant” spring to mind when describing this property, which is almost half a century old yet celebrated the anniversary of its new lease of life this January.
As part of the government’s Conserving Central preservation initiative—alongside, most notably, PMQ and Tai Kwun—The Murray is currently the only heritage premises that was specifically developed to the reputed tune of around US$1 billion for business purposes. (It is also the third offering from the Niccolo Hotels Group and is celebrating its first birthday this month.) British architectural big gun Sir Norman Foster and his team at Foster + Partners were called in to do the renovations and although they haven’t altered the original exterior structure, a new finish, some brass detailing and landscaped surrounds have done wonders for its outdoor aesthetics.
The interior is no less impressive although extensive renovations mean that little, if anything, bears evidence to its historic civic function. Think high ceilings, lots of marble and glass, a monochrome palette and the perfect combination of natural and artificial lighting. The whole effect gives off a stylishly minimal vibe. In place of the usual grand hotel lobby with a single reception desk, for example, are four discreet alcoves where guests can check in and out or engage the services of the hotel’s concierge staff. Known as City Insiders, they are said to be mines of information and adept at procuring last-minute tables for their guests at popular Hong Kong restaurants.
There are 336 guest rooms in total, even the smallest of which is a spacious 409-square-feet and as sleekly contemporary as hotel rooms come. Amenities across the board include luxurious linens, smart TVs, free WiFi and a choice of 16 different types of pillows—one of which claims to help snoring. At the top end are four uber-suites on the 23rd floor that are luxurious with a capital “L”. The 2,422-square-foot The Murray Suite is larger than many Hong Kong apartments. It comes equipped with living and dining areas, a pantry, a fitness zone featuring a sculptural Ciclotte exercise bike, a master bedroom, several dressing rooms and a fabulous bathroom suite. There’s even a loo with an excellent view. Naturally, it comes with a HK$51,300-per-night price tag to match but there’s no harm in dreaming.
The fully serviced hotel also boasts an in-house nutritionist, a well-equipped gym, an inviting 17-metre indoor lap pool and a wellness centre, which has two treatment rooms with private saunas for couples as well as three other single rooms. There’s a facility to engage personal trainers for one-to-one bootcamp workouts, tai chi and yoga sessions as well as the option to take your fitness into Hong Kong Park.
While convenient for leisure tourists—there is direct access from the hotel to both Hong Kong Park and The Peak Tram station—The Murray’s location in the central business district is also perfect for business travellers. Added to this are seven chic boardrooms, indoor and outdoor event spaces, and ample public areas for out-of-office work.
But perhaps The Murray most comes into its own with its five F&B outlets. Each offers something different, whether you want coffee, a light lunch or after-work drinks (The Murray Lane), afternoon tea (The Garden Lounge) or international fare (The Tai Pan). The Guo Fu Lou, which is housed in a separate two-level annex, offers delicious Cantonese cuisine; alternatively, head to the 25th floor for al fresco cocktails and modern European cuisine at Popinjays bar and restaurant. Once the domain of The Murray Building’s air-conditioning units, the transformed rooftop features 270-degree outlooks and trendy décor, and has already become a go-to address on Hong Kong’s wining and dining scene.
In its first year, the hotel has already won a plethora of awards from the likes of Condé Nast Traveler (Readers’ Choice Awards 2018: Top Hotels in China), TIME magazine (World’s Greatest Places 2018: Places to Stay) and Bloomberg (Best New Business Hotel in Asia 2018). But perhaps the quintessential seal of approval comes from Englishman Ron Phillips, who lived in Hong Kong during the 1960s and ‘70s and designed the original Murray Building in 1969. Foster + Partners consulted him on the renovation project and at 93 years old he made it to the hotel’s opening last January.
“We invited him back to be the hotel’s first guest so he could see how the building had transformed,” says Michelle Miu, The Murray’s public relations manager. “He brought his children and grandchildren, and made friends with all the staff. He loved what his building had become.”
High praise indeed.
The Murray Hong Kong
A: The Murray, Hong Kong, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central
T: 3141 8888 W: niccolohotels.com