When you don’t try your best and you don’t succeed…
By all expectation, EAST shouldn’t be an ordinary hotel. A member of the Swire family, EAST is part of the illustrious hospitality group behind both Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong’s undisputed best hotel “The Upper House”. Lofty expectations?
You bet, but this is a city where hotels tend to rise to the occasion. Like a band playing in different tempos or a chef cooking without a sense of smell, the hotel managed to leave me utterly confused and really, wondering if I was staying in a hotel at all…
Credit is due to the concept. EAST is located in Quarry Bay, a splendidly indigenous area located on Hong Kong Island. For a first time tourist, it’s perhaps “a bit” out of the way, but for someone keen to explore Hong Kong’s neighborhoods and enjoy excellent connectivity, it’s a truly brilliant location. Upon arrival I was impressed with the understated nature of the building and specifically how it worked within the landscape of the neighborhood. It fit. An MTR transit station is steps away as is an indoor mall which could help wait out any rain storm. The lobby is sleek, modern and clean, much like a top Andaz Hotel in concept.
Check in was perfectly pleasant, if not entirely uninformative. Do I have breakfast? No clue. How about the pool I’d seen pictures of? I assume it’s still there? I guess I’ll find out. Normally these sort of things aren’t worth mentioning, but there was a consistent theme running throughout the stay, which was inconsistency itself.
I booked an “Urban View”, one of the more basic offerings at the hotel and that’s exactly what I received. If you want anything more than a view to the apartment building next door, ask to stay on a floor somewhere above 14. The first impression of the room was very positive. It looked like a place of understated modern luxury with useful surfaces. I could see there was an attempt to capture this minimalist, chic and purposeful room design I tend to favor, but then I looked further.
As much as I love style, I love substance a lot more. EAST Hotel opened its doors in 2010, which gives the property absolutely zero excuse for the wear and tear in the rooms. The decor is fun, artsy, playful and curated, but its let down by the same attention to detail found at every other turn in the hotel. opening in 2010, doesn’t help to condone the egregious lack of amenities modern travelers seek either. For starters…
- the room did not feature any USB charging ports.
- the wifi required manually signing in each time you returned to room.
- there was only one power port near the bed, which was not universal.
- there was no “bathroom only” light. If you wanted light at night, it was full on.
The room offered one feature which I do adore: blackout blinds. A traveler could easily sleep the day away, or catch up on much needed rest with floor to ceiling blackout and in terms of sleep quality these blinds absolutely make a difference. The shower was perfectly nice, the television was proportionate and the space was generally amenable.
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Service + Facilities
I’m not in the business of shelling out for great hotels where I can’t remember a single encounter with a member of staff. Scratch that, I’m not in the business of shelling out for hotels where I can not recall a single *positive* encounter with a member of staff. Sometimes I’d leave the hotel and someone was manning the door, other times, I’d open the door for myself. “Hello, how was your day” was never a part of that process. And then I fast forward to the beautiful pool deck, where I had to flag someone down from their (on duty?) gym workout to hand me a towel. After enjoying the pool, there was no towel basket, which meant I had to flag down my new homie from the gym to hand my towel back to. Thanks, bro.
I don’t need someone to hand me a cup of hot cocoa and ask me about my feelings, but like many travelers I have questions, concerns and interests, especially when visiting such an iconic city. I made a specific point of contacting the hotel in advance to ask for any local recommendations as to great restaurants, bars, walks and unique features which might help me better learn about this exciting neighborhood. Guess what, I never heard back. Not even a “sorry we’re super lazy but here’s a link to our website”. That’s simply pathetic.
On a 100 point scale, the EAST hotel gets an A- for location and facilities, a lucky B- for rooms and a flunking grade for service, attention to detail and satisfaction. As one of my professors told me before once giving me a very sobering result, “I can’t pass you if you don’t show up”. Even in the glamorous city of Hong Kong, it’s a hard knock life out there and EAST will need to cope with this flunking result.
With such a perfect location and rooms which could easily be retrofitted to offer the best of today’s world, it’s clearly the management and lack of leadership which are dragging this promising hotel underwater or at least to a failing grade. In my eyes, it’s about a $100 electronics fix per room and a staff overhaul away from being the perfect Hong Kong hideaway. For now, it’s out of the top five on my list.