Asian hotels improve room service to cater to a variety of luxury needs
Despite some hotels in the US giving room service the chop, it seems that in Asia, rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated. While the industry claims it’s tricky for hotels to make money from it – a concept that is hard to understand, given the hefty prices charged – in Asia room service seems to be flourishing.
Most five-star hotel chains in Asia offer extensive menus for room service, or the more elegantly termed “in-room dining”. The best include local cuisine alongside international crowd pleasers. Vegetarian and children’s menus are commonplace in top hotels.
Hotels are also striving to stand out through quirky means. Some are using hi-tech ordering systems, such as at The Peninsula Hong Kong, where guests make food and drink requests using a tablet.
Others have gone lo-tech: the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai, Thailand, delivers meals on a motorised tuk-tuk with picnic baskets.
Guests returning to their rooms at the Hangzhou Four Seasons at the end of an evening will find a Movie Menu propped up on their pillow. The film-friendly choices verge on the sophisticated: mini wagyu burgers, dark and white chocolate profiteroles and a trio of ice creams, and, of course, buttered popcorn.
The Four Seasons group also offers a select express menu that is delivered within 15 minutes, while The Peninsula hotels have healthy options with their Naturally Peninsula dishes.
Room service can be hard to get right. There’s extra pressure on the kitchen staff, and the food has to maintain its appeal until it reaches the room. Some top chefs at in-hotel restaurants are sniffy about providing it. Gordon Ramsay is said to have closed his Angela Hartnett-helmed restaurant at The Connaught in London after being asked to provide room service, as would be expected of any other hotel kitchen.
Chefs that do rise to the challenge tend to be those with exclusive boutique properties and they stand out.
In Hong Kong, acclaimed executive chef Richard Ekkebus, of the two-Michelin-starred Amber restaurant, oversees in-room dining at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, and it shows in the quality and presentation of the offerings.
Other hotels are enticing guests with culinary add-ons, such as more interesting minibars (led by W hotels) or complimentary confectionary in the lobby (as seen at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong and Naumi Liora in Singapore), which proves that the appetite for luxury service in Asia is still thriving.
Moreover, the trend for all-villa resorts with hotel amenities is driving in-room dining to another level.
Here are six of Asia’s best room service experiences.
Alila Villas Soori, Bali
A claim that’s hard to beat, the in-villa dining menu reads: “If you don’t see anything here to suit your taste, don’t worry. Simply call our In Villa Dining Team and request anything you desire.” No wonder, as general manager Marco Groten says, 35 per cent of guests choose to dine in their rooms.
Your culinary desires could include dishes from Alila Soori’s impressive Cotta restaurant, where Indonesian dishes are a feature, notably the Bebek Rice Harvest Menu. The homage to the surrounding rice fields, and the ducks that would traditionally clear them, includes?ares bebek?(duck broth),?tum bebek?(spiced, minced duck in banana leaf),?bebek menyatnyat?(duck curry) and?bebek goreng?(twice cooked crispy duck) served with?jatiluwih, a Balinese red rice.
Given 24-hour’s notice, they’ll prepare the Balinese speciality?babi guling. This is a whole, spit-roasted suckling pig filled with garlic, turmeric, galangal, peppercorns, coriander seeds, candlenuts, bird’s eye chillies and lemongrass stalks.
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
If you fancy dinner in your room while sampling the hotel’s top restaurants, The Ritz-Carlton offers an in-room set menu that’s made up of an appetiser, a main course, and a dessert from its restaurants.
The menu changes regularly, and includes dishes from the two-Michelin-star Tin Lung Heen, and Tosca. For less of a culinary carousel, you can stick with two Cantonese set menus, or an ? la carte southern Italian selection, available for lunch and dinner, and ready in 35 minutes.
Four Seasons Hotel Singapore
Book a room on the Couples’ Floor (it’s child-free and housekeeping won’t try to clean your room before noon, unless you ask them to), and you’ll be given the option to order from the Bath Butler menu.
The Four Seasons’ Jeeves will bring your choice of bath with a tipple or snack to match.
The selection includes a bergamot and palmarosa soak with iced peppermint tea, a lychee milk bath that comes with a Lycheetini, and rose-petalled water with a serving of strawberries that have been dipped in chocolate.
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Book an in-villa barbecue service and your own personal chef will grill dishes from seafood and steaks, to jacket potatoes and corn on the cob in front of you at the villa’s outdoor kitchen.
The extensive, banquet-style menu (charged per person) includes pork dumplings, Chiang Mai sausages, lemongrass prawn skewers, fillet of sea bass in banana leaf, Cajun salmon, and beef tenderloin with black pepper sauce.
There are also Thai and Western salads and desserts, including grilled pineapple and fire-toasted marshmallows.
The Peninsula, Manila
Ordering room service is often a cue to fall into the “calories don’t count when you’re away from home” trap. But that’s not so at The Peninsula Manila.
General manager Sonja Vodusek is expanding the group’s “Naturally Peninsula” cuisine by collaborating with award-winning Philippines health resort, The Farm at San Benito, on a 360 degrees Wellness menu.
The selection incorporates organic, raw ingredients into signature Four Seasons dishes. The Farm ethos eschews meat, dairy, wheat, sugar and processed foods. Instead, it embraces local, raw, organic ingredients with herbs and spices.
That may not whet your appetite itself, but the dishes do sound tasty: shitake mushroom and eggplant adobo with organic rice;?ampalaya?(bitter gourd) and pumpkin curry with cinnamon rice. Desserts include fruit jerky and a chocolate chilli pie.
Pudong Shangri-La, Shanghai?It’s not unusual for five-star hotels to offer 24-hour room service, but for most that entails severely curtailing the menu from 11pm to 6am.
Not so in the Grand Tower wing of the Pudong Shangri-La, which has introduced a personalised, in-room dining service around the clock.
“Guests arrive at all hours, and are often on different time zones, so they want to eat – and not just a hamburger,” says a spokeswoman for the hotel. “A 10-course kaiseki-ryori menu at 4am? Not a problem.”
Source South China Morning Post