The original Repulse Bay Hotel was built in 1920 during the early colonial era of Hong Kong. Back then, there was no road access to the bay and visitors had to arrive by boat. A remote resort, its major customers were foreign trade people and government officials. It originally had three 2-story buildings – two housing blocks with hotel reception and restaurant between them - built in the British style, complete with a large verandah and a western-style garden.
Throughout its 70 year history, the hotel has boasted an impressive guestlist, from George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward in the ‘30s to Marlon Brando and European royalty. Greece's Prince Don Carlos and Princess Sophie also spent their honeymoon at the hotel. During World War II, the hotel served as a military base and hospital and battles were fought on the steps and in the hallways.
After the war, as the economy grew and public transport improved, the Repulse Bay become a popular leisure spot for both rich foreigners and locals. But in the late 1970s, with the small hotel losing value, managers decided that it needed to undergo a major redevelopment. Luxury high-rise apartments were to be constructed.
Considering the architectural significance of the original hotel, the architect for the new tried to preserve as much of the original structure as possible, but due to space constraints, only the main building and the front garden could be kept. The main building itself was renovated into the residents’ clubhouse and a small shopping mall. Through the original western garden, residents now walk up the original grand staircase, through the clubhouse and finally into the lobby of the residential tower. The Verandah also remains, same as it always has, built and furnished to be a duplicate of the original verandah of the hotel.
To walk from the beach, up the stone steps, past the fountain and into the verandah of the Repulse Bay Hotel is to enter a world from another time. Entering The Verandah, with its row of tables and chairs set on dark-brown, hardwood floors, lazy ceiling fans above, and huge bay windows, the feeling, like the architecture, is distinctly colonial. The illusion is complete when settling down into one of the tables in front of a window overlooking the bay for brunch, or afternoon tea served by waiters in white jackets. Looking out onto the bay, passing time sitting at a table set with tea in a silver pot and scones on a silver tray, one gets the feeling of conquering luxury, in the uniquely classist and colonial British way. In the post-1997 Hong Kong, and a world where Britain has lost much of her power, The Verandah is one of the last places on earth that recreate this lost British opulence. And it is a stunning place to visit.
If you ever do visit the Verandah, go for afternoon tea for the whole, British experience. It's a set tea, with sandwiches, tea, scones and pastries all at a reasonable set price, about US$20 per person. I've never had the Sunday brunch or other meals at The Verandah, since the prices skyrocket when ordering a la carte, but go for the afternoon tea.
See the old entrance to The Verandah here:
See a better view of the windows of The Verandah here:
The Verandah at the Repulse Bay Hotel
109 Repulse Bay Road
(852) 2812 2722
Lunch: 12:00 noon - 2:30pm
Afternoon Tea: 3:00pm - 5:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm - 10:30pm
Sunday Brunch: 11:00am - 2:30pm