Loft Life at the Ovolo Southside A warehouse conversion with some top shelf creature comforts

First time visitors to Hong Kong could be forgiven for dismissing the city’s Southside. Once a quiet industrial thoroughfare, the neighbourhood is fast becoming a hotbed for the city’s creatives. Why the sudden shift? For starters, Southside is home to Hong Kong’s South Island Cultural District (SICD) – a public initiative akin to Chippendale’s Creative Precinct – with many affiliated galleries located along Wong Chuk Hang road. Here, towering among weathered tenements that conceal umpteenth private galleries, travelers shall find Ovolo Southside. One of 6 local properties managed by Ovolo Group, this outpost is a breath of fresh air, balancing breathtaking views with undeniable tranquility, while providing joyous flourishes that are the trademark of this homegrown hotelier both here and abroad (read Tom’s review of an Ovolo Sydney property here). Paying homage to Wong Chuk Hang’s industrial roots, the entire hotel is a floor to ceiling warehouse conversion that merges exposed pipework with predominant glass and metal surfaces.

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How best then to describe the experience of my stay for TVG? In a nutshell, it was comparable to lounging about at a coolly appointed bachelor pad at the weekend. The small albeit welcoming reception adjoins the hotel’s Lo Lounge where guests are treated to happy hour from 5-7 pm daily. The latter space is open 24 hours a day complete with communal workstations, a billiards table, and well stocked cookie jars. The layout is ingenious as it promotes a laidback atmosphere perfect for socializing with other guests. Conversely, the tapas offering at happy hour is in need of improvement . On both occasions that I was present only three dishes were available, which would be insufficient for large groups of hotel guests at the more centrally located hotels on Hong Kong and Kowloon Island. 

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Nearly 5 o'clock at the Lo Lounge barFor the duration of my 48 hour stay at Ovolo Southside, I was graciously upgraded to one of Ovolo’s premium rooms on the 21st floor. Here, the majority of guest spaces fall into the ‘Long Loft’ category. Featuring a partitioned sitting area, where one can take in 180 degree views of surrounding hills, it is primarily designed for sharing and entertaining.  The room has all the essentials for seasoned travelers. Standout features included the expansive electronic blackout windows, Onyx studio speakers by Harman Kardon, and a complimentary minibar that is refilled daily. In fact, gratis goodies hardly stop at beverages – a feature that carries over to all of Ovolo’s room categories. Aside from the minibar, the staff at Ovolo provide numerous gifts that are designed to add value to your stay. An inconvenient trip to the local convenience store is eliminated altogether, as travel accessories such as chargers or umbrellas are readily provided. The effect of these various micro-gifts cannot be overstated, as they speak volumes about Ovolo’s commitment to making guests feel comfortable. And besides, who doesn’t love cracking open an icy beer from an elevated viewpoint, multi-region charger at the ready? 

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The pinnacle of my stay involved a guided dinner at the hotel’s fourth floor bistro. CIRQLE is a modestly appointed communal dining space with a focus on fusion cuisine that draws from all around the globe. As a soundbyte, this makes the fare sound rather unremarkable but much like the hotel the emphasis is on thoughtfully executing simple concepts. For a balanced culinary experience, Ovolo’s F&B director Christian Eramus provided several share plates representing an intersection between fresh, experimental and comforting dishes. To begin, a compressed watermelon salad that combined the proverbial fruit with yuzu and mint – a tart and seasonal palette cleanser perfect for Hong Kong’s steamy wet season. For oomph, this was followed by salmon tartare (resembling Hawaiian poke in texture) that possessed a biting chili kick and generous chunks of everyone’s favourite fresh fish. 

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Salad of compressed water melon, goat cheese and mintSalmon Tartare with tortiall chipThe transition to main courses was accompanied by a well-timed tonal shift, as seasonal flavours gave way to heavy hitting comfort food. For thirds, a 16 ounce Cedar River ribeye was chosen, accompanied by garlic and potato puree with chimichurri. Truthfully, all the individual elements of the ribeye were well executed but the dish was brought down by a spartan amount of mash accompanying the ever so slightly over marbled beef. Such minor criticisms were immediately diffused by the smoked eel carbonara, a distinctive reinterpretation of everyone’s favourite Roman pasta dish. The pasta itself was unctuous and saucy, with added richness courtesy  of the 63 degree egg.

16 oz Cape Grim ribeye with garlic puree & chimichurri

For dessert the team at CIRQLE did not slouch either. The restaurant’s signature four texture chocolate cake combines chamomile chocolate mousse, milk-dark ganache and truffle for a dessert with literal layers of flavour. Fittingly, it acted as a capstone to a meal that shamelessly complements all of my culinary sensibilities. For food that is approachable, familiar and just a tiny bit cheeky CIRQLE comes highly recommended.

4 Texture Chocolate Cake with pistachio crumble & raspberry sorbetDespite its somewhat remote location, Ovolo Southside is a fantastic getaway hotel offering an experience outside the mainstream. To be sure, it lacks the doting opulence that is the industry standard throughout Hong Kong, and for those who crave spa facilities or a gargantuan pool you may well be disappointed. But, with a cleverly designed gym and self-laundry the hotel still provides most of the comforts travelers need during their stay. For a hotel that is slightly off the beaten path which retains the essence of Hong Kong’s worldclass service, we highly recommend the Ovolo at Southside.

It is our pleasure, in partnership with the Ovolo Group, to offer 15 % off any flexible booking made direct with Ovolo hotels in Hong Kong (Ovolo Southside or otherwise). This offer is valid for TVG readers until 31 December 2016, subject to booking availability, using the promotional code ‘TVGXOVOLO’. Direct bookings can be made here.

Special thanks to nomnomfoodiehk for their contributions to the restaurant review segment of this story.