Faster Travel

The taste of freedom: five fine hotel club lounges

MJ
Mark Jones

@markmywordsltd

Club lounges are becoming a more common feature of upscale hotels. Mark Jones selects five of the more stunning ones

Sometimes airlines follow hotels, sometimes hotels follow airlines. Both are in the business of finding new ways to keep customers, especially affluent customers, loyal. Airlines took the lead in introducing points-based schemes and VIP lounges. But while hotel loyalty programmes are now well established, only recently has the business lounge become a fixture.

And they’re getting better: more space, more exotic food, a better selection of wines. But each lounge comes with a quandary attached. If your lounge is too minimalist with the food and beverage, you look mean compared to your competitors; offer too much and your guests may not bother to try your two Michelin-starred restaurant on the floor below. Here are some recent places I’ve visited which get the balance about right.

Club InterContinental, InterContinental Park Lane, London
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Club InterContinental, InterContinental Park Lane, London

The InterContinential was an early enthusiast for the Club lounge. The flagship London lounge has discreet views over the Queen’s back garden and something most club lounges lack: a buzz and an edge, and a sense that this is somewhere you’d choose to go even if the drinks weren’t free (which they are, daily, from 5:30pm-7:30pm).

Club on Thirty-Six, Cordis Hong Kong
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Club on Thirty-Six, Cordis Hong Kong

When you’re staying in the most densely-packed streets on Earth, you need a refuge. This newly-styled Mong Kok hotel – part of the Langham Group, itself an early mover in the hotel club space – is that place. There are parquet floors, classic modernist furniture and free Champagne, too: always a good test of how seriously a hotel takes its highest-paying guests.

Shangri-La Horizon Club, Shanghai and Sydney
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Shangri-La Horizon Club, Shanghai and Sydney

I’m a big fan of the Shangri-La group’s Horizon Club. During an especially intense month in Shanghai, the lounge in the Pudong-side property was a lifesaver. They recently opened their hugely-expanded new facility in Sydney with 13-metre-high, four-storey windows overlooking the harbour. You’re unlikely to find a better view to accompany the complimentary nibbles.

Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, Singapore
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Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, Singapore

You might be a bit surprised to find the airport hotel of a mid-market brand in this list. But Changi’s Crowne Plaza has deservedly won every award going for its daring design and the kind of five-star service you very rarely get when you’re on an enforced stopover between planes. The lounge doesn’t let the side down. And after breakfast you can have a stroll around that very Singapore thing – a lush enclosed garden.

Sun Peninsula Club Lounge, Danang InterContinental, Vietnam
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Sun Peninsula Club Lounge, Danang InterContinental, Vietnam

Club lounges are still largely a business travel phenomenon. But some leisure operations are now offering a VIP space to escape the mayhem of high season resort living. This one’s incredible: a rotunda perched high in the jungle canopy with jazzy fabrics (and sounds) straight out of some Manhattan or Parisian design hotspot.