Top of the Town: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Published 06 January 2011
There is nothing more worthwhile when visiting Tokyo than having a sunset cocktail in the 45th floor lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Midtown, an outstanding hotel built for millionaires, and home to one of the world’s most expensive drinks. Even better is checking in for the weekend. Thomas Jones does just that.
How many places have you ever been where you can pay over US$ 18,000 for a drink? In Tokyo you can and it’s called The ‘Diamond Is Forever’- a Belvedere Vodka Martini poured over a one carat diamond and downed with scant regard for the cost. One imagines that swallowing the stone is optional but whatever the victim chooses to do, it is beyond decadent either way. This is the Lobby Bar at the Ritz-Carlton in Midtown, the high end of Tokyo where all the cards are platinum or higher and it makes no apologies for its behaviour, whatsoever.
Midtown is the latest and greatest retail and commercial development in the heart of all that is glamorous in this city, and the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo has the privilege of sitting atop it all in the Midtown Tower, Japan’s tallest building. The name was adopted from the Midtown district of New York, in a move to emulate all that is social and cultural and central about a city of its calibre. It is surrounded on all sides by the homes of Tokyo’s elite, foreign embassies, expatriate gin palaces, luxury brand boutiques and all the wealth and privilege that goes with the lifestyle. It also sits adjacent to the infamous and infinitely fun Roppongi and all its vices: late night bars and clubs, and hostess bars and all the things that are bad in this world. It’s a fun night out with something to suit all tastes. Good or bad!
Ritz-Carlton takes up the top nine floors of the Midtown Tower, from 45 to 53 and being the tallest building in Japan, has the highest bedrooms in Tokyo; think sleeping on top of the world. The lobby on 45 is the focal point and the owners pulled out all the stops with its design brief and creator Frank Nicholson has excelled himself in producing a stunning welcome. Modern but traditional, with impressively high ceilings and amber wood walls illuminated by giant inverted lamps, marble floors, chandeliers, masses of over-stuffed chairs and tables and all surrounded in fine art. It has been designed as a public use space, albeit for a high-spending section of it, because when you create a work of this magnitude you want everyone to see it. Consequently the lobby is abuzz with guests meeting, greeting, sipping and dining at the hotel’s great bars and restaurants.
Dining is a treat at the Ritz with much to choose from. Forty Five with its modern French menu. Hinokizaka, awarded a Michelin Star in 2009, for contemporary Japanese cuisine with sushi, teppanyaki, and tempura counters available, and the Lobby Lounge for high tea. All with staggering city views of the city guaranteed and views of Mt Fuji, which, for most months of the year is obscured due to the city’s perpetual haze, you just have to take their word for. There is even an in-house wine bar with a vast selection of vintage wines from all the major grape growing regions of the world, should you require a liquid lunch.
Art is alive in every corner of the Midtown area, not just the hotel. Within walking distance are three of Tokyo’s best art facilities, themselves works of architectural pleasure and in one afternoon it is possible to see, as I did, the Treasures of the Hapsburg Monarchy at the National Art Center, the History of Japanese Washi paper at the Suntory Museum of Art, and an audience with the work of Ai Wei Wei, one of China’s most dynamic artists, at the Mori Art Museum, 53 floors up The Mori Tower, where staring at the city from the observation deck is high art in itself.
Night time and Midtown is a different animal, so after a beautiful French champagne dinner at Forty Five, the opportunity to invite some old friends up to the suite for a few bottles of champagne and some sake and sushi was too much to pass up. There is nothing like hosting a soiree in surroundings such as these to bring out the good in people. Good as it was, with the good times and night lights of Tokyo sparkling out in all directions, the time flew and the bottles emptied, so around midnight it was time for a trip down to Roppongi to take the party up a notch or two before returning at four to a cheery ‘ohayo gozaimasu’ from the staff as they welcomed us home.
In a nice gesture of goodwill and understanding for those who like to stay up late seeing the world through Tokyo’s multi-faceted eyes, as I did, and have trouble with the early morning sun, as I do, breakfast is served till late in the Club Lounge on 53. But by far the better option was to hold out a little longer and head down to Forty Five for a Dom Perignon Brunch from 11.30 and let the dog bite me again, thus starting another fine, leisurely Tokyo Sunday. Just as it should be.
Tokyo Midtown 9-7-1,
Tokyo 107-6245 Japan.
Tel: +813 3423 8000