Indira Pun is the chief concierge of the historic Mandarin Oriental hotel. Pun – who was born and raised in Hong Kong in an immigrant Nepalese family – is one of the few women to sport the “clefs d’or,” or the “golden keys” marking a top concierge, on her label. She talks to Harbour Times about the hotel’s deft handling of visiting officials, as well as her recommendations for high-powered dining.
Q. Do you work with many foreign dignitaries?
A. We get a lot of protocol visits and a lot of diplomats from all over the place – Canada, the U.S., the U.K. We have officials from all sorts of countries.
Q. Are diplomats and government officials treated differently?
A. Because of the nature of their visits, there is a lot of security involved. You have to be careful. There are restrictions on what can be sent to the room, for example. They often have set room numbers assigned before they arrive. And when they do come – particularly if there is a big number in a group – details like how to handle their luggage, pick-up and transport are already planned in advance.
Q. Where would you send a visiting official for Chinese food?
A. We recommend Man Wah in the hotel. Otherwise, we send them to China Tang, David Tang’s restaurant in the Landmark; Duddell’s; or the China Club, where we maintain a membership.
Q. Or for Western food?
A. For French food, we recommend Amber. For Italian – Otto e Mezzo. It depends on their needs, whether they want a meeting or something more casual.
Q. Where would a power meeting be held?
A. For business meetings, we recommend the Krug Room at the Mandarin Grill, the private room at Pierre or the private room at Man Wah. Many local officials are also our regulars. And the Captain’s Bar is full of expatriate workers after office hours.
Q. How do you keep up on the quickly changing restaurant scene?
A. You have to do a lot of work behind the scenes. I read HK Magazine, Time Out, Tatler and food bloggers to get different views. I also try to take the team for outings together.
Q. Occupy Central basically started on your doorstep, though the barricades are now removed in front of the hotel. Do your steer your guests away from demonstrations?
A. For official guests, most of the schedule is pre-arranged, so few go out on spontaneous trips. Some guests are scared if they hear there are protests. If they want to avoid it, we will send them elsewhere. Others really want to see them – so we will guide them there. From the hotel, we show them how to walk toward Admiralty. Hong Kong is safe and peaceful. After all, we have guests every day who go to Ladies Market in Mongkok. We are just upfront. We do tell guests what is happening. In terms of the running of the hotel, it’s business as usual.