Concierge Corner: Oliver Ng, Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver

The veteran concierge gives TAW his insider tips and advice for visiting Vancouver, B.C. By: Naz Papen
Ng has been a concierge at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver for 26 years. // © 2010 Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver
Ng has been a concierge at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver for 26 years. // © 2010 Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver

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The Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver is located in the heart of the city. // © 2010 Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver
The Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver is located in
the heart of the city. // © 2010 Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver

The Details

Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver

There are few hotel concierges who can boast a 20-year membership with world-class, international concierge society Les Clefs d’Or. After holding a position in hospitality for approximately 26 years, the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver’s chief concierge, Oliver Ng, has not only added this accomplishment to his impressive resume, but has also seen Vancouver, B.C., transform from a modest town into a bustling, tourist-filled metropolis. Here, Ng shared his knowledge of all things Vancouver, from his favorite eateries to its hidden local gems.

You’ve held a position in hospitality services at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver since 1984 — what changes have you seen around Vancouver since you began working there?
Since the city hosted Expo ’86 — an event that put our city on the map — Vancouver has become more cosmopolitan. It is now full of world-class restaurants, designer shops and activities, all of which have attracted a larger tourist population. Of course, hosting the Winter Olympics this year just heightened the city’s recognition.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had while on duty?
Two of our guests decided to get married here, so I was responsible for setting up the wedding. I arranged for a minister, set up the flowers, etc. At the last minute, I was even asked to be the best man. A few years down the line they had children and brought them to The Met to visit. Now, years later, the children — who are at least 20 years old — still come and stay at our hotel. This has made me so happy because I not only served the first generation, but am now working with the second generation.

What has been the most uncommon request you’ve ever received?
We had a guest who was dining at our restaurant downstairs, Diva. At the beginning of the meal, she broke her pearl necklace. The staff and I managed to find all of her loose pearls, had them restrung and presented the completed product to her before she finished dessert.

What should visitors to the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver expect upon arrival?
Upon arrival, guests are immediately acknowledged with a warm welcome by the front door staff. The hotel’s intimate lobby, as well, lends itself to a great sense of arrival. Guests will feel as though they are beginning their stay at a luxury boutique.

How does Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver differ from the competition in terms of hospitality?
What sets us apart from other hotels is our staff and its size. We are small enough to recognize the majority of our return guests and can acknowledge them by name, most of the time — to us, they are not just a room number.

What types of activities and fun local eateries do you recommend to first-time visitors to Vancouver?
Since we are located in the center of the city, it is fairly easy to visit a number of locations via walking tours (such as the Harbour Tour and the Indian Arm Luncheon Tour). I recommended making stops at the Vancouver Convention Center, the 2010 Olympic Cauldron, perusing the boardwalk aligning Stanley Park’s waterfront, then stopping over at both Gastown and Chinatown. Granville Island is also a must.

As for restaurants, Diva at the Met deserves first pick — especially with our newest addition to the staff, chef Quang Dang. I would also recommend a number of restaurants around our neighborhood such as Joe Fortes, a seafood and chop house; Italian Kitchen; Cin Cin, a Mediterranean eatery; Tojo’s, a very famous Japanese restaurant in Vancouver; Sequoia Grill, which boasts romantic scenery and is known as one of the best restaurants in Stanley Park; Pastis and Lumiere, both delicious French eateries; Kirin Mandarin, Imperial Chinese and Shanghai Chinese Bistro, all known for great Chinese cuisine; and my personal favorite, Cru on West Broadway.

What are some of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets in terms of sightseeing and activity?
For leisure travelers, the Chinese Cultural Center Museum and Archives in Chinatown, the second largest in North America, is a very interesting and interactive way to learn about cultural history in Vancouver. Another attraction is the Main Street district — originally named False Creek Road — which serves as the major north-south thoroughfare dividing Vancouver. Main Street includes an eclectic mix of antique shops, diners, vintage clothing stores, ethnic restaurants and at the end of Main Street, Science World — a main attraction for anyone traveling with kids. Commercial Drive is also great for strolling, shopping and patio lounging.

What are some of your personal favorite places to visit in the city?
Vancouver’s locals frequent Little Italy, a street full of cafes and Italian restaurants. For me personally, I really enjoy visiting a quaint, historic fishing village called Stevenson. It boasts more than 350 businesses and services to accommodate its growing population, since it has more recently become a popular place to both visit and live. Locals flock to Stevenson’s waterfront boardwalks to enjoy the scenery, the company and the world’s best fish ‘n’ chips — in my opinion.

What are some eco-activities that tourists can participate in while visiting the city?
Depending on the time of the year: snowshoeing, kayaking and biking — especially around Stanley Park — are all popular options for environmentally conscious visitors.

What’s the best time of year to visit Vancouver?
Vancouver is truly a year-round destination, but we find that most tourists visit our city between May and early October.

For travelers who wish to take day-trips outside of Vancouver’s city limits, what places do you recommend that they visit?
Victoria, Whistler and Bowen Island are all beautiful destinations outside of Vancouver. Half-day trips to Deep Cove and Horseshoe Bay are also popular destinations for tourists seeking a more in-depth view of the surrounding area.

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