Luxury Hotels

Beijing’s magnificent new luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel

Mark Bradford, left, and a doorman

The photo above gives an indication of why Mandarin Oriental Beijing is a most unusual hotel. As if in defiance of others that soar up and up, this luxury hotel has its 73 bedrooms spread out on only the top two floors of the six-floor building. Below, says the gal, is an upmarket collection – please do not use the pleb word ‘mall’ here – of the world’s best retail brands.  Arrive, and you are met by charming young women in flowing blouses topped, in cold months, by short capes. Immediately inside, past the Audemars Piguet store, you see a white fan specially designed by Tim Yip, art and costume director for the Beijing handover ceremony at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Over your head in the lobby is a ceiling-hung Frank Gehry blowfish sculpture.

Looking down from the library’s air bridge

Eating, drinking and networking is all on the fifth floor, which extends to mammoth outdoor terraces, fully used all summer long. With the GM, Mark Bradford, I had a memorable dinner in the Mandarin Grill, an Adam Tihany-designed space with shiny wood floors and furnishings and crisp white linens. A favourite starter is home-cured Norwegian gravadlax, carved tableside (have egg white as a condiment, I was urged, to bring out the subtle flavour). Like many, I went on to Wagyu M4-5 Stockyard 300g ribeye which went superbly with the hotel’s specially-labelled 2015 Bordeaux Ch Confidence de Margaux. The easy way to get ‘home’ afterwards was to take 30 marbled steps from the fifth floor up to the sixth floor, then walking, via an airbridge, across the top of the library to reach the main rooms corridor.

A corridor runs the length of the sixth floor

This airbridge is spectacular, suspended so that you look down into a library which has an eclectic collection of the proper books that Mark Bradford says Chinese really admire – I borrowed a Sherlock Holmes insider overnight.  The main corridor, by the way, is 126 metres. one end to the other, a long sea of pale celadon walls with gorgeous celadon-rust-teal swirl carpet.  My suite, #81, had views of the top of some of the Forbidden City roofs (a notice reminds me that my window glass is two way).  I have everything I could possibly want, from loofah to bathroom orchid tree, sic, and two sizes of slippers, and silk, and towel robes, and wood shoe trees. The do-everything tablet says I can buy all these, plus Begg throws, Ploh pillows and the floral Wedgwood tea set.

View from suite 81

In the morning, after watching WTA finals in Guangzhou, on one of the three ordinary Technogym runners – they are complemented by one Woodway – I had a super breakfast in Café Zi. This is a perfect morning venue, outdoors or indoors, perhaps in booths highlighted by colour-burst walls. The egg chef cooks right in the restaurant, with no separation between kitchen and dining area, coffee arrives as a Rosenthal celadon cup augmented by a filled glass pot, for refills, and toast is sensibly brought, crusts still on, in a beautiful silver rack. Afterwards they opened MObar for me to have a look (it was taken by a private party last night). The heart of the hotel, so to speak, it has bottles crammed on to ceiling-high shelves on one wall – being next to the main terraces is an attraction for smokers.  I was fascinated to see the drinks menu, bound as a proper book, Cocktails Through Art & Landmarks: mixology consultants are Hope & Sesame, from Guangzhou, an all-round beverage company founded by a pair from other luxury hotels, Bastien Ciocca, once Shangri-La, and Andrew Ho, from Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. SEE SUITE 81, AND SOME STRIKING ART



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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single reaches the top of the luxury ladder

The Sybaritic Single thought he knew Hong Kong and its luxury hotels. Over the years, he had taken residence at The Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, The Island Shangri-La and, whenever on a tight budget, the world’s most glamorous InterContinental.
Last weekend, however, he tried something different – The Langham. Most of his posh friends raised their perfectly shaped eyebrows as they assumed the Sybaritic Single got finally hit by the damn financial crisis. In all fairness, nobody could expect that the three days at the hotel would become the most exquisite stay in Hong Kong the Sybaritic Single had ever enjoyed.
Upon arrival at HKIA, he was greeted by a three-strong yet absolutely discreet welcome committee with a signature Langham pink rose and whisked to his limousine. In-suite check-in followed with sniper-personalised amenities of a properly chilled Dom Pérignon, abundance of raspberries, all sorts of cakes, whole fruit (including his favourite koshu grape) and even his own bespoke macarons, as if from Paris. The Chairman’s Suite was an absolute delight with admirable art adorning its walls and a commendable library with some great volumes on fashion and style. The latest Tatler and Dior Mag were there as well, naturally.
In charge of comfort was Brian Yau, who miraculously managed the hotel’s club lounge (with the most enviable collection of leaf teas) as well as looked after the Sybaritic Single and his caprices 24/7. One morning, the bubbles-lover woke-up in the mood for a four-tier Champagne pyramid for breakfast and a good-morning picture wearing a Langham-pink Dior suit. Within moments Brian orchestrated 19 Champagne flûtes, a professional photographer, an art director and a crew to make it happen, so smoothly as if he managed such wry society requests twice daily. The silly picture turned out perfect. Brian was also there to keep the Sybaritic Single effortless company all the way back to HKIA and through its formalities.
If this hotel isn’t pure and thoughtful luxury, tailored for the most eccentric guests, than what is? For the Sybaritic Single, it became Hong Kong’s best kept secret.
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Luxury Hotels

Experience counts at Beijing Hilton

Looking up at the hotel

It can be an advantage to have years of experience and Hilton Beijing is not only proud of its quarter century but is using it to good effect.  The main 25-floor block, left, was finished 1994 and complemented in 2008 by a new semi-circular attached building, which in all gives this hotel, in a busy commercial and diplomatic area of town, a total of 506 rooms.  Some are currently being re-done and it is essential, says Austrian GM Stefan Schmid, that we do not make them too modern.  He is working closely with the property’s three sets of owners, and with the designers, Hong Kong-based CCD, to ensure this.

Corridors have red panels to indicate ‘old Beijing’

Personally I think the upper corridors are just brilliant. A mere hint that the hotel has tenure is shown, for instance, by panels looking like old-city doors, and having false ‘shutters’ that reveal a couple of centimetres of Old Shanghai. Elsewhere, corridors have occasional Elizabeth Arden-red doors, full size.  The overall effect is extremely pleasing. This is a hotel that wants to take stress away from its busy customers, be they foreign or from elsewhere in China. The fitness centre is extensively used, as is the indoor swimming pool: one of the two squash courts remains (its twin was long ago incorporated into the health club) but the outdoor tennis court has been boarded over, to become a useful summer-long terrace for parties and other events.

Makan restaurant

Two features are prominent in all hotels in China.  One is the need to house staff, who invariably live far from home. This hotel, when not partially closed for refurbishment, generally has 475 colleagues, of whom about half are housed, in blocks about 30 minutes away by public bus.  The other generalization is that nearly all Chinese men, and many women, smoke incessantly, which makes it very difficult where smoking is banned in public places, especially hotels – a fine of RMB1,000 (US$141) is automatic. Stefan Schmid says most of the challenges regarding smoking come from the hotel’s Chinese restaurant.  The hotel, by the way, also has a steak-grill restaurant (Chinese love their own food but they do like to alternate with big pieces of meat).

Makan table detail

Makan, is an all-day, all-way restaurant that since its new look, a year ago, has become a real wow place. It could be thanks to AI or to skilled planning, but the many seating areas give a feeling of exclusiveness and yet, at least from wherever I checked, you can see what is going on.  Many of the wood tables are inset with a carved band, protected by a glass overlay: this design really says hey, look, this is from southern Asia.  And, a lovely touch, outside Makan an entire wall is a characteristic Makanese mural, see above.  I breakfasted in Makan, but I did also pop next door to the lounge in the newer, 2008, block, which is run totally club-style.  Everyone in that block, regardless of room level or number, can use it: basically both breakfasts were the same but somehow, because of the ambience, Makan was the more fun. This entire hotel, however, has not only the efficiency of a well-oiled machine but personality too, thanks I am sure to the loyal staff, nine of whom have been here for the full 25 years. NOW SEE ROOM 1715







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