Luxury Hotels

The Waldorf Astoria is the luxury hotel at the south end of The Bund

Everyone takes photos on The Bund

Shanghai’s The Bund is unique, and you can absorb all the atmosphere you want by merely getting out there, joining tourists from all over China who come to take selfies and buy souvenirs. There are stalls selling personalised T-shirts: they take your photo, with a background of Pudong skyscrapers across the Huangpu river, and instantly print that image on a right-sized T-shirt. Others sell drinks and, amazingly, everywhere is really pretty clean – someone has done an extremely good job in educating the public not to throw trash. Luxury hotels that are right on The Bund have a distinct advantage when it comes to attracting leisure business, says the gal, noting that over half of those staying at Waldorf Astoria Shanghai are now coming purely for pleasure, and the biggest number is domestic.

Oysters in the Long Bar

This is a clever hotel, marrying a 1910 historic building with, a hundred yards away, a 24-floor tower opening on to Sichuan Road, parallel to The Bund, that was built exactly a hundred years later. The 1910 original has variously, in its illustrious past, housed the Seamen’s Club, and the Shanghai Club, and also, less gloriously, China’s first KFC outlet. At some point, presumably not in the Colonel Sanders era, Chou en Lai and Nixon dined here. Anyway, it was expanded into a stately 273-room hotel, and opened September 2010. Just as with Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, some customers like the old building, others prefer the new, looking back at the old. Here in Shanghai, choose a room in the new tower if you want the gym and pool, and access to the Waldorf Astoria Club, but definitely stay in the heritage building if you prefer to look out, through your easily-opened windows, at The Bund.

Beetroot and burrata salad

I was back in Suite 404, in the heritage building, and once again loved looking out at the action, from early-morning kite flying through to evening strollers. This is a great hotel for exercise fanatics, by the way. From The Bund it is 21 steps down-and-up to get to the hotel’s Bund-end lobby, and, for those who do not take one of the elevators, a further 96 original stairs up to the fourth floor. To reach the main lobby, in the modern tower, you need five minutes’ walk, with 15 new marble steps en route. The excellent concierges, who have double falls of ornamental gold chains on their Laurent Ginioux black jackets, are back in the modern-tower lobby. Want to eat? Main choices are back in the heritage building.

Rudy Oretti

We had an early supper, that night, but then Chinese people dine so early that, were they sharing a hotel with Brazilians or bodies from Barcelona it would be a case of ne’er the twain would meet. They specialise in oysters in the Long Bar but the hotel’s GM, Rudy Oretti, who is remarkably good at anticipating what someone needs (he comes from a line of hoteliers) had also thoughtfully already ordered burrata and beetroot salads, with a side dish of absolutely addictive salt-free fries, and that, with a glass of Bourgogne Pinot Noir Louis Latour 2015, was a perfect start to an evening that went on to functions, and finished, back home in my four-poster bed in suite 404. If you want to see what it looks like, by the way, LOOK AT THE VIDEO BELOW.

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Luxury Hotels

Shanghai’s newest luxury hotel is – St Regis

Welcome to fitness

The thing about St Regis, any St Regis, is that there are recognisable differentiators. There is invariably a local take on the Bloody Mary – at Shanghai’s newest luxury hotel, St Regis Shanghai Jingan it is a Mary Jing, which uses dried figs and osmanthus flowers. There is a connection with polo, and with jewellery – some properties work with Tiffany but this particular property associates itself with Chinese jewellery designer Bao Bao Wan, above. And throughout the hotel there will be ornate chandeliers and art, including statues. The owner of this 480-room hotel knew exactly what he wanted from day one, when he bought what was a nearly-finished Sofitel. First, he wanted it to be St Regis, so the interior was more or less completely ripped out, to start afresh.

Stunning lobby flowers

The owner is a fan of Dale Chihuly, the Seattle glass artist, the genius who has so prominently decorated two end walls, one green and one yellow, at Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore. Here there are collages on walls – one, at the rear of the lobby, is decorated with orange blown-glass flowers similar to those on the lobby ceiling at Bellagio in Las Vegas. There are also, here, Chihuly pieces that I have not seen before, two-dimensional wall-set glass compilations that can be illuminated. Balance all this permanent art with fresh flower arrangements and you get an idea of what St Regis Shanghai Jingan is about, though it may be a bit worrying, when it comes to filling the beds, that the well-established Portman Ritz-Carlton, now a sibling in the extended Marriott family, is only 12 minutes walk away.

One of five semi-private check-in desks

Actually, come to think of it, not everyone is going to walk in this city. Pedestrians are now supposedly regimented, with traffic lights that have long wait times. The side-streets in the Jingan area are more than slightly hazardous as delivery guys charge along the pavements on baby-sized motor scooters and the litter of drop-anywhere rental bikes adds another ingredient to an omnipresent obstacle course.  St Regis Shanghai Jingan, which has a superb Iridium Spa – Yoyo, from Chengdu, is a first-class therapist – and a bar for those Mary Jings, and afternoon teas in the lobby followed by the company-signature sundowner sabreing, here of Veuve Clicquot, is a hotel that is intentionally aimed at the growing domestic leisure market. GM Chris Tsoi, who lives in the hotel’s residences, says he prefers to ask one of his sommeliers to do the sabre act (he does manage it about 30 percent of the time but that is not good enough for this perfectionist!). Ceremonies, and experiences, are what cool Chinese, especially the increasingly important Millennials, really like.

Red carpet St Regis welcoome

Every year the influential Hurun Report, produced in Shanghai by the team headed by the very-English pundit on Chinese wealth Rupert Hoogewerf, shares the trends it sees. The 2017 report, published June 5th, 2017, shows that increasingly the 3.8 million (sic) dollar millionaires in this amazing country are prepared to spend in luxury hotels. In days past stories abounded of rich men staying in doss-house commodity lodging and spending quarter of a million on a Rolex. Now they may well turn left when boarding a plane – of course they could even be in their own private planes – and they stay in five star hotels. Some expect the red carpet treatment, and when they do not get it they are, apparently, even more vocal than their western counterparts. Jewellery designer Bao Bao Wan, by the way, experienced red carpet treatment in a grand way: the Beijing-born grand-daughter of one-time Chairman of the National People’s Congress Wan Li was the first Chinese girl to be presented at the annual Bal des Debutantes in Paris. NOW SEE SUITE 5602, BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Shanghai’s luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel has a new GM

GM Clemens Hoerth

Shanghai, frankly, is awash with luxury hotels, and looking at it from the operators’ viewpoint they all share common challenges. One is regulatory uncertainties with internet connectivity (although Shanghai does not appear to be quite as strict as Beijing or Tianjin). Another is finding and keeping staff. When these hotels opened, a few years ago, there were thousands of applicants, mostly non-English speakers but keen for jobs. Now there are more hotels, a lot of other job-opportunities, and the single-child policy (although now eased) means fewer potential workers in hotels, anywhere. The luxury Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, has a brand new GM, Clemens Hoerth, and the talent issue naturally came up in conversation with the gal – interestingly, this is a would-be surgeon who diverted to the hotel world because he thought it would be less hard work. Little did he know.

Collage of room stuff

His people skills would honestly have been wasted had he spent his life cutting into bodies of people anaesthetised, and unable to talk. Instead, he is a magnificent raconteur who makes guests of the 36-room hotel feel really at home. If an email address of a just-checked-out (no, not ‘departed’, in the death sense) customer is known, he personally contacts that guest, straight afterwards, to ask how it all went. This way, he says, he gets a much better return than a standard ‘how did we do?’ generic questionnaire, which I, and I am sure the majority of busy travellers, really hate. Herr Hoerth, from his first days as a pageboy at the Vier Jahreszeiten in Munich, knows that busy people are just that, busy, but personalisation is the best way of getting through to them.

Baking in the restaurant

The hotel’s Presidential Suite is ideal for those who hanker after space – it is 7,800 sq ft in all, of which more than a quarter is terrace, up there by the Mandarin Oriental sign that hangs high over the 25-floor building. Someone had thoughtfully put out a yoga mat and Pilates ball, sculptures that seemed suitably to complement the stone work, greenery, and seating all ready to accommodate a small party of friends or, since this is a top-business hotel, colleagues. Inside, personalisations included a calligraphy set, all edible. But we were eating at Fifty 8° by Richard Ekkebus, a casual grill-type restaurant that is very different from, but just as good as, that Dutchman’s fine dining restaurant at Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. I loved bread being baked here, right in front of us.

Club breakfast, television behind

Not all Mandarin Orientals have club lounges but this one does, on the second floor, and thoughtfully, in view of international guests’ body clocks, it is open 24/7. I was breakfasting there at my usual hour and it was intriguing to see a Chinese boy of about ten, with backpack presumably holding school books, rush in and go straight to the buffet to pick up items that he obviously knew, from daily routine. These were put into a paper carry bag and Tiger Mom appeared to carry the bag as the pair left for the school run. They might well have been living in the residences-to-let, stays one month or more, that are a perfect complement to this luxury hotel. As I left I noticed, as last time, a military line of baggage trolleys, each with curlicues to the top shape that turned utilitarian items into art forms. NOW SEE THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, BELOW


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