Luxury Hotels

The PuLi set a precedent for luxury hotels in China

At the ILTM party

How to do justice to a luxury hotel that has been the arbiter of taste since it opened nearly ten years ago?  When The PuLi Hotel and Spa burst on to the Shanghai scene no-one in China, certainly, had seen anything like it, and international travellers quickly realised this was a new type of luxury hotel.  The salient point, says the gal, is that The PuLi is still innovating. When it hosts a cocktail for ILTM, as it does every year, the food is not canapés or anything else mundane but Iberian ham carved in front of you, and oysters shucked to order.  The PuLi’s reputation draws everyone on an invitation list to turn up.

Renato Chizzola, Thomas Vaucouleur de Ville d’Avray

Entering a discreet building tucked behind the Park Place mixed-use complex is itself a draw.  You go in, past quite a lot of bamboo, to what seems like an endless lobby plus lounge, its floor shiny black slabs of stone reputedly from centuries old buildings (designer Johannes Hartfuss from Melbourne has a knack of bringing Old China into Today). The 100-foot long bar, running 20 feet to your right as you enter this space, is conciergerie, reception and drinking-eating counter. There are nooks and crannies everywhere, and the world’s top hang out here.  I coincided, for instance, with Renato Chizzola, boss of Le Cheval Blanc Randheli Island – he was here to see The PuLi’s recently-arrived GM, Thomas Vaucouleur de Ville d’Avray, who had previously been part of his team in the Maldives

Markus Engel

I also met up with Markus Engel, visionary behind The PuLi.  He set up Urban Resorts with John Laing, and the two have painstakingly created and now expanded the brand.  Their properties in Xiamen, which is already open, and, coming within the next three months, both Beijing and Kuala Lumpur will, I expect, similarly excite the travelistas.  Markus Engel told me, firmly, that Xiamen must be on my next China itinerary (forget Sanya, Xiamen is luxury China’s new cool, he said).  His mission is hostmanship, putting personal awareness back into a hotel world increasingly ruled by impersonal investment companies which see hotels as merely a way to make money by buying and selling real estate.

Scraping a butter scoop, table-side

Dinner was at this luxury hotel’s all-purpose, always-good second floor restaurant, PHENIX, and long-time Melbourne-born chef Michael Wilson was as unassuming and down-to-earth as ever.  Try his cold-smoked salmon, shown above, with soda bread, and then perhaps his mussels with fries, so good you might want a second helping.  There are lots of memorable touches.  Butter, for instance, comes in a big loaf tin and, using a spoon, the server scoops what looks like an icecream portion, in front of you.  You wonder who all the other diners are – are the two local men in flat caps at the next table some of China’s top artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs who make up some of The Puli’s best clients?   And then, after a totally enjoyable two hours, I went back up to room 1615 – see a video, below – relaxed, and happy. WATCH THE VIDEO

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Luxury Hotels

Quick visits to two new luxury Shanghai hotels

Middle House rooms have pull-cord master switches

Shanghai is one of those world cities that seems to launch new luxury hotels with every new moon, and of course all of them seem to be successful in an environment that craves the latest, and innovation abounds. The gal was lucky enough to visit two of these just-opened.  First was Middle House, latest in Swire Hotels’ Collective range. The car swung into a slate and real bamboo oasis, surrounded by highrises. Inside the 111-room hotel designer Piero Lissoni seems to have blossomed: yes, there are his signature dark colours and sombre tones, here and there, but there are also such delights as a coffee corner, shown above.  And he has cleverly put the beds in the centre of rooms, with high-enough bedheads really to become ‘walls’ separating working from sleeping space.

Michael Faulkner, courtyard

GM Michael Faulkner, seen here in that arrival courtyard – in front of the hotel’s Ulac bikes – showed me how the 14-floor hotel block connects below ground to another block, which has 102 serviced apartments. Along the walkway is a splendid eight-room spa, which uses LVMH’s new products, Cha Ling Ancient Pu’er tea cosmetics, harvested in Yunnan. Bedrooms In both blocks use Bamford, and there are Illycaffè espressos.  I especially liked the hotel’s two-room Penthouse Suite, on the 14th floor – with a round dining table to seat six, it is probably also used for small meetings.  Three other notable features at Middle House: every room has a simple attached-to-ceiling cord by the bedside, the master switch (Faulkner calls this ‘Mr Goodnight’); a Café Gray, as in Hong Kong’s Upper House; and, in the complex’s integral HKRI Taikoo Hui shopping mall, the world’s largest Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery.

Ronan Henaff, rooftop

And then it was off to EDITION Shanghai, which opened this July. This is another entertainment place that happens to have rooms, in fact 147 of them.  Particularly fascinating was the way GM Ronan Henaff, from Brittany, relayed how EDITION founder and leader Ian Schrager is in control of everything – he appears to check how far down the ceiling-hung living garden rods actually hang, for instance.  The really good EDITION newspaper, an A4 sheet presented folded in half, has a quote from Schrager: ‘to turn a hotel into a destination you need a unique experience that touches people in some personal, emotional and visceral way’.

EDITION sashimi

Ian Schrager has obviously had a close hand not only in putting in rooftop lounges on both of the hotel’s towers, and, inside, a Club lounge, a red-hued night club and a screening room. There are also restaurants, lots of them, which is just fine for Ronan Henaff who was previously GM of Shanghai’s multi-use Three on The Bund.  Today, he hosted lunch at EDITION’s Japanese restaurant, Hiya, on the 27th floor – it is run by Brit Jason Atherton, who also runs this modern-luxury hotel’s ground floor Shanghai Tavern.  The sashimi, in particular, was absolutely ace.

 

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Luxury Hotels

Lots of activity at the luxury Jing’An Shangri-La hotel

Marco Vazzoler, Zeng Fanzhi painting

Jing’An Shangri-La West Shanghai has become an extremely successful hotel. The fashion crowd loves it (the building is handy for many national headquarters of top global luxury brands), and the art crowd does, too. Another plus is that this is a 508-room hotel that, thanks to architects KPF and designers HBA, it is more than usually customer-friendly.  The gal looks first at the art – here is GM Marc Vazzoler standing in front of a 280x420cm painting in the main lobby: it is by Zeng Fanzhi, from Wuhan (he is represented by Hauser & Wirth, and at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2013 his Last Supper set a new record for contemporary Asian art when it realised US$23.3 million).

Look down, at the Exhibition Center

This hotel has so much. It has history: next door is the small house in which Mao lived for three months in 1920. It has great views, including over the adjacent Exhibition Center, currently sporting a temporary fabric roof. And it has great food.  We dined in 1515 West Chophouse & Bar, and after amuses of chocolate-covered foie gras lollipops and then a single shell holding a baked oyster with caviar, served atop real pebbles in a small square box, I started the meal proper, with chef William Mahi’s lemon-cured salmon gravadlax, shown above – somewhere in the presentation, in such pointillism style, are salmon roe, orange, shallots, ginger, whipped cream, capers, pickles, lemon confit, and Parisian sauce. And then it was time for some of the hotel’s bespoke beef from Stanbroke Range in Queensland, with Laguiole knives: thoughtfully, all steaks come in two sizes.  Sommelier King Wang, who was national champion in 2017, chose a 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Geantet-Pasiot followed by a Chinese dessert wine, 2015 Semi-sweet Chardonnay Dme Fontaine Sable Cuvée No 61, Hela Mountain, Ningxia .

The bathtub’s grab rail looks like an art work

I heard about Shangri-La’s third Ride For Hope cycling challenge, shortly coming to its clients. 30 Shangri-La hotels in 25 cities organised a total of 5,000 circuits covering four different routes, from 730 km total (Sanya-Haikou-Sanya) up to Xiamen-Shanghai, at 1,500 km. The Jing’An cyclists rode with those from Shangri-La Pudong and Shanghai’s Kerry hotel, and for one stage they were joined by Shangri-La President/CEO Oliver Bonke.  And then I heard about 1515’s bar hosting celebrity mixologists.  Grace Tsai, a Taiwanese sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, had been here October 31st to November 1st, showing the skills that won her top prize in Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition 2017. And after all this, when I returned to my really comfortable suite, #5632, I thought that if I could I would give a prize to the designer of many of its fittings, all so thoughtful – see the bath’s grab rail, which not only serves a purpose but looks, well, just beautiful.

Cherrie Lim shows off the hotel’s 3-D glasses

The 55th floor Horizon Club is, by the way, another reason the arts-and-crafts moneymakers choose this particular luxury hotel.  Yes, the views are great, and the breakfast buffet sprawls around several curved areas, and you know where you are because there are miniature emperors’ robes, in ceramics, as decoration here.  The people who work the Club feel like personal concierges. Jasper helped me out when I needed some printing done. Cherrie Lim explained the purpose of the dark glasses that were part of my room supplies(they are for watching movies on the 3D-Blu Ray set that is part of the suite’s accoutrements).Is it any wonder that last month the hotel had 89% occupancy, up from 82% a year before? WANT TO SEE SUITE 5632? WATCH THE VIDEO

 

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