Luxury Hotels

Elements that make a luxury hotel, in the USA

One-bit donuts, with fresh berries

One-bite donuts, with fresh berries

You know you are back in the great US of A when you see a statue of George Washington, as above, and this one happens to be in Boston’s Public Garden (by Thomas Ball, it was dedicated on July 3rd, 1869). You also know if you are back in the USA if you come across doughnuts, as in England, spelled as donuts. Apparently, however you spell them, they are beginning to replace macaroons here (and macaroons, in their turn, caused a downswing in cupcakes). Why on earth, asks the gal, are there sudden crazes for such bad-for-you one-bite sweetnesses? A wedding reception at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington DC, the other day, had a whole wall of help-yourself donuts. At the premier luxury hotel on the south side of Public Garden, Four Seasons Boston, it was four small donuts, with a bottle of Evian and two raspberries, that constituted the in-room welcome.

Coffee, tea and pastries for a pre-breakfast snack

Coffee, tea and pastries for a pre-breakfast snack

Let me look at some of the elements that make the Four Seasons brand what it is, today. A day before arriving I was emailed a pre-arrival check-in facility, which I noted, did what was necessary but, unlike some other brands’ pre-arrival communications, there did not seem to be a choose-your-room capability, but that was just fine. How would I know, before arrival, which room I might like? As it happened I was given one of the new ‘mock-up’ or trial rooms, being redone by BAMO, with more than a little bit of tweaking by the 274-room hotel’s owners. See what my room looked like, in the video below. I loved the bright sparks of sunflower yellow, and the fact that one window opened, not much but enough to let in lots of fresh air.

The right newspaper, in a stylish black damask bag, today's weather attached

The right newspaper, in a stylish black damask bag, today’s weather attached

Obviously, being Four Seasons, WiFi was free (unlike some other five-star hotels in Boston). The bed was perfect, as was sound-proofing. Early morning coffee, available in the lobby, was really flavourful, which is rare in pre-made, pump pot brown liquids available in some hotels around the world – and here, generously, there was also a pile of fresh-baked pastries, all for free. There were stacks of serious newspapers, again complimentary, and, much to my surprise, a copy of my favourite Financial Times was, without my asking, hanging outside my door, in a stylish black-damask fabric bag, with today’s weather forecast stuck on it.

Fried eggs cannot come unadorned

Fried eggs cannot come unadorned

After an early workout, in the 24/7 gym up on the eighth floor rooftop, it was breakfast time. There was no buffet, but I guess that the many bankers and businessmen (said intentionally, there were no other obviously-business women in the Bristol all-day dining) and all the others did not want to leave their suited-but-tieless discussions to go to a table to help themselves. The coffee, in a big shiny Alfi pot, was again full of flavour. And, as always in the USA, the kitchen found it impossible to send out my simple order for eggs without decorating them with hash browns, and tomatoes. There are some national characteristics that international visitors just cannot change, but that is one of the joys of travelling the globe. And now see the video, below.

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Luxury Hotels

A new luxury hotel makes instant waves

The lobby is a three-dimensional open sculpture

The lobby is a three-dimensional open sculpture

The more the gal travels, the stronger becomes her wariness of ‘butlers’. Far too many are pompous and/or intrusive. There are exceptions however and, honestly, Rosewood Beijing has one of the best, Nick Ren, above, with his ultimate boss Marc Brugger, who runs this amazing luxury hotel. Why is it amazing? Well, it has been developed out of a 70-floor building that has been in the heart of the city, near the CCTV centre since 1990. After considerable spend, floors up to 23 are now, thanks to the owners and designer Stuart Robinson of BAR Studio, a 284-room hotel. Let us start with the lobby, left, a soaring spillikin of a space where existing beams have become part of the appeal: this whole space, as you can see, is a three-dimensional open sculpture.

Display outside spa suite 611

Display outside spa suite 611

Up on the serene sixth floor, the spa is reached by a walkway flanked by low decorative pools and candles, lit from dawn on. Turn the other direction to get to five spa suites. I was in 611, a Premier Spa Suite: two pots of grass outside its door show how simplicity becomes superlative design. Inside, I had masses of cool taupe and cream space, a bath-tub for two, a pair of massage beds, an array of serious books that ranged from Henry Kissinger on China to A Pictorial Atlas of Acupuncture (plus Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, its softest-leather purple cover labelled with recessed fuchsia and black letters). I had a balcony, facing the CCTV Tower: with a real hedge along its 35-foot length, it was large enough to entertain ten to cocktails.

Home-made charcuterie to start

Home-made charcuterie

Instead of cocktailing, I padded across to the main spa, and through it, to the big gym. Heaven, lots of space, masses of Technogym, televisions working (though for governmental reasons BBC was not among the English channels allowed, so I played mental games instead). Then, oh what bliss to have an in-room treatment, right there and then, in my room. Nick, as if following Downton Abbey guidelines of the Perfect English Gentleman’s Gentleman, discreet disappeared in plenty of time before it started (much later, the PEGG, in his black evening outfit, appeared from somewhere to help with a late-night IT challenge). After my treatment, it was dinner. There are several Chinese restaurants, to try next visit, but tonight it was Bistro B, where the charcuterie, displayed in one of the many glass-fronted cabinets, is all home made.

Manor House club chef, ready to go

Manor House club chef, ready to go

Bistro B really is the ultimate kitchen-meets-restaurant as you wander around all the preparation areas (what happens to the used dishes, I asked? They are discreetly taken out on a trolley when customers are not looking). I breakfasted in the Manor House, a club that combines local membership with suite guests, and few lucky other guests. Again, there is a full working kitchen here – plus library and pool table. This really is a very well thought-out luxury hotel, and if all the butlers are as good as Nick, no traditional English stately home or manor could have matched this for service. NOW WATCH THE VIDEO OF MY ROOM, BELOW.

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Luxury Hotels

The renewal, rebirth of a legendary luxury hotel

Jing's gorgeous PDR

Jing’s gorgeous PDR

Well, it may not be fully finished until early 2017 but The Peninsula Beijing will then be even more gorgeous than ever. This is a venerable luxury hotel that is completely re-inventing itself. Apart from the 13-floor exterior’s white tiled walls and tiled roof, nothing remains. The front garden has been completely re-done, to push the entrance out with a glass pre-arrival area a little like that at The Peninsula Paris. Inside, the lobby’s grand staircase now faces you – before it was at right angles to you. Two 16-foot paintings, black scrawl on bright cobalt, symbolise sun and moon, by abstract ink artist Qin Feng. Everything in the lobby seems more practical, and more gorgeous, says the gal.

One of Jing's imaginative asparagus dishes

One of Jing’s imaginative asparagus dishes

The lobby of what will be a 230-room hotel is nearly finished. The lower-level Jing restaurant is ready, and is at trial stage. Menus are being tried out on family and friends, and I was lucky enough to be among their number. Beforehand, we looked at the chinoiserie PDR (private dining room), with its hand-painted wallpaper.   We looked at an overflow room that will be used for breakfast – the breakfast buffet area, next to the kitchen, is cleverly partitioned off for the rest of the day. The main room is soft avocado, and tables are set with elegant palest green-turquoise cloths that particularly complemented one wall that has living ‘pictures’, circles filled with growing plants.

A corner of a re-done bathroom

A corner of a re-done bathroom

Then, in the main restaurant GM Joseph Sampermans had both Executive Chef  Dominique Martinez,  to the left of the photo above, and Jing Chef, Alberto Becerril, on the right, on hand. Seventy percent of the edible produce here is now organic, supplied by 17 farms. It is asparagus time in China, and Alberto Becerril is presenting it in different ways – I started with an asparagus composition, went on to a block of steak tartare and ultra elegant salad, and then we headed to see what was going on. GM Joseph Sampermans was quick to point out that first redo was of the staff restaurant: the lucky team now has an adjacent business centre, and the buffet really looked appetizing – they have a new gym and staff clinic coming (120 of the total-640 team are also housed).

Work is still going on, 24/7 without a pause

Work is still going on, 24/7 without a pause

Then we headed up to the one guest floor being transformed right now. Fortunately the show room showed another world, a world of space, and beauty, thanks to designer Henry Leung and Inverse lighting specialists. My beloved ‘-00’ end suite has had a neighbouring room added to it, to give it, now, a dining room and, also, a media room, with lie-back seating for five. Pale colours, the now-standard Peninsula perks of cat-flap, and nail varnish dryer, and smoothest lacquer woodwork are all here, and a five-fish tiled collage over the bath tub is a nice touch. It is just amazing that all this has been, and will be, going on without closing the hotel. It is equally amazing that Joseph Sampermans still manages to smile.  SEE WHY HE IS HAPPY WITH THE NEW LOBBY, BELOW:

 

 

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