We are used to thinking of everything in Japan as perfectly restrained. When it comes to the senses, nothing grates. Luxury hotels may have soft-patterned carpets that blend with wall coverings and, say, shapes of arches across corridors. Music is not too loud. Arriving back at the 200-room Shangri-La Tokyo, the gal was immediately aware of the hotel’s corporate aroma that permeates through public areas. But colours may be bold, too. There is a massive real-gold mural behind the reception desk, on the 28th floor. Bellhops are in bright scarlet. And food is a symphony of colour.
Take red, such a strong colour here, at the hotel that is TripAdvisor‘s top-in-town (GM Marcus Bauder answers nearly every comment, personally). Hot dishes are in Le Creuset casseroles on the breakfast buffet in the 28th floor Piacere restaurant, which otherwise is largely colour-free, designed by André Fu with clear-glass or gold Murano chandeliers. Upstairs in the superb 37th floor Horizon Club Lounge – also André Fu, in subtle Art Deco style, champagne and silver-grey and dark lacquer – breakfast has a central display of today’s health drink, shown above. The Club, I am told, is a big draw for top American leisure guests, as is the hotel’s location, only five minutes from Tokyo Station where the hotel offers complimentary meet or dispatch for the Shinkansen trains that leave every 15 minutes for Kyoto and beyond. The proximity to the station means you could be skiing within 90 minutes of leaving the hotel – go by train, and all gear can be provided.
Marcus Bauder is always thinking up something new. He is shortly launching Tokyo Horizon 24, inhouse music specially composed for Shangri-La Tokyo by Nick Wood, who has lived in the city for 28 years – Wood runs SYN syn.world , with his friends Simon and Yasmin Le Bon, and the music was recorded by a 40-piece orchestra in Macedonia. And like many others in town, this hotel is filled with art, much of it bold, and with flowers. I had pink orchids in corner room 3618, so spacious and comfortable that, following a short visit to the very popular club lounge cocktail hour (great food!) I retreated to an evening off, by myself. Tokyo Shoyu ramen noodles, with pork, leek, onion, spinach and a hard-boiled egg, and a side of tempura vegetables went very well with catching up on world news. The Italian chef, the ultra-passionate Andrea Ferrero, who has almost single-handedly pioneered finding artisanal suppliers all over Japan, sent up a daifuku glutinous rice cake filled with anko, red azuki bean paste. Old and new, said a note. I was supposed to pour in Monte Vibbiano olive oil – I did, and it was as sensational a revelation in taste as the Pinot and strawberries to which I am now almost addicted.
Several hours later I revelled in a Ferrero find, the pots of creamy yoghurt from Makaino Farm Resort, Shizuoka Prefecture – the Club Lounge’s breakfast menu has a map showing provenance, and also lists such eggs Benedict versions as agebitashi, with poached egg on a muffin, plus white miso hollandaise, tuna flakes, ginger, and Japanese spring onions (see a video below to show more of the Lounge offerings). Later, Marcus Bauder shared his delight at finally, on February 28th, 2018, getting his Forbes five-star rating. How had he done this? Concentrate on minutiae, especially for those – like Forbes’ anonymous inspectors – staying in ordinary rooms. Every luxury hotel gives VIP treatment to VIPs, but he and his 300-strong team have been concentrating for two years on the ‘ordinary’ guest. Give an example, please, sir. Now every departing guest finds a day-glo paper label loosely tied on each suitcase. Cost is minimal, impact is maximum, and this plus a myriad other touch points worked. On that evening, Wednesday last week, Marcus Bauder held a surprise party for his team. AND NOW SEE VIDEOS OF MY ROOM, AND THE CLUB LOUNGE