To be met in style makes such a difference, to any luxury hotel experience. On one memorable occasion, the gal recalls, the forecourt of one of Beijing’s hotels was being redone so she, pulling the Porsche Rimowa wheelie, had to walk the last hundred yards, much to the consternation of the waiting greeters. Arriving here at Ritz-Carlton Beijing Central Place was, by contrast, full of style. There was the big-boss, David Wilson, wearing a tie that matched the delicate china on the tea tray held by one of his colleagues.
It was all the more memorable because David Wilson also runs the neighbouring J.W. Marriott hotel, which has 600 or so rooms (this one, by comparison, is a compact 300-roomer). So he runs back and forth, getting exercise ready for his beloved biking… I was fascinated to see this hotel because it looks so historic, and yet it is only seven years old. Chinese love it because it is timeless. They love afternoon tea in the lobby lounge, sensibly at the rear of the hotel, so the main lobby is a compact area that real VIPs like as they can get in and out without too many people seeing them.
I love the hotel’s antiques, pieces like the clock that stands in the main elevator lobby. Upstairs, corridor floors are covered with what I call ‘Ritz-Carlton carpeting’. Remember, remember, not the fifth of November but those corridors, in all the Ritz-Carltons of times past when it was all MY-pleasure and ladies-and-gentlemen in every sentence? The retro look of this Ritz-Carlton carpet on my way to my room gives a welcome feeling of nostalgia. I am, by the way, lucky enough to be on the 16th floor, highly recommended as you have access to the outstanding club lounge, manned by chic Vogue-like ladies in black suits with white piping. And the chef is there, in person, to prepare your salmon eggs Benedict, even at 6.30 a.m. if you must.
It really seems that some of the people in this hotel do work 24/7 – I could not believe it when I found another black-suited beauty outside my door at five (a.m. dear readers) to escort me to the Technogym, which they were opening specially early. The personal trainer had even braved a tumultuous thunderstorm to come in early, as well, and he had fresh orange juice to hand. When I needed a software problem solved, Mr Romania, one of the most stylish – and tech-savvy – guys ever to come out of Bucharest, took it in hand, resolved it in under the five minutes he said it would take.
So I luxuriated, my last night here in Beijing, in my room, looking out, or rather down, at the Central Mall with its Armani and Chanel and Zegna and all the other labels shining brightly. A certain Fang Chao is behind the mall, and this hotel, and the J.W. and he continues to have expansion plans. His philosophy is engraved, in gold, on a stone by the mall. Maximise space, he believes, which can be interpreted as make as much money as you can from each square foot of retail space. Well Mr Fang, I share your maximization credo but my maximization is all about time. Fill every second to seem like an hour.
So I looked at my fruit bowl, and the burning oil, with its choice of aromas, and the yoga mat that came with this lovely room, and I got ready for dinner, in Barolo. Of course we had to have a Barolo, a Pio Cesare 2008, which went marvelously with Eugenio Iraci’s divine loaf of focaccia studded with tomatoes – of course we went on to more, after that. I thought what a lovely last supper, here in Beijing… Because of the early start tomorrow, I gave up on visiting the hotel’s three-floor Davidoff centre, with its six karaoke rooms, apparently the hang-out of Jackie Chan whenever he is in town. Yes, there are some unique things here in Beijing (think of Chocolate, the underground Russian nightclub in Chaoyang – nothing to do with the hotel, of course). Time to go…