The gal’s last night in one of Beijing’s fine luxury hotels, Four Seasons Chaoyang, was, as always, full of memorable moments. Once again, the 313-room hotel was one continuing art gallery. Outside, in Liang Ma Qiao Road right opposite the embassy quarter, is a massive scarlet ribbon sculpture (think St Regis, Singapore). The drop off, outside the door, is blooming with plants and, inside, this is a Chelsea Flower Show of blooms – unbelievably, although titivated nightly they last an entire week, with a complete refresh every Monday morning. GM Andrew de Brito, who must have a whole wardrobe of O’Quirey shoes, is into all art forms, it seems. On July 15th, 2017, he opens his Equis design venue that will make global headlines of what is new, and hot (or cool, as you like).
See one view of it, above. Designed by Strickland, the multi-level, inside-out gathering place, for over a thousand all told, has a crudo bar, Mediterranean food merging into early-morning noodles, music that is just right, and cocktails by hip creators Proof & Co, from Singapore. There will be a members’ club, with stored bottles, and one outside terrace, with Vasarely-look black and white tiled floor, will be just right for tango lessons. Over 100 additional team members are being hired and they will be dressed by sibling design duo Jamil and Alia Juma. Although initially Equis will open from 5 p.m, and run through to two, Andrew de Brito plans in due course to open earlier, for afternoon tea, a smart move since the current afternoon tea, in the main lobby, is packed out with, it seems, every under-35 fashionista in the entire metropolis. See the photo to the right, by the way, for one of its buffets, which includes three different colours of apples.
The front part of the lobby currently hosts promotion for one of the regular Poly auctions, when art collectors from all over China bid their millions, in as few seconds as it takes to say ‘Sold’. More art, and ongoing, is found up in the lovely 26th floor club lounge, where artist-in-residence Cui Feng Hua, from Shandong, paints, and exhibits, with five percent of her sales going to the hotel’s charity, Educating Girls of Rural China EGRC – her bold-colour flowers have more than a hint of Georgia O’Keeffe. And then, of course, there is the art of food: room service offers weekly specials, currently Australian wagyu M5, perhaps paired with the cocktail of the week, a Negroni (‘Bitters excellent for your liver, gin is bad for you, they balance each other’), with a choice of gins that lists two from USA, Oregon’s Aviation and Illinois’ Few Breakfast Gin.
But I was dining in MIO, already full of discerning locals, including a charming family celebrating the birthday of their pre-teen daughter. It was lovely to catch up again with Niello Turco, one of the most extroverted and passionate Neapolitans in the culinary world, who this very month has been deemed, together with the restaurant where he holds court, one of Travel+Leisure China’s top-50, in the whole country – we drank his health with Pauletts 2010 Plish Hil River Clare Valley Shiraz. Back up in end suite 1221, I managed to stay awake for a few minutes to enjoy a couple of pages of Derek Sandhaus’ Tales of Old Peking about a ladies’ lunch at the US embassy here in 1904 when 14 young princesses all stuffed dessert cakes into their wide sleeves to take home. I must, by the way, also comment on the art of sleeping, which I swear this luxury hotel, and soon all Four Seasons throughout China, have got absolutely right. The new Seely mattresses are, well, unbeatable. I am told that they come in three toppings, super spongy, bit-spongy, and firm, which I happen to love, as do, apparently, Chinese. For a really good night’s sleep, this is for you – especially since the windows open, here. But then, all too soon it was wake-up time, back down to the sixth floor gym, to play sudoku (yes, well done, they have Technogym) as I looked across the pool at the sun coming up. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW