UrbanResorts made its name with The PuLi, in Shanghai. Its latest luxury hotel, The PuXuan Hotel and Spa, opened February 2019 at the north-east corner of Beijing’s Forbidden City. It is a fascinating concept, says the gal, soaring up to the ninth floor rooftop, above Guardian Auction space – the owner of the 116-room hotel, Chen Dongsheng, is not only Beijing’s auction king but also one of China’s insurance supremos. He had been working on this hotel, designed by architect Ole Scheeren of OMA, for years. The main grey exterior mirrors medieval China; atop the whole are light-filled events spaces, one of which is bordered by a one-off glass wall, 20-metres in length, amazingly hoisted in one piece.
It is equally stunning inside. The URSPA by AW Lake uses Cha Ling products, by LVMH. Interior designer Andy Hall, from MQ Shanghai, and lighting specialist Flaming Beacon, out of Melbourne, have got the feng shui right, in the spa and above it in a private meditation room, and in the bedrooms, which start at 40 sq m (there is a 220 sq m two-room PuXuan Suite, and the sensible, regardless of room type, pay extra for access to the eighth floor Club, which offers inside-outdoor space and a 24/7 kitchen and bar where, if you like, you can fix your own cocktail and snacks)
I found corner suite 601, looking west to the rooftops of the Forbidden City, really calming, and I would love to have spent more time there. But I had a busy programme. The GM, Mark Wouters, showed me the Chinese restaurant where, imaginatively, tables are peripherally bordered through about 300 degrees by a waist-high wall, to give everyone a sense of privacy while allowing guests and servers, all trained by theatrical directors, to get in and out – there is also, of course, one proper private dining room, essentially for Chen Dongsheng, who seems to eat there nearly every day.
We actually dined in Rive Gauche, a new-look French brasserie with a menu, semi-encased in a floppy leather cover, that has charming illustrations by the Chinese-Spanish chef Ivan Miguez Wang. I had his shaved fennel salad with asparagus, and we shared a signature, an eight-hour Australian short rib carved at table. Sommelier Eric’s La Carte des Vins promotes little-known Champagne labels, such as Geoffroy Expression PC, Françoise Bedel, Vilmart – especially for China’s billionaires, he also offers a Ch Mouton Rothschild 2002, at RMB28,880. Breakfast was equally memorable: as well as more usual offerings there is a Beijing cleansing juice, with broccoli, cucumber, honeydew and lime but whatever you choose, this luxury hotel has replaced the usual go-to buffet by a wooden come-to cart, a trolley that is wheeled up, tableside. SEE ROOM 601, AND THE TEA SALON