Bulgari Hotel Beijing is part of a natural vision. Genesis Urban Living, on the bank of the Liangma River, is, under the guidance of Dr Whitney Duan, envisaged as a community for tomorrow. Set in a gorgeous park landscaped to illustrate the five flow states of wu wei – play, pause, reflect, exchange, concentrate – the concept is anchored by Genesis’ headquarters, plus the hotel and also an art gallery designed by Tadao Ando (the photo above shows the three buildings, left to right). Come inside Bulgari Hotel Beijing and the sleek use of natural colour and striking materials that is an Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel signature comes into play. A shot, below right, of the two-floor open lobby shows how a metallic ‘tunnel’ leads to the elevators. Out of sight to the immediate right is the main lobby lounge, with comfortable seating that is fully occupied day and evening long. In Bulgari style there are free bonbons, with tongs and bags to hold your cache. Leading off the lounge is the main bar, with Bulgari-standard horseshoe-shaped bar, and Cimbali coffee machine. Go further and, inside-out like the bar, is the one-restaurant, overseen by Niko Romito.
This Michelin three-star chef believes in few choices and composed dishes (his delicious black cod, one of six main courses, is coated in leek sauce, with crispy spinach underneath). It is the same menu every night, and, I am told, in all Romito restaurants in Bulgari hotels simultaneously. Here, Daniele Ferrari’s kitchen sends out an amuse of what looks like water, but apparently it is extract, no added H2O, of carrots and celery, and it does go well with a house wine, Therra 2013 PoderNuovo a Palazzone di Giovanni Bulgari. The cutlery is Bulgari, as is a wrapped eyeglass cloth that I am brought with the menu. I am lucky enough to be dining with the hotel’s GM, Antonio Saponara, who describes his own indoctrination process when he first joined the hotel, two years before opening. That initial rite of passage included working with Bulgari’s watch-makers in Switzerland, and with its leather craftsmen in Italy.
After dinner, Antonio Saponara shows me the 380 sq m Bulgari Suite, often used for photo shoots. Look at the size of the bathtub (in gorgeous corner suite 712, my tub has a loofah the size of a large flower pot, and the towels really do dry. Every detail is essential in luxury, he says. Perhaps that is one reason for Bulgari partnering with, say, Lee Mullins of Workshop for its fitness: as a result, the 24/7 gym here is one of the best thought-out, anywhere. The pieces are all Technogym but, thankfully, not the latest Citterio designs, which are sometimes impossible to fathom out. No, here you have just enough of the full range, plus Kaiser-type items.
In the morning, as the sun comes up, I notice yet more details in my room – the full make-your-own martini set, the simplicity of the Nespresso coffee machine, with two sizes of hand-painted LSA cups, the array of books that includes Sneakers: the Complete Limited Editions Guide, by U-Dox, Thames & Hudson. The shoe-cleaning box has two sizes of wood trees, and a card for Belluti attention. Before leaving I head down to the spa for a Chinese foot massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM style. My feet are washed, and I lie on a bed, to be covered with cashmere. The therapist starts, left foot first, she prods, mainly, with a little pushing and massaging. This is your left kidney spot, here – end of toes – is the brain. Your brain is very busy but tired, I am told. Left kidney and left shoulder, and heart, all on the left foot, are fine. Now for the right foot, what will be found here? More brain, also tired. We have the liver here, and the thyroid and the intestines. I swear I feel more energy surging through my body already. At this, my 20 minutes are up, a car is waiting and I have to leave this unique Beijing hotel, with, as one of the many memories, what seems like a PhD in TCM…SEE SUITE 712 AND THEN THE GYM