This is look-up, look-down, which is very good for the neck muscles and for keeping potential double chins at bay. Start looking up, here at Beijing’s tallest building, the 80-floor tower that houses the capital’s highest hotel, China World Summit Wing. Yes, it rejoices in the name China World, because of the prestige that Chinese give to those two words and, although it is illegal to call anything China without government permission, the government happens to own half of this structure, the rest being held by the Kuok family, owners of Shangri-La.
Take an elevator up to the 64th floor, to the lobby of the 277-room hotel, and another up to your room. The tower is a square block, and the four corner rooms are the biggest, more or less one-room suites but no dividers. Room 6716, on the 67th floor, is one of these corners, and I look down on the city, on this glorious sunny day (pollution? What pollution?). Having been in two even-younger Shangri-Las recently, in London and then in Shanghai, I am amazed yet again how thoughtful a Shang hotel room is. You can find everything, easily manage the light switches and, bliss oh bliss, the curtains – old-gold and deep-chocolate silk, in blocks – are simply pull across. Technology, we do not need you here.
I know I am in China. The wall behind the bedhead is a painting of mountains peeping up through clouds, so suitable for this venue. There is a large red blown-glass vase, a reminder how important red is (on a tip-off, I ran round to the original China World hotel, to see its new lobby, and found stunning red columns and more). My desk supplies here include a complete office kit, with the scissors that are so essential for those of us who travel had-baggage only. Yes, this is Shangri-La, and you know it, although there is no Horizon Club lounge.
What you do have is a superb 24/7 LifeFitness gym, up on the78th floor, next to a seriously big, well-lit swimming pool, and there are vitality stations with steam and hammam in the locker rooms. You also have, on the 80th floor, a sensational Atmosphere bar lounge. Listen to a local lady with 25% of her hair pale yellow, the rest black, belting out Liza Minnelli style as you look out at the view. If you are hungry, descend 40 polished wood steps, past a wine cellar, to Grill 79 – yes, it is on that floor. New chef Daniele Quintero might push a lobster and avocado salad to start, seabass to follow, but we chose differently.
I had a spring bowl to start, namely a salad with a just-poached egg put in, and somewhere, beneath the leaves, were garlic gel and avo purée. Next time, I think I will go for the really-cool Caesar, namely a lid of parmesan crisp, with all the rest of the ingredients below (Thomas Schmitt-Glaeser, who runs this place, had it, and it certainly looked great). We toasted mutual friends, in absentia, and watched the view. And in the morning, there it was again, that view. As I went out running I coincided with some of the 200 financial advisors (open-necked pale blue shirts, blue blazers, chinos) and their mostly-younger other-half trophies checking out, to head over to Shanghai for a few days before going back to Boston, or New York, or wherever.
Fortunately by the time I returned, their dozens of buses were just beginning to fade away. I headed for breakfast, to inspect this luxury hotel’s congees – plain, or maize, and I defy anyone to make an interesting photo of congee. I had a look at the shrimp dumplings in their big bamboo baskets, and the selection of noodles on demand. But I must confess I couldn’t face the bread and butter pudding, and custard of course – or the fruit tart. What nationality are THEY aimed at?