The photo above gives an indication of why Mandarin Oriental Beijing is a most unusual hotel. As if in defiance of others that soar up and up, this luxury hotel has its 73 bedrooms spread out on only the top two floors of the six-floor building. Below, says the gal, is an upmarket collection – please do not use the pleb word ‘mall’ here – of the world’s best retail brands. Arrive, and you are met by charming young women in flowing blouses topped, in cold months, by short capes. Immediately inside, past the Audemars Piguet store, you see a white fan specially designed by Tim Yip, art and costume director for the Beijing handover ceremony at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Over your head in the lobby is a ceiling-hung Frank Gehry blowfish sculpture.
Eating, drinking and networking is all on the fifth floor, which extends to mammoth outdoor terraces, fully used all summer long. With the GM, Mark Bradford, I had a memorable dinner in the Mandarin Grill, an Adam Tihany-designed space with shiny wood floors and furnishings and crisp white linens. A favourite starter is home-cured Norwegian gravadlax, carved tableside (have egg white as a condiment, I was urged, to bring out the subtle flavour). Like many, I went on to Wagyu M4-5 Stockyard 300g ribeye which went superbly with the hotel’s specially-labelled 2015 Bordeaux Ch Confidence de Margaux. The easy way to get ‘home’ afterwards was to take 30 marbled steps from the fifth floor up to the sixth floor, then walking, via an airbridge, across the top of the library to reach the main rooms corridor.
This airbridge is spectacular, suspended so that you look down into a library which has an eclectic collection of the proper books that Mark Bradford says Chinese really admire – I borrowed a Sherlock Holmes insider overnight. The main corridor, by the way, is 126 metres. one end to the other, a long sea of pale celadon walls with gorgeous celadon-rust-teal swirl carpet. My suite, #81, had views of the top of some of the Forbidden City roofs (a notice reminds me that my window glass is two way). I have everything I could possibly want, from loofah to bathroom orchid tree, sic, and two sizes of slippers, and silk, and towel robes, and wood shoe trees. The do-everything tablet says I can buy all these, plus Begg throws, Ploh pillows and the floral Wedgwood tea set.
In the morning, after watching WTA finals in Guangzhou, on one of the three ordinary Technogym runners – they are complemented by one Woodway – I had a super breakfast in Café Zi. This is a perfect morning venue, outdoors or indoors, perhaps in booths highlighted by colour-burst walls. The egg chef cooks right in the restaurant, with no separation between kitchen and dining area, coffee arrives as a Rosenthal celadon cup augmented by a filled glass pot, for refills, and toast is sensibly brought, crusts still on, in a beautiful silver rack. Afterwards they opened MObar for me to have a look (it was taken by a private party last night). The heart of the hotel, so to speak, it has bottles crammed on to ceiling-high shelves on one wall – being next to the main terraces is an attraction for smokers. I was fascinated to see the drinks menu, bound as a proper book, Cocktails Through Art & Landmarks: mixology consultants are Hope & Sesame, from Guangzhou, an all-round beverage company founded by a pair from other luxury hotels, Bastien Ciocca, once Shangri-La, and Andrew Ho, from Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. SEE SUITE 81, AND SOME STRIKING ART