It is rare indeed to find designers of modern luxury hotels who get everything, or nearly everything, right from the viewpoint of 21st century busy travellers. Congratulations, therefore, to HBA, and to the powers-that-be at Marco Polo Hotels for what has been achieved at the launch Niccolo Hotel, in Chengdu. As the video below shows, bedroom 1907 is a clean, light space. All etceteras – see above – are black. The bathroom has a clear wall, with electronic screen, through to the main room, where half the floor is uncluttered wood-look, just right for a ballroom dancing lesson, says the gal. Other admirable points include a long table-desk, and a low coffee table, both ideal for opening a wheelie (other designers please note that time-starved travellers are, more and more, living out of open suitcases rather than unpacking properly?).
So many other highlights come to mind. The espresso machine is easy-to-work Nespresso, the safe is a drawer-set SafePlace Tiara II, the Toto sinks have simple inbuilt stoppers, bathroom lighting good enough for makeup is complemented by a magnifier mirror; there is a bathroom wall television and, in the main room, the wall-set LG screen swings around, to wherever. The bed is uncluttered by comforters or the like and has just one show cushion (with the pillows). All-wall windows, looking down over the Tai Koo Li shopping area, have three coverings, blinds, blackouts and sheers, all simply worked with clearly-marked switches. Honestly, as I said to the hotel’s Portuguese GM Adriano Vences, and its local distribution guy, Simon Wang, my room is as close to perfect as I can imagine.
We had dinner in the very thoughtful Niccolo Kitchen. Why thoughtful? It has a menu that satisfies every taste, from appetizers to sushi via desserts that include furikake pineapple cake. What on earth is furikake? To find out I started dinner with furikake-crusted tuna loin, apparently the favourite of Marco Polo boss, Jennifer Cronin. It turns out it is a Japanese seasoning, dried and ground fish, plus bonito and chopped seaweed – worryingly, it can also include MSG, a good thing I did not know that at the time. Over a glass of Caliterra 2015 Merlot Reservas Colchagua, Simon Wang filled me in on Chengdu life. Weddings here are, for instance, not evening affairs, as in Beijing and elsewhere, but they are generally at lunchtime. This is excellent news all round. Guests do not need to go to the office at all.
They turn up early at the wedding venue for pre-event mahjong and when the nuptials are over it is back to the mahjong,sometimes continuing on to a dinner, which all means the host hotel gets more income from rent of mahjong rooms, and accompanying edibles and potables, and a good time is had by all. Even though I did not coincide with weddings here, everyone was having a good time, and I can see why. This is a modern luxury hotel that does not waste space and labour by having a dedicated executive club lounge. Instead, take an executive room and you get, free, a bento box breakfast, 24/7 non-alcohol minibar, evening cocktails and, bliss, pressing and laundry – I could not believe that after I gave one item to lovely duty manager Nancy it was brought back 90 minutes’ later. At my – non-bento box – breakfast, back in Niccolo Kitchen, the buffet ranged from home-made yoghurt to deep-fried bananas, and really fibre-full toasting bread, and, bliss, there were optional paper cups for coffee. Yes, modern luxury hotels do understand what today’s travellers, not only millennials, want. NOW SEE THE VIDEO OF ROOM 1907, BELOW