As soon as you reach Indigo Shanghai on The Bund, about 600 yards further south than The Bund’s characteristic lookout station, you know you have entered another world. This is an old shipyard area and it looks as if they have left some maritime chains behind. No, says the gal, these heavy links are art, right? Go in through the revolving door of this luxury hotel and, boy, you are greeted by a shiny red teapot sculpture, about five feet high. Christoph Zbinden, the hotel’s Swiss GM, sometimes uses this sculpture as a photographic background.
I just love the bedrooms. They are zany, individual, reminders of Old Shanghai – or so I presume. The wall behind the white bedhead is a blowup black and white photograph, with red roof, of hutong houses. A wood-outline tester frame stands behind and over the bed, with gauze curtains hanging down. One bedside light, inner lit, is a bright turquoise lantern. The light the other side, a foot lower, is inner lit, bright dayglo orange. The desk is an oval black glass with one leg, its other end balanced on a wicker sculpture than curves around to become a sofa. The desk’s chair is bright pine green.
2509 is one of the most desirable of the 184-total bedrooms as it is corner, facing both north upstream up the river, and east, over it to Pudong. This view, as I keep on saying, is never boring. Ships ply up and down 24/7, barges and container-ships and tourists’ cruisers. Trying to avoid this with-the-flow traffic are the ferries which take the car-less between The Bund and Pudong. Unlike Bangkok, however, there are no really tiny craft also trying to break into this mayhem of river traffic (or perhaps there were, and they have not survived).
Last time, I lunched here, but now I see the hotel come into its night-time glory, and I LIKE IT. Look at the night view from the amazing CHAR Bar on the 29th floor. Its terrace gives that same north and west view. Sit for hours, perhaps trying a Bund Bellini, vodka, prosecco and cranberry juice. Behind you is a living wall. Behind, too, is the indoor bar, if you want to move in to escape the heat, or the rain of earlier this week. The tower has 30 floors in all; up above is a private members’ club, and private dining rooms.
Downstairs, on the 28th floor, is the phenomenally successful CHAR, dinner only, reserve far ahead. It can do three sittings a night, with ease – the Chinese eat early, and fast, which makes way for others. This space is a wood-walled haven of the finest Australian meats (you pass the glass-walled ageing cabinet on your way in). You are brought a selection of steak knives, to choose your make. You can start with a bucket of oysters. You can choose a cut of Blackmore wagyu beef. I did not, I went for a hamburger (50% hand-cut Tajima wagyu and 50% grain fed Angus beef, topped with Tallegio). It came with incredible twice-fried beer-battered thick chips, a tray with a choice of eight mustards, another tray of six salts.
We had actually started with just-baked bread, a whole loaf of it, pull a section apart, enjoy the cube of butter rolled in seaweed and truffle. I was with Christoph Zbinden, who honed his food skills first at Peninsula and then Jumeirah. I was also with the equally-characterful Julie Donohoe, a Sydneysider who knows luxury hotels well – after working with Neil Perry, she was chef at InterContinental Sydney before coming here. Now she is ‘f&b’, overseeing food and drink. She insisted that I take a goodie-bag home, a whole, fortunately small, cheese cake in its own box. Midnight snack for the gal? Wow, she had two breakfasts in a few hours time.