Restaurants that show pots and pans mean business, as do those that display china. Thoughts of past gemütlich taverns and cuckoo clock-lodges bring visions of painted ceramic plates, but today’s up-to-date places for nosh seem to favour all-white displays. The gal thinks of the kitchen restaurant at W Hong Kong, and the Jumeirah Frankfurt’s Max on One. And now she thinks of another luxury hotel, The PuLi in Shanghai, where the standing display of white bowls is functional. Help yourself, to the size you want.
This is part of a memorable, almost sensual, breakfast experience. Take a series of fairly-dark, mostly-wood rooms, and wicker-covered tables big enough for you to spread out – an essential ingredient for any meal, especially when you, like those around you, have at least one device. You could almost say that admission requirements for entry to the hallowed sanctuary of this restaurant, called Jing’An after the temple 100 yards away, are an aesthetic awareness, and an iPad, whatever size.
The music is soft, the buffet is copious, the jams are home-made, served in white pots. The coffee, in big cups, is outstanding. The view is part of the multi-sense experience. Look through the vertical blinds that are ubiquitous, and unmoveable, throughout The PuLi. Just as in the gym, on another floor, you look through the beautiful Jing’An Park, with the temple at the far end. In my case, of course, I had already been running round the park, dodging the groups of senior citizens doing tai-chi or fan-dance classes.
I needed to. Dinner last night was a strong element of this sensual stay. Start with glasses of Laurent-Perrier on the wood-and-greenery terrace leading off the lobby. Move up to Jing’An to see what the Aussie chef suggests tonight. Two of us share a Black Angus rib from New South Wales, which obviously needs a local wine (Wynn Coonawarra Shiraz 2011). Three of us share a creation that flips any sense, a mélange of chopped strawberry, celery, olive oil and sheep’s milk sorbet.
See what I mean? I almost flew as an angel, up to suite 2315, passing white statuettes of, well, could-be archangels stuck on to the wood corridor walls. 2315 is design perfection, not only feng shui but pure taste (even the customized Organic Tibetan Roseroot toiletries fit the culture, and the simple colour palette of dull wood, some grey, some muted green and the pale honey of the minimalist bathroom). I leave the blinds ‘open’, for the Park view at sunrise.
At that hour the lobby, a unique concept with shiny black floor tiles end to end, seems empty, but turn through 90 degrees and you face over the Long Bar, a full 100 feet. As you look, to its left it is indeed a bar. Progress along to the right, past a café area, and you come to front desk (the concierge sits at a normal table in an adjacent library, with real books right up to the high ceiling). Behind the Long Bar are yet more sightings of Jing’An Park.
This particular week everybody who is anybody in the world of top-end travel, especially in Asia, is here in Shanghai, for the annual International Luxury Travel Market ILTM Asia. The discerning have at least called in to this particular luxury hotel, to ooh and aah, and many wish they had had more time. As I leave I am farewelled by the statues by the door and Pramod Ranjan, owner of the Vivanta by Taj in Coorg that Travel + Leisure South-East Asia currently has on its cover, and by Jan Tibaldi. I last saw him, actually, in India (Udaipur) and now he is conductor of the symphony orchestra that is The PuLi.