Luxury Hotels

The luxury Shanghai hotel that seems like one long feast…

Chef Marco Erba, Rudiger Hollweg

The gal’s time at Grand Kempinski Shanghai turned out to be one long feast, but then the 682-room hotel needs to feed a lot of people, and there are none of the plethora of outside restaurants that you find within a few minutes’ walk of so many luxury hotels.  Here, people not surprisingly find it easier to eat-in, especially as the choice is not only wide, but good.  Dinner was hosted by hotel GM Rudiger Hollweg at the Italian restaurant, Acqua, whose Milanese chef, Marco Erba, is just so enthusiastic that you cannot fail to fall for this menu.

A unique caprese

Take the caprese, for instance.  There are tomato-and-mozzarella salads all over the world but this is unique.  It looks more like a white hamburger, topped, as the photo shows, by a mozzarella mousse. I do like the way this hotel has restaurants that are so definitely themed. After dining at Acqua, the following day’s lunch was at Alero, which was magnificently Spanish.  Of course it had to be tapas, at that meal – carpaccio prawns with herb and spice olive oil, hamachi ceviche with litchi and green apple, and divine marinated tuna in seaweed cone with avocado and wasabi cream.  Honestly, I quickly realised that this 30-floor place is a combination of great restaurants that happens to have rooms.

Vertical salad bar

And the market likes it – October 2018 closed at 92% occupancy, up from 84% a year ago. People stay an average 1.9 nights, but perhaps as they appreciate the food offerings they will stay longer next time, especially if they have rooms with views across the Huangpu River to The Bund (see a video of my room, below).  I admit I had never come across this lovely, friendly place before.  It opened in 2010 as a result of a meeting, back in 1995, between Fidel Castro, on a state visit to China, and the Chinese Government.  It was agreed to build and own two hotels, jointly, one in Havana, which never got going, and one here, which did, eventually – today, Grand Kempinski Shanghai is 51% owned by Cuba, and 49% by China.

German cherry sponges, at breakfast

The hotel opened as Melia but Kempinski won the bid to reflag it in 2013, since when it has gone from trength to strength. The team here is always adding something new. Here is one example: the all-day restaurant is so busy that, at chef Bruno Bruesch’s suggestion, a vertical salad bar was made, and installed.  It takes up less space, and is easier for servers, and diners. At the same time there are hints of Germany, in honour both Kempinski’s roots, and the current GM – see the German cherry sponges on the breakfast buffet. And, with German efficiency, they make Chinese events work like lightning. The photo at the top shows breakdown of one of the three weddings taking place, simultaneously, during my visit. Out of sight in the photo but nevertheless in close proximity to the breakdown team, guests at the wedding were still happily eating, and, more obviously, drinking the evening away.  ONLY in a luxury hotel in China… AND NOW SEE SUITE 2605

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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – today’s luxury hotels combine past with present

Boston is seeing a notable increase in foreign visitors who have ‘done’ other parts of the USA before.  They have been to Las Vegas, New York and Washington – OK, the last two DO have history – but now they want more.  Boston fits the bill, and it is so easy to get to, with excellent airlift and rail connections. The gal is particularly impressed by Kimpton Nine Zero, named because it is at 90 Tremont Street, literally across the road from Paul Revere’s grave, Boston Common and other parts of the Freedom Trail.

Naomi Levy

The 190-room hotel, now part of the massive IHG network, deliberately shows the past.  See the imagea bove, on one of the 18 upper floor corridors (the framed letter on the right is a note from Oliver Wendell Holmes, agreeing to a ‘slight’ alteration, which immediately begs the question about his meaning of the adjective). HBA’s designs everywhere feature satin-smooth floorboards and tabletops, Eames chairs, and see how telephones by elevators are old-fashioned retro, held on unusual modern-Scandinavian-style frames.  Visitors, and local staycationers, also appreciate not only free continental breakfast but also Kimpton’s justly-famous complimentary wines at hour-long evening networking.  Just as in old fashioned pubs and taverns where one socialised, today the tech-addicted need to meet others all the more, and Kimpton – unlike other brands which charge premiums for access to drinks-included club lounges – throws it in, for free.  One extra plus at this particular friendly-luxury hotel, incidentally, is that on the first Friday of every month there is a local historian, a polyglot, to share details of local history, and today’s sights. Coming to the present, by the way, the hotel has no traditional restaurant. But, five nights a week there are sensational cocktails in Better Sorts Social Club.  As you nibble on a Better Sorts burger, with duck fat-basted onions and Grafton Cheddar, try a The Tide is High, a Greens cocktails composed of Plantation pineapple rum, Giffard crème de banane, kale and lime.  Here’s the new mixologist, on the right.

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Luxury Hotels

The luxury Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai is a forever-young hotel

The lobby

The Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai celebrates its 20th birthday this year – and it remains a unique luxury hotel. There are, says the gal, hotels that have a gigantic Antony Gormley gorilla-like sculpture on the outside (The Beaumont, London), there are hotels with integral working ski slopes (Kempinski Mall of Dubai), hotels like standing bagels (Sunrise…) but THIS luxury hotel was deliberately designed by John Portman to be like a mountain.  See, above, the 46-floor hotel, sometimes known locally as ‘Bortoman’, after its architect John Portman, flanked by 33-floor towers of offices and residences.  This entire complex has everything, including a basement supermarket. Enter the hotel, today, to an elegant lobby.  At the far end is a day-long lounge, with a side bar, Movers & Shakers, which is in effect a library with pop-up mixologists.

Tarik Temucin in Bola Family shoe shop

Area GM Tarik Temucin – whose MBA thesis at Isbanbul’s Maltepe University was on electronic money and macro economic effects – is certainly in the right place here in China, where everything from a cup of tea up to, well, the sky’s the limit, is paid for electronically.  Since my last visit, he has added two luxury boutiques to the lobby area, one, Award, a jade emporium and the other, Bola Family, displaying and selling exquisite hand-made shoes.  Come out of the hotel, walk left or right along Beijing East Road, and you have Gucci, Louis Vuitton, every one of the West’s top brands. Cross the road (and yes there is a barely-marked pedestrian crossing and yes, so far at least, traffic does stop) and you are in a multi-use sprawling concrete wedding-cake of a complex, the Shanghai Exhibition Center, designed in 1955 by architects Sergey Andreyev and Chen Zi on the 26 acres that had once been the private gardens of Shanghai’s richest man, Silas Hardoon.

Angel Jiang in the lounge

Regulars like the 610-room hotel for its location and facilities, but even more for its service.  The Club Lounge, on the 43rd floor, is, like all the Ritz lounges I have been fortunate enough to experience, really thoughtful.  This one opens 6.30 a.m. and offers full breakfast, with chef, and midday snacks that are more than enough for lunch (loved the Somerdale cheddar, and I did not have space for the Pekin duck or noodles). The attendants are now in chic deep plum, or gentian, shirts, with grey skirts.  Angel Jiang immediately came up to say hello and I reminded her how a previous GM, Derek Flint, had told me that she was the reason at least one guest always stays here, nowhere else.  At that, a man I did not know turned round and said, to anyone who wanted to listen, ‘I agree, she is superb’.

The hotel’s clever walking-tour cards

About 30% of the hotel’s 650-strong team have been here since Ritz-Carlton came in, January 1st, 1998 – the only noticeable turnover has, indeed, been GMs (none of whom have copied opening GM Mark DeCocinis in taking part in the hotel’s vertical marathon, up all the fire stairs, or in offering local tours in the side-car of his 1938 Chang Jiang 750cc, with Stefano Ricci elephant skin seats).  To give you an example of how everyone is genuinely happy to do anything, Hotel Manager Sander van Delden personally worked with the hotel’s top IT man to sort out a connectivity challenge that seems to be unique to China and UAE. To celebrate the hotel’s birthday, a really informative coffee table book, for limited-edition giveaways only, shares the history of this luxury hotel. Tarik Temucin and his team have also produced four fascinating folded-A3 local walking-tour maps, covering art, food, heritage and neighbourhood, in a most delightful way.  This is a hotel with oodles of personality – as a video below shows.  SEE FIRST 4503, THE KAJIMA SUITE, AND THEN THE DAILY 6PM CANDLE-LIGHTING CEREMONY

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