Story and photography by Barbara Penny Angelakis
On a recent visit to Shanghai, I stayed at several deluxe 5-star properties belonging to the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. brands, including The Westin Bund Center, Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao, St. Regis in Pudong, and Le Royal Meridien on Nanjing Road East. Many of the superb meals I enjoyed in Shanghai were eaten at one of these establishment’s award winning restaurants, which due to the international nature of their clientele, served the classic cuisines of France or Italy. Restaurants also featured the Asian specialties of Japan, Thailand, India, and of course China. Breakfasts were an amazing affair with spreads including all of the gastronomic delights from the above mentioned countries along with English and American typical morning fare, often cooked to order. All of the Starwood properties I stayed at have state-of-the-art electronics and are business-person friendly providing all services the business - as well as sight-seeing tourist - traveler might require when visiting a destination far from home. A brief review of each hotel follows noting what I consider stand-out features:
The Westin Bund Center Shanghai
88 Henan Central Road
Shanghai 200002, P. R. China
The Westin Bund Center is situated in the historic area on the Puxi (west) side of the Huangpu River, just a short walk from the iconic waterfront that symbolizes the cosmopolitan nature of Shanghai. The hotel was designed by renowned architect John Portman, and is known for its grand atrium lobby with its four story high glass roof that floods natural light into the immense space; cantilevered illuminated glass staircase; and crown rooftop that when lit up at night adds a distinctive silhouette to Shanghai’s skyline. The Westin is a deluxe 5-star luxury hotel catering to the elite tourist or business traveler that demands the finest in facilities and premier service. Hostesses dressed in traditional Chinese costumes greet each arriving guest with a warm towel and a welcome drink. To accommodate their distinguished clientele, the Westin offers one-stop shopping at their Service Express where one simple phone call will take care of any request, and the Westin Kids’ Club for help with children-friendly activities.
With the addition of the Grand Tower in 2007, the hotel now has 570 rooms and 18 Executive Suites, plus the lavish 232 square meter Emperor Suite. There is wireless internet connectivity throughout the building; the Executive floor caters to the business traveler’s special needs. And for all guests there is a 20-meter heated indoor swimming pool with a cascading waterfall, the Banyan Tree Spa, and a 2-level 24 hour fitness center. Another really special service for the traveler who loves to run, is that of a Run Concierge who will gladly be your guide on a run through the Bund area, sharing history and tales of the neighborhood.
St. Regis Shanghai
889 Dong Fang Road
Pudong, Shanghai 200122, P. R. China
The St. Regis is located in Pudong on the east side of the Huangpu River in the center of the commercial and financial heart of Shanghai. The St. Regis is a European grand service-oriented hotel, renowned for devoting personal attention to every guest with their legendary Butler Service. A professionally trained English-style dedicated Butler greets you on arrival and is available to aid in every way during your stay. They will unpack your bags, arrange valet needs, make reservations, prepare your bath and lay out your clothes, set-up and serve a business meeting or dinner, and attend to any other personalized or business service you require. They will act as guides accompanying you on personal excursions and of course make notes of your preferences for your next stay at the St. Regis. You can even confirm arrangements with your Butler when you are out of the hotel via email. This is not just a lip-service offer but a legitimate pledge committed to every guest and with such a level of attention you would naturally expect the rooms and public areas to bespeak state-of-the-art comfort and elegance… and they do. And in keeping with their philosophy of catering to every guest’s special needs, St. Regis offers a Ladies Only Floor for female guests traveling alone that includes a special “feminine touch” amenity package. Similar to the Executive floor, Butlers maintain an around-the-clock watch assuring that only registered guests have access to these special floors.
And speaking of elegance, the ritual of the Art of champagne Sabrage is re-enacted every Wednesday and Friday evening by Danieli’s Executive Chef Warren Brown at the lily pond in the lobby. Holding a bottle of Moët Champagne in one hand and a saber in the other, Chef Brown slid the curved sword along the neck of the Champagne until the cork, with a loud POP, burst safely into the pond and released the bubbly. Champagne is passed around to all guests in attendance, with the Chef’s compliments.
Not only did Chef Brown handle the Sabrage with distinction, his dinner at Danieli’s was a spectacular affair. A red wine poached pear, rocket salad with gorgonzola cheese and caramelized walnuts, started off the meal after an amazing amuse bouche of Arancini with saffron and pork belly ragout on a bed of arugula. For the entrée I selected the daily catch prepared Acqua Pazza style with sea food (rather like a seafood medley) and ended with an apple and raisin torte topped by a spear of dark chocolate. The selected wine was a 2007 Rosso De Montalcino Col d’Orcia and pared well with all the dishes. Yummy!
Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao Hotel
5 Zunyi Nan Road
Shanghai 200336, P.R. China
The Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao is located in the western zone of Shanghai close to the International Hongqiao Airport, and two large exhibition centers: INTEX and Shanghai Mart, but it is a world apart in ambience and old world charm as evidenced by the fresh flowers and hand-made truffles that await you in your suite upon check-in. A combination of western and eastern design and furnishings - plus a liberal sprinkling of oriental antiques - make a memorable statement in the 600 elegant guest rooms and suites. The ultra-modern marble and glass bathrooms have a generous amenity package with take-home gift kits including a rubber ducky located on the bathtub. The lobby is exquisite with a white marble sweeping staircase under massive crystal chandeliers reflecting off the marble parquet floor, perfect for descending in a ball gown and diamond tiara. The warm greeting from the General Manager Mr. Thomas Mueller and his attentive staff added to the feeling that I was a guest in a private home instead of a large deluxe 5-star hotel that welcomes travelers from every corner of the world.
There are a number of dining establishments and bars in the hotel, notably Giovanni’s, an award winning Italian Restaurant; Emerald Garden for Chinese specialties; and Hanano, serving authentic Japanese cuisine. Breakfast is a monumental affair with various stations serving a multitude of choices geared to the eating habits of the hotel’s international patrons. And for health conscious guests there is a well equipped Health Club, indoor swimming pool and sauna plus Touch Spa, offering Chinese herbal treatments and Southeast Asian massage therapies. For facials and skincare, traditional European style services are offered.
Le Royal Meridien Shanghai
789 Nanjing Road East
Shanghai 200001, P. R. China
Le Royal Meridien Shanghai is situated at the western end of Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s premier shopping, dining, and entertainment street. It is the tallest building on the west side of the Huangpu River and built in strict accordance with Feng Shui design principles, engaging every innovative design, scent, sound and light accent, in order to provide a truly outstanding travel experience. Each of the 761 guest rooms and suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows with dazzling views of the Huangpu River, People’s Park, and the Bund. The décor is elegant and sophisticated throughout the hotel but the restaurant level is an absolute delight, featuring a walk-through glass fish tank softly illuminated with colored columns and lights leading to one of the hotels six restaurants and bars. Dinner was at Allure French Restaurant, one of the highest ranked dining establishments in all of Shanghai. The kitchen is overseen by Chef Michael Wendling, a master student of Michelin 3-star Chef Georges Blanc. The outstanding menu is traditional French with Oriental overtones such as the sensational seared sesame coated foie gras, presented wrapped sushi-like over rice, or Chef Wendling’s amazing signature dish of foamed white bean soup with black truffle emulsion and topped with floating gold leaf. The main dish of baked Atlantic cod over basil potato and topped with octopus and sun dried tomato ragout was picture perfect and elevated the lowly cod to a dish fit for a King. Wine was a 2007 Rhone Valley Delas Viognier. The only sour note for me was the too rich dessert of berries crumble and strawberry sorbet parfait and I preferred the chocolate bon bons and scintillating conversation with Chef Wendling.
As befits a French hotel you would expect a high level of culinary excellence and Le Royal Meridien does not disappoint. Their breakfast is a gastronomic feast created by Michelin 3-star Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and features exotic flavors using everyday ingredients. There is also a full menu of traditional breakfast items from Japan, India, the Middle East, and of course China. But for over-the-top, all-day, food lovers extravagant dining pleasure, the Sunday Pink Champaign Brunch is the place to be. This is a world-class event and ranks as one of my top 3 picks alongside hotel buffet brunch’s in Hawaii and New York for food quality, selection and display, attentive service, and downright fun.
© September 2010 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.