Seen in the lobby: Beijing's elite, artists, editors, CEOs
OUR check-in at Rosewood Beijing has been as smooth as Chinese silk. After a long flight I’ve been signed in and whisked to my room with such seamless efficiency that I am not at all sure quite how I got here. I am beginning to feel that I’ve been cocooned in silk since my arrival, everything at the hotel is so swish and stylish.
This is upscale Rosewood Hotels & Resorts first property in China, with more hotels to come (lucky China). The interiors of the hotel are stunningly beautiful with vast Chinese paintings and walls of gold and bronze combined with tiny intimate touches - shelves of books and poetry by the lifts, marshmallows in jars in the Bistro - which make you instantly feel at home.
Hotel chains are always chanting the ‘spirit of place’ mantra but I have rarely found a hotel that truly echoes its surroundings as stylishly or completely as Rosewood Beijing. The building was redesigned by Melbourne-based BAR Studio, its principle designer, Stewart Robertson says the brief from elegant Rosewood Hotels and Resorts CEO Sonja Cheng was to create an urban oasis and they’ve definitely succeeded.
Hotel chains are always chanting the ‘spirit of place’ mantra but I have rarely found a hotel that truly echoes its surroundings as stylishly or completely as Rosewood Beijing.
Beijing is a mix of towering new architecture and hidden spaces and so is Rosewood Beijing. The traditional hutongs with their walled courtyards are echoed in the common areas of the hotel where delicate screens and vaulted columns create secret spaces, I try to sit it in all of them during my stay but my favourite is fire-side in Bistrot B where Chef Jarrod Verbiak (protege of celebrated New York-based Daniel Boulud), turns out French and Asian favourites; think bouillabaisse and prawn laksa. Not to mention a divine Oolong tea creme brulee.
The designers wanted the hotel to reflect village hospitality in the city and it does. The County Kitchen café has antique bricks, open ovens and a local buzz at lunchtime and Red Bowl (considered by Conde Nast China editor, Yan Xiao, one of the places to dine in Beijing) serves traditional hotpot under the glow of crimson lights. I am feeling unwell the evening I eat here and the waiter turns into a Chinese Mother hen, ” you must eat” he says with concern spooning steaming broth into my bowl every time he passes the table. Miraculously his ministrations and the food (…and possibly the best star anis Gin cocktail I have ever tasted) works wonders and indeed, I do feel better.
Rosewood Beijing works its alchemy on another level too. I find that the interiors of the hotel make me look at what I encounter beyond the lobby with different eyes. Enjoying the screened and private rooms at the House of Dynasties restaurant for example makes me understand the inner courtyards of the Forbidden City that much better.
It helps that Rosewood Beijing (in partnership with Wild China) organises exceptionally good private guided tours. Despite its history Beijing is less immediately accessible to foreigners than shiny Shanghai but the Rosewood ensures that you get an insiders insight into this fascinating city. I was shown the city by experts in their field. With scholar and explorer William Lindesay OBE I learn about the incredible story of the Great Wall, with my personal art curator I explore the 798 art district. I’ve never really needed a guide to negotiate a market, nevertheless the one arranged by Rosewood helps me plunge into the treasure trove of Panjianyun flea market without fear of being lost forever in a sea of embroidery, beads and porcelain pots. .
I find that the interiors of the hotel make me look at what I encounter beyond the lobby with different eyes
In my room are shelves lined with books and original cloisonné artworks. Each room has a copy of one of China’s four great classic novels*. I curl up on the gold leather chaise longue window seat and start to read Dream of the Red Chamber. Outside the window is the angular archway of the Rem Koolhaas-designed CCTV Headquarters - 21st century Beijing. Inside I float in a timeless space between centuries where calligraphy, art and HD TVs live together in perfect harmony. The Red Chamber is a tale of cloistered ladies in old Chinese courts and although my own chamber is not so much red as warm hues of gold and bronze I feel a little like a sheltered Empress myself, lazing on my couch with a bowl of fruit at my fingertips and a butler at my beck and call.
My butler Jason anticipates every need; producing steam irons, pillow menus and picnic lunches for Great Wall adventures with mindreading speed. He is dressed in a traditional jacket with tail, yet his hair is an homage to punk by way of Elvis. I love it. He is the perfect example of Rosewood Beijing’s clever mix of classic and cool.
On rainy days in Beijing the plastic umbrellas unfurl like peonies on the crowded streets and after splashing through puddles with my own plastic brolly aloft I’ve had enough and retreat the comfort of the hotel. It is no hardship I spend an afternoon so just wandering around the artworks. The art has been curated by Emily de Wolfe Pettit, founder of Beijing-based Arts Influential China consultancy, and showcases a range of local artists, in particular the work of Li Yongfei which combines traditional ink brush painting with contemporary images of tattoos and fashion or mystical creatures.
Unnoticed by guests admiring his work the unassuming artist sometimes slips quietly into the lobby or the Ballroom Atrium where a copy of his stunning ink scroll based on the historic legend of the Shan Hai Jing, hangs down seven storeys and across one hundred and forty-three square metres ( the world’s largest installation in ink).
Anyone who wants another reason not to leave the embracing confines of the hotel should book into the newly opened Premier Spa Suites which - along with the Frette 600 thread-count linen, amenities by Lorenzo Villoresi and state of the art TV and sound systems offered in all the rooms - has an outdoor balcony and an in-room massage suite with private massage tables or an oversized Jacuzzi (choices, choices). Spa and fitness types will also love the vast indoor hotel pool with lush vertical gardens and cabanas.
Check-in was smooth as silk, check out may be trickier, I am so at home they may have to eject me kicking and screaming from my room - knowing Rosewood Beijing the staff would even do that with style.
Key Count: 283 rooms.
Ultimate Luxury: The Presidential Suite
Most Indulgent Moment: The hotel’s Jaguar XJL with beige leather seats is THE way to make the drive from Beijing Capital International Airport in style.
Insider Secrets: The hotel Club lounge is the largest in Beijing - equipped with a sitting room, library and billiard den that apparently kept the Rolling Stones happy for hours during their visit.
The Little Things: A selection of books on the shelves in your room makes this feel like a real home from home – bin that kindle
Junior Luxies: Really why would you? But if you must they will be looked after