The Manohra Cruise is a special evening boat dinner where you can indulge in scrumptious dishes while watching the beautiful Bangkok scenery pass-by. 9 courses for Manohra gold menu and 7 courses for Manohra silver menu are served on this two and a half hour cruise along the beautiful and historical Chaophraya River. During the 2 hour cruise you will be passing by 21 hot touristy spots of the city including the famous East Asiatic Company, Assumption Cathedral, Portuguese Embassy, the unmistakable Santa Cruz Church, the Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), the majestic Grand Palace and the famous Wat Po (the temple of the reclining Buddha). These introductions to the scenic spots are what really make this trip so magical and romantic. You actually get to experience the sounds, the smells, the ambience, and the lovely atmosphere of Bangkok’s past and present in this cruise.
This cruise might assist to better understand Bangkok’s and indeed Thailand’s history and the growth of its amazing capital Bangkok, city of angels. The Chaophraya River itself has a long history associated with the city, its royal family and with the great temples that adore the shores of this fascinating river. The river system stretches more than a hundred thousand square kilometres within a region representing 35 percent of Thailand’s total land area. 265 kilometres long, the Chaophraya River is also known by the locals’ as the “Maenam” river. “Maenam” stands for “mother of waters”, while the word “Nam” stands for water. Therefore, no visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the legendary “River of Kings”. What better way to do it in than just eat luxurious Thai food and just admire the views (or each other if you are on a romantic getaway) on board a well restored 50-year old rice barges, known as the “Manohra” and the “Manohra Moon”. The cruise is both a great culinary experience and while comfortably seated on board, a perfect opportunity to learn more about the Chaophraya River, its wildlife and its various landscapes.
The first of the barges were introduced in the summer of 1992 for lunch or dining cruises. Due to popular demand, a second barge was introduced in year-2000 for the dining experience. Further more in 2005, another ship was introduced called the “Manohra Star” which can seat up to 70 people, along with an open-air main deck that also accommodates a large bar section.
If you prefer then you can also choose to do an overnight cruise where you have your own double bed with an en-suite toilet, and with a waiter to serve you food as and when you need it. There is also a shower as well! The overnight cruise is the ultimate experience in cruising and is highly recommended for honeymooners’ or those who just want to try something new with a twist of luxury- add elegance to this ancient way of travelling.
Passengers meet the crew at the Longtail Bar in front of the Marriott Resort & Spa pier, and are then taken to the Manohra Cruise to set sail on the River of Kings.
Drinks, including a selection of cocktails and fresh exotic juices such as passion fruit with mango and papaya are served just prior to departure. Around 15 minutes into the cruise, the boat passes the 25-year old King Taksin Bridge which is also known as the Sathorn Bridge. Guests are firstly treated to a selection of typical Thai appetisers including “Miang Som” and “Mieng Kham”. Miang Som is a crispy cake filled with prawns and pomelo (P.S.. Pomelo in Thai is known as “Som O”, so this is why the dish is known as Miiang Som).
The square shaped cake is best enjoyed when taken with one full bite because then you can experience its rich adapted sweet and sour taste. This was followed by the “Mieng Kham” that has a selection of traditional condiments along with Thai chapu leaves. If this is your first time to experience a boat dinner in Bangkok then you’ll definitely find it irresistible because not only does it make you absorb the flavour of the mouth-watering Thai dishes but it leaves a memorable picture in your mind of Bangkok from a different angle.
Mind you, there are lot of “party boats” that run along the Chaophraya River in the evening, which is equally stunning in terms of the beauty and the style of the food they offer. However if you prefer the quieter, and more elegant way to enjoy Bangkok’s picturesque views while indulging in luxury food then the Manohra cruise is most certainly catered for you.
The menu includes other authentic Thai dishes as the “Tom Yam Goong” (Traditional spicy prawn soup with lemongrass and lime leaf flavored), and the “Gaeng Garee Gai”. The former is a clear spicy beef consume offered in a true Thai style (and yes, it’s ridiculously spicy!), while the latter is a slowly cooked marinated spring chicken breast drowned in a generous helping of delicious yellow spiced curry. I always find that Thai food is a neat fusion of Chinese and Indian cookery because it’s got the spicy food, as well as the sweetness and sour taste of Chinese cookery as well.
The favourite dish arrived just at the right time. As we passed the beautiful royal barges housed at the boat and shed museum located near the Somdej Phra Pin Klao Bridge, we were treated to a scrumptious dish of “Goong Sauce Makam”. A fabulously presented dish that contained a roasted tiger prawn (largest prawns’ I have ever seen- I thought it was a lobster!) surrounded by a munificent helping of tamarind sauce. Exceedingly delicious when taken with either red or white rice (“Khao Song See”). You may want to try both the brown and white rice just to compare the two varieties. Thailand is famous the world over for its delicious rice.
The concluding main dish of the evening came in the name of “Pla Krapong Rad Prik”, which is a seared sea-bass fillet accompanied by a sweet chilli dressing.
For dessert there was the traditional Thai dessert of Khao Niew Mamaung(mango with Thai sticky rice). Generous amounts of freshly cut mango slices are accompanied by a brash of tempting sticky white rice topped with soya seeds’. It’s perhaps one of the healthiest desserts one can imagine to have. The Manohra cruise Thai set menu has 9 courses for the Manohra gold menu and 7 courses for the Manohra silver menu. The Manohra Gold Menu is priced at Baht 1,990 per person and the Manohra Silver Menu is priced at Baht 1,400 per person (Prices are subject to 10% service charge and applicable government tax)
Marriott Resort and Spa Bangkok: Copyright Navjot Singh
Ideally located near the beautiful and historical Chaophraya River, the gorgeous Marriott Resort and Spa is the perfect place to while away those tired arms and legs during a vacation. It provides the ultimate in luxury starting from the highest quality of food provided right the way through to the smile from any one of the staff members that greet you upon your arrival. They know very well that you may have come from half way around the world and what it means to you to have a nice hot relaxing shower or a good night sleep after a long haul flight. After all, it only takes one chance to make a lasting impression on the customer service and the hotel’s quality in the customer’s eyes’.
By all means it is perhaps not easy to locate however when you arrive at the resort it provides a feeling of sheer joy and relaxation. Effectively it can be described as an oasis within the city. The Marriott Spa and resort with 319 rooms and 94 suites is considered to be the only true resort located within the vicinity of Bangkok’s CBD area. The nearest metro (Sky train) is Silom (about 12 KM away), and is easily accessible by the free boat shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes from the resort to the sky train pier (takes around 5 minutes to get there).
The resort is located on the rather busy (though not so much for tourists), Charoennakorn road. If one was to take a walk on this road, they would not imagine or believe that such a luxury resort and Spa hotel as the Marriott is located here. Though it is hard to believe, but nevertheless, once you are firmly inside the hotel you’ll be greeted with an atmosphere of sheer tranquillity and an aromatic ambiance. I found myself thinking how hard it is to believe that only around 100 meters away from the hotel’s foyer is the loud hustle and bustle of everyday Bangkok. The hotel does not posses such a high rise as some of the newer hotels in the city. Though it has to be said quite rightly it should be a low rise building because it is, after all, a resort and not a full on glass house in the middle of the CBD. While the beautiful swimming pool is active during the daytime with avid swimmers and sun bathers, during the evening it turns into a place where you can just relax and while away your free time. It’s good to be lazy once in a while- and why not? After all you are on holiday!
Like the vast majority of the hotels’ in Bangkok (and indeed in Thailand as well), you’ll not need to go far to find a painting, statue or even a wallpaper dedicated to the Thai Elephant. Indeed, a beautiful painting of the Thai Elephant was the first thing that greeted me when I entered my room. Because this hotel is a resort and meant to resemble something like a colonial outpost in the middle of Bangkok, the floors have no carpets but are laid with strong posh mahogany. The furniture is also all wooden rather than being of a contemporary design. Each room comes with a balcony from where you can get fabulous views of the rest of the resort and the river in the background. In room tea is provided by the Sri Lankan company Dilmah. Visitors can choose the city view (perhaps’ you like to look at lovely buildings in Bangkok), Chaopraya river view (highly recommended!) or the resort view.
The splendid Suan Luang suite is located on the 7th floor in a lovely position that allows the guests to enjoy a full 2 sided balcony from where stunning views of the river can be captured to the heart’s content. There are some fabulous touches to the suite that include original costumes from the film “The King and I”, and also a partial sculpture from a Cambodian temple. You have to see it to believe it.
Nothing beats the feeling of just sitting down by the poolside in the late evening or at night-time and chatting to your friends or family while sipping a lovely drink. It would be so pleasant that even the full moon in the sky would shy away behind the passing clouds- that enchanting cool breeze from the river’s swishing currents’ is a welcoming refreshment after a long hot day in Bangkok. The only sound that will perhaps interrupt your talk is that of a cricket in the background or a boat passing by in the river behind you.
The resort has to be proud in many of its feats that include the period furniture in the rooms, the spacious foyer with the signature club lounge on the first floor and of course the amazing swimming pool area. However the main highlight of the hotel has to be the huge dining room known as the “market”, which usually comes alive in the morning when breakfast is served. With over 5 live kitchens and an area that projects nothing but sheer culinary delight in every possible way.
The staff all speaks good levels of English. While having your breakfast you can get a decent idea of the type of people that stay at this fascinating resort. The vast majority of the guests are from Europe, North America and Australia, and would ideally fall into either the “Honeymooners” or “Luxury globe trotters” bracket. The “market” also transforms into a multi-ethnic buffet and provides a widely popular a la carte menu with scrumptious dishes from award winning chefs.
The Spa itself (known as the Mandara Spa), is around a 2 minute walk from the foyer of the hotel, and is a hidden gem. Even before you set foot inside the Spa itself, the garden path that leads you to the Spa’s entrance is surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil atmosphere that gives the impression of a remote rural area and not that one of a city. Yet that’s the beauty of this wonderful resort- despite being in a loud and brash city, the resort is very much quite and peaceful. Bangkok is by all means not a tranquil city. If anything in actual fact it is metropolis that never sleeps- even if you do. With over 44 different types of treatments available you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice. Highly recommended is the “Honey and Milk bath” (950 Baht for 30 minutes) and the “Mandara Signature Massage” (4,400 Baht for 60 minutes).
There is something for everybody when it comes to the subject of food. Authentic Italian (Brio restaurant) and Japanese (Benihana restaurant) cuisine is provided. Both of these restaurants usually come alive during lunchtime and dinnertime- though both are even more lively and (romantic as well) in the evening. The joy of having a signature “Bangkok Sling” drink comes into practice when one is dining at the lovely “Loy Nam Bar” which is a poolside bar and restaurant that, as with all other restaurants and bars’, comes alive in the evening. If you want to round off a perfect stay at the Marriott Spa and Resort than highly recommended that you go on a Manohra Cruise with your loved ones’ on a truly magical dining experience that you will never forget.
Doubles start from: 4,500 Baht with the City View Room or from 5,300 Baht for the Chaopraya River View.
The Grand Hyatt Guangzhou: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Guangzhou, the Capital City of Guangdong Province in China, is growing at a frighteningly rapid pace, especially the newer parts of the metropolis such as the Zhujiang New Town that is widely compared to be “Guangzhou’s future equivalent of the CBD in Hong Kong”. It’s an area located around a kilometer away from the Tianhe shopping district and one that is beginning to resemble any other western CBD in the world with it’s high rise glass, offices’ of global financial institutions, shopping malls (some are still being built) and, of course, lavish five star quality international Hotels.
It is fair to point out that the city is becoming more modern and for unrecognizable for visitors who have not been here for, say, around 5 years or so. When I first visited Guangzhou back in 2002 there were only a handful of renowned “International” five star quality hotels’, such as the famous Garden hotel, the White Swan hotel and the China hotel (by Marriott). I would even go to the extent that the majority of people on the mainland would probably have not been exposed to the likes of international five star brands’ such as the “Grand Hyatt”, “Ritz-Carlton” and so on. Each time I visited Guangzhou, I fondly recall the proud feeling and sheer delight in the eyes’ of some of my close friends (local Guangzhou people, of course) who would introduce Guangzhou’s local fine hotels’ to me. “Navjot, you must go and see or stay at the White Swan hotel- it’s Guangzhou best hotel”- they would say. And in those days these five star hotels in Guangzhou also doubled as tourist attractions’-though the “tourists only saw them from the outside and did not stay there. I suppose that these hotels are still star attractions and will continue to be so because they have grown alongside the city that they lie in.
Though the skyline, the infrastructure and the economic situation of the vast majority of the world may not have changed much since 2002, but in China it’s a different ball game altogether. Guangzhou, being one of the big four cities of this huge country, is no stranger to the rapid economic and cultural revolution that we are witnessing.
The rather novel Grand Hyatt Guangzhou, with 347 rooms and 28 suites, is a masterpiece blend of excellent architecture, Feng Shui, fantastic location and caters’ for a clientele that fit in with Guangzhou’s who’s who. The hotel’s architectural genius and interior design based on bamboo comes from the great mind of Remedios- who has won accolades for his work on the Grand Hyatt, among other projects’. The hotel is located centrally in the prime setting of the Zhujiang New Town. The opening and closing ceremonies of the 16th Asian Games in 2010 were held at a stadium that is only a 10 minute walk away from the hotel. Visitors can enjoy a lovely walk from the hotel to the Pearl river bank to witness the stadium and the Canton Tower. The park is even more so beautiful at night when it is brightly lit up in colored neon. Perhaps the most beautiful garden I have seen for a long time anywhere in China.
If you are visiting Guangzhou for the first time- especially on a business trip- then most likely you may have been whisked straight from the airport to the hotel, and then straight to your meeting room or office (and vice-versa). So when you are in an international bubble like this, it is difficult to enjoy the true colors and flavor of the real Guangzhou city. For some guests, like Airline Pilots, Directors Etc., it would be even more challenging to get out of the “western bubble” because the atmosphere of the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou portrays’ their unique lifestyle. This means that all you would see from your window is a skyline full of modern high rise buildings’, the Canton Tower and not much more (except the huge construction site that is visible from the eastern side of the building).
The Grand Hyatt Guangzhou building is an architectural marvel it’self- looking rather like a large sandstone colored Arc De Triomphe with one tower housing the hotel rooms’ and facilities’, while the other consisting of offices’. It somewhat reminded me of the “La Defense” building in Paris, though on a much smaller scale! An upside-down fountain that resembles a rain shower is constantly on the move in the middle of the large structure. Like most of the other Grand Hyatt hotels’ in China, the lobby is not located on the ground floor- another unusual aspect of this hotel and a first for any other hotel in Guangzhou.
The first thing that strikes out about the rooms is that they are rather unusual compared to most other Grand Hyatt hotels around the world- perhaps only comparable to the Park Hyatt in Beijing. This is more than true for the rooms in the Club Grand area. It’s almost as if this was a modern boutique hotel with Chinese courtyard styled aspects rather than a luxury business hotel. Examples of this are evident everywhere ranging from the light switches with pictures (no on/off words’), to the studio style setting where the only thing separating the bed with the spacious innovative open bathroom is the huge glass window (rest assured the view can be blocked off with an electronic drop-down curtain!). Nothing beats the feeling of standing under a rain shower after a long hard day’s work- now that is refreshing (and priceless). I wonder if the design and architecture of the hotel is meant to resemble the neat blend between the modernity of the new China and that of the old China (especially with the bamboo touch, and the open soaking tub). There are plenty of choices for the guest to poke into.
The room is such an adventure that I got horribly confused and thought that the marble bathroom sink was actually a designer kitchen sink. Well, at least it looks like one! Not to mention the other minor but important touches included in your room, such as the HUGE 37 inch LCD Philips flat-screen that neatly folds away into the wall, and the innovative iPod docking stations’ that every room has (essential for the essentials).
Every inch of the building is made to full use-this includes the bridge that connects the two towers’. The suspended bridge houses the “Guanxi Lounge” which is another innovation from the designers of the hotel building. Here you can just while away the evening while sipping a glass of, say for example, fine “2 Up Shiraz” or the in house, “G Wine”. The “Guanxi Lounge” can be the perfect place to have pre-dinner drinks and nuts. From my experience there is nothing like it anywhere else in this vibrant Cantonese capital of 9 million inhabitants’.
The gastronomical highlight of the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou has to be the exciting “Market Café”; an action packed dining area on the 22nd floor consisting of a multi-cuisine buffet with food from around the world (including Japan, Europe and Chinese). Renowned Chef de Cuisine Larry Liu and his team have done a fantastic job in creating a truly gastronomic magic in all of the eight live cooking stations that offer nothing but exceptional service and a totally interactive dining experience. Conveniently situated on top of the Market Café is the splendid Penthouse restaurant offering fine authentic Cantonese cuisine to guests’ with 13 luxurious, residential-style private dining suites’ that offer stunning views’ across to the Pearl river and the Canton Tower. Food lovers must jump at the first opportunity to try any one of the dishes at with the Market Café and the Penthouse. The latter also comes complete with a personalized butler service.
From the glamour of the culinary delights and the rooms décor comes the fine art of relaxing. After a long tiring day nothing beats the feeling of going to the O Spa for a wind down massage. The O Spa offers at least 36 varieties of treatment including pedicure, manicure and professional body massage services to cool down your heels after a long day. Highly recommended is the 60 minute “Signature O Spa Massage” that loosens up the body and thoroughly refreshes your mind and soul. Having a relaxing foot or back massage after a long tiring day forms part of the culture in China. Evidence of this can be seen with the numerous Spa houses scattered around every city and village. Local Guangzhou people that have a deep passion for massage and Spa treatments’ would jump at the first opportunity to have a luxurious massage at a place such as the Grand Hyatt.
Even five years’ ago I would never have imagined that Guangzhou would host a truly five star hotel such as the Grand Hyatt. I just could not picture it simply because the rich history and culture of this city is much rooted into the local life- the Cantonese lifestyle that is. While I was eating my breakfast at the rather quite Grand Club and looking towards the Pearl river, thoughts went through my mind. I was like “Wow, is this really the Guangzhou I came to in 2002?” Sometimes the rapid pace at which this country is developing is all the more dizzying and sometimes hard to swallow. It’s just such an emotional ride. I am sure that the staff at the Grand Hyatt will also feel the same when they realize how rapidly the area and the environment around them is changing everyday. After all this is China- it’s where the money is and it’s where the future is.
Just like the rest of the Zhujiang New Town area (including the beautiful Canton Tower), the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou is a bit dull during the day but projects to be more beautiful and comes alive at night time when all the hotels lights’ are lit. This is very much true for all the eateries and the lobby area as well. There is so much happening at the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou and it is such a unique attraction that the longer you stay here the more you tend to fall in love with the place. Though still a virgin to Guangzhou, the Grand Hyatt brand is steadily becoming popular, and will continue to do so as the city becomes more international in the years to come.
The G Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Located at the 22nd floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Guangzhou, the G Restaurant is a western cuisine eatery that offers the guest a high quality service situated in contemporary surroundings. Depending on where you are seated (and if you are lucky to have a seat with a view of downtown Guangzhou), the views can indeed be stunning- especially if you are exposed to the night time views of the Tian He district with the Citic Plaza in the background.
All the ingredients’, especially the fruit and vegetables, used for the dishes are grown at a local farm and are delivered to the hotel fresh every morning. Every morning Chefs at the Market Café can be seen unwrapping large bags containing fresh spinach, lettuce and other produce ready for the lunch and dinner meals’.
I was presented with two lovely dishes of Appetizers’- “Live Scallops, 3 each, oven baked with Garlic and Chili” and “Salmon Gravlax soaked in Dill mustard sauce”. The latter was decorated with fresh leaves and lettuce provided by a local farm that delivers fresh produce to all of the hotels kitchens every morning. It is highly recommended that you generously sprinkle fresh lime onto the salmon and the scallops. The taste is priceless and exceedingly good for your health. Luxury food like this is a priceless gift for anyone that wants to just lose themselves into eating good food in the heart of Guangzhou.
Now, salt is very important in any cuisine, but even more so in Chinese cuisine. In China, on the average street you can buy manufactured salt but it can be a bit tricky, and expensive to get your hands on natural sea salt or rock salt. The chefs and guests at the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou are very fortunate to have original slabs of rock salt that derives from the inner crust of the Himalaya mountain range (the exact name of the place or mountain is a well kept secret). The salt is kind to the skin, and adds a unique flavor to the food. An average slab of original rock salt would cost around 30,000 RMB (approx 3000 GBP).
The journey continued with a “From the Oven” selected dish. Chef Jackson surprised me with the signature “Tenderloin on the Lychee wood roasted with a 200 days grain fed”. The difference between a good steak and a very good steak is that the very good steak is cooked under the correct temperature and one that has been roasted on a good quality wood. In this case the wood used was Lychee. The taste was just priceless, the meat was tender and bright pink in color which is a good indication that it’s well cooked; and the quality was to just die for. I cannot think of anything bad to write about this dish (really, I can’t). It’s the kind of dish that would fill you up, but one that you would want to eat again, and again.
The British educated Chef de Cuisine at the G restaurant, Jackson Qiu, and his team of talented culinary masterminds have definitely made a promise to put Guangzhou firmly on the map when it comes to providing high quality international cuisine. A few years ago it would have been almost impossible to get any authentic western food in Guangzhou. For sure it would have bought tears of joy to any expats eyes if steak like this was available back in, say, the year 2000!
Of course, for the majority of the local Chinese guests’ it is all about showing off and presenting a high face when it comes to eating at a place such as the G restaurant. As Terence Sim, the Food and Beverage Manager explained; “To most local guests a western steak is just a steak, and it’s difficult for them to distinguish the difference between an averagely cooked steak and an excellently cooked steak”. Mr. Sim, who is of Singaporean origin, went on to describe that the quality of the prime cut beef (imported from Australia), and the method of cooking it on Charcoal to perfection makes every single Yuan spent worthwhile. As “G” has been placed in the top 6 best restaurants that offer quality Steak, Mr. Sim certainly stands correctly by his words.
If you are on a business lunch or even if you are here for a honeymoon then the next dish would be a perfect addition to the already well accommodated dinner. The “Qin Yuan” Roasted Spring Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary and Garlic toppings’. Cooked well under charcoal, and with generous toppings of lemon and roasted garlic, both of which add a succulent flavor to the otherwise ordinary roasted chicken, this dish is just perfect. It would go well with any kind of wine as well.
Two key things distinguish a high quality restaurant- one is an open kitchen and the other is the originality and style of the cooking. The “G Restaurant and Bar” has both of them, and I am sure guests would be more than fond of the open kitchen of this fantastic eatery. It adds a nice lively touch to the environment as well, especially when you can see some chefs tossing and turning dishes with flames rising everywhere!
The dessert was the “Classic Crème Brulee with a generous scoop of Chocolate Ice-cream blended in neatly with a few drops of Mao-tai’- priceless invention by the chefs’. It’s hard to argue about the taste when you are presented with a genius dish such as in-house made chocolate ice-cream blended in with a dash of Mao-tai, or how about a ginger flavored ice-cream (you’ll definitely be surprised what you can get in China).
The “G” runs a special buffet lunch for 168RMB per head- mainly targeted towards the local business clientele but is easily affordable for even those on a local Chinese salary. It’s a reasonable price to pay for the high quality of the luxury service and food. Food has always been taken exceedingly seriously in Guangzhou, and you just end up wishing that there were more “G” style restaurants and bars in town.
Book early to avoid disappointment.
The Lai Heen Cantonese restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Guangzhou: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Located on the 3rd floor of The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Guangzhou, the award-winning Lai Heen restaurant is a fine example of fine Cantonese dining. It provides an experience like no other. You just have to be there to feel the true aroma of the Cantonese food, art and culture.
Design, perfection and presentation are the buzz words that The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou prides itself in especially when it comes to providing a truly five star quality cuisine. The experience at the Lai Heen commences even before you set your hands on your chopsticks. Guests are greeted by the sight of a Chinese lady dressed in traditional wear and playing the stringed Zheng. Waitresses dressed in the tradition Qi Piao can be observed delivering the dishes to the various dining rooms. The atmosphere portrays elegance and is not as loud as one would expect from a typical Chinese restaurant in mainland China. After all, this is a high quality eatery at The Ritz-Carlton that mostly plays host to business people and the high end market. Though quiet on the whole, yet still some gentle remises of laughter can be heard in the background and sometimes even the occasional “Gambei!” (“Cheers!”), followed by the clinking of the wine, or Mao-tai glasses.
Besides the main dining room, there are six private rooms and eight semi-private rooms’ that are elegantly designed and decorated. The private dining rooms can be separated by either the doors, or the tradition style of a drop-down Chinese curtain. The Feng Shui cannot be any better because all the rooms are facing towards the direction of the lady that plays’ the stringed Zheng in the veranda of the restaurant. Now, whether that’s a good thing or bad is purely a personal choice but the fact of the matter is that it projects a feeling of elegance. All the dishes are prepared under the excellent direction of Cantonese cooking master Chef Mark Leung.
The Lai Heen specialises in providing an unforgettable experience when it comes to Tea pairing. The process of “tea-pairing” consists of a pioneering blend of eastern and western fine dining experience and tradition that is available only at the “Lai Heen”. Guests can experience the Cantonese ambience and taste of an exclusive set menu featuring seven set dishes that are expertly coupled with five different varieties of tea from across China. I actually felt that this was more like an excellent art exhibition of the food and not just a restaurant. If you love tea, like I do, then you would jump at the first opportunity to try the most original of the foods at this restaurant. In all the years that I have been reviewing restaurants’ and living in China, this was the first time that I had come across a restaurant where the food has a direct relationship with certain types of Chinese tea. I could not wait to get my chopsticks into the dishes!
The culinary adventure commenced with a lovely “Grilled suckling pig in lychee tea flavour”. This dish was accompanied with freshly made Lychee tea. The suckling pig is a traditional Cantonese dish that forms part of any formal meal. Normally the standard way to present the dish is to have a whole suckling piglet in the middle of the table (complete with the head and tail!), and the guests slowly take parts of the meat.
The suckling pig is used because the skin is not so thick but rather juicy and crispy. So therefore the whole flavor of the meat along with the herbal toppings can be slowly absorbed by a melting feeling in the mouth. The suckling pig was accompanied by a fabulous portion of colored carrot that was presented in the shape of a circle- looked a bit like chess draughts’.
The next course consisted of the “Double boiled minced pork, fish maw and black truffle soup”. This scrumptious dish was generously accompanied with Chrysanthemum tea. I found this dish to be of a rather peculiar taste, not just because it was simply too hot but the fact that a soup was meant to be drank at the same time as the tea. Nonetheless, this combination is meant to be ridiculously good for the body especially during the winter.
Sautéed wagyu beef “French” style. Now, this was indeed a surprise. “French style, in an authentic Cantonese eatery at The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou?” I hear you say! Well, actually, yes, the sautéed wagyu beef was cooked to sheer perfection in true Cantonese style but had an added French touch in terms of the presentation. It goes well with the French-Cantonese fusion. This meal was accompanied with a Rose tea that had no colour but had the strong aroma and flavour of the romantic flower that it’s named after.
For those who have not had the chance to experience what it’s like to eat food straight from a handmade clay pot I would certainly recommend that you try the “Poached mix vegetable, dried shrimp, scallop and vermicelli in clay pot”. The clay pot is used to keep the food hot for a long time, and on the whole this was nothing but a perfection of presentation style. One could easily taste that careful attention had been made to the way the dried shrimp and scallops were surrounded by generous amounts of vermicelli. This dish was nicely accompanied with White Peony tea.
Before I was given the dessert, the chef presented a surprise Cantonese dish. A lovely dumpling accompanied with a healthy portion of fried-egg noodles shaped neatly into a pyramid was presented. I just adore dumplings, especially the ones with the shrimp and vegetables’ inside them. The Cantonese dumpling is perhaps the next best food in the far-east after the Japanese sushi. You can travel all around the world and try all the Chinese restaurants world-wide, but nothing beats the feeling of eating an authentic Cantonese dumpling in Guangzhou, the capital of Cantonese food, where people take their food exceedingly seriously.
The dessert consisted of a “Double- boiled pear flavoured with Osmanthus tea”. Even the dessert was accompanied with Osmanthus tea. The pear is a fruit considered of high esteem in Cantonese cuisine. Chef explained that this particular dish can be made according to the guests’ requirements. For example though normally the insides of the pear are taken out before the pear is served to the guests, however if the guests wish to have the pear to be filled with some other fruit then this can be arranged as well. It’s all part of the culinary experience offered at the Lai Heen. The pear is firstly boiled for almost 2 hours in the Osmanthus tea at a sustained temperature, and then served. The end result is that the guest is treated to a sweet, delicious and soft pear.
A walk around the back of the restaurant to experience the true sights and smells would bring along a perfect ending to a meal at the Lai Heen.
Prices start from 1180RMB per person plus 15% service charge (standard charge in China)
Book 3 days in advance to avoid disappointment
The Ritz-Carlton Guangzhou: Copyright Navjot Singh
Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province in China, is getting well accustomed to accommodating plenty of five star international hotels. Located in the heart of Guangzhou’s latest high tech suburb, New Zhujiang Town, the beautiful Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou building with 351 luxurious rooms and suites is a marvel that stands out like a sore thumb. Unlike other hotels’ in this city, irrespective if they are of a five star or not, the beauty of The Ritz-Carlton in Guangzhou is that residents in this hotel are treated to the best views in town.
On one side you can see the beautiful Canton Tower and the Pearl River, while on the other side is the downtown Tianhe district of Guangzhou that is clearly visible even on a dull cloudy day. Within a short vicinity of the hotel, one can easily stroll to the Guangzhou Opera House and the exciting Guangdong museum.
The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou is the 72nd Ritz-Carlton property in the world and was one of the first in China that houses the luxurious Ritz-Carlton residences. The building is split into two parts; the hotels’ 351 rooms and suites are well placed from the 20th floor to the 38th floor, while the first 20 floors host 91 fully serviced luxurious private residences. Prices for the residences commence from around 20,000RMB per month (approx 2000GBP per month) for a one bedroom residence. The largest residence has four bedrooms’. First impressions count, and the first smell that one is greeted by is that of the Chinese bamboo. While in The Ritz-Carlton “bubble” where almost everything is of an international nature, it’s so easy to forget that you are in China. So it’s these priceless minor but important things, such as the bamboo ambience, that can remind the guest that “yes, you are in Guangzhou, China!”
Even though the hotel has the true five star quality modern touches, guests can still smell, feel, look and experience a truly Cantonese flavour to the place. Even before one sets their eyes on the reception, they are greeted by the sight of a fabulous fountain. In Chinese culture, the fountain is the perfect symbol of purity and of excellent Feng Shui because it is meant to bring good fortune to those where the fountain is placed. The architects and designers of The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou have certainly made an excellent choice by placing this marble wonder in the middle of the hotel.
Another speciality of The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou is its amazing suite. Unlike some of the other suites that are offered around the world, this one is much more spacious. The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou suite is one of a kind because it features a walk in cellar, a private GYM and two patios including an outdoor Jacuzzi and barbeque grill. Now, that is just what one would want to do on a hot and humid summer’s day in Guangzhou especially on the 38th floor where the air is just that little bit fresher!
One of the favourite aspects of residing at a five star hotel is that you can also experience some amazing food- some of it’s so amazing that it’s just out of this world. Just make sure you keep yourself hungry enough to absorb the culinary escapade because there is, of course, something that suit’s everyone’s tastes. For those that prefer the highlife and just while away their evening in the company of good friends or colleagues, then the Churchill Bar may be a suitable option. The views from the bar are truly magical because one gets a fascinating theatrical experience of the laser light show from the Pearl River and the Canton Tower in the distance. Whether you just want to play pool, smoke a cigar or drink the finest of malt whiskies, rest assured that you’ll be treated to an unforgettable atmosphere.
While at the Churchill Bar, just make sure that you don’t leave without meeting Bruce Deng - he has a special fondness of the place and he knows how to really enjoy a good wine and an authentic classic Romeo y Julieta Cigar. One of the best kept treasures in the Churchill Bar is the 1920s original HINE Cognac. This priceless bottle of HINE Cognac is proudly kept only by The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou. It’s so rare that even Bruce has his hands tied on the stuff!
Meanwhile for those that would prefer to experience what it must be like in a New York brassiere, they could always try a dish or two at the FOODS where an all day-dining gastronomical extravaganza awaits. It almost feels like as if you have walked in to a large market that serves nothing but luxury ready made food. It’s where all the six action packed live kitchens’ present a heaven for foodies!
With two signature restaurants’ serving luxurious food, the authentic Italian restaurant “LIMONI”, and, “Lai Heen”, the authentic Cantonese choice, you cannot ask for more (really). In essence, the whole culinary adventure that can experience in every eatery and bar is a great tribute to the executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou, Daniel Schmidt, who with his gastronomic magic can produce anything.
The Pearl lounge has the richest teas and evening cocktails. It’s perhaps the next best lounge after the hotel’s Club lounge. The key highlight of the Pearl lounge is the scrumptious selection of sophisticated Afternoon teas and cakes. Occasionally there are a selection of tempting offers from various The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou spa is host to 11 treatment rooms that have the latest technology to pamper you to the max! Though, I must say that the best view comes from the middle of the open air 25-meter swimming pool. It’s a sheer luxury to swim in luke warm waters’ while the outside temperature during the Guangzhou winter can be felt to be freezing (especially with the humidity in the air as well).
One of the most wonderful things about a new hotel is that all the furniture and infrastructure is brand new too. With each duvet having over 400-thread-count linens wrapping fine French down that provide a sleep that will make you feel as if you are in paradise. That means you’ll also be made sure that you are treated to the latest technology during your stay that includes electronic curtains, remote controlled lighting and in-room fresh ground coffee making machines are just some of the things that one can experience. One of the advantages of those staying in the club rooms is that you get complimentary arrival transfers from either the Guangzhou Baiyun airport or from the Guangzhou-East railway station.
Oh, and for sure you cannot escape without trying one of the different types of teas available in the rooms. This is all thought about carefully because Guangdong people are especially fond of tea. Here are just some of the beautiful teas available for you to try and those that are available in the room:
· Eight treasure Gongju tea (Orange packet)
· Imperial Pu-erh tea (Brown tea)
· Longjing tea (Green packet)
· Mint tea
· Earl Grey tea
· Jasmine Pearl Tea (Creamy colour)
It’s become well recognised that Guangzhou has shown to be an economic success story of southern China, and with the introduction of The Ritz-Carlton brand in Guangzhou it’s another success story for the country and the people that this city is indeed becoming more international, and will continue to do so in the years to come. The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou has also benefitted a lot from the city hosting the 16th Asian games in December 2010. Both the opening and closing ceremonies were held just minutes away from the hotel, and the whole spectacle could easily be seen from the rooms. People definitely now have a choice of a high quality five star hotel right bang in the middle of the best and cleanest part of the metropolis.