_ Take just one quick glimpse at the beautiful building made up of period colonial architecture, and for a moment or two, it may look like as if you are in New York, but in fact this Waldorf Astoria is situated on the nostalgic Bund in Shanghai, China. It was, of course, in New York where in 1893 the Waldorf became the first hotel to offer room service, and was home to Cole Porter for 30 years, and Frank Sinatra for one, (Porter’s Steinway is behind a gold rope in the foyer at the New York Waldorf Astoria). The revamped 1911 Shanghai Club building, complete with the longest bar in Asia (at 34 meters), became part of the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund in the autumn of 2010, and is a fantastic place to have lunch, high tea, or just a drink. The overall style of the bar is made up of a timber panelling with light stone tops and rice, dark masculine furniture.
The beauty of the 257-room Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund is that even though it’s located on the strikingly busy city boulevard that runs alongside the famous Huangpu River, the hotel itself is an oasis of calm, luxury, and great warmth that one may enjoy when they are in a city with a population of 19.2 million inhabitants.
Easily accessible by various methods of Shanghai’s efficient public transport (buses, metro, and the ever great Shanghai taxi), the hotel is neatly linked to the futuristic Pudong area by the Yan’an Road tunnel as well. I have always maintained that Shanghai is not really a touristy city, but rather the financial hub of China. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the majority of the hotel guests are businesspersons. If you are landing at one of the two international airports in Shanghai (Hongqiao or Pudong) then the maximum it will take you (pending Shanghai’s notoriously hectic traffic!) is around an hour from Pudong, and around 45 minutes from Hongqiao. Though, just so that you don’t get confused, some Shanghai taxi drivers may end up taking you to the entrance of the Waldorf Astoria Club rather than the foyer of the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund because it’s easier for them to find the entrance on the Bund! Rest assured that if this happens, it is even better because the concierge will whisk you through the Waldorf Astoria Club, and that’s when you can experience the rich ambiance of this wonderful property.
Unlike the other hotels in the area where they only have one building for the hotel premises, this property comprises of two connecting buildings - the Waldorf Astoria Club, and the main hotel building. The Waldorf Astoria Club is the heritage building located on No. 2 on the Bund which previously housed the well-known Gentlemen’s Club in the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai. In those colonial days, the admission policy was such that you had to be white, British and male to become a member of this exclusive club. This was indeed the place where various Captains of industries in China made all the major political and financial decisions. The Waldorf Astoria Club houses 20 luxuriously appointed suites- most of which are taken by major A-listers from China and abroad. Don’t be surprised if you bump into the whole crew of a major upcoming Hollywood movie! The place is in serious demand with major luxury brands and the who’s who of China that most of the time the reservations department is inundated with requests to book the M.I.C.E. facilities and the 20 suites because it’s the place to be at if you are a A-lister. All the 20 suites come along with a 24-hour residential Butler service.
The main hotel building, known as the Waldorf Astoria Tower, is connected to the Waldorf Astoria Club by a large oval shaped courtyard on the ground floor, which encloses a 168-seat Grand Brassiere where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are presented in nostalgic European style. The Waldorf Astoria Tower houses 237 guestrooms and suites, including the splendid 210sqm Noble Suite (Chinese), and a 260sqm Presidential Suite. All the rooms in the Waldorf Astoria Tower are equipped with the latest technology, including electric curtains, automatic electric toilet (the lid open’s as you enter the toilet!), and complimentary wireless internet. Local calls are complimentary from the rooms. Then there are the creature comforts such as padded slippers, luxury bathrobes, 400-thread cotton bed sheets and quilts, and toiletries by either Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul (normal guestrooms), or Hermes (all the suites in the Club Suites as well as the Suites in the Waldorf Astoria Tower). It really is your very own imperial palace.
For those with a taste for classy food, there are ample options available. Pelham’s (New York style cuisine accompanied with a selection of over 500 wine bottles), the 96-seat Wei Jing Ge (Chinese), Salon de Ville (Afternoon tea speciality), and the awesome Grand Brassiere. The whole dining ambiance of the Grand Brassiere provides a strong sense of retreat in urban Shanghai. The beautifully articulated oval shape of the connecting building blends in nicely with the aroma of luxury that this hotel projects from every corner possible. Both hot and cold dishes are served for all the three main meals of the day. Plus there are some ample surprises such as the chef’s in house creations- try pistachio chocolate for example! For those dining at the elegant 50-seat Pelham’s restaurant, make sure you take some time to admire the ‘American’ penny ceiling at the semi-private dining room because its meant to be excellent Feng Shui to dine while sitting underneath a ceiling full of real coins (the 1 Jiao coins are stuck to the ceiling!).
The general perception should be that you enjoy the hustle and bustle of Shanghai during the day, and then dine and sleep in style in perfect harmony with peace and tranquillity at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund. Perhaps you would also like to go for a swim at the beautiful swimming pool at level 3 just to cool down those heels from a hard days walking around China’s fast paced financial hub. Just come and have try it for yourself. For sure you won’t be disappointed. And who knows, if you really enjoy it then you also end up staying here as long as messers Sinatra and Porter did in New York.
_ Anchored away neatly on the 5th floor of the Waldorf Astoria Club in Shanghai, China is the splendid Wei Jing Ge restaurant. Effectively a contemporary Chinese eatery, the Wei Jing Ge features an assortment of keen authentic Chinese dishes that will simply blow your mind away. The one key thing I really liked about Wei Jing Ge is the ambiance, and the feeling of being secluded in an richly historical building situated right in the heart of Shanghai’s most nostalgic location. When you are dining at Wei Jing Ge, the only thing that will remind you that you are in modern China is the view of the futuristic Pearl Tower and its surrounding building in Pudong visible from one of the ‘Tiger Windows’. The windows are called ‘Tiger Windows’ because in the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai people used to jump onto the window like a tiger would! The entrance is flanked by impressive delicate ancient maiden chinaware, looking around the main room, the restaurant is indulged in silk-draped contemporary elegance decorated with spiritual lotus and traditional Shanghainese style ornaments.
Wei Jing Ge does not fail to let you down when it comes providing splendid authentic Chinese cuisine. Shanghainese, Cantonese, Sichuanese and other typical Chinese dishes are all offered. The Chef-de Cuisine, Sam Yuen, brings along over 25 years of solid culinary experience into the kitchens floor. His culinary wizardry will not only leave the guests with a ‘Wow!’ factor but will exemplify to the dinar what a true Chinese meal should be like.
With so many dining options available in Shanghai these days there are definitely a few things that differentiate Wei Jing Ge from other restaurants such as its period Shanghai 1930s style interior design that complements the rich heritage of the Waldorf Astoria Club to create a luxurious dining environment, and the extensive wine cellar that boasts over 500 bottles of handpicked wines by the resident sommelier. In addition to the main dining area that can hold 96 seats, there are also six private dining rooms each with around 10 seats. The central corridor features contemporary back lit walls that showcase Chinese ‘treasures’ and interesting finds.
Dining at the Wei Jing Ge is as close as you can get to experience what it may have been like to dine at the Waldorf Astoria Club back in the hey days of the Shanghai of the 1920s. The restaurant may not have been open in those days but the feeling created in the current restaurant is meant to resemble the glamour of the colonial period of Shanghai.
My dining experience included a feast of the finest hairy crab in Shanghai. Hairy crab is available but once a year, and autumn is the season famous for the hairy crab, especially when it harvested from nearby lush lakes around Shanghai. The feast is presented in front of your eyes, with a male crab and a female crab coming in as a package. It’s an experience of a kind to have a real crab in real style at the Wei Jing Ge. The hairy crab goes perfect with a small glass of fine Shao Xing rice wine.
The perfect finale to a meal at Wei Jing Ge has to be the Walnut soup. Rather strange as it may sound, but its actually very delicious and healthy. Soft and chewy pieces of crushed walnut are resting at the bottom of the bowl, while the thick, creamy, and richly flavour soup is ready to swim down your throat. Just make sure you don’t get too tempted as it can be a but hot at first. But with each spoonful, the taste becomes more and more irresistible. Almost too good to believe. Then again, you cannot expect anything less from a top quality eatery such as the Wei Jing Ge. It may just leave you gobsmacked. ;-)
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