Noodles, green peppers, diced chicken thigh, Chinese spices and voila! Though, I am just a student...chef in the making.
A perfect start to any day is made with freshly cooked Dou jiang (豆漿) and Youtiao (油条). Thanks to my laopo (老婆, wife) for taking me to this amazing place in Taizhou.
In Chengdu...home of the Panda, Sichuan opera and the exceedingly HOT Sichuan food...Not sure why Chinese people always complain about Indian food being hot...in my opinion Sichuan cuisine is hotter than a chicken vindaloo! Except for the Panda and the local cuisine, the city doesn't really have much to offer for the tourist. In terms of quality of life, the city provides very attractive lifestyle options for expatriates (lots of companies dealing with the oil and gas industry are based here), however in my opinion, Chongqing, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are more attractive and full of life for both tourists and expats (except the haze in four of those cities!).
I stayed at the amazing Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu
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Just when I thought that I would be back in the UK for good, I was whisked back to Shenzhen (China) for a short fixed-term project for a company called DJI, the world's leading manufacturer of civilian drones.
After arriving at Hong Kong airport in the afternoon (around 4pm), it took me a further two hours to cross the border. Usually it should take around an hour, but had to wait for a coach with my four pieces of luggage (each weighing 23kg). Having left cold London, I arrived in a hot, humid and wet (raining) Shenzhen. My first meal was a chicken with rice from the local Yoshinoya Japanese restaurant in Ke Ji Yuan: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Ridiculously delicious...and only 4 RMB (about US $0.60)...but EACH bite is worth a million dollars. Shame that even the BEST Chinese restaurants outside of mainland China don't serve this. The chefs at this company cafeteria in Hangzhou deserve more attention than they get.
中秋节快到了, 送你一盒温馨饼, 饼里的祝福! 尝前, 收到这信, 日后一定, 好风光! 信息寄给了你, 包你衣食永忧！祝愿工作顺利. 2014 (中秋快乐) 圆圆满满 财源滚滚 健康平安!!
It's holiday time here in China. Tomorrow (19th September 2013) the full moon will shine on the whole nation as families and friends gather around to take time off for a much needed holiday break (only 3 days though...but some people take more days off).
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, if you are going to visit someone's home (friends, family etc.), office (for corporate meetings, business visits etc.), or even if you are meeting a friend after a long time during the holiday then it is customary to take a gift box of mooncakes - to not take one would seem odd and even dis-respectful. However, exceptions can be made, of course, if you are a foreigner and if this is your first time in China.
Supermarkets were armed at dealing with the final rush to buy mooncakes as pictures show below.
Breakfast in Guangzhou (Shiqiao)
No tea or coffee today...sometimes I can be VERY Chinese in my approach to lifestyle. A glassfull of fresh cold milk (taken from well fed local Chinese cows in Guangzhou!), and a couple of delicious Cantonese Egg Tarts did the trick.
Lunch in the air (somewhere over Shaoguan, Guangdong)
Afternoon Tea at the Shangri-La, Pudong (Shanghai)
Shanghai is romantic, hectic, elegant, and nothing short of standing by it motto of being 'The Paris of the East'. From the Jade 36 bar atop the Shangri-La Pudong hotel, under July’s leaden skies; the futuristic skyline of Pudong contrasts with the elegant old-world style of The Bund on the Shanghai side. Go and see it as soon as you can...and enjoy the Afternoon-Tea at the Shangri-La, Pudong.
The MEET is a contemporary steakhouse located on the 2nd floor of the Kerry Hotel in Pudong, Shanghai. The restaurant has a rather unusual foyer where dinars can see the meat cuts well placed behind a glass. At first, it appears to look rather like a cross between a glamorized butchers shop, a nightclub, and an upmarket restaurant. It’s no surprise that they do stock the largest selection of meat in the whole of Shanghai, and it’s easy to see why.
The restaurant, with it’s 112 seats which also include a private ‘Masters Table’ for 14 people, shimmers in warm shades of red, burgundy, and brown. It’s a very masculine-looking dining room with leather banquettes and booths, mahogany wood tables and floors, and a sense of warmth. There is a real zest of luxurious settings in place, and it’s a message to welcome the classy white coloured dinars I suppose. It’s thankfully not as noisy as one would imagine it to be (as noisy as steakhouses can be sometimes), but still good enough to create a family gathering atmosphere.
The staff seem very proud and attentive, and some of them are even eager to recommend some dishes from the menu for you. The menu, which comes with some cheesy messages like ‘don’t forget to order the side dishes!’, is actually one that delivers more than a hint of your average steakhouse.
The first bites of the evening are of ‘very tender grilled baby abalone’, and ‘oysters rockefeller’. The former is a canapé style dish where the abalone is neatly covered with red peppers garnished with lemon juice. While the latter is basically consisting of high quality oysters. These oysters are first class in terms of freshness and taste. A good quality oyster such as the ones provided at the MEET can provide up to 222% of your Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of Zinc in 100 grams, and would provide just under 1 gram of Omega-3. These two properties alone would be enough to provide a healthy lifestyle if you eat them every day. Nevertheless, it’s still good to get a one-off experience and eat fresh good quality oysters.
One thing I began to notice is that the dishes at the MEET are all very colourful, quite perhaps the most colourful I have seen for some time when doing reviews. This can only indicate one or two things. The food at the MEET is absolute fresh and it is brought in from especially organic farms in China. Apart from the meat, most of the other dishes are not imported.
Next up was the rich, creamy, flavourful, and colourful in bright yellow ‘Boston lobster bisque’. What made it even more appetising was the shredded minute sprinkling of the parsley and chives. Absolutely wonderful. As close as you can get to Michelin star quality.
Sticking with the theme of seafood, we decided to go for the recommended ‘jumbo lump crab cake’. This dish a traditional American dish, and the best jumbo lump crab cakes derive from Maryland. The key to the true flavour of this dish is to not have many breadcrumbs, but have a rich amount of the jumbo lump crab- a larger sized variety of crab known for its rich juicy meat. What really impressed me was the rich bright colour of the dish.
The steak was a winner too. We went for the ‘MEET signature Ningaloo tomahawk marbling score 4+’. This massive piece of meat was both delicious and, heavy in weight. The 1.8kg to 2.4kg serves 2-4 people. The steak had been marinated in rich OXO sauce, red wine, hoisin, garlic, and ginger. It, too, was tender, and ridiculously scrumptious. Very impressive. For the side dishes we had the oven roasted tomatoes, potato wedges, and sautéed broccoli. At it’s best, MEET, is very good indeed. You just can’t argue when someone is cooking big platefuls of heartiness at dinner, can you?
For a city that is technically only around 35 years old, Shenzhen in south-east China has experienced a rapid economic and cultural change in such a short space of time that most global cities would not be able to enjoy. These days it is a case of every global brand wanting to have their fair share of the piece of land in this tiny city, which borders Hong Kong.
When I arrived in Shenzhen back in 2003, the tallest building in those days was the Diwang building. When it was first built the Diwang building at 384 meters high was a stunning piece of architecture offering the best views in the city and the best office space. It was a sign of sheer prestige for the city and its people. The funny thing is that I have never had the chance to go up the Diwang building simply because I never had the time, and I did not really realise that the city would be so beautiful from up there.
So then, to my delight, in September 2011, a building even taller than the Diwang building opened its doors to the public. Standing at 441.8 meters and with 100 floors, the Kingkey 100 building, designed by the architect Sir Terry Farrell, is the tallest building in Shenzhen. While the bottom part of the building houses offices, the top 28 floors from the 73rd to the 100th floor occupy the glorious five-star St Regis Hotel, Shenzhen. It’s quite befitting that the tallest building and hotel in Shenzhen is located right next to the famous Deng Xiao Ping portrait on Shennan Road. Indeed, this was the place where the great man declared his legacy in 1979 that the city should be opened a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and it’s somewhat a sign of the city’s prosperity.
Opened in December 2011 and located right at the epicentre of the most happening place in the city, the centre of the Caiwuwei financial district, the St. Regis Shenzhen offers a lovely blend of stunning views of Shenzhen, superb in-room modern facilities and a heaven for the gastronomic senses. Then there is the unique glamorous touch that makes the St Regis stand out from the rest- the matchless St Regis Butler Service. It’s a signature trademark of the hotel brand that makes every guest feel extra special, and it’s utterly unique to Shenzhen.
Trained in the English tradition to provide ever-present, yet unobtrusive round the clock service, the St. Regis Butler sets the stage for an experience that provides a very personalised service, no matter how great or small, at any hour of the day and night. So it may be that you would like to have your cup of hot chocolate before going to sleep, or have your shirt ironed, or you may need assistance with packing up your bags whilst you are busy doing something else. Whatever your needs, you can be reassured that your dedicated St Regis Butler will be there to help you.
With its 290 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites, the St Regis Shenzhen is actually not as enormous as one would imagine it to be. The illusion is that it is located in a tall tower so people assume that it’s a massive property. The demand for a luxury service from the local Chinese is so much that there is even a waiting list in place for the hotel’s highly sought after Afternoon Tea service at the Social restaurant on the 95th floor. That’s also where you’re most likely to find the hotel’s Food & Beverage director, JW Yap, showing off his magic with the champagne pouring ceremony before the dinner service.
An interesting yet revolutionising part of this is that hardly any of the people dining for Afternoon Tea are British as one would imagine, but are mostly young Chinese. It’s another symbol of the cultural change that cities such as Shenzhen, and indeed the whole of China are going through. The exceedingly rich are being exposed to the glitz and the glamour, and they have the money to flourish it onto. The St Regis Shenzhen is definitely the place to be at and be seen at.
Be prepared to be spoiled right from the moment you check-in. Where else do you need to be at when you are surrounded by creature comforts such as amenities by Remede Laboratoire, 3 complimentary clothes ironed for those staying in the suites, 3D Cinema sound in room, 9 different types of pillow from ‘Pillow Menu’,; and not to mention the exclusive St Regis turndown service that includes chocolates by Ritter. Now if that’s not enough then check out the 3 kinds of breakfast you can eat at either the Social, or in the comfort of your bed in the sky. Then there are the 35 international newspapers available from 21 countries including Greece (Kathimerini), Norway (Dagbladet) and others.
The highlight of the exquisitely styled rooms and suites, all of which are ranging in size from 40 to 325 square meters, is the in-room fully customised iPad2 that allows you to control and manage every aspect of your room’s functionalities. The iPad2 comes in handy when you could be sitting in your bed, or whiling away in the Jacuzzi, or just about to order your in-room meal. With its touch screen iPad2 allows you to control things such as the curtains, the levels of the mood lighting, and music of the room, the temperature, the TV channel, and even if you want to call your personal Butler to the room. On top of this, the iPad2 is the interface for the St. Regis ISTV, a personalized set of television channels with important information such as local maps and attractions, express check-out, PC games, or to set up morning calls or housekeeping service. ISTV also provides guests with personal computer functionality. Using a personal laptop or tablet as a keyboard, ISTV converts the television into a large monitor or speakers. ISTV can process software like Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and facilitate printing and faxing through the hotel’s network. It’s simple yet amazingly incredible and can make your stay give the essential ‘Wow!’ factor.
I honestly wish they had this hotel here way back in 2004 when I first arrived in Shenzhen. It’s not only the peace and tranquil surroundings but the absolute convenience of staying close to Hong Kong that would appeal to anyone looking for a respite away from the city’s hustle & bustle. It’s very convenient that you can have breakfast in the morning at the hotel, and then perhaps go for a shopping trip across the border to Hong Kong for a day, and then come back to cool down the heels in the evening at the Decanter bar on the 100th floor. The sky-high urban wine bar offers one of Shenzhen's largest selections of wines alongside impressive views and a private Butler (of course, you wouldn't expect less, would you?). This hotel is an incomparable, inspiring place and a home away from home. Sip a glass of fine Riscal Roble 2008, and admire the beauty of the future of the centre of the world from the 100th floor.
When it comes to food, you can be reassured that despite Shenzhen’s rather uncanny approach to internationalism and despite there being no Michelin star restaurant in this city, the St Regis Shenzhen does attempt at providing one of the best international dishes in the market. Had they arrived here a few years then it would have been all hunky dory, however with the growing competition from other 5-star eateries, the chefs at this splendid hotel located in an upmarket part of the city are doing everything they can to showcase the best. Try the Elba on the 99th floor offering authentic Mediterranean cuisine with romantic interior décor. Whatever you do, just feel fortunate, and don’t forget to make the most of your time in the sky over Shenzhen- I know I did.
Located within the beautiful grounds of the Banyan Tree Hangzhou resort in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou is the superb Bai Yun restaurant. Compact yet exceedingly romantic, this refined and sophisticated restaurant offers a combination of dishes from Guangzhou (Cantonese), and Hangzhou. High chair and rich mahogany make up the interior décor with an ambiance that projects elegance and romance throughout.
The kitchen is headed by the veteran and prolific Master Chef Simon Chen who brings along many years of experience in providing innovative Chinese dishes to his guests. He did not fail to surprise and impress us with his culinary magic during our dining experience. Perhaps one of the most inspiring dish I tried was the ‘five cold platters’, a combination of seafood (prawns), chicken, vegetables and pork all decorated in the shapes of either plants or animals. It was the first time I had come across a prawn being served in two where the head was sticking upwards while the edible body was sitting next to it (perhaps not a good sight for vegetarians but still good nevertheless). Then there were other luxurious offerings such as the ‘braised chicken and abalone with perilla’ and the ‘boiled mandarin fish with celery’. Beautifully cooked abalone with chicken breast provides for a fabulous addition to any romantic meal; while mandarin fish is a local delicacy taken from the waters of the West Lake or from the lakes around the Xixi Wetland Park. Both of these luxurious dishes are not easy to get in any other restaurant around Hangzhou, or if they are then the style in which they are cooked is for sure not easy to define as it has been by Chef Chen. He puts his whole mind and heart into every single creation, and invests a lot of time working along with the kitchen chefs to make sure that the quality of the final product is of utmost excellence.
In terms of drinks, most diners are recommended to try the local Hangzhou rice wine in small quantities. The rice wine is sweeter than say, most Chinese rice wines, hence why it should be taken in small quantities. The sugar is added to the somewhat damp tasteless original wine, but the strong sweet flavour of the wine makes it a sheer delight to have with mandarin fish, and abalone. Another dish worth awing at is ‘wok-fried leek and bamboo shoots with egg’ which looks rather like a Spanish omelette but tastes completely Chinese with its salts and local spices.
A different kind of smoothness occupies the dish all throughout with a touch of the leek lingering behind your tongue. Candle lit dinners can also be arranged for those wishing to surprise their loved one with the perfect moment for romance. It’s easy to say it or write about it but when that special moment in your life comes to mind then its perhaps the most beautiful that can happen to anyone, and dining at the Banyan Tree Hangzhou will just make things magical during that special moment in your life.
Come the summer, Bai Yun would be the perfect setting for romantic or family gatherings in the gardens within the immediate exterior of the restaurant. With room for 20 diners in the outdoor seating area, there is a chance to enjoy first class food in the tranquil and beautiful surroundings of the resort with the occasional sound of birds tweeting in the background. Just lovely.
Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to live in a Chinese Imperial palace? Then why not try the fabulous Banyan Tree Hangzhou. Situated in the tranquil surroundings of Hangzhou’s beautiful Xixi National Wetlands Park, the luxury resort, which was designed by Architecture Design and Planning, features 36 water terraces and 36 villas that are one of the most spacious in the whole of Hangzhou. Easily accessible within a 50-minute drive from Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan International Airport, and only around a 15-minute drive from downtown Hangzhou and the famed West Lake, the resort can be treated like your very own imperial palace for the duration of your stay. When you hear the echoes of your own footsteps bounce of the stone walls of the courtyard then you may be easily forgiven for thinking for a moment that you are inside an imperial courtyard rather than being inside this Jiang Nan style resort in the 21st century. Though I ended up going on a day when it was raining, I still felt warmly welcomed by the tentative staff at the resort. While it may be difficult to locate (so it should be as it’s a luxury resort, not your standard hotel), you can be rest assured that a Banyan Tree staff member will whisk you in a stylish buggy to the check in desk. The first impressions give you the feeling of ‘Wow!’, and it actually looks more beautiful in the rain. It gives that feeling of being in the old China.
There are five types of villas and suites available: Water Terrace, Premier Water Terrace, Water View Villa, Spa Jetpool Villa, and the two-bedroom Jetpool Villa. All of the villas and suites themselves are something to marvel at. You would be reassured that nothing else would touch your skin and feet except dark polish wood floors, antique carvings, and silk brocades. The rain shower and the bathtub adds that extra bit of luxury that you would deserve after a long day of sightseeing around this historically beautiful city. Then there are the high chairs made out of mahogany that add the extra ethos of being in a royal palace. The depiction of oriental chic and contemporary comforts is shown in style at any one of the Premier Water Terraces. The bedroom is complete with an indoor bath tub- perfect for those romantic getaways. After a long blissful soak, retreat into your own private spa treatment room for a relaxing massage which can be booked from the report’s spa.
At the touch of a button guests can enjoy a myriad of DVD movies or a selection of songs available from the resort’s library. Other useful amenities include complimentary wireless internet in all the rooms, complimentary drinking water bottles (tap water is safe, but be cautious), in-room massage service, complimentary buggy service, and a late checkout time should you wish to require it. Then there is the spacious mini-bar that provides generous offerings of various alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. But the part of every villa to really aspire at is the emphasis paid to providing a highly spacious yet luxurious room with a high ceiling, and a bed that is almost as distinguishable as a four-poster bed complete with a luxurious 6-thread cotton duvet and pillows to match. With the addition of rose petals generously scattered all around the bed and the room, it would be safe to point out that the Banyan Tree Hangzhou would be perfect for honeymooners or those who want to treat their loved one to a romantic getaway.
Loyal guests have been known to stay for over a period of a few months at the resort. Considering the impeccable facilities that make it is an oasis of tranquillity are a clear signal of why this has been the case. There are four options in terms of dining venues starting with the signature Chinese restaurant Bai Yun offering the finest of local cuisine from Hangzhou (don’t forget to try the fish fresh from the lake!). The other options include: the Waterlight Court, where one can enjoy a rich breakfast, or treat themselves to Western and Asian delights, or dine at any other time of the day until 10.30pm; the magnificent yet compact Jiu Xian (lobby lounge) which is of a similar quality to what you may call a ‘Club Lounge’ at other 5-star hotels; and finally you have the choice of dining in the privacy of your own villa at any time of the day.
With the challenges of trying to distinguish itself from the other hotels within its vicinity, the Banyan Tree Hangzhou also offers guests the option of a new concept of ‘Destination Dining’’. This is where guests can dine in their own privacy under a draped tent and surround themselves by fresh flowers and candles complete with a private chef who can cook whatever you want and in whichever style. Though there is a 24 hour notice required for this, it is worthwhile to dine in style provided the horrible Hangzhou rain does not ruin your stay!
Most people when they reside at hotels don’t have enough time to enjoy all the excellent facilities that are on offer, however, should you have time then it is highly recommended that you take a dip in the beautiful swimming pool, or have a go at one of the many spa treatments to wind down the stress of the day. The treatments are uniquely to the Banyan Tree brand and make it extra special to have a treatment under the stars in the evening (especially in the summer), or even in the privacy of your villa. It is for sure a delight for all the senses where you have the chance to calm the body and quiet the mind for a period of short time. Highly recommended is to try the Qi stimulating Gui Shi Hot Stone massage which features an invigorating rubdown with heated river stones (smooth!), and aromatic essential oils. Nothing beats the feeling of having a spa massage in quiet surroundings while the sun is setting in the backdrop- at Banyan Tree Hangzhou you can enjoy this experience during the summer months. It’s magical!
On the whole the key that makes the Banyan Tree Hangzhou different from the others is that it offers the best quality of service, best quality of comfort and in the most romantic and peaceful surroundings in the magical city of Hangzhou. So next time you are here, why not mix business with pleasure and enjoy the fruits of your labour by spoiling yourself at the Banyan Tree Hangzhou?
From what seems as if it’s a large ancient Chinese coin from the distance is actual fact the top square shaped part of the prestigious Beijing Yintai Centre that houses the contemporary designed Park Hyatt Beijing with its 246 guestrooms and suites. Opened on the 18th of October 2008, the luxurious hotel is ideally situated right opposite the China World Trade Centre, and the futuristic CCTV building in Gaomao. It’s strategic location right on the highly prestigious Chang’an Avenue (which goes straight to Tiananmen Square), and next to Gaomao metro station gives the hotel a upper hand advantage to being well connected to all parts of Beijing, including being only 40 minutes from the international airport by car (when the traffic is not so bad).
The main entrance is actually hidden at the back of the hotel at Jianguomenwai Street, and is perfect for A-listers and celebs who want a bit of privacy when they come to reside at the hotel. The lobby itself is located on the 63rd floor, offering spectacular views across to the whole of the metropolis on a clear day and night. On a clear day, guests can see the main sights of the capital with the naked eye, including the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Tian Tan and the international airport.
The rooms are designed to offer the maximum of comfort for the guests, and everything just seems to be working around you and for you. Then you have the beautiful creature comforts that will leave you feeling totally spoilt. These include such luxuries as the heated toilet seat that automatically opens its lid once you enter the bathroom, the oversized rain shower, the extra wide Roman spa inspired bathtub cum Jacuzzi, heated floor in the bath, DVD player, Espresso machine, and the extra comfortable 600-thread cotton duvet in which you can snuggle into. Not to mention the personal safe large enough to house a laptop, and a built in laptop charger, dual-line telephones, mood lighting, and even a humidifier upon request.
No matter how many times you enter the room there is that sheer ‘wow!’ factor that exemplifies the detail to immaculate attention that has been paid by the hotel staff. The essence and ethos is to create a sense of belonging so that this may become your home for the next 24 hours or more. It’s a kind of luxury that you can divulge into after a long flight or for a well-deserved rest away from your normal everyday surroundings. Smooth creamy and white colours adorn the walls and the marble flooring. Oh, and what can go wrong when you are provided with what essentially is a studio-house style room in the best location in the capital city of the world’s fastest economy.
The Park Hyatt Beijing is a one-stop hotel for all the personal needs of human life. Take for example the 24-hour gymnasium at the 6th floor, and the stunning 25-metre swimming pool, and the Tian Spa (also on the 6th floor) with five spa suites and rooms offering a collection of pampering treatments to cool down those tired heels.
In terms of food, you can’t go wrong when you are presented with a few magical treats such as the China Bar on Level 65; a stylish, atmospheric space for drinks and live jazz, while, on the very top floor at Level 66, the China Grill is an informal, internationally renowned eatery with a soaring glass pyramid ceiling. Somehow, it has to be the most magical places out of the whole hotel because the ambiance just captures all the senses with a magnetic touch.
Connecting the base of the three towers of the Beijing Yintai Tower, from the lower ground floor to Level 6, is Park Life, which was created by the well-renowned Japanese interior design firm SuperPotato. He highlight of the restaurants is The Private Room at Level 5, positioning itself as the most exclusive business entertaining venue in Beijing. With all these fine ingredients of dining, pampering and entertainment, the Park Hyatt Beijing proves to be a dynamic accommodation providing the finest in luxury lifestyle so that your stay is made as smooth and hassle free as possible.
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