To celebrate the switching of the Christmas lights, the Grand Hyatt in Guangzhou hosted around 200 especially invited VIPs and media to an action packed evening at the weekend. With plenty of delicious food and drinks going around, the General Manager, Mr. David Chen, officially switched on the Christmas tree lights at 7pm. There were plenty of tempting prizes in the raffle draw too, with the winner of the prize scooping a cheque of RMB 40,000 (almost £4,000!). Sadly, it wasn’t me (I have never won anything in life…except good education!)
It was the perfect way to end the day. Flying straight from London to Guangzhou (via Hong Kong) presents a different perspective of life. After which I did a few minor but important chores, before attending this event in the evening. So in all I had not slept for almost 25 hours (I always find that it’s not easy to sleep on a daytime flight, and once I landed in Hong Kong it was daytime again!).
Christmas in China is never the same as back in Western countries. Back in 2003 I recall seeing a lavishly decorated Hilton Hotel in Shenzhen- albeit in comical fashion. The money king represented Santa Claus, and the Dragon represented Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, and to add to the comical touch, the whole hotel was decorated in blue and white (instead of red and white). Things have changed for the better since then, and while China has become more Westernized it still doe snot really not feel like Christmas here.
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.
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.
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