Elba at the St Regis, Shenzhen
With such stunning views of the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, it almost impossible not to think of how beautiful life can be at over 1,300 feet while sipping a fine glass of Riscal Roble 2008 and tucking into your pumpkin and cheese soup. But then again, this is not your average restaurant, but one that deserves more attention that it gets. Located at the 99th floor of the St Regis Shenzhen hotel, the Elba serves fine Mediterranean cuisine with a view to please even the most gastronomically challenged.
Since the St Regis Shenzhen opened in December 2011, Elba has become a popular hotspot for Shenzhen’s business yuppies, and the increasingly newly found rich who want to do nothing more than show off. The ambiance may not be too lavish; however all of those changes the moment the flavours of the colourful dishes start to dance your tongue. Elba is definitely big, bold and brash, however it did come across that the pedestrian cooking was a letdown, especially for a high end eatery that wants to prove itself among the bustling completion in town.
Basically if I was a diner here I would want to be pampered right from the moment of my first spoonful to the last. To be frank Elba is the kind of place only its mother could really love. It's like a late adolescent who's just discovered fashion and luxury lifestyle. It's loud and brash and pleased with itself. Location is fantastic, but the interior quality of the food lacks the glamour that it works so hard to get across.
The wine list is strong and has some first-class choices at astoundingly low prices. I also ate some pleasing things from the long menu, which roams from raw bar to hot kitchen to something called "wood stone.” If you are in a rush then opt for the lunch business set meal, which includes a starter, main dish and a dessert. Some of the fine choices for the set lunch menu include battered cod fish, or pumpkin and clam chowder.
Service was ‘okay’, but somehow dysfunctional. It took two requests to get them to stop attempting to fill my wine and water glass. Whether the fact that I was dining with the hotel manager made them nervous, I have to have give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. One thing I will say though is that good authentic Italian cuisine is very hard to find in China. However, if you want to taste a bit of Italy before you get there, then try Elba. Hey there may be better Italian restaurants in the whole of China, however for the time being Elba does a superb job in being one of the best in Shenzhen.
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.
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