The staff at The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai Pudong, which by the way is my favorite of all the Ritz-Carlton hotels I have reviewed so far around the world, really know how to make an engagement special. All I said was that I will be arriving with my Laopo (老婆, wife/fiancée), and they had the whole suite decorated as I have never seen before. A big thank you to the team there. The whole room was heavily decorated with a sea of fresh roses.
In September 2015, the company introduced a fresh new brand-voice to keep up with the times. It was a refreshing feeling to experience this new brand tone and voice in the Shanghai property- everything just seemed to be rejuvenated- except that the first-class luxurious trademark service was still the same. The views, the glamour, the food, the smell, the experience- this flagship property in Shanghai has it all. I feel like coming back here again and again.
The hotel has also introduced a couple of special packages, including guests to embrace its rich heritage with a new immersive experience, “This is Shanghai.” It basically balances modern luxury with the glamorous, art deco design inspired by the roaring 1930’s, and the hotel is the perfect place for guests to learn about Shanghai’s legendary history and gain insight into its bright future. Included in the three-day packaged tour, is a half-day architectural tour by local historian Dr. Spencer Dodington. The packaged tour allows travelers the opportunity to deepen their understanding of life in the world’s largest city and celebrates the best of Shanghai’s seductive and storied past, present, and future. It also includes Tai Chi classes by grand masters and a visit to a famed tailor. Offering guests a luxurious way to explore the city’s rich past and vibrant present, the “This is Shanghai” package starts at approximately 5,880 USD per package based on double occupancy. (This price is subject to 15% service charge).
This time around, I had the pleasure of being accompanied on this press trip with my fiancée, and so it was good to get her viewpoint and prospective on things as well. The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai Pudong is a whole lot more opulent than most of its neighbours. Despite the rapid growth of the area around the property, it remains a firm favorite with the good and the great- everyone from foreign dignitaries and stars prefer to stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai Pudong. Despite another Ritz-Carlton property to be introduced to Shanghai, this flagship property will always remain a firm favorite with both of us.
The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai Pudong
Being a chocolate fan, Vicky, my fiancée, opted to try the chocolate spa treatment at The Ritz-Carlton Spa.
Who can resist the allure of chocolate? According to the staff at the Spa, the scent of chocolate stimulates “happy feeling” endorphins, which create feelings of well-being and can actually reduce stress. Vicky certainly agreed to that!
After having a cup of rich hot chocolate drink, Vicky enjoyed immersing her senses with the aroma of a full-body chocolate scrub, a personalized chocolate massage and a soothing chocolate wrap with a chocolate facial. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The spa features a private shower room and is equipped with luxurious amenities.
RMB1,800 (approx. £180/US$230) per person for 120 minutes
This treatment includes a chocolate scrub, chocolate body massage, body wrap with a chocolate facial, and home-made chocolate as a dessert after treatment.
Jin Xuan Dining Experience
I last dined here in 2012. It was a great pleasure to be back at Jin Xuan again, and this time it was a different and special experience all together as both Vicky and I indulged in scrumptious Cantonese Dim Sum in the company of spectacular views and the sound of the beautiful Zheng being played in the background. Chef Daniel Wong's whimsical culinary creations are to die for. It is not just food but sheer art, and one cannot argue with the fact that he is a most certainly a culinary artists wearing a neat chef's hat. There must be something special about the cookery of a chef who's food makes grown men giggle with glee. Indeed, food has always been a form of art, and both need an immense amount of creativity- the only difference being that Chef Wong has to do it many times over, with speed and accuracy. That in itself is just amazing. The end result? Priceless tasting food.
The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong participates in The Ritz-Carlton Asia Pacific Asia Smile Week the Third year,(2-5 May, 2016)
In response to the success of Smile Asia Week in 2015, The Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts, Asia-Pacific have announced Smile Asia Week from May 2–8, 2016 to sell specially created limited edition cakes across Asia.
The campaign is to raise funds and awareness for the children suffering from cleft and other facial deformities. The charity partner is Smile Asia, a global alliance of medical charities that heals children’s smiles through its dedicated medical volunteers.
Around 10,000 staff of The Ritz-Carlton company from 22 hotels will bake 15,000 specially crafted limited edition Valrhona Chocolate Banana cakes that will result in 500 life-changing surgeries to the poor and needy children across Asia.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, is getting well accustomed to accommodating plenty of five star international hotels. Located in the heart of the city’s Golden Triangle business district, and perhaps the most happening place for shopaholics, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is somewhat of an historical gem in terms of luxury hotels in the city, having been opened in December 1997. The hotel’s 365 guest rooms, including 30 One-Bedroom Suites are a marvel that stand 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, Kuala Lumpur is that residents in this hotel are treated to arguably the best customer service in town. Every industry has their gold standard: for coffee, it is Starbucks, for aviation is either Airbus or Boeing, and for hotels? I’d say it’s the Ritz-Carlton without a doubt from my experience.
Kuala Lumpur is one of the prime destinations for Arabs and for Muslims as well – many come here for their honeymoon. The city is almost like a mini-Dubai, except that there is not as much glitz and glamour. Guests at this distinctive property can enjoy convenient access to upscale shopping, dining and entertainment. The magnificent Petronas Twin Towers are only around a twenty-minute walk from the hotel via an air-conditioned walkway.
However, I have to say that the hotel’s management and owners have not really capitalized on the location well. From the outside, had it not been for the magnificent doorman, I almost had got the hotel building confused for a high-rise office block! However, take a step inside and The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is fun – it doesn’t take itself very seriously. If I could, I would adore living here every day: drinking endless amounts of special cocktails in the Lobby Lounge, lunching with great company in the hushed surroundings of the César’s Restaurant, where the locals’ sobriety so perfectly meet Malay culinary savoir faire.
The hotel displays an interior that displays astonishing craftsmanship but feels remarkably formal and fussy, a delight to experience in a place such as Kuala Lumpur. Relive nostalgia at its best. Nevertheless, it is such a shame that all the rooms are almost identical, and their walls are surprisingly thin; so much so that I could hear my neighbours in all the three rooms I stayed in! On the plus side, the feather beds, feather duvets and goose down pillows certainly are supremely comfortable, and not to forget the well kitted out excellent marble bathrooms with rainforest shower heads, Asprey toiletries, plush bathrobes, and superb beds. The sleep was the best part.
One key speciality of The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is its amazing suite. Unlike some of the other suites that are offered around the world, this one is much more spacious. 24-hour in-room dining for your convenience, Laundry and valet services and a 24-hour butler service for your personal convenience are some of the main highlights.
The butlers here are trained to read guests’ body language. Whatever you need, and whenever you need it, their wish is your command. Not in the least oleaginous, but very professional, old fashioned and exceedingly friendly, with some charming personalities. Of one thing I’m certain: the service here is second to none. From the doormen with their white gloves tucked into their epaulettes and the pair of bellhops who open the double doors to each arriving guest, they’re all faultless.
Even taking afternoon tea at the marvellous Lobby Lounge has a particular sense of occasion. OK, it may not be as impressive as the tea service at the Ritz in London, nevertheless, it is still enough to take your hats off to. I am impressed and pleased that The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur has retained the time-honed character that makes a prime Kuala Lumpur hotel more than just luxurious. It’s vibrant, it’s buzzing with delight and it’s not overpriced. It’s just perfect (it really is). So much so that even American diplomats love it to bit (John Kerry stayed here a few days before my visit).
So, apart from world leaders and the Hollywood crowd, who else likes to sleep here? Foreigners, including plenty of wealthy Arabs, Japanese and Indians, naturally. Lots of men in black suits and/or white robes with designer stubble and sunglasses and women surrounded by endless amounts of designer shopping bags and dresses.
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.
The hotel claims to be running at 95 per cent occupancy, so someone must like its sleek and chic design. But as far as I’m concerned, you can keep modern luxury. Install some true class back into the luxury, I say! But, above all else, expect intelligent opulence.
Afternoon Tea at The Lobby lounge
Unless you're privileged enough to be a member of the Royal Selangor Club and have tea there, the best afternoon tea in Kuala Lumpur is served at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur. Though, of course, it is not of the same charm and opulence as the afternoon tea the Ritz in London, where tea has been served since its 1906 opening, however, there is a sense of ceremony and of heritage that is partly why it remains so popular.
Served with precision in the hotel's Lobby Lounge, the tea includes the requisite finger sandwiches with smoked salmon, roast beef et al (no ham or pork in respect of Malaysia being a Muslim country), alongside fresh raisin and apple scones and cakes on a tiered cake stand. Service is assured and seamless if occasionally a touch perfunctory. There is a waiting list, and usually the afternoon tea session is fully booked with reservations only.
The only contrast to the Ritz in London at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is that there is no formal requirement to dress in formal/semi-formal wear. I've seen people come to have tea wearing their Nike shoes and jeans. It is nevertheless, an elegant affair that one should not be missed.
Situated in the heart of Seoul’s fashionable Gangnam district, The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul is the only Ritz-Carlton pretty in South Korea. The luxury hotel, with 375 well-appointed guest rooms, including 47 luxury hotel suites and 75 Club level rooms, is where South Korea’s innovative present and traditional past intermingles in an elegant, architectural wonder.
The only thing that one may find confusing is that from the outside it just looks like a normal tall building with very little exterior design or architectural element added to it. In a nutshell, from the outside it looks exceedingly boring and not quite the posh hotel one may be looking for. It’s a shame that such a lovely well-known high quality brand has not capitalized on using the finest of designs or architectural elements to make this building stick out like a sore thumb. However, once one steps inside then it’s another story altogether. Inside you’ll truly feel that this is the authentic Ritz-Carlton experience.
This was one of the first Ritz-Carlton properties in Asia Pacific and one can see that when you compare the slightly old-fashioned Versailles-inspired interior, such as the bathroom without the rain forest shower or the automatic air-conditioning, with most of the modern Ritz-Carlton properties in China for example.
The service, nevertheless, is nothing but exclusively of a Ritz-Carlton standard and authentically South Korean. As one of the most distinctive luxury Seoul hotels, The Ritz-Carlton invites you to relax and experience the unmistakable sights, sounds and flavors of South Korea. All the rooms are equipped with the latest technology, including a fully integrated TV and internet system, with video on demand, satellite television and high speed internet. For the most luxurious experience, why not pamper yourself in one of the suites where all the rooms offer a balcony that offers stunning views across the city with the N Seoul Tower visible in the distant on one side and Gangnam on the other.
After a day spent exploring, there is nothing better than to retreat to the impeccable hotel featuring an award-winning Presidential suite, an array of gourmet restaurants serving a repertoire of international cuisines, an 8-hole indoor golf course and driving range, and Asia’s first Pevonia Spa. There is also a cosmetic surgery located next to the Pevonia Spa, where guests can come and get their cosmetic surgery and then relax at the hotel until they make a full recovery.
The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul function space hosts gatherings from intimate executive board meetings to large-scale conventions. Among the hotel’s flexible meeting and event venues are the fabulous Grand Ballroom and generous pre-function areas. A team of talented chefs is on hand to present catered affairs both onsite and outside the hotel. Specialties include Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and other international cuisines, and individual menu requests are easily accommodated.
Discerning guests staying at any one of the rooms at the Club Level can enjoy the access to the Club Lounge which offers complimentary food and drinks five times a day, plus complimentary access to meetings rooms, but above else offers the peace of mind that you can while away your time in quiet surroundings away from the hustle & bustle.
How to get here:
If you are arriving at Seoul Incheon International Airport, then take the clean, air-conditioned and efficient Limousine bus operated by Korean Airlines. It costs about $ US 16 one-way to go from the airport straight to The Ritz-Carlton hotel, and takes around 40-minutes. As with courtesy in South Korean culture, before I bordered, the driver bowed to me out of respect.
You may also use the very clean, efficient, and inexpensive metro. It is a one-minute walk from Exit 4 at Sinnonhyeon Station, subway Line 9. Gangnam subway station, on Line 2, is only a three-minute car trip or an easy eight-minute walk. Incheon International Airport is approximately a 60-to-90 minute drive from our downtown hotel, and Gimpo Airport is approximately a 30-minute trip on Line 9, making staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul an obvious choice for international guests.
I have a serious confession to make- as many of the world's glamorous 5-star beds I have had the pleasure of laying myself on- I am actually always wary of sleeping in a hotel. Why? Because I have always pondered on who actually was there before I. Though I do try not to divulge too much on those thoughts, and it's perhaps the last thing on anyone's mind when they just want to have a rest after a 12 hour flight (as was in my case after arriving in Istanbul).
The 12-hour night time flight from Guangzhou to Istanbul gave me enough time to ponder on a million thoughts of what to expect upon landing in the country, to which I was a complete virgin. Unfortunately, it was raining on the morning I arrived in Istanbul, but with the positive courage I decided to face the challenge that the gods had thrown upon me. It was slightly colder than back in Guangzhou too. Thankfully after the 12 hour flight with Turkish Airlines, and the ease with which I managed to pass through Turkish customs (Visa for British passport holders is available upon arrival, costs 15 Euros and is valid for 90 days), I was greeted outside the arrivals hall by a pre-arranged limo by The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul.
My first impressions of the country on the way to the hotel surpassed by exceptions of the country's image in my mind (somehow it always happens). The roads were modern, I could see a skyline full of concrete and glass towers, plenty of Western shopping malls, and a clean infrastructure. All of this was blended in with thousands of Minarets of mosques in the horizon- a reminder that I was in a Muslim country.
Having arrived at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul within half an hour from the Ataturk airport, I was welcomed with a glass of warm Turkish tea, and some delicious Turkish delight. After which I was escorted to my VIP suite where again, a long-stemmed red rose, and a bottle of fine Turkish rose wine (Kavaklıdere, Egeo Rose 2010), awaited my arrival- this was all to ensure that my Turkish journey had truly began in style.
The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul, complete with its 244 guest rooms including 22 suites, 57 Club Level rooms, and The Ritz-Carlton Suite, stands towering on the European side of the city, overlooking the border between the old and new city, and providing eye watering views of the Bosphorus River, and the Dolmabahçe Palace.
All the rooms are lavishly decorated to the best of their ability, with a good portion of them providing the creature comforts that most of us can only dream of, such as plasma TVs that are disguised as mirrors, oversized marble bathroom decorated with Iznik tiles, and heavily comfortable duvets stuffed with 300-thread cotton lines, & dove feathers. I must say that though the days of the high spending Turkish sultans are long gone, they would no doubt feel right at home at a place such as The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul. You can just imagine an Ottoman Sultan walking into the lobby in a grander fashion with his entourage and checking-in. Everything at the hotel, including the with its enormous bedrooms complete with vaulted ceilings, the Club Lounge, and the Blue Restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus, is made to make one feel just like a Sultan.
And not to forget the Ottoman style Laveda Spa, which features an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and the hotel's very own Turkish Hamam. Though, I am not sure what the Ottomans would have made of this artificial example laid out in its finest possible surroundings in a luxury hotel. Nevertheless, the Turkish Hamam is in a 5-star hotel so understandably it's not quite what one would expect from a real experience. Just as well as I was a virgin to Istanbul, I also happened to nervously lose my virginity of experiencing a Turkish Bath. Before I had my Turkish bath ritual at The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, my impressions of a Turkish Bath were somewhat limited to being derived from movies and TV documentaries.
I was expecting myself to be slapped and kind of beaten up by a huge masculine and hairy Turkish man with a Ottoman style mustache. Thankfully, to fade away my demons, in contrast I was greeted with a gentle smile by a native Turkish lady. During my Turkish bath, I actually felt like a baby sitting on the middle of a large marble stoned bed, and being washed, and scrubbed (gently), and then having warm water poured over me. Throughout the bath she inscribed deep spirals in the muscles of my back, then pouring the soap over by squeezing the contents of the wet towel. It wasn't as painful an experience as I had imagined (well, not at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul anyways. My experience of a real Turkish bat will be written about later on in my blog!). Yet I felt like I was being christened. The experience makes you fall into a deep sleep. Dare I say I felt like I was re-born. Lounging in Istanbul's bath houses, whether they are in hotels or not, is certainly a relaxing way to spend your time, but be prepared for an unusual charm offensive.
Other parts of the hotel seemingly waiting to the explored by people from far away lands include its beautiful new restaurant, Bleu. Overlooking the Bosporus river the restaurant provides one to relax in an open air environment, tucking into delicious Turkish cuisine with the wind breezing past- ideal for the summer months. Live Western and Turkish music prevails. The best part of the hotel has to be the presentation of Turkish hospitality and the rich Ottoman style cuisine which presents a variety of smells and tastes consisting of flavors taken from as far back as 1539 in some of the dishes.
After a gap of 9 months, I had the chance to go back to The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong. Every time I visit The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, my jaw just drops like an apple falling due to the forces of gravity. Why? Simply because of the stunning architecture of the hotel’s spacious interior and the warm surroundings that make a sheer comforting place to be at. Though most of the other 5-star hotels in Shanghai are of a very good quality as well, the key aspect that distinguishes The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong from the rest is the aroma of being surrounded in a cosy outfit by the nearby beautiful buildings, such as the futuristic Pearl Tower, and the Jinmao tower. Almost every room has a beautiful view of one of the ‘pearls’ of the Pearl Tower.
This time I got to try the very best of Cantonese cuisine offered by the spacious Jin Xuan restaurant located on the 53rd floor of the hotel. Again there is that sense of warmth offered, blended in with the spectacular décor with superlative affectionate service. Total seating for main dining area is 52 seats, six private dining rooms of 64 seats, and two VIP private dining rooms of 40 seats. The dishes created by the Chinese Executive Chef, Ooi Soon Lok, are just out of this world. It has become a trademark of his to churn out the best of the east and the west in all of his dishes. Take for example dishes such as the ‘wok-fried Australian beef tenderloin, black pepper sauce’ or the ‘signature steamed assorted vegetables with brown sauce’. The former dish was the one where my first reaction was to think ‘Australian beef is wok fried?’, but the Malaysian born Chef Lok has managed it in such a neat way that one can enjoy the sweet tenderness of the beef that is western styled itself, but made using a very authentic Chinese way. It just melts as you take each bite. Lovely chunks of the beef dance in well with the green, yellow, and red peppers. Fabulous. The latter dish is just nothing short of a miracle in the plate created by Chef Lok. From a distance, one may be greatly mistaken in thinking that this dish is all made up of meat products, but in fact, it’s all vegetables! The carrots, the mushrooms, the cabbage, the lettuce, and even the tomatoes all provide a wonderful combination to please the eye and the tongue. It’s the kind of dish that would bring along a smile on your face no matter you are a vegetarian or not.
Chef Lok, who has over 20 years global experience in luxury cooking, has the charm to delight diners with his on the spot creations of culinary extreme. He recalls picking this skill of cooking quickly on the spot while he was working at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, and later at The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou (Lai Heen Restaurant). It was in South China where he learnt that chefs needed to work extra fast as compared to other places he had worked at before, such as Singapore, because the diners in places like South China don’t have much time to eat lunch or dinner because of their hectic lifestyles. He fondly recalled creating this ‘steamed assorted vegetables with brown sauce’ dish in Hong Kong, and it has been a firm favourite for many of his regular diners since then. Having tasted this particular dish myself, I must say that even I may become a member of his fan club. The food he creates has a smooth flair to it, and it goes without saying that all those that try and taste his delightful dishes at Jin Xuan would be let completely gobsmacked.
Winner of the "Winning Wine Lists Ratings," as awarded by Zagat Shanghai Restaurant and Hotels Survey, the 80-seat classy Palladio offers the finest Italian dining experience outside of Italy. Chef de Cuisine Gianluca Serafin and Palladio Italian Restaurant Manager Fabrizio Bosco present a variety of signature dishes blending the best of Italian and Ritz-Carlton traditions. Located on the ground floor of the Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Palladio has gained a serious reputation among its loyal clientele as one of Shanghai’s finest Italian restaurants.
Whilst the menu is representative of all regions in Italy, there is a particular emphasis on the cuisine of Naples, and Sicily. Through his menu, this talented and passionate chef showcases some of the best seasonal dishes in this booming financial capital of China.
With a strong commitment to sourcing ingredients from small, artisan producers in Italy, Serafin cooks in a way that best represents the flavours and seasonal variations of his home country (and home town of Torino). In true Italian style, he insists on preparing and making all his bread and pasta fresh each day. These main ingredients’ are neatly complimented by the very best in sourced local Chinese produce from specially partnered farms in and around the immediate region.
The restaurant, whose name is inspired by the renowned Italian architect Andrea Palladio, has two dégustation menus that change on a regular basis according to what chef Fabrizio can get his hands on from all the myriad amounts of ingredients’ that are offered.
At Palladio you can expect to sample the team's intricate dishes that seek to reconnect diners with nature, such as the ‘Crispy scampi with pan seared scallops, lemon scented leek, celery, and, green apple infusion’, or the ‘Black ink tonnarelli pasta with lobster, crustacean sauce, basil comfit, and cherry tomatoes’. With such delightful dishes chef Serafin combines his rigorous understanding of ingredients jostle with produce-driven cuisine. This man has culinary magic embedded in his DNA. His food basically dances on your tongue with each delightful spoonful.
Anyone somewhat fatigued by samey high-end restaurants should definitely consider a trip to Palladio, where its hyper-creative, conceptual tasting menu will be equivalent to a round of electric shock therapy, stimulating mind and body alike.
Palladio’s warm and welcoming interior features dark leather banquettes, neutral walls with tumbled stone mosaics. In contrast to its contemporary glass exterior, its entrance showcases a traditional Italian dark wood bar. In the evening, soft lighting creates a relaxed and comfortable ambiance. The staff uniforms were created by the renowned Italian designer Stefano Ricci.
On the whole there are 4 different seating areas that would spoil you apart. Nevertheless, the separate, chef’s table, which accommodates up to 6 people, overlooks the main kitchen allowing guests the opportunity of watching the chefs at work at the wood burning oven. Most people are easily fooled into thinking that Palladio is not part of The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai- but of course, it is, and if anything, just give it a go and see how taste buds would be delighted on any evening.
Dining at the Yu Restaurant at second floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing is an experience to cherish for again, and again. The Chinese people pride themselves in on being one of the earliest people to develop sophisticated notions of polite social culinary interaction. This includes the highly sophisticated rules of etiquette governing acceptable table manners and tastes. Yu Restaurant, which can hold up to 110 dinars, presents exactly that and nothing more than sheer sophistication. The restaurant offers a traditional tea-themed Cantonese cuisine. As I sat in one of the seven luxurious private chambers to dine like a Qing Dynasty emperor, I was mesmerising on the thoughts of what surprises I may be in for. A large water feature welcomes guests to the restaurant.
What’s more is that a tea master await all comers to intimate and sumptuous gastronomic affairs. Yu in Chinese stands for ‘Jade’, and there is plenty of it decorating the walls and the interior of this luxurious eatery. The interior of Yu is bathed in a bright red and mahogany wood colour, blended in neatly with golden beige accent pieces. These somewhat create a sooth feeling of elegance, sheer prefecture, and absolute comfort. Each of the seven private chambers is named after a type of jade stone, for example our room was called ‘Blue Jade’. Attention is paid to even minute details, from the tea corner to the silk wrapped menus. The menu includes at least a dozen tea samples encased within the menu.
As I was presented with the menu, I just looked at the Chef de Cuisine, Ku Chi Fai, and asked him to ‘Surprise me’ with his culinary magic. Then there was the house tea sommelier who was available to assist in guiding our choice of tea to go with each dish.
It’s best to commence with the sweet yet tangy flavoured ‘Double whelk matsutake soup’ (松茸炖响螺) which is a lovely medium-to-deep yellow in colour, and shows the red and black cherry aromas as the soup touches the back of your tongue and neck with each sip.
Yu offers an extensive menu of refined Cantonese dishes made with fresh ingredients and precise execution. The ‘Appetizer selection’ (前菜拼盘) contains the popular honey roasted suckling pig—a classic Guangdong dish—has skin cooked to a perfect, crisp orange and a smooth and juicy centre. Also, watch out for those baby cucumbers- they are immensely tiny and cute!
If you have a special place in your heart for seafood, like I do, then go for the main gem of a dish: ‘Braised cod fish ball with spices in casserole close-up’ (大千焗银鳕鱼). It looks like a piece of art work rather than a dish. Dare to tuck into the noodle nest which achieves high level of sophistication, as the whole dish is edible. You cannot argue with exceedingly good boneless pieces of succulent codfish lying side-by-side with the baby shallots. Yummy!
Continuing with the seafood theme (they love seafood in Canton!), the next dish that sandwiches the meal is ‘Grilled prawn with preserved vegetables dry eggplant’ (宫廷梅干虾球). Bright, elegant, and delicate looking (and tasting) prawns add enough sweetness and sourness to this wonderful gastronomic jewel. Autumn breeze marks the perfect season for slightly nutty yet buttery dishes such as the grilled prawns.
No Cantonese meal is complete with the ‘Taro puff and egg tart’ (芋蓉酥拼蛋挞), this ‘out of this world’ dish is a delight to have with any Cantonese dish. Its not really the presentation of the dish that matter’s but rather the taste. Cantonese people (especially those from Hong Kong), would not hesitate in pointing out the quality of a perfectly made egg tart. Soem will even argue to the point that their egg tart is the best in the city. The bright lemon colour of the yolk inside the tart, and the slight softness of the tart indicates to outstanding quality of the product. The easier it is to drop out of your hands, the worse the quality (i.e. the stronger the egg tart, the better it is). Challenge any Cantonese person and they will have no hesitation is proving you wrong. The nose of the dish displays a certain aroma of vanilla (it may be true), and lemon. Enjoy it while you can and make sure that you don’t leave any bits and bobs lurking around.
For the finale, ‘Chilled sago mango cream, and fresh fruits’ (杨枝甘露拼水果) is the treat of the day. But forget the fruits, its the chilled sago mango cream that can eat your heart away. Slightly dry, sweet to the front of the mouth, but all in all a complete journey of sheer perfection and a beautiful long length of butter, sago and mango kissing your throat with each spoonful. It’s great, and it’s all truly Cantonese at the Yu restaurant. It’s one of such prestige appellation to round off a perfect meal at one of the most sought after eateries in Beijing.
Hmmm...I am wondering as to where shall I begin with when it comes to reviewing yet another Ritz-Carlton property. In fact, this is only the 8th Ritz-Carlton property I have reviewed, and there are still a further 67 properties that I need to review worldwide (not sure when I’ll manage to do that!). One thing I can comment on is that even though the true Ritz-Carlton ethos of excellent ‘customer comes first’ mentality is evident in all the properties, every single one is unique in its own way. So therefore, even if you have two Ritz-Carlton properties in one city, as is the case here in Shanghai, they are both bound to be different in terms of the interior ambiance.
Indeed as mentioned, Shanghai is gifted with two Ritz-Carlton properties. The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, and The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai. So what’s the difference between the two? Well, apart from the difference in location (the former is located in the ‘Manhattan’ equivalent of Shanghai along with all the other financial corporations surrounding its lavish building, while the latter is located in downtown Shanghai), the main difference is that The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai tends to cater more for government officials and diplomats, while The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai tends to attract Shanghai’s money crazed super rich, or the city yuppies that work in Pudong.
Opened in 1998, and refurbished in 2003, The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai stands tall and proud right in the heart of Shanghai’s most happening place, and the world’s busiest street, Nanjing Xi Lu (which leads to Nanjing Dong Lu). The 50-story building in its trademark white colour scheme is hugged by two adjoining building that contain a myriad of premier shopping outlets (don’t be shocked to see a few Chinese- registered Lamborghinis parked outside!). And its not all modern glamour that adorns the hotels’ surroundings as within a few minutes of walking distance there are a few historical gems lurking around, such as the Jing An Temple (Golden Temple) and People’s Square as well.
The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai experience begins not from the lobby but from the airport or train station where you’ll be picked up in one of the Wi-Fi enabled chauffeur driven cars. All the Ritz-Carlton cars are equipped with bottled weather, leather seats, plenty of magazines and newspapers and a bi-lingual Chinese-English speaking driver (the latter is very important in a city such as Shanghai because of the lack of English spoken in Shanghai).
Upon arriving at the hotel, the first thing that strikes you is a bellboy who projects a greeting in perfect English: ‘Good morning/afternoon, welcome to the Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai, please allow me to take your luggage, Sir/Madam’. For those guests that have made the journey straight from the airport, and are coming to Shanghai for the first time, this would be a perfect welcome to the ‘Paris of the East’! The second thing that strikes the visitor is the ultra chic lobby, which includes a beautiful old university style library, leather sofas with rich fabric, and a piano. VIP guests and those guests that are residing in one of the Suites or the Club Floor rooms don’t need to check-in at the lobby, but are rather whisked straight to the quieter Club Lounge at the 43rd floor to have an express check-in (or check-out).
The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai is also flagged as having a more flamboyant and nostalgic ambiance to it plush surroundings. With its 610-well appointed guestrooms and suites, it’s one of the preferred choices of residences in Shanghai by visiting government officials because of the excellent security it provides. It’s also a favourite of many American Presidents that have stayed here, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. I fondly recall one of my mates telling me that he happened to bump into Mr. Clinton at the hotel’s well-equipped gym. I am not sure if Mr. Clinton tried the highly useful and exceptionally flexible ‘Power Plate’. This rather boring looking piece of equipment will no doubt surprise the most athletic of us humans. As simple as it looks, but apparently one can make use of it in at least fifty different ways including as a stomach churning vibrator, a muscle enhancer, a yoga assistant and much more. If that’s not enough then burn those much wasted calories in the Squash and tennis courts (now, this sport is very popular among Presidents!).
Even though the hotel does not have an in-house Spa, the guests can still choose to have a signature Ritz-Carlton massage in the privacy of their rooms or at the hotel’s health club located on the 7th floor, which is, one of the city’s largest. Guests can choose a few therapy options including Chinese, Japanese, and Swedish. Normally I tend to have a massage at the Spa area, but because The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai, offers the massage in-room, so I went for that option. It was my first time I’ve had an in-room massage, and I must say that it was actually a very relaxing experience to have a massage on your bed- I went to sleep within minutes. Well who wouldn’t, especially when you are lying on a sealy bed with 300-thread count bed linen, down feather pillows and throws. Its so easy to float your mind into your dreams when your head and body rests on such sheer comfort. It’s truly a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Shanghai.
Impossibly clean and modern in look and feel, all of the guestrooms and suites are designed with traditional Asian fashion with a modern flair. Exclusively Luzerne provides in-room cutlery and bone china, while the bathroom amenities in the Club floor rooms and Suites is provides by the designer Italian brand, Acqua Di Parma. Contemporary Chinese paintings adorn the walls, as well as the rosewood furniture, which forms most part of the amenities, including rosewood sliding doors. For the business minded individuals, keep in touch with the world through 3G and Wi-Fi internet throughout the hotel, as well as cable TV (provided by 32-inch TVs in guestrooms). In-room i-Pod docking stations are also provided.
The highlight of the hotel has to be its seven eateries, which include a variety of dining options including Western, Italian, Japanese and, of course, authentic Chinese cuisine. Confusing for some guests as it may be, but some of the restaurants, such as Palladio (Italian) and Tables (Western) are located outside of the main hotel building just near the lobby entrance so guests may think they are not part of the hotel but, of course, they are. The chef de cuisines at all the restaurants are highly experienced, and can magically create a dish upon the customers’ request. So if there is something that does tickle your fancy, just ask them to surprise you with the dish! Not only that, but there are plenty of Shanghainese petit fours that you can nibble onto, or a drink of a Chinese herbal drink.
Despite the dizzying pace at which Shanghai is growing with multiple loads of new buildings cropping up all the time, I am sure the hotel will continue to be one of the iconic buildings in Shanghai for many years to come. The Ritz-Carlton brand stands for a real luxurious experience and one that is just unmatchable by no other. In saying this it is quite right to conclude that The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai really stands by the words of being a ‘timeless symbol of luxury and beauty.
When one stands at the Ozone Bar at the 118th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which (if you don’t already know by now), is officially the highest watering hole in the world, at the highest hotel in the world, you get a true feeling of how tiny yet vibrant Hong Kong really is. During the day, everything looks like as if you are standing on top of a matchstick city, while during the night it looks like you are standing in the middle of a garden full of a billion Christmas trees twinkling in the far distance.
Opened on the 29th of March 2011, and occupying the top 17 floors of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC), The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is your castle in the sky. The elevator that propels the guests to the arrival lobby at the 103rd floor takes exactly 53 seconds- that’s 9 metres per second to be precise. It’s not as fast as an aircraft taking off on rotation; nevertheless, it may still require you to swallow or even chew a candy to stop your ears popping. On a windy or rainy day, you can hear the wind whistling in the background as the lift goes up (or down).
If you ever wanted to experience what life is like above the clouds, and what it feels like to sleep in the clouds, then you have come to the right place. In fact, it’s more than that. Call me mad, but during my brief stay, I could not resist just sitting in my room and watching how quickly the weather went past me and it’s so good that you can see the weather coming towards you from a distance of over 15-20 miles in the horizon. What I am trying to say is that if you were on the ground, you would probably think that it’s a clear day, and you would have no warning or idea that in, say, half an hour it will start raining. Whereas if you are at 1,500 feet above the ground in your cosy room at The Ritz-Carlton you can easily see that it’s raining 20 miles away, and that rain is heading right towards you. A beautiful experience that makes you feel as if you are floating gently on the cloud tops.
All the 312 rooms and suites are designed to give you the ultimate in luxury and to make you feel special for whatever reason you are staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. Whether it is for business or pleasure. Unlike other hotels, the distinguished service at The Ritz-Carlton comes with the best customer experience, and effectively everything that has to be superlative- there is no room for failure when guests are paying around 5000HKD (approx. 450GBP) per night for the privilege. At that point, it comes to the important part, which is the experience received rather than the height of the hotel.
The best part of the stay has to be the sleep. Lovely slumber and cosy 400-thread count bed linen with down feather pillows and throws (600-thread in the Club rooms and Suites). You just can’t beat the experience, and it’s so good that it makes you feel like you don’t want to get out of the bed.
Exceeding expectations, the rooms all are fitted with state-of-the-art facilities such as electronic blinds and curtains, 42-inch LCD television (17-inch LCD television in the marble bathroom), Blu-ray DVD player, i-pod docking station, both wired and wireless high-speed internet service, and the all important- Nespresso coffee making machine. Oh, and then there is the useful bedside clock which has an automatic light that comes on only when you pick it up- so you don’t have to get out of your bed to switch on the lights. Sometimes, the latest high-tech gadgets used at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong can even confuse the housekeeping staff. Like for example, the tiny ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) and ‘Please clean’ LED lights outside the doors that are neatly camouflaged inside a black glass panel. It’s a lovely invention that covers the minor but important details of what an experience should be like at a fine accommodation.
All the Suites have a telescope that overlooks to the Victoria Harbour and beyond. The views are just fascinating. On a clear day you can get spectacular views with the naked eye for as far places as Lantau Island, Lamma Island, the shores beyond Stanley on the far side of Hong Kong Island, Sha Tin and, even Clear Water Bay.
The old airport, Kai Tak, which closed down in 1997 after the British handover, is clearly visible with its runway (runway 31-13) and taxiway all intact even after all these years. In fact, airline pilots would who used to fly into Kai Tak would love The Ritz-Carlton. Standing at the Club Lounge and admiring the views is a treat because the view from the Club Lounge is the same (and from the same height of around 1,500 feet), at which planes would have started their final approach into Kai Tak. The old checkerboard in Kowloon is still very much visible along with Mongkok hill. I highly doubt that the guests residing at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong would have any requirement to take a helicopter tour of the city, as the views are perhaps better because sigh-seeing helicopters in Hong Kong normally fly at around 1000 feet (lower than the IFC!), whereas The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is as mentioned, higher than that.
As you may imagine that for a hotel of this height, security and safety are two of the most important features that are looked at very closely by the staff. Even if, say, the fire alarm sensors pick up the slightest of smoke signals then it can set off the alarms fairly effortlessly (as it did when I was there). I was there during a moderate tropical typhoon (which is a common occurrence in Hong Kong), and interestingly enough it felt as if one is floating in the sky with the rain clouds. That whistling wind is so catchy to the ear.
Despite the enormous height of the hotel, kudos has to be given to the designers and the architects to make sure that all the facilities are within easy reach by the guests. The Ritz-Carlton Spa and the Club Lounge are on the 116th floor, while the futuristic swimming pool, Gym and the Ozone bar are all on the 118th floor, and all the restaurants are located on either the 103rd or the 102nd floor. The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA features 860 sq m/9,257 sq ft with nine deluxe treatment rooms and two couples’ suites, plus floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views. The facility redefines the Hong Kong spa experience with a personalised and caring service. Guests are welcomed by the sight of a massive crystal chandelier in the Spa reception that costs over USD$0.5 million.
Equally well, when it comes to presenting gastronomic delights, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong certainly gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘dining with a view’ like no other. All of the three enormous restaurants on the 102nd floor are gifted with two-story windows that provide a flood of natural light. Acclaimed Japanese firm, Spin Design Studio, designed the restaraurants. The views become more romantic and dramatic at night time- no wonder why all the dining tables are always fully booked. All the restaurants also have private dining rooms to rent that come with sweeping views of Hong Kong, and into the horizon. The three restaurants are: Tosca, which presents authentic southern Italian cuisine as managed by Neapolitan Chef de Cuisine Vittorio Lucariello; Tin Lung Heen, which is Cantonese for Dragon in the Sky, costs HK$888 (£71), an auspicious number in Chinese culture for a prix-fixe dinner; and the Lounge & Bar where one can have their breakfast and admire the stunning views (weather permitting). The most interesting design feature of all has to be the highly illuminated walkways connecting the three main dining venues on the 102nd floor. The walkway panels are either gold, red, green, or blue- depending on the time of the day.
With its honeycomb theme interior, the Ozone bar is purely a chic bar that is designed for three things in mind: the views, the elegance (and there is plenty of that here), and the menu on offer. It has it all- the glamour, the looks, the food, the flamboyant architecture, and the jazzy staff to go with it. If you want to just down a few drinks and absorb the atmosphere that is designed to attract Hong Kong’s cashed-in crowed then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to tuck into the tasteful carte du jour. The interestingly hologram covered menu contains a wonderful selection of Western, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine (Oysters and Sushi dominate the front few pages), and an equally special selection of wines, cognacs and some exceedingly mind-blowing martinis. However, I would not mind drowning myself into a trademark moijito either. There are endless options from the wine list; well, that should not be a surprise when you have over 10,000 bottles of wine in store at any given time of the day...right?
Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, the fact that The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, is the highest hotel in the world, is of course, not the real guest experience. For sure, the height at which it’s placed is unquestionably a lure for the masses. However, the real experience and the notion that sets this hotel apart from the rest is The Ritz-Carlton personalised guest provision. One would anticipate nothing short of an exceptional customer service experience from a hotel that has over 30 percent of the 525 staff members having come from the old Ritz-Carlton that stood in Hong Kong Island’s Central district. Glimpses of the old Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong are still somewhat present in this new Ritz-Carlton, however with a twist. For example, the old Ritz-Carlton’s Italian restaurant was named Toscana; while here, they have renamed it ‘Tosca’. Then there are the minor but important details such as the traditional period English furniture, gilt-framed mirrors and the snug-like ambiance of a true five star quality product such as The Ritz-Carlton. The phrase ‘quality and quantity’ certainly fits the bill correctly at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong as it blends in both values with precision.
On that note-, interestingly enough there seems to have begun a ‘highest hotel in the world’ race between Shanghai and Hong Kong. Until March 2011, the Park Hyatt Shanghai was officially the highest hotel in the world. Now that title can be enjoyed for a few years by The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong before it goes back to Shanghai again in late 2014 when the J-Hotel (Jin Jiang Group), will be opened on top of the 623-meter Shanghai Tower. But for now, it’s about taking all the chances that you can and be as far removed away from life at street level as possible. The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong doesn’t disappointment in that category for the time being. Give it a go, and see if it exceeds your expectations by being pampered in sheer luxury and engage yourself in life at the castle above the clouds.
Laid out with generous space and a beautiful aroma on the 102nd floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, Tosca provides the finest authentic southern Italian cuisine on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Beautifully designed and crafted by Japan’s Spin Design Studios, Tosca is actually a re-carnation of the old Toscana Restaurant that used to be situated at the old Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong. In actual fact, this is one hot restaurant to dine at as proved by the month-long-waiting list that has been long standing since the hotel opened! That includes practically the whole of Hong Kong’s who’s who.
As the restaurant comes alive in the evenings, the magnificent open kitchen leaves little space for errors as Neapolitan chef Vittorio Lucariello can be seen performing various types of culinary magical tricks with his team to present surprises. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I let the chef show off and ask them to put forward some of their latest creations. ‘What would you like to order, Mr. Singh?’ asked chef Lucarirllo, who loves Yoga on his days off and prefers to keeps his mind dancing in culinary thoughts. ‘Just surprise me, please’. I replied as I handed back the menu to Mr. Lucarirllo. indeed, that’s exactly what he did. The set of dishes that followed through were a sheer work of culinary art. Before I get to that I think its best that you know what the atmosphere is like on a typical evening at the Tosca. The ambiance is nice enough so that you can have a relaxing chat with your fellow dinars without having to shout, especially when the restaurant is at its full capacity. The point I am trying to get to is that even when the eatery is fully packed it is designed such that the huge two-floor high walls and double-glazed windows absorb the sound. If you are on a dinner date with your special one then it’s highly recommended that you take one of the window seats which offer breath-taking views across the whole of the city. Hong Kong sparkles at night, and dining at Tosca gives you the feeling that you are dining on a floating cloud. Either that, or the unusual feeling that you are dining inside a posh spacecraft! It’s an experience like no other restaurant can offer anywhere else in the whole of this city- and that is equally important as the presentation of the dish you are about to tuck into.
Each dish has a matching wine that goes with it- not that they tried to get a journalist drunk on the night, but because this is the trend that the vast majority of the high end market restaurants are operating on.
I commenced with a lovely presented dish of Alaska king crab accompanied with a healthy portion of avocado and cous cous salad with Sorrento citrus. The perfect thing about these three dishes was that you could hardly taste the oil or the spices in them. The strong flavours of the real ingredients such as the sea bass and the avocado. When food gets to this level of sophistication, its all about presentation, looks, and the architecture of the layout. Nothing short of sheer perfection should touch your tongue. You just gotta love the way the avocado jazzes up the taste buds on your tongue as you take each bite. The most important thing to remember is that the combination of every flavour within a dish, as well as the combination of the dish with the wine (in this case was Franciacorta Brut, Majolini) has to be exceptional to the minute perfection.
If health was a key question to the heart of each dish, then the answers would be beautiful provided by the taste of all the flavours of the next dish. A lovely brash of eggplant surrounded with an arse-kicking decoration of homemade ravioli with a dash of shellfish sauce. Bright yellow colours of the ravioli dominates the presence. Excuse the pun, but you know when Lucarirllo is on fire in his kitchen. Native Neapolitans would feel exceedingly homesick, and while tucking into their dish may (for a moment), even have an illusion that they are on the shores of Sorrento rather than at the highest Italian eatery in the world in Hong Kong. The accompanying wine was Pinot Grigio, Sot Lis Rivislsonzo Rive Alte Ronco del Gelso.
Those who are familiar with the Hong Kong culinary scene would be aware of the passion and delight with which Lucariello put his heart and mind into all his meals. Lucariello personally loves the toasted Frisella bread with preserved high quality tuna with capers, olives, tomato, and Mediterranean oregano.
Lucariello had one final surprise for me. Just as I made my way towards the open kitchen to take photos after finishing my grilled Mediterranean Sea bass, I managed to have a small chat about his work at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. Understandably, it’s difficult to get hold of the great man during rush hour as he is running the action-packed show for his dinars. ‘Did you enjoy your surprise meal, Sir?’ he asked while pointing his highly prized hand at one of the sample dishes. ‘I did, thank you, Sir’. I replied. To which the chef responded with the words, ‘OK, watch this, now!’ Then amazingly out of nowhere, suddenly he got hold of an empty plate, and then quickly whisked some chocolate ice-cream mixture right in front of my eyes. He then blended it with some rum, and another secret ingredient. The result was a ridiculously delicious chocolate ice cream generously sprinkled with rich chocolate flakes. It was nothing short of being a gorgeous delight for the tongue. The ability to quickly think on your feet and be able to create something healthy, appetizing, and attractive to both the stomach and the the eye is a skill which not many chefs possess. I would say that the award-winning Lucariello even surpasses this. But then again, what else would I have expected from one of the best chefs around in Asia’s World city?
Located within the charming grounds of The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya resort on Hainan Island in China, the Sand is a 128-seat intimate, yet sensational venue that is delightfully framed by a pleasant beachfront setting. This fine outdoor dining venue features fresh seafood and barbeque, complemented by an immense variety of signature sauces and side dishes. The bar at Sand offers an alternative venue to relax and enjoy Latin, Chinese or Filipino band performance in the evening. Exquisite cuisine that blends in fine Western and Eastern tastes. There is an unmistakeable sense of stage-management as one enters the Sand- a feeling that the architecture and decor have come to an agreement to induce a gently growing sense of anticipation from the moment one steps through the front door.
Though certainly magnificent in its richness and proportions, the design of the interior is anything but vulgar and overstated, with potentially gaudy features like its live cooking station that is counterpointed perfectly by a general aura of cool, simple elegance.
The menu is of a similarly high standard. As the executive chef Stefan Leitner explains, Sand uses only the finest ingredients to inspire our diners, such as Australian oyster and Japanese Abalone. Mr. Leitner, a native of Austria has numerous years of experience working all over the world, including at The Ritz-Carlton, Florida. His no-nonsense style of cooking is one that speaks for itself. In each dish, there is a strong sense of innovation that neatly blends in colour, aroma, flavour, and appearance. You only have to try fabulous dishes such as the ‘Pumpkin salad’ and the ‘Tenderloin Steak’ because it’s not just food that you’ll be presented with but it’s a true presentation of culinary art. You just cannot argue with good food.
To commence your gastronomic journey it would be a good idea to enjoy a colourful ‘Blue Yalong Bay’ cocktail. A lovely dash of Bacardi Superior is well accompanied by a generous amount of Cointreau. All is presented well with a few drops of fresh lemon juice to add to the flavour.
Desserts always present a pleasant surprise, and it must be said that the innovative dish of chocolate fondue with mango ice cream topped with coconut sauce was indeed an inspiration. With his culinary wand, Mr. Leitner managed to create a magical result in this dish that smoothly blends in the hot feeling of the chocolate fondue and the cold feeling of the mango ice cream. The result is a dish where you can practically lick the plate clean!
When it comes to providing ridiculously good food, the staff at the Sand take things very personally to make sure that your experience is beyond your expectations. Attention to detail and immaculate presentation for all the dishes comes as part of the standard provision. For a splendid 5-star resort such as The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya, the Sand provides a truly 5-star service with a 5-star dining experience.
A heaven for the senses, The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya will indulge you and immerse you into a world of discrete luxury, natural details to the interior and exterior, and sheer elegance, combined with the breath of contemporary Western and Chinese elegance blended in with architecture. Most important of all, you will be blown away by the charm of this fabulous resort located in the ‘Hawaii of China’, Sanya. Situated in the heart of Sanya’s Yalong bay natural district and surrounded by lush greenery, clean white beaches and clean and safe turquoise waters, The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya is a sheer oasis of tranquillity located around a 40-minute drive from Sanya airport.
If there was a paradise on earth located somewhere around an hour’s flight from a hectic and swarmed city such as Hong Kong or Guangzhou, then you’ll be glad to have found it in The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya. It goes without saying that the other Ritz-Carlton properties around the world are, of course, very good. However, the key difference that makes The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya a forefront attraction is that it is not only the biggest but also architecturally stunning from the outside as well as the inside. Had the late Chairman Mao come to Yalong bay today, he probably would have mistaken The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya to be an imperial palace. The resort boasts the best customer service in the whole of Sanya, and quite rightly so because of its powerful brand, experience and image. After all, what would you expect from a true crème de la crème luxury hotel in Sanya?
The first thing visitors experience is the traditional welcome in true Sanya style with a garland of fresh flowers being presented along with a drink of rose water upon your disembarkation from your vehicle. This is where you can forget about your luggage or any other worries and just focus on enjoying your vacation. The check-in procedure is simple, smooth, and swift with the aim of getting you straight to your room as efficiently as possible. The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya has become such a popular hot spot that even during non-national day holidays it is relatively busy with the vast majority of the tourists coming in from northern China, Europe, the Americas, and Russia.
The vast majority of the 450 guestrooms, including 334 oversized guestrooms at over 60 square meters and 67 rooms and suites on The Ritz-Carlton Club level, offer splendid views across to the beach or the resort. With tempting in-room luxuries such as toiletries by Italian designer brand Acqua Di Parma, platter of fresh exotic fruits, coffee by Davidoff Cafe, and English tea by Ronnefeldt, you will definitely be spoiled for choice. One of the things to try in the room is a provided sample of Shalan rice wine, which is known as “Hainan mao-tai.” The wine, which tastes sweet, is pure and rich in natural nutrition because of the core ingredients that it contains. It’s locally made by the Li minority group of people with steamed sticky rice and rice yeast from the nearby Hainan Wuzhi mountain area. These ingredients make the rice wine exceedingly good for your digestion as well as an active force against disease while empowering your inner senses with a healthy outlook.
An increasing number of people are choosing Sanya to be the place where they want to get married. A stunning and well-equipped wedding chapel that caters for all faiths and backgrounds is located facing the beach side and overlooking some of the finest views of the hotel’s surroundings. It is perhaps the most romantic place on this part of China. For honeymooners you could not have chosen a better location. Irrespective of what the weather has in store for you, it still is a paradise away from the sheer industrial pollution and hustle and bustle of Chinese cities such as Guangzhou for example. By this, I mean that on this resort it would still be considered romantic even if it were raining (really). Should you wish to tuck yourself into the fine art of culinary delights, then why not try any one of the eight restaurants and bars that contain a fine choice of various international flavours such as Italian, Western fusion and Chinese cuisine. Since this is a resort, it would not be a bad idea to dine at the fine beach restaurant, Sand, that hosts live music almost every evening. There is no better way to while away an evening after a long day than to take a sip of, say, a Blue Yalong Bay cocktail.
For families this is the ultimate resort to stay at during their vacation. One-of-a-kind nature program, enriching and educational offerings are provided for kids and teens known as ‘Ritz-Kids’ complete with its own swimming pool and a beautiful vegetable garden, which is manned by fully qualified nannies. While for teenagers (and perhaps some adults too), there is a fully interactive recreational hall that contains all the latest PC games consoles, complete sets of mah-jong, chess and table football. It is enough to keep one busy for more than a day. In fact, if there were a wedding event happening, then this would be the ideal place for parents to send their children to keep them full of activity and entertained. Situated right next to this adventurous quarter of the resort is a fully managed in-house garden. This is a garden with a difference because it is meant to resemble a typical English country farm, complete with lush green grass, small man-made bridges and canals so that the animals can play around in it. It is a neat idea of one of the construction managers, Mr. Martin under who this garden bears its name (Uncle Martin’s garden). Though it is still in the process of growing, the farm has become an amazing safe haven for animals such as chickens, rabbits, tortoise, various kinds of fish, parrots, ducks, and many more creatures that are beautiful. Oh, and don’t forget to say hello to the resort’s lovely resident dog, Mr. Carlton, who comes and occasionally greets guests and is available for children to play with at the recreational area.
The fun part of being in a resort such as The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya is the endless amount of water-based opportunities available such as diving (both day-time and night-time), snorkelling, speed boating and many others. For the adventurous, you could always try your hand at parasailing and windsurfing. The resort has a partnership with a local company that provide excellent products and facilities that you can enjoy during your stay.
The crème of The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya are the 16 suites and 33 private villas that come complete with their own swimming pool, splendid views across to the beachside, fully serviced kitchens, Jacuzzis, and an on-call butler service. If you want to experience the ultimate in a luxury vacation, it would be strongly advised to stay at one of these villas and just drown yourself in the thought of being spoiled for a few moments in your life. It’s an area of the hotel that has the ‘wow!’ factor attached to it with immense power.
The concluding gong has to go to the fabulous state-of-the-art spa-treatment villa located on the west side of the resort. An amazing 2,788-square-meter spa-treatment area with 24 treatment rooms and suites is located in tranquil surroundings that also include luxuries such as a well-equipped GYM, tennis courts, and a chi studio. The highlight of the experience has to be the jade steam room, which projects an ambiance of sheer peace, relaxation, and calmness. If you want to feel totally nourished, rehydrated, and pamper your body and face so that you have a lovely silky and soothed skin, then opt for the ‘Gong Xi’ signature treatment by ESPA. This two-hour relaxation ritual will take you on a journey that will revitalise your inner-senses and bring you to a complete meditative state and feeling refreshed. It is so good that if time prevails it then you could end up staying here all day if you wish.
Facing the famous Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center and opened only in 2009, the 282-room Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen is located in a prime spot of Shenzhen’s CBD area in Futian district. Effectively this is where the future of Shenzhen is to be found, and the Ritz-Carlton group could not have chosen a better site. The only thing that one may find confusing is that from the outside it just looks like a normal tall building with very little exterior design or architectural element added to it. In a nutshell, from the outside it looks exceedingly boring and not quite the posh hotel one may be looking for. It’s a shame that such a lovely well known high quality brand has not capitalized on using the finest of designs or architectural elements to make this building stick out like a sore thumb. However, once one steps inside then it’s another story altogether. Inside you’ll truly feel that this is the authentic Ritz-Carlton experience. As the hotel’s motto goes, it’s a true “Oasis of Luxury”, slap bang in the middle of China’s newest city.
Shenzhen is perhaps China’s fastest growing city both economically and demographically. Effectively you can go away for a week and once you return there is bound to be some dramatic change in either the skyline or the infrastructure. Way back in 2003 when I first arrived in Shenzhen nobody would probably have heard about the Ritz-Carlton brand, and if someone had told me that there is going to be a Ritz-Carlton hotel situated in Shenzhen in 2009, I would not have believed them because even though it seems like a short time span, but at that time it would be hard to imagine if anybody from Shenzhen would have been able to afford to stay at a brand such as the Ritz-Carlton,. But change of the rapid times and look what we have placed slap bang in the middle of Shenzhen’s CBD, a fascinating luxury 5-star hotel that outshines in every department possible.
Another ideal mark about the Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen is that it’s located only around a 45-minute drive to Hong Kong airport, and around a 30-minute drive to Shenzhen airport. The first thing you notice is that this is a something special that has been bought to Shenzhen. All of the hotel’s 282 rooms and suites achieve new levels of luxury and sophistication. All the rooms are equipped with the latest technology, including a fully integrated TV and internet system, with video on demand, satellite television and high speed internet. For the most luxurious experience, why not pamper yourself in one of the suites where all the rooms offer a balcony that offers stunning views across Futian.
The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen is also a one-stop shop for living, working and chasing the essential pleasures of life. The rooms are all strongly Chinese in design and Feng Shui but also very much international at the same time; with lush furniture and pampering bedrooms adding marvellous indulgence to every unit. Perhaps you would like to have a look at the TV menu, which looks rather like an Emperor’s scroll, and hence will make you feel like an Emperor too.
Luxury toiletries in the Club floor rooms and suites are provided by the well known Italian designer brand, Acqua Di Parma. There is a dedicated coffee machine as well that provides freshly brewed coffee by Nespresso. Now, that is sheer luxury to enjoy in a young and dynamic city such as Shenzhen.
Tribute has to be given to the Swiss-born General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen, Mr. Iwan Dietschi who has done a tremendous job in training and coaching his staff on how a perfect luxury customer service should be provided to people in China. It’s a challenge to find the right quality of staff that fit the criteria of The Ritz-Carlton brand anywhere in the world, but even more so in an emerging market such as China. In China you can have the most luxurious brand in the world, but if the quality of the service and the customer service from the staff is not matchable to that brand name then it is quiet essentially a waste of time and money for the corporation. Mr. Dietschi, a native from Lausanne and who has worked in Ritz-Carlton hotels world-wide, has fought that challenge well. Examples of this are evident everywhere in the hotel from the cleaning staff right the way through to the check-in staff. Every staff member greets the customer before the customer greets the staff member, everyone speaks excellent quality of English where there are no misunderstandings between customers and staff, every staff member understands western culture and etiquette well, and the staff never forgets what the customer ordered, and these are some of the true hallmarks of a high quality service.
Altogether there are seven dining options of which the Paletto (Italian cuisine) and the Xingli (Cantonese cuisine) restaurants are the jewels of The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen when it comes to spoiling yourself to luxury food and wine. Both have a different flavour when it comes to the authentic environment that reflects the cuisine that they are serving, though both venues are romantic, peaceful yet laid in a contemporary setting. The lobby lounge is the place in Shenzhen for business deals to be made over a drink or two. People in the city are starting to realise that The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen is the place to be and be seen at.
The Xingli is a high quality restaurant located on the 4th level of The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen that provides a true authentic Cantonese cuisine. Ever since it’s opening in 2009, the Xingli has become somewhat of a preferred place where business deals are made during lunch, or for team-building, or even for those who want to see and want to be seen in Shenzhen. A key addition of the restaurant is its 19 individual private rooms that cater to all the guest’s needs but is rather reserved for personal meals and business functions. The ambiance is one of peace, tranquillity and class. Quality is something that would touch anyone’s lips once they take their first bite.
Exceedingly opulent in its surroundings, the restaurant combines contemporary facilities with an elaborate classical invention and design that would please anyone’s eye. For family gatherings this would be the ideal place to relax, unwind and catch up on some gossip either for Chinese breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The key of the Xingli is its beautiful presentation of around 100 items of dim sum, main courses, soups and desserts. If you want to divulge into the perfect Cantonese culinary experience at the Xingli, then try starting off with a chicken soup of assorted vegetables blended in two flavours. Even before you tuck your spoon into the soup; it’s the beautiful presentation of the dish that is more pleasing to the eye. You just wonder how the chef manages to get the two flavours separated in the bowl. Lovely colours of the green and white vegetables are neatly separated.
Continuing with the concept of eating a healthy yet scrumptious meal for lunch (or dinner), it would be a wise decison to go for the fried broccoli with crab meat. The well cooked broccoli has a lush green colour, which indicates that it’s strongly fresh, and is provided with a generous layer of melting cheese. The crab meat is not as big in portions as one may imagine it to be because it is shaped into minute brightly orange coloured cubes that are kindly sprinkled onto the mouth-watering broccoli cuts.
If that’s not enough to wake up your taste buds then tuck into the fabulously cooked pan-fried cod fish with honey sauce. It’s not easy to find cod fish in China, and so therefore The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen is very fortunate enough to have imported this fish from overseas. The cod fish tastes fresh and the honey not only adds to the flavour but tends to give it a bit more of a glow to the skin of the fish. The Xingli can be described as an expert examination of a restaurant that strives to provide the upmost best quality in terms of authentic Cantonese cuisine. The Xingli has an almost obsessive reverence for its fabulous food and wine, lovingly presented for purposeful and practical use to share with like-minded individuals.
The spanking new Ritz-Carlton at the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) is located just minutes away from the world’s tallest man-made construction, the Burj Khalifa building, towering above the Dubai skyline and consisting of 162 floors above and two below ground. This delightful gem of a hotel with 341 elegantly appointed rooms and suites was opened on the 12th of January (alas 4 days shy of my birthday!), but hey, guess what? It has already gotten used to welcoming frequent visitors, namely those that have a serious business proposal in mind appointed in Dubai. Unlike the Ritz-Carlton at the Dubai Marina which caters for the leisure market, or those who want to be seen as the “Who’s who” of this world, this Ritz-Carlton at the Dubai IFC is more catered for the business community as it is conveniently located next to the major Sheikh Zyed Road, and only around a comfortable 20 minutes by car to Dubai airport.
Entering each of the rooms is a bit of an adventure. There is an air of contemporary design that blends in neatly with a strong Arabic ambience- you’ll be well pleased with a sweet smell of Arabic incense in the air.
Spacious bathroom attracting natural light with an open window looking right through to your bedroom form part of the excellent Feng Shui of the place. I have a feeling that the vast majority of the five star hotels are becoming more and more like boutique hotels- especially when it comes to providing the essentials of life. Loved the Nespresso in the room (attractively coloured Coffee cubes). All the rooms’ are equipped with the latest technology including fully integrated TV and internet system. It’s strongly Arabian yet very many international, traditional yet contemporary; with lush furniture and pampering bedrooms that add a vision to every angle that a guest looks into. Lovely hospitality and cuisine. Lovely detail to attention.
The sophisticated mini-bar includes wines by Cawarra (2008 Shiraz Cabernet) and Simonsig (Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2009). Almost everything at The Ritz-Carlton DIFC has lovely futuristic touches such as the electronic curtains and the trademark remote controlled TV in the bathroom.
The sleeping experience is just simply out of this world- an enormous bed awaits you upon your arrival. It’s so good that one may end up believing that they are somewhere in between Earth and Heaven. Pocket that thought with perhaps the best sleep you’ll have for ages! Fancy snuggling into a 400-thread count Frette linen?
All the rooms are strongly influenced by French art-deco have a clean, fresh and spacious feel with double exposure windows. Warm shimmering fabrics are used to create a fabulous effect that combines both eastern and western tastes. Each one of the rooms has their water temperature checked before a staff guest checks in. As standard with hotels’ in the Middle-East, a charming arrow points in the direction of Mecca so that Muslim guests have no trouble when praying.
At the Club levels (floor 13 and 14), the 38 rooms and the 27 Club suites are generously proportioned (42-61 square metres) and feature access to the 13th floor club lounge that has a continuous food and beverage presentations daily, and dedicated staff to assist at any time of the day. The best part of the experience is to have daily breakfast at the relatively calm Club lounge, which means that you do not have to deal with the hustle and bustle of the main dining area during this important meal of the day. Guests can also check-in and check-out with ease at the Club lounge.
Natural light also fills the marble floored bath and rain shower (love this creation!). Fantastic Feng Shui is exemplified by the use of superb symmetry. Lovely rich colours’ of Gold and Amber that portray the strong ethos of the Arab culture. Don’t be surprised to see Porsches, Ferraris and the abundance of Maserati cars’ stopping by in front of the foyer because Dubai is effectively a huge amusement playground for the wealthy. Then there are your usual Arab guests that come in from neighbouring Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia- and normally they leave Dubai with ten times more the amount of luggage that they initially intended to take away with them!
A unique and breath taking space, The Ritz-Carlton DIFC’s central foyer on the 4th floor, takes the super lounge concept to new heights. It’s a sophisticated yet chicly understated and relaxed venue bathed in a vibrant combination of warm colours of orange, red, yellow, beige and pink- all divided cleverly into the lounge and on-going into the nearby No. 5 Lounge and Bar. The bars and restaurants have outside verandas’ overlooking into the actual Dubai IFC mall- with all the more adds to the uniqueness of this fine accommodation.
The gorgeous backdrop of a waterfall view that guests can take pleasure in is very much tempting not just for business persons who want to while away their evenings after a long day at work but for those who want to hold meetings, hold weddings and conventions.
The “Centre Cut” provides the finest prime beef cuts in the city, and has a certain masculine touch to it complete with a furious red ambience and portraits of a raging bull providing a splendid backdrop. The whole experience should go down well with a lovely glass of fine red wine. For those who prefer some authentic French cuisine may want to dig their taste buds into the “Can Can” eatery that looks rather like a typical French bistro. Now if you adore food, like I do, then wait till you tuck into one of the dishes at the “Blue Rain” restaurant. It offers nothing but sheer authentic Thai cuisine. It’s so good that it will simply blow your mind, and taste buds’, away!
The Ritz-Carlton DIFC is the ultimate when it comes to gastronomical pleasure, lively conversation among busy city professionals who want to relax with, say a fine “2 Up Shiraz”, a classy Malt Whiskey, or one of the scrumptious culinary innovations, after a long day at the office, brightens up the place. This is the perfect place for captains of Industry to network as well as absorb the newly found chic atmosphere of 21st century Dubai. With all the glam, modernity and the glitter, it’s easy to forget that one is actually sitting in the middle of a desert!
The Spa features a temperature controlled swimming pool, a fully manned gymnasium and massage rooms’. The services of the club are extensive in line with the branded Ritz-Carlton treatments’ (refreshing turquoise colours illustrate the vibrant treatments and menus!). All the treatments are masterfully designed to ensure the highest level of relaxation and satisfaction, while a team of professional therapists pamper guests with the best natural products and international brands in the UAE.
Located on the 4th floor of the rather new Ritz-Carlton at the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), the authentic Thai restaurant Blue Rain will leave your taste buds dancing for delight. Dining at the Blue Rain is meant to be an experience for each and every sense. All the staff are native Thai people especially bought in to the restaurant from Thailand. Fortunately the restaurant gets its wines from the hotel’s wine rack that is noted to be the largest in the world. Main courses can be humble and authentic while the dessert can be daringly modern. And because the food is prepared according to the philosophy of how an authentic Thai meal should be created, with only the best produce and ingredients dependant on seasonal availability, the menu changes on a regular basis.
With the lovely backdrop of a waterfall view as well as the restaurant floor containing a “canal” type stream running right through the middle of the restaurant (covered by a wonderful blue glass to give the effect of a “Blue Rain”), the restaurant is itself a work of constant art and not just a culinary adventure.
With a Thai identity on a regional platform, the chef has created an amazing cuisine that is open for local and international ingredients and influences (provided they have the authentic Thai touch to them). This creates a cuisine that is based on natural produce and natural taste with an acceptable level of healthy oil, salt and sugars in the meals’. It’s effectively an exotic culinary creativity in a vibrant, sophisticated atmosphere where you can just relax, enjoy and while away those evenings in good company and wine (perhaps a cigar too). The demand for first class eateries in the Middle-east is considerable. But the Blue Rain does a sensational job in matching up to the high expectations of its guests, whether they are locally based or from far away lands across the seas.
An extensive menu caters for all tastes including fresh fish dishes taken from the local waters around the Arabian Gulf. Must try dishes include tantalising appetisers such as “Popia Sot” and “Mieng Kham Kung”. The “Popia Sot” is a Thai style spring roll accompanied with a lovely meaty cut of chicken and generous portions of asparagus, mint and a dash of tamarind sauce. While the latter dish is made up of prawns wrapped in betel leaf and accompanied with a touch of ginger, chilli and coconut. The whole package is neatly sprinkled with a dash of lime. Dare I say priceless in Dubai?
Splendid main dishes that just cannot leave the Blue Rain without trying include “Gang Kiew Wan Pla Murk”, and “Panang Nua Wagyu”. The former is an extremely scrumptious seafood extravaganza consisting of squid with minced prawn, fish and a munificent plateful of pea eggplant. All of this is flavoured with Thai basil and surrounded with green curry. While the “Panang Nua Wagyu” is for those who prefer the meatier option because of its rich weight of wagyu beef surrounded in a Penang curry. The dish is simply out of this world for those who have a passion for beef and spicy food because it has the charming touch of red chillies and kaffir lime.
For a truly authentic Thai dessert opt for the “Khao Niew Mamuang” because it contains some of the most popular ingredients associated with Thai food and culture including mango, coconut and glutinous rice.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to wash all of this down with a fine glass of “the Ritz-Carlton Martini”. A lovely dash of gin blends in neatly with fresh mint leaves, cucumber and lime juice to give it a simple yet addictive attraction for those who prefer to enjoy the high life.
The authentic Thai touch is provided even when the meal is finished when dinars are presented with the Thai ice-cream dessert containing the Thai greeting words “Khob Khun Krab” (Thai for “Thank You”).
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
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.
For any newcomer that arrives in any of the big cities in 21st century China, by now it should not be a surprise that these big cities are developing so rapidly that it’s hard to believe what their skyline looked like only a few years ago. The Capital city, Beijing, is no stranger to this remarkable change. Prior to Beijing hosting the Olympics in August 2008, pockets of the city had emerged to host internationally award winning hotels’ and restaurants’. Beijing’s Shangdi district (located in the north-western part of the city), and the Financial Street area located in the south western side of the capital (near Fuxingmen Station) are prime examples of this rapid growth. The latter is even more important because this area of around 2 square kilometres, the Financial Street district has effectively become Beijing’s new CBD with companies such as the likes of Morgan Stanley, China Ping Insurance and many others setting up base there.
However, the beauty of the Financial Street area is that it’s not really popular with business people (well, it is to some extent during the weekdays when the offices are open), but rather it provides an attraction to the local and overseas’ affluent clientele, as well as visitors that prefer luxury and style. The 253-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Financial Street also falls under this umbrella. Opened only in October 2006 and located around 22 miles from the main Capital airport, the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street is ideal for business and leisure travellers (not to forget the VVIPs and Celebs’). Mind you, it’s location in the rapidly developing financial area actually does justify its name for all those who care. Bearing in mind that the “Ritz-Carlton Financial Street” is the full name of the hotel and it should not be confused with the “Ritz-Carlton Beijing” hotel which is located near Wangfujing- on the opposite side of the city (Beijing has two Ritz-Carltons’- so mention Financial Street to the taxi drivers’ and avoid getting lost).
Located right next to this fine-looking hotel is a large shopping mall which has retail outlets from every luxury brand listed under the sun. From the outside the 19-storey Ritz-Carlton Financial Street hotel does not offer much in terms of architectural genius. But, hey, as they say, it’s the quality of the product that matters- and it must be pointed out that the hotel’s neat blend of contemporary design and the Chinese Feng Shui influences (Note the cute glass statues in the corridors!) wonderfully outnumber the exterior design. It’s also the fancy little things such as the stationary designed to look like Chinese cutlery (pencils that look like chopsticks!). You know, I felt like as if I had fallen in love with the Bvlgari bath amenities and not just the food in the club lounge. The hotel derives its energy from traditional Chinese elements in the Capital- such as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Therefore the hotel’s interior design has been heavily energise and invigorate its guests. With this in mind, its safe to conclude that the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street has become an embodiment of Feng Shui.
The first thing that strikes any new visitor to the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street is the personal touch to the customer service offered by this splendid hotel. For those travelling to the airport (Nanyuan or the Capital Airport), the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street provides an airport pick up for guests’ that require it. The hotel attendant will meet you at the gate of the plane and escort you to the waiting chauffeur driven car, and whisk you straight to your room- no need to check in. This splendid service is offered to guests residing in the Executive Club Room and in the suites. It was a good thing that I took the chauffeur driven service because I had forgotten to bring my overcoat to a miserably cold Beijing from a rather warm Guangzhou. The charming reception I received upon exiting the car and entering the hotel warm enough to fade away the chilly weather outside. You really do feel that you are being looked after- and that’s what makes the Ritz-Carlton a great hotel brand.
A lovely touch to the stay for any guest is a signature Chocolate turndown amenity- comprising of a traditional Chinese coin and a gold ingot given for the evening before retiring- meant to bring continued prosperity and happiness (though that can comprise of dreams too).
Guests also have the comfort of using the complimentary shuttle service within the Financial Street area (a radius of 2 km) which may be considered a necessity because of the slight isolated location of the hotel in relation to the metro station, and the other buildings within the immediate vicinity of the premises. One thing people have to realise is that everything is big in China, and this includes the buildings and the roads- so walking from the hotel to the Metro station for example can take around 20 minutes. For near enough attractions such as Tiananmen Square or Xidan, I would allow around half an hour if you walk briskly. Though on a cold winter’s day in Beijing, it’s wise to take a taxi.
One of the key features of the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street has to be food offered to the guests- not just in the three top quality restaurants but in the Club lounge as well. Credit has to go to the veteran award winning Executive Chef, Monsieur Cyril Arrouard, who is responsible for the fabulous Greenfish, the all-day dining restaurant, Cepe, the Award winning 70-seat Italian Restaurant (can you resist a choice of over 2000 Italian Wines?) and the adorable Chinese restaurant, Qi offering a deep fusion of Sichuan, Beijing and Cantonese cuisine. Hats off to this master of the kitchen for presenting a unique style and blend of gastronomical fanfare all of these eateries, but more so at the Club where one can find 5 different types of eating experiences provided daily. What they say is true that breakfast is the best meal of the day and at the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street you can eat breakfast like there is no tomorrow (don’t leave without eating the Omelette and Fried Eggs made by Chef Polo Liang!). So, it’s not really a club as such but rather another blend of a restaurant and a club. My definition of a club is one where one can relax and take a wine in the evening with some nuts- and some good company.
When you arrive back into your hotel room on a cold Beijing winter’s day nothing beats the feeling of treating yourself to a swim in the heated indoor swimming pool (while watching a silent black and white movie being played in the large screen!), or take a dip in the lovely Jacuzzi, steam or even the sauna room to thaw down those cool heals. The Gym and the pool facilities are all complimentary for all guests residing at the hotel- it’s another lovely gesture by the Ritz-Carlton to say thank you to the guests. An aromatic experience awaits those who wish to have a relaxing massage treatment by one of the experienced staff.
One thing that is easily noticeable is that the rooms are spacious- quite possibly the most spacious around for the money’s worth with a certain air of elegance and a cosy atmosphere (especially in the cold Beijing Winter). There is something for everyone, from leisure and business travellers to even families. Business travellers have the ease of using internet in their room, easy access to 24 hour in-room dining and loads of TV channels to kill your time should you wish to do so. The only downside I found is the rather gloomy Beijing weather that can somewhat ruins an otherwise wonderful view (if it is clear that is). The Ritz-Carlton Financial Street is no stranger to reviews- having been voted best Hotel by Conde Nast Traveller in 2009 (Gold Listed). But don’t get me wrong, whatever your plans are, and then the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street is the perfect place to relax and while away your time during your stay in the capital city of China. You can’t ask for anything more (really).
Executive Club Room from 5000RMB (Approx. 750USD|)
Deluxe Room from 4500RMB (Approx 670USD)
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