x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Cool styling at Beijing's Opposite House

The Opposite House combines high design with efficient and friendly service. The rooms are versatile and comfortable, and the food is excellent.

Like all rooms at the Opposite House, the penthouse has floor-to-ceiling windows.
Like all rooms at the Opposite House, the penthouse has floor-to-ceiling windows.

The welcome

My Opposite House experience started at the airport, where I was collected by a Maserati Quattroporte (one-way 900 yuan; Dh494), an appropriate way to begin a stay at this ultra-hip hotel. In the Opposite House's "Living Room" - no reception here - I rested on a comfortable sofa while the paperless check-in was completed on a laptop. The off-peak transfer from airport to room took 45 minutes.

The neighbourhood

This highly contemporary hotel would be at home in any world city but it has a distinctly Asian feel. Designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the Opposite House is an enormous glass cube with emerald and yellow panels that create a sense of an "urban oasis". The large open interior has the character of a public space - enriched by pieces of contemporary Chinese art. It is located in Sanlitun, near Beijing's embassies, with the main tourist sights a short drive away. The hotel is also part of the Village development, which has outlets for high-end fashion labels as well as high street brands.

The room

The door is concealed in a pine wall that opens into a spacious studio - they range in size from 45 square metres to 115 sq m. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide lots of natural light, while the full-length blinds allow for privacy. The pine floors have heating for the harsh Beijing winters and a Chinese chest reminds you where you are. The spa-inspired bathroom includes two wooden basins, an oak bathtub and, in the larger rooms, a rain shower. At first the minimalist design felt impersonal, but with a control panel for lighting, as well as a Denon entertainment system and Bose speakers, there is the flexibility to create your own environment.

The service

This is not the hotel to visit if you expect to be called sir/madam. The mood is relaxed and you are called by your first name by the mainly Chinese staff. Although the guest relations team is casual, it is also efficient - they organised a tour of the Great Wall and a cash advance for me within minutes. Room service is prompt and the lack of a tipping culture in China means that staff do not linger for a generous reward. The only misstep was the dirty breakfast plates that were not removed from my room for more than a day.

The food

Bei is the hotel's signature North Asian restaurant, which combines flavours from China, South Korea and Japan. Starters include fresh tofu made in-house with deep-sea water (58 yuan; Dh32), fresh oysters (168 yuan; Dh92) and exquisite sushi. For your main course try the succulent wagyu rib cap with pickled garlic and cucumbers (458 yuan; Dh251) or a surprising yet delicious dish of four-sided bean roasted with clams and kimchi (58 yuan; Dh32). Next door is Sureno, a Mediterranean restaurant with an open kitchen equipped with a wood-fired oven. Here the fare is hearty and homely, including the best of Italian antipasti with tasty mains, especially the sea bream with lemon, thyme and Greek couscous (RMB348; Dh191). The Village Cafe provides all-day dining, which includes a wide-ranging breakfast menu and buffet. There are also private dining rooms available for hire.

The scene

Übertrendy. On my first night, Vogue China was holding its fifth birthday party in the hotel, which was crammed full of Chinese actors and models. Former guests include Beyoncé, who stayed here when she performed in Beijing. The usual crowd does apparently include mere mortals but they tend to be younger media or advertising types.

Loved

The public spaces of the Opposite House double up as an art gallery with permanent and temporary exhibits. The hotel's abundant natural light is used to showcase the best of modern Chinese sculpture. I loved Xiaofeng Li's "wearable art", including a jacket and dress crafted from Ming dynasty porcelain fragments. On temporary display was a large stainless steel skull fused with ceramic that put Damien Hirst's attempt to shame. All of the art blended effortlessly with the surroundings, adding texture to the straight lines of the architect Kengo Kuma.

Hated

Does it have to be so hip? Every single element of this hotel is designed to within an inch of its life, including many of the guests and visitors. However, the Opposite House is rescued by its staff, who are down to earth (and not always complete fashionistas). This is a million miles from a ghastly boutique hotel I once stayed at in New York where the staff were simply too cool for school.

The verdict

The Opposite House combines high design with efficient and friendly service. The rooms are versatile and comfortable, and the food is excellent. If you have deep pockets and want something a little different, the Opposite House is the place to stay in Beijing.

The bottom line

Rooms from 2,242 yuan (Dh 1,230) including taxes; studio 95 (suite) from 3,968 yuan (Dh 2,177), including taxes. Penthouse price on request. Breakfast is included in some room rates. The Opposite House, The Village, Building 1, 11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing (www.theoppositehouse.com; 00 8610 6417 6688).