Hotel Insider: The Peninsula Beijing
After arriving on a night train from Shanghai at the busy station in Beijing, it’s a relief to see my name in English on a welcome sign. Even better that the man holding it leads me to The Peninsula’s Rolls-Royce, equipped with cold towels, water and an illuminated make-up mirror. We pull up at the hotel, in the final stages of a “complete remake”. The team greet me in the spectacular new lobby, four massive pillars framing a staircase of imperial proportions. I’m shown to an old room, which is fine by some of the older Peninsulas’ standards, but then I see a new room: twice the size and kitted out like the newest Peninsula in Paris. Accepting that they’re still being fine-tuned, I agree to be the first guest in a new room.
It’s a 20-minute walk through a busy shopping district to the Imperial Palace and Tiananmen Square. But super-shoppers don’t even need to leave the hotel, which is anchored by Louis Vuitton on one side and Chanel on the other, and sits on top of an arcade with other luxury brands such as Hermès.
Even a standard room is like a suite, with a separate living room and dressing room with roomy wardrobe and a white-marble bathroom with a soaker tub in which you can watch TV or listen to spa music. Mine is beautifully decorated, with thick grey carpets and embroidered blossoms on textured beige wallpaper. Flourishes include a Nespresso machine, fresh flowers, a valet box for overnight shoeshines, a fully stocked office drawer, printer and scanner, and tablets that allow you to choose your language and control everything from the surround sound to mood lighting.
Extremely attentive, emanating from a high counter near the lifts that front-of-house staff stand around, anticipating your needs in between the concierge at the front door and the front desk at the back. (When I have trouble with my card in the lift, one of them rushes over and hands me a working card) The breakfast service in Jing is a little uncertain, but at least corrective: one morning, I’m brought grapefruit instead of watermelon juice; the next morning, I’m pointedly asked if I’d like watermelon.
While I was the lone guest in the new rooms, there was a surprising number of mostly Asian guests or locals in the new restaurants and shops, even amid some construction noise.
With its uber-stylish decor and farm-to-table menus, Jing is more than an all-day-dining restaurant. Highlights at the breakfast buffet are the dim sum and French pastry selection. Inventive menus for lunch and dinner change by the season; my favourite dish is the Hokkaido scallops (110 yuan [Dh60]), almost like tacos on a shell of pink radish slices with orange masala and baba ghanoush.
The design and museum-calibre art, curated by the Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing, from Qin Feng’s paintings of the Sun and Moon and Zhang Du’s larger-than-life bronze sculptures of tea drinkers in the lobby, to the little tai chi statues in the bathroom alcoves.
Daytime construction noise put a damper on an exquisitely therapeutic massage in the spa, although most of that should be over by now.
Amazing value for a Peninsula at the top of its game, and one of its most artful.
The bottom line
Rooms at The Peninsula Beijing (beijing.peninsula.com) cost from 2,100 yuan (Dh1,137), including Wi-Fi, movies and VoIP long-distance calls. The reopening package includes breakfast and pressing of three garments a day.
Updated: November 10, 2016 04:00 AM