There is nothing like leaving town with a metaphorical bang and, for anyone’s last night in Shanghai, what is more memorable than a stay in The Peninsula Shanghai, that eternal luxury hotel that seems to be a leading fixture of the city even though it is a mere seven-and-a-half years old?
This hotel plans everything. GM Joseph Chong and his team are masters of event creation and it’s quite likely they are already planning their first decade party on 19 October 2019. To give one example of the efficiency of this divine hotel, the six-person task force for what has become its annual ILTM Asia exposure – with three parties, one for international media, one for top local clients and one for east-China media – starts think-tanking half-a-year ahead. The top creators seem to be Chong, and his cohorts Rieko Kibe, who heads Sales & Marketing, and media supremo Cecilia Lui. Tonight, her last night, was to be a surprise for one lucky guest this last week. Meet at 6.45pm in the lobby and be led to the private four-person dining room of the Chinese restaurant, Yi Long Court, looking through to the kitchen, its real-time workings also magnified on a screen in the room.
The feast starts with what could be called a local bento box, but since this is Peninsula, and Yi Long Court has two Michelin stars, it is of course exquisite and on a china plate. The three diners have a prawn and a vegetarian dimsum, two slices of barbecued pork, a prawn spring roll and pickles. In quick order come different tastes: wok-fried cubes of beef in black bean sauce, with baby greens; two crispest-skin tastes of chicken breast; lotus soup; noodles, and heavenly mango sago with a mango-filled crispy ball. There is a tasting of The Peninsula’s own wines, in order The Peninsula Shanghai Meursault du Chateau 2010, The Peninsula Shanghai Les Pagodes de Cos Saint-Estèphe 2011, and The Peninsula Shanghai Les Nonpareils Saumur Champigny 2009.
Chef Tang Chi Keung comes to talk before the meal and he seemed to create the menu then and there on the spot. He comes out again later, to see how it has all gone. The evening is an action-packed delight. We hear about the new wines added to the hotel’s own-label collection, and about how 237 bottles of The Peninsula Shanghai’s bespoke Macallan are now on their way from Scotland, to be launched ceremonially end of the year. Perhaps one of the launch functions will be at No. 1 Waitanyuan, the gorgeous early 20th-century building next to the hotel that is now managed by The Peninsula. Once the British Consulate, No. 1 Waitanyuan has 12 meticulously restored function rooms, and hectares of gorgeous gardens, ideal for weddings and other special events.
Every suite here is perfection, with the brand’s renowned round-corner walls, plush carpet, digital labels in right-choice of 11 languages, a cat-box for deliveries of your favourite international newspapers and so on. Suite 906 is particularly ideal for busy people, handy for lifts and, a blessing, the 24/7, and manned throughout, gym. The suite looks down left at the No. 1 Waitanyuan gardens and straight ahead at the 1908-vintage Wai Bai Du (Garden) Bridge that connects the main Bund with North Bund. I turn back into the living room, and note a full office kit, and electric sockets just where I want them, easy-work lighting and a hundred more minutiae which all add up… and among the books is a tome on Botero, a reminder that two Botero originals are supposed to drop in soon, permanently. In the morning, as it was getting light, I was in that gym and at breakfast in the cool avocado lobby, I ordered a Shanghai crêpe, filled with organic egg and duck and served with spicy chilli sauce, and soy milk. Ten minutes later, of course a bellman waited outside my room, ready for baggage, and of course someone was there to see me off. And, of course, the car in The Peninsula Green, was ready to purr away. It was 0801, one minute behind schedule.
Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com